Exams (See Grades) - Now that you've had a brief opening glimpse of the people who run the place and have the most to do with your overall ruin, you need to direct your attention to a matter that will cause you more trouble than any other in your high school career: exams and the attendant grades that accompany them. There are only a few kinds of basic formal examinations found in the average high school, and you need to take a close look at all of them.
The first of these is the classic essay exam. This one is good for people who know how to write because that's what is required on this kind of test. You're given a question to answer on some general topic and you have to fill up three or four pages in answering it.
You don't actually have to know the answer, of course, and that's the beauty of this kind of test. All you have to do is come up with enough bullshit that's even loosely connected with the subject under discussion and you pass. Use jargon where possible. If it's a history exam use terms related to this field such as circa, sixteenth-century, the white man's burden, imperialism, and so on. Make up fictional sources and quote them; if your teacher's like some she's had a marginal education and won't know the difference.
One ruse that works like a charm is to use barely legible handwriting, a device easy for most of you since the average high school student today already has handwriting that defies deciphering. There's nothing teachers hate more than struggling to figure out what the hell the kid has written. In fact, most teachers would rather give you the benefit of the doubt than go blind trying to analyze your writing and this bit of knowledge can save your ass if you play it right.
For instance, suppose you're given one of those fill in the blank tests where a word is missing and you're required to supply it. Let's say the question is, "The first message sent by the newly invented telegraph was, 'What hath God ___________?'" Okay, suppose you remember it started with a w or an r but you can't come up with the exact word. All you do is write something like wroshern or rowrusa or even wassefnr in letters that closely resemble Egyptian hieroglyphics and the teacher will give up and mark it right out of sheer desperation.
But what if she decides to mark it wrong anyway? In that case, you immediately take your paper up for a rehearing and demand that you wrote wrought and you want credit, by God. If you're firm enough and refuse to back down, the beleaguered teacher will invariably give in and mark it right just to get you to shut the hell up and give her some peace.
Essay exams have their good points, but only if you can write. If you can't write, or if you write no better than about eighty-percent of the population as a whole, you're better off looking for teachers who are known to give so-called objective-type exams such as the above mentioned fill in the blank tests, the kind that don't require you to write more than two or three words at a time.
The true-false test is the ultimate objective exam. Teachers love this kind of test because it's so easy to correct. They just slap a key on the damn thing and count up all the correct answers. (Some teachers prefer to count all the errors but that always takes longer-at least it does at Cody where I taught.) These exams will surely continue to be popular as long as a lot of your teachers are lazy, i.e., forever.
True-false exams are guessing games. Even the school half-wit can get fifty-percent right if he can just smuggle a coin into the exam. Heads it's A, tails B. The law of averages works in your favor. And if you've done any studying at all you're bound to know a few of the answers going in, an advantage which, coupled with the fifty-percent figure, will enable you to pass any given true-false test.
Another objective test is the multiple-choice one, an exam offering four or more choices on each question. These tests are somewhat harder than true-false ones and require more thought. For one thing, pure guessing will get you a score of twenty-five percent and that's not a passing score even at Cody where we usually passed everyone with good attendance. It's clear that you need to do more than merely guess on a multiple-choice test.
Well, you can. Most multiple-choice tests have at least one answer in the four provided that's obviously wrong. For example, consider this question on an American history test:
Q. The man known as The Father of Our Country was
a. Thomas Edison b. Benjamin Franklin
c. Oliver Cromwell d. George Washington
Okay. Let's assume you don't know the answer-in most cases a safe assumption-but you do recognize at least three of those names. Since it's pretty likely you would recognize the name of the Father of our Country if you saw it and you don't recognize this Cromwell dude, you can eliminate answer C. Now you've narrowed it down to three choices and considerably increased your chances of guessing right, but you're not done yet.
There's a good chance Edison's name will ring a bell somewhere since he's a rather famous scientist and has his name on all those light bulbs and electric light companies and whatnot. It's also pretty likely that a guy who was so busy inventing electricity and building light bulb factories all over the place didn't have time to go around fathering countries on the side, so you can safely eliminate him, too. That means you have only two names left and even if you still don't have the faintest idea which one is right at least you've narrowed the choice down to 50/50 and turned the whole thing into another true-false test.
So there you have it. Understanding these basic exams will help you to be one of the survivors and get the hell out of high school alive.
NB - Science tests where they ask you to identify two hundred different chemicals or math tests where you have to work out intricate problems to arrive at an answer are another matter altogether and require special attention and extreme measures if you're to get out of these classes in one piece.
It's true what they say, that the world really does run on bullshit, and grades are a part of all that. Nobody is interested in talent or ability or potential in the real world; all they care about is the appearance of these traits. People want things to be as they think they are, and they're willing to believe that things actually are as they perceive them to be.
How do you think that dippy girl in the first row with the incredibly short skirts and excellent boobs manages to get A's and B's when she can hardly tell you what page you're on? And what about the star halfback who needs help in finding his way to school every day? How does that ignorant clod manage to stay eligible for the team unless somebody's bending the rules for him somewhere?
Everybody pays lip service to all the clichés about hard work and integrity and discipline and rewarding excellence and the rest of that crap, but watch how they deal with these things in their own lives.
We're a society of hypocrites and four-flushers and humbugs, and it will stand you in good stead if you know that early on. We don't reward excellence; we reward bullshit.
Make no mistake about it, though; your grades will count. A high GPA (grade point average) will have a lot to do with your future-or lack thereof. Colleges will depend largely on these GPAs when you apply for admission; in fact, a high GPA can do much to overcome poor SAT or ACT scores. In short, you know you need good grades but the question is what can you do to assure yourself of coming up with them without actually turning into a nerd by studying and really learning something?
On the other hand, a low GPA will be decried by one and all, and no major college or university will consider you. You'll be forced to enroll in a local barber college or a meat-cutting school and forever be the object of scorn and derision to your peers. You'll be finished at eighteen, one of life's millions of losers before you really got started, and all because you didn't play by the rules of the game.
Those rules say you need a 3.0 or better GPA, so get it. No one cares how you get it; just see that you have it when you graduate. I've analyzed the problem and come up with some suggestions that will help you pull it off even if you're a less than auspicious student.
Take easy courses to raise your GPA. Everybody knows you have to work your ass off to get a C in calculus, but you can get an A in wood shop just by learning how to identify two different pieces of lumber, for God's sake. And an A in wood shop is worth three times as many honor points as that C in calculus.
Why, a guy who takes four years of wood shop could have an GPA of 4.0 and go to Harvard while the other guy taking hard courses like calculus could end up with an GPA of 2.2 and have to join the army just to get a job.
The jocks have known this for years. They go through school taking the easiest courses available and every damn one of them goes on to our finest universities on scholarship. They stay in college long enough to play four years of football and then, forgetting all those years spent in phys ed classes and remedial English, file lawsuits against the school because they can't read. But that's the American way, isn't it?
And remember, who lets them get away with this crap? The very same people who are telling you we reward excellence, that's whom. If you can come away with this one concept after reading this book, your money will have been well spent.
Whatever you do, avoid the so-called honors classes. At Cody, if we found out a student could read we'd slap his ass into an honors course where the work is accelerated to challenge the better students. The poor bastard works like a beaver all semester and ends up with a C that could easily have been an A in a regular course.
That's plain silly. While your friends are cruising through senior English with A's you're barely passing the honors classes they conned you into taking. And nobody cares that you took the honors classes; all they see is that glaring 2.2 GPA and somebody sticks a meat cleaver in your hand along with your diploma and points you in the direction of the nearest butcher shop.
Another gambit is to sign up for those classes taught by the "easy" teachers. Every school has hard teachers and easy ones; you want the easy ones. Some teachers give kids credit just for showing up periodically while others demand college level work for a lousy C. Only a fool would prefer the latter. A perceptive kid can raise his GPA by at least fifty-percent merely by choosing teachers carefully.
Start asking questions as soon as you get to high school in your freshman year. Find out which teachers the jocks sign up with. Peek into the different classrooms on your way to the john and see what's going on. If everybody is bent over his desk and frowning and working his ass off you know that's a teacher to avoid.
If, on the other hand, you look in and see paper airplanes sailing around and kids leaning out of the windows and the teacher idly thumbing through an old Playboy you know this is the class for you. Hurry down to your counselor and tell them you want a transfer to Mr. Slott's class at once.
Still another device is the old-fashioned con job. Make your teachers think you're something you aren't, trick them into believing you're a real student with pure motives and a love of learning for its own sake. Above all, let them think you're crazy about whatever it is they're teaching. All teachers are easily won over by kids who show an interest in their own specialty and tend to look on such kids with favor.
I know it's hard to wax enthusiastic over physics, but it will do you much good if you make the physics teacher believe you've loved the subject since you were a small child and have long planned a career in the field and so on. She'll feel kindly disposed toward you even when you can't grasp the basic fundamentals of the stuff and she'll want to give you the best possible grade. It never fails.
It works because it appeals to our vanity; it even worked on me. I remember one case where this little sharper showed up in my English class carrying a large unabridged dictionary and a bag full of novels, poetry, and sundry literary impedimenta. He took a seat right down front and stacked all these books on the floor where I could see them. He took great pains to let me know that he loved reading and wanted nothing more in life than to be an English teacher and even write books of his own.
Naturally, I took a shine to the little charlatan. I figured any kid who loved literature and fine writing as much as I did had to be all right. It turned out he didn't know any more about English than my cat, but he seemed such a well-meaning kid that I was reluctant to flunk him when he came up with a forty-six on the final and let him do some extra assignments to make it up.
The next semester I saw him in Corbin's history class. He was sitting right down front and had a complete set of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire stacked up next to his seat. I knew in a flash I'd been had, of course, but it was too late.
As I said, it works every time.
Anyway, using some of the above tactics could easily make a whole grade difference in a given course-and that means more honor points.
If you happen to be a comely female student with a male teacher, always sit down front and wear short skirts, the shorter the better. Undo four or five buttons on your blouse and lean over a lot. Let the old codger see enough thigh and boobs and he'll be too confused by the wonder of it all to know what the hell's going on. Every time he goes to grade one of your test papers his mind will be filled with boobs and thighs and he'll raise your grade at least as high as you raised that skirt.
Trust me. This one works as well as anything I've discussed so far.
These are just a few traditional ways to get better grades in school, reliable schemes that have worked over the years, but they may not be enough to save you. I mean, if you do all these things and still have a GPA lower than sea level you'll have to come up with a better plan. And this brings us to still another long practiced dodge used throughout Christendom for centuries: cheating.