Understanding the Syllabus
A syllabus will be given to you for each class that you are enrolled in. In effect, the syllabus is a contract between you and your professor. The grading system in the course will be exactly what is spelled out in the syllabus. It is important to know what the grading systems are so you know where you stand in your classes and what you have to do to get the grade you want in your classes. The syllabus is a guide to being a successful student in all your courses. It will help you organize when homework, quizzes, and exams are so you can allow yourself enough time to get it all done. It also contains a policy statement on absence.
While the syllabus is a very important tool for the class it can often contain misprints and errors. The best way to deal with these possible errors is by reading it and fully understanding it, and then contacting the teacher if you are still unclear. Additionally, the syllabus will give you the office location of the teacher and the hours that he\she will be in the office. It will give you an idea about other course policy or the department policy and the roll of cheating or welcome aid that encourage students to come and ask about what they do not know.
When students don’t do well in a class, it’s generally because they failed to understand what was required in the syllabus. If you can understand the syllabus fully, you can better understand your grade. Sometimes just by looking at and understanding the syllabus, you’ll realize that your grade isn’t as bad as it seems. Here are some things to look for in the syllabus:
- Attendance policy – Understanding this policy is key, because you can lose points on your overall grade depending on your attendance.
- Grading system – Each class will have different components for a grade (e.g. tests, final, homework, labs, projects, attendance). Bonus point opportunities will be described.
- Test dates – Some teachers don’t let you retake tests, so it’s critical that you record these.
- Homework practices – You will need to know the grading policy on homework as well as policies on due dates.
- Lab – If you have a course with a lab, the lab information may be specified in the lecture’s syllabus or the lab may contain its own syllabus.
One of the first things you should do each semester is to review what is in the syllabus and develop a system to track your grades. A calendar or a planner are two great methods of writing down what needs to be done so you can see it in advance. See the topic Developing a Visual Management System. The template below is a way for you to review the syllabus. Once you do this you are on your way to being successful in your classes.