Academic Ingenuity: Part I

No student shall knowingly procure, provide, or accept any unauthorized material that contains questions or answers to any examination or assignment to be given at a subsequent time.
No student shall complete, in part or in total, any examination or assignment for another person.
No student shall knowingly allow any examination or assignment to be completed, in part or in total, for himself or herself by another person.
No student shall plagiarize or copy the work of another person and submit it as his or her own work.
No student shall employ aids excluded by the instructor in undertaking course work or in completing any exam or assignment.
No student shall alter graded class assignments or examinations and then resubmit them for regrading.
No student shall submit substantially the same material in more than one course without prior authorization.

Academics is a game of intellectual acuity. Academic ingenuity is when you out play the game.

Every university has a policy that requires students to do their own work to facilitate learning the material. Cheating is attaining a higher score than you deserve by doing less work.

A student has a right to equip him or herself in the best manner possible to do well in a course.

Academic instituions find that the best way to test your knowledge and comprehension of a subject is through a standardized test. It has no bearing on the depth of your understanding on the subject matter. You must write or fill out your answers in response to a very narrow question within an allocated time frame and then you are given a grade that indicates your ability to do so. Does this logic make sense? A 90% is an A and > 70% is passing. Would a doctor be profficient with a 90% diagnoses record? Would a car have any reliability if designed by an engineer who only knew 75% of the process? Nonsensical.

How many times does a student find that they studied for an exam but 1) couldn’t remember the answers in time to finish every question or 2) studied the chapters but apparently, the wrong material because the professor focused the entire test on another portion.

Academic ingenuity occurs on 3 fronts:
1. knowing the subject
2. out playing the professor
3. beating the field

Knowing the Subject:

In reference to the question posed above, knowing what to study for a test is half the battle. In a military scenario, if there are 10 possible strike zones but by knowing exactly which zones an enemy is determined to capture, one can force all resources towards protecting those zones.

Know the subject does not mean mastering the course material. It is about understanding the subject topic. Take a genetics course as a case study.

Genetics is a pretty wide field with quite a large focus so studying for midterms can be quite intimidating. It is important to understand what subjects are most important to the field of genetics and must be understood exhaustively. There are certain topics that a teacher would never let their student go through a class without learning. These are the first concepts that need to be covered in studying.

One solution is to ask a friend or housemate that has taken the test before for an old midterm or final. An old midterm/final will always give you an idea of what topics are central to a subject. Unfortunately, that only works for lower division courses if you live with people who are not in your major, as you get towards upper division the chances you know somebody older who is willing to part with old tests become much slimmer.

Enter “google”

Search the name of the class and the word “syllabus” which always inevitably leads to a course website of some sort. In this example, I’ll use BICD 100 (an undergraduate genetics course).

The first page that pops up is a UCSD course from 2005 and that is the first step. Now a days, some universities have gotten smarter and have dedicated web systems for students to access course materials. However, old course websites that were up in previous quarters or years are still readily available online and never taken down. Now are the basic concepts of genetics going to change over the next year? Not likely, and even if they do they do not typically trickle into curriculum changes. The beauty of this technique is that most subject matter is the same across the nation. Just because UCLA does not have an available genetics course website online does not mean you cannot use UCSD’s available website to glean information.


It is quickly apparent through skimming through the first midterm answers that there are several topics I will need to understand thoroughly:
1. genotype/phenotype cross breading maps
2. Chi Square testing and other statistical models
3. Mendelain and non-Mendelian segregation ratio rules
4. heredity mapping and pedigree charts
5. progeny probabilities

Can you imagine how bad a professor would look if a class full of students graduated his/her course without understanding how to read and solve a pedigree chart? These are topics that are guaranteed to be asked in an undergraduate genetics course no matter which university you may be enrolled in. You can try the technique with a different college. Don’t know how to find the same course for a different college? Just google the name of the book and once again “syllabus”. Voila, another exam to learn from.

Academic Ingenuity: Part I

From one course website posted five years ago, this quarter’s first midterm can be deduced. Sure, the professor might share what topics will be central to this upcoming test and they might even provide a practice midterm or final. If the professor does not give a hint to the exam though, you’ve gotten a massive upperhand in knowing how and what kind of questions will be asked.

Next: Out playing the Professor

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