Is this course going to be hard?
Yes. These are the average course grades for classes I teach. Afraid of hard courses? Read this article about what humans can achieve when they are committed to success.
Is this course going to be interesting?
Yes. Students regularly comment that they enjoy both the lectures and the tie-backs to “real world” problems and events. TEQs tend not to reflect the quality of teaching (something that students, on average, have neither the experience nor expertise to evaluate). What they do reflect is the instructors’ entertainment value. If you want to see how entertaining I am, look here.
Are you a hard grader?
Yes. These are the average course grades for classes I teach.
Are you a fair grader?
I dislike the word fair because it is too often used to hide the fact that the speaker is pretending to mean just while, in fact, meaning equal. So, let me rephrase: “Am I a just grader?” Yes. Warning: Following Aquinas’ definition of justice as “giving each his due,” just means neither “easy,” nor “you get chances for extra credit,” nor “effort counts,” nor “I take into account other demands on your time.” Just means “the grade you earn reflects the quantity of material you master.”
What grade can I expect in this class?
Your grade is very much a function of the quality time you spend studying outside of class. The following matrix will give you a (very) rough idea of what to expect. Match up the level of student you consider yourself to be (across the top) with the hours per week you intend to spend studying for this course (down the side). The body of the matrix gives you the letter grade you can likely anticipate. Of course, this is no guarantee — each student’s results will vary. The point of this chart is to adjust your expectations regarding the amount of time you.
Do I need to buy the text?
Yes. I will assign readings and homework assignments from the text. I will also cross-reference my lecture notes with chapters in the text so that you can use the text for supplementary reading. Note also that it is illogical for you to spend tens of thousands of dollars on an education and then to try to skimp by not buying the books that are integral to that education. It’s like buying a Ferrari and then buying the lowest grade gas to save a buck.
Can I use an old edition of the text?
Yes, but at your own risk. I will make no accommodations for the fact that you are using an old edition. It is your responsibility (1) to verify that your edition contains the same readings and questions as those assigned from the current edition, and (2) to make use of a current edition when the old edition does not contain the same readings or questions.
Do I need a calculator for this course?
I require students in finance and quantitative analysis (1) to come to every class with an appropriate calculator (i.e. either financial or statistical), and (2) to know how to use the calculator.
Do I need to know how to use Excel (or some other spreadsheet program)?
I assume that students in finance and quantitative analysis are proficient in the use of spreadsheets. If you are not familiar with spreadsheets, it is your responsibility to become so as quickly as possible. On the first day of class, I expect you to know how to do the following in Excel:
- Paste values vs. formulae
- Open XLS and TXT files in Excel.
- Save files in XLS and TXT formats
- Use absolute vs. relative cell references
- Perform basic mathematical operations
- Use the following functions: AVERAGE(), SUM(), COUNT(), SQRT(), IF(), SUMIF(), COUNTIF(), VLOOKUP(), HLOOKUP()
I didn’t get a copy of the syllabus (or other document).
All hand-outs for your course can be downloaded from this web site. It is your responsibility to make sure you have the appropriate handouts at the appropriate times.
Why didn’t you respond to my e-mail?
I respond to all e-mails, often within a matter of minutes. If you sent mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, I did not get it. This e-mail address goes to a different Davies. My address is email@example.com.
I had questions, but I didn’t want to bother you.
For the duration of the course, I am yours pretty much 24/7 (though the probability of my providing a timely response diminishes with the lateness of the hour). You are not bothering me, nor taking my time away from other things — my job is to answer your questions and to help you to understand the course material. Make use of me while you have me. By the time the final exam rolls around, it may be too late to improve your standing in the course.
Is there a tutor for this course?
Tutors for this course can be scheduled by going to Rockwell 404. I encourage you to use the tutors, but as a supplement to communicating with me outside of class. Tutors are not an adequate substitute for asking me questions during office hours or via e-mail or IM.
What material will we cover on a given day?
Go to the page for your class and look at the reading assignments.
I wasn’t in class. Did I miss anything?
Yes. You missed my lecture. Get the notes from one of the students who did not.
Can I reschedule my final exam?
Do you mind if my homework isn’t stapled or if I hand in electronic assignments on paper?
I do not mind. You, however, do. If your loose pages get mixed in with other students’ assignments, you may not get full credit.
Will this be on the test? What material is covered on the exam?
If I mention it in class, it appears in an assigned reading, it appears in a homework assignment, it is something that you should have learned in a pre-requisite course, or it is something that a reasonably well-educated person your age should know, then it is fair game for the test.
How should I study for the exam?
Remove yourself from all electronics. If you must listen to music, select something without lyrics. Go somewhere where you will not be interrupted by roommates, significant others, etc. Rewrite and then study your rewritten class notes. Go over assigned problem sets. Go over end-of-chapter problem sets that were not assigned. Read the text. Read the text again.
I missed an exam, can I make it up?
I’m not a good test taker.
Not being a good test taker is incompatible with being a successful student. Either become a good test taker or reconsider whether an academic education is appropriate for you.
I’m not good at memorizing.
If you can speak a language, then you are good at memorizing. The relevant question is whether you are willing to invest the time necessary to memorize. The point of a university education is to teach you how to think. Without memorization, you may have the ability to think, but you will have nothing to think about.
I understand the material, I just can’t answer the exam questions.
If you can’t answer the exam questions, then you do not understand the material. There are three levels of cognition, only the highest of which is understanding. They are:
Recognition (being able to identify a fact)
Knowledge (being able to repeat a fact)
Understanding (being able to apply a fact in an unfamiliar context)
When you say that you “understand” the material when I go over it in class, you are exhibiting recognition, not understanding.
Why do your multiple choice questions always include “None of the above?”
In life, problems do not come with multiple choice options. While several solutions may present themselves, there is always the possibility that the correct solution will be something that you had never considered. I would be remiss in my duty to prepare you to apply critical thinking skills to real-world problems if I did not force you to face the possibility that the correct answer might be something other than the options laid before you.
On exams, why do you deduct a fraction of a point for each incorrect answer?
If you face N multiple-choice options, then you lose an additional 1/(N-1) of a point for each incorrect answer. The reason for this is to eliminate a grading bias that occurs in multiple choice tests. It is unfair not to grade in this manner (you may not like this grading style, but disliking it does not make it unfair). Here’s why…
Suppose there are three students: A, B, and C. Student A studied well for the exam and can answer every question correctly. Student B studied a little for the exam and can answer only half of the questions. Student C did not study at all and cannot answer any of the questions. The students are given a 10 question multiple choice exam. Each question has 5 possible answers. This means that there is a 20% chance that a student can pick the correct answer simply by guessing. Student A will answer all the questions correctly and earn 100%. Student B will answer the first five questions correctly and will guess on the second five questions. Because there is a 20% chance of guessing correctly, we expect that student B will accidentally answer one of the five questions correctly. Student B will end up with a 60% on the exam. Student C will guess on all 10 of the questions. Because there is a 20% chance of guessing correctly, we expect that student C will accidentally answer two of the ten questions correctly. Student C will end up with a 20% on the exam.
Grade Student Deserves SAT-Style Grade Straight Percentage Grade
Student A 100% 100% 100%
Student B 50% 50% 60%
Student C 0% 0% 20%
Notice that the straight percentage grade curves Student A’s grade by nothing, Student B’s grade by 10% and Student C’s grade by 20%. The straight percentage grade is unjust because it awards grades that do not match the grades that the students deserve.
I still don’t understand how you grade exams.
(1) Start with zero points. (2) Add 1 point for each correct answer. (3) Subtract 1/4 point for each incorrect answer (not counting unanswered questions). (4) Divide the total points by the number of questions on the exam (not the number of questions you answered).
Continuing with the previous question, should I guess on exams?
On average, pure guessing will neither help nor hurt you. Educated guessing, however, can help you. If you can eliminate one or more of the options and then guess from among the remaining options, then, on average, you are better off guessing than not. Rarely in life will you face problems that you can answer with absolute certainty. More often, you will need to apply knowledge and critical thinking to the extent that you can and then make an educated guess. In general, the student who knows less but is good at making educated guesses is better prepared for life than the student who knows more but is helpless when faced with a problem whose solution is beyond the student’s knowledge.
I understand the material when you go over it in class, I just can’t answer the exam questions.
If you can’t answer the exam questions, then at least one of the following is true: (a) the exam questions are ambiguous or unintelligible, (b) the exam questions require knowledge you were not expected to have, or (c) you do not understand the material. If (a) and (b) are false, then (c) must be true.
Don’t you care about my grade?
I care very much about your grade, but not in the way you probably mean. I care that your grade reflects the degree to which you master the material in the course.
What are the chances of my earning an A/B/C in this course?
The average grade earned by undergraduate students in all my courses is 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. If you have taken your first exam and are enrolled in a principles-level course, you can forecast your course grade by clicking here.
What do I need to earn on the final to earn an A/B/C in the course?
Why did you give me a C/D/F in the course?
I don’t give grades. You earn grades. Your course grade is the weighted average of your exams and homework/participation. If, for example, you earned B’s and C’s on the exams, you should not expect to earn an A for the course.
Do you curve exam grades?
Can I do extra work to improve my grade?
Will you give me an extra half-point (one point, etc.) to bump me to the next letter grade?
Can I take an “incomplete” in the course?
In most cases, no. Incompletes can only be given in cases in which circumstances make it impossible for the student to complete the course. I do not give incompletes for poor performance.
How do you grade our homework assignments?
The purpose of the homework assignments is to prepare you for the exam. To this end, I am more concerned that you put forth a good effort than I am in you answering homework questions correctly (though, come exam time, you need to have mastered the homework questions). I will mark homework as “done” or “not done” on the basis of the effort you put forth. Detailed answers to homework assignments are posted on the web-site.
How do you grade class participation?
Your participation grade is my opinion of your overall contribution to the course. Most students can expect participation grades in the B/B- range. If you sleep in class, come late, miss class, or generally fail to behave like a responsible and interested adult, you can expect a significantly lower grade. If you ask a lot of questions and provide salient comment, you can expect a higher grade. Few students earn participation grades above B+ or below B-.
What can I do to earn a better grade in your course?
The teaching profession is like the medical profession. The teacher can tell you what to do to get better, but whether or not you improve depends on how closely you follow the teacher’s prescription.
To succeed in this course, you must do the following:
- Maintain two notebooks for this course. In the first notebook, you take class notes. In the second notebook, you rewrite your class notes every day. Your re-writes should include not simply copying, but adding comments and clarification, referring to related passages in the text, and referring to related topics in other portions of your notes. It is this second set of notes from which you should study for exams. The notes you take in class should be useful only as a source of contribution to the second set of notes.
- As you write daily in your second notebook, jot down questions that occur to you. Ask those questions in class and record the answers for later inclusion in your second notebook.
- Do all homework assignments in a timely fashion. If you let the homework build up and so do it in a hasty fashion, you will gain nothing from the exercise.
- When you study, go somewhere where there is not: (1) television, (2) radio/stereo, (3) phone, (5) IM or email, (5) people. Spend 1 hour studying (without interruption or distraction). Then break for 15 minutes. Go back and study for another hour (without interruption or distraction). Do this every day, including weekends (though you can cut back to 1 hour on weekends). In total, you should study 12 hours per week outside of class.
Will you e-mail me my course and/or final exam grade?
No. I report final grades to the registrar. The registrar will report your grade to you.