What will be on the test?
This question can also be phrased, “will this be on the test?”
For students, this is an important question. For teachers, this is a frustrating question to hear more than once. How do you figure out what’s on the test, but also, turn yourself into a good learner and not just a test gamer?
Student perspective of tests
Tests are pretty common in courses. Tests can be one of the main assessments that then are converted into your overall grade in a course. Students need to get good grades, and therefore, knowing and understanding what is on a test is fundamental to getting those good grades.
Teacher perspective of tests
Learning the material is common in all courses. Tests can be a good and easier than others assessment that shows if students have learned the course material. An overall grade shows how well students have learned the material (though I don’t really agree with this). Testing helps determine a students grade in the course.
Some of education’s bigger perspective
The goal is to learn. Real understanding can not be easily tested, and the learning process takes a significant amount of time for both teacher and student to achieve and assess. How can we teach and learn important skills, understanding, and complexities with tests? We probably can’t, and equally, grades are a poor signal in terms of how each of us will perform in the real world with complexity.
The reality perspective
So, you are going to have tests as a student, and many of us professors will use tests as time-reasonable assessments for what you understand in our courses. Coming from a perspective of wanting to learn and understand and willingness to work on learning, be curious, and understand the world better will serve you well.
If you need to figure out what is, likely, on the test, then pay attention to your professor in lectures, do the class work (readings, assignments, and projects), and find more senior students to understand past testing trends. In lecture, emphasis of ideas, points, and skills are strong indicators that the material will appear on a test. Does the professor underline writing? Is there a significant number of problems dedicated to a particular idea? Many professors (myself included) plain and simple say, “and this would be an excellent question on an exam”. Those signals are strong indicators that the material will be tested in the future.
Also, the past can be a strong predictor of the future. Students who have previously taken the course will have a feel for what professors will ask on their exams. Make friends with other students and ask about their experiences. However, understand that we all have biases and you are the one who does or doesn’t benefit from learning.