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Advice on getting good grades in Engineering Undergrad

obesechicken13obesechicken13 Posts: 260Registered User Junior Member
edited July 2010 in Engineering Majors
Pre-note. I did a search but did not find what I wanted. If anyone knows some good threads about the subject, then please direct me to them.




Hello, I am a current computer engineering student entering my second year, at the University of Toronto. If I had to do it again, I probably would have gone to a state school just because the average GPA's here in Massachusetts is slightly higher than it is in Toronto.

Now my marks were ass horrible. I understand that I did not manage my time well enough. I only started studying with a group of people near the last quarter of the school year.

I read an engineering book in the days before class started. I know you're supposed to manage your time, and sleep a lot, and ask your professors questions, and manage your time, and attend classes, and take extensive notes. I understand this, however most of the engineers at my school try really hard. Even the worse ones would get A's and maybe a few B's at my high school. How is it that there are certain people who do better than the rest of us?


I know that some of the students, the foreigners especially, study harder than me. I know that there are other students who are incredibly gifted. They get better grades than me. I understand that they absorb more knowledge and subsequently do better on the tests. But I don't understand what causes the non-gifted people who only work moderately hard to do extremely well on tests.


So I decided to take a look at my courses for this year: Skule Courses - SKULE

and I found this midterm exam from last year: http://courses.skule.ca/exams/custom/20099/ECE244_2009_ts_1260374480.pdf

Just taking a look at questions 1a, and 3a, I know that I once knew how to do those problems, however I've now forgotten how. Your advice to me would be simple: ask a teaching assistant during your weekly tutorial or through email (since the profs are always busy) how to do these problems in case the professor repeats the questions. This is simple.

I then reread my textbook and do the practice problems for a general understanding of the test, do a few more practice tests, and look over my notes for hints on what else might be on the test. During this week, my blood caffeine levels run dangerously high.

Is there anything else I can do to predict what else might be on the exam? I just don't feel like doing all of these things can guarantee that I even make the class average of C+.

Marks outside of tests are not generally difficult for me, only time consuming so I'm not concerned about these.



TL: DR, what are the tricks to studying for your engineering exams?
Post edited by obesechicken13 on

Replies to: Advice on getting good grades in Engineering Undergrad

  • viciouspoultryviciouspoultry Posts: 837Registered User Member
    Your best bet is to ask a professor what is likely to be on the test. I've had professors who said whether some small topics really didn't matter so much and thus save an hour or two when it came to study.

    Personally all I did to study was went to each class, did the assigned homework, and do some book problems before midterms and finals. If I really struggled on a topic I asked my professor or TA during office hours.
  • saraleigh117saraleigh117 Posts: 127Registered User Junior Member
    not that this has anything to do with your question, but I just realized that both of your names are some sort of reference to fowl...interesting
  • TheMan777TheMan777 Posts: 685Registered User Member
    Ouch - looked at your second year list, thats not going to be fun...

    I am probably in your same boat. I didn't really do too great at my school either in engineering, but i will try to lend you a helping hand =). I felt that study groups are incredibly helpful. Members of the group help you get into the groove of studying and understanding the information. You can have lots of fun while doing it and you get to meet great people. Plus if you understand something yourself you can teach it and cement your personal understanding.

    Tutoring is wonderful as well. If you really don't get what the professor says, and your TA/TF is someone who cannot explain the information very well. Tutors are probably the best alternative. Usually you have free tutoring and usually these are undergrad tutors who just learned the material, possibly from the same professor - which will allow you to learn how to think in that specific professor's class.

    Study hard, take breaks, keep yourself healthy and well balanced, and just try your best. 50% of your class is not average!
  • Inmotion12Inmotion12 Posts: 1,042Registered User Senior Member
    *waiting for someone with the name "deadrooster" to post.
  • jwxiejwxie Posts: 1,479Registered User Senior Member
    For your c++ class, it is not hard in my opinion. It;s okay to forget, but it is WRONG to not realize it. Good thing that you are aware of that.

    If you need help in C++, you can always go to stackoverflow.com It's a very good programming tutorial site. Just be nice there.

    Your second year course looks pretty good.
    As I am looking at your first year, I am shocked that you have already taken linear algebra that early. I don't know if your calculus three is multi-variable. If this is true, I think it's pretty odd that the Canadian take linear algebra before finishing muti0variable. I feel that student will do very well and will understand the nature of linear algebra once they have completed all three sequences of calculus.

    This is my schedule, each row is courses recommended for each semester.
    http://www1.ccny.cuny.edu/prospective/gsoe/computer_engr/upload/CpEOv6-Fall09-Spring10-010810.pdf

    I can't really comment on your courses because I am a sophomore too.
    May I ask where is your physics?
    Are those the only 8 courses you will be taking in your sophomores. I know the British does concentration, which mean once you enter university you only study what is relevant in your concentration.

    If you want me to give you an advice: I think you should spend your summer looking over these courses. At least look how the contents, and go on google to find lecture notes. For example, MIT Open Courseware.

    This is what I am doing actually.
  • obesechicken13obesechicken13 Posts: 260Registered User Junior Member
    Yes, I'm learning C++ over the summer.
    not that this has anything to do with your question, but I just realized that both of your names are some sort of reference to fowl...interesting
    it's a conspiracy.

    I suppose it couldn't hurt to directly ask my professor what is on the exam, but they probably won't say, or they'll mention the possible categories in class.

    Oh and tutors aren't free here. We have to pay between 20-40+ dollars/hour for them. There is a free tutoring service, but no one signs up to be a tutor there.


    The physics classes were took were in first year: mechanics, and dynamics
    They only talk about projectiles, and not the atomic level of physics.
    Introduction to materials and chemistry is more about the atomic level of materials.

    I agree that taking linear algebra was useless that early.
  • TheMan777TheMan777 Posts: 685Registered User Member
    I agree that taking linear algebra was useless that early.

    I disagree - I feel that linear algebra is absolutely essential for Multivariate and especially Differential Equations. It makes the transition all the easier from calc II. Granted once you get to taking complex integrals, linear algebra goes out the window and run over a car, but it all comes back in differential equations.
  • obesechicken13obesechicken13 Posts: 260Registered User Junior Member
    Your best bet is to ask a professor what is likely to be on the test. I've had professors who said whether some small topics really didn't matter so much and thus save an hour or two when it came to study.

    Personally all I did to study was went to each class, did the assigned homework, and do some book problems before midterms and finals. If I really struggled on a topic I asked my professor or TA during office hours.
    Sorry for the bump but something just occurred to me.

    I just realized how important your advice was. I looked over some more exam problems, this time in my programming fundamentals course, and I noticed that some of the problems were practically unsolvable without the use of an eidetic memory.

    I felt like it was too hard, like I was just a a big fish from a small pond competing against what I felt were the biggest fish in the ocean at my age. But while this was true, I remembered how even in high school, I always felt like most of the other kids could become big fish too(we were all big fish, only some were more aggressive so they seemed bigger, if the other fish tried to be aggressive they could appear big too). It was simply an illusion of separation. I understood how I knew more about certain subjects, I just tried harder. I learned for the fun of it until premature senioritis hit me.

    I don't think I missed a full school day during my four years.

    In college I skipped enough classes (I really didn't feel many were worth it as I felt I was drowned out in my 200 people classes and the amount that I could learn on a quantitative level on the given subject was less than that if I just studied from book). I won't say how many classes, but it was enough. Back in high school, I missed nothing, every exam question was something that I had seen before. And then I realized. The problems weren't too hard because I wasn't smart enough, I was just missing out on the key source of information that would be on a test.

    On my programming fundamentals course they had questions about things as little as just the code to submit your labs were tested. I normally just copy and paste what they give me without a second thought. I wondered how anyone like me could get such a problem. I realized that the profs would have to tell you that it was important. The profs weren't testing you on the knowledge that you had, but rather on whether you went to class. They would literally tell you slyly that so and so should be studied. I'm never skipping/sleeping through (too many) class(es) again!

    I always wondered what the merit of going to class was, why the upper years told me to do it or why these self help engineering books did. I often doubted that it actually helped. But going to class isn't solely for learning more about a subject, but also for being exposed to all the sources of potential exam/lab questions.
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