If I tell them it will be on the test, will they learn it?

I finished grading a test today and the scores were disappointing. One reason for my disappointment was the difficulty many students had with problems I told them would be on the test. I am not subtle about this. I tell them there will be a problem of a specific type, and I then put that kind of problem on the test. I am not tricking them, I am telling them exactly what to study. Everything I told them to study was on the test and everything on the test was also on the study guide.

There are a few cases where I am a bit general, such as my telling them there will be problems using l’Hôpital’s rule. But two of those four problems were completely straightforward, a third was similar to one I had done in class, and the fourth was identical to a quiz problem with different numbers.

I once complained to one of my colleagues about this. I said, “I tell them exactly what is on the test. Why don’t they believe me?” He responded, “If they believed you, they would have to work.”

I tell my students that I have a better idea of what to study than they do, and I am going to tell them what to study. Many don’t believe me for the first test, but some catch on for the second test. Some students love it. They know what to learn and they go home and learn it. Unfortunately I don’t have very many of these students in my class.

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