Each exam has reading assignments from the textbook and from the Online Astronomy Text. All the materials in both texts should be read as soon after they are assigned as possible, so they are familiar to you when they are covered in class, and you can better understand the lectures. After each lecture, you should review the reading assignments to see what material was covered in that lecture. If there were parts of the lecture which were more difficult for you to understand, you should study the relevant parts of the reading assignment until you understand the material, or until you become convinced that you need additional help to do so. In the latter case, send me an email asking for more information, or make a note to yourself to ask about it at the start of the next class meeting (I always ask if there are any questions, before starting to lecture).
Each exam covers certain essay questions, specified by the notes for that exam. Once you are familiar with the reading assignment, you should begin a thorough study of those topics covered by each essay. (Each essay question is linked to a detailed breakdown which indicates the topics covered by that question.)
There are a number of pages on this site which discuss how to prepare for the exams. You should refer to them to get the best possible understanding of what I look for in grading your exam (in particular, refer to More Study Suggestions
). There are also a number of tutorials available at the Library, which can help you learn how to more effectively organize your study time for this and any other class which you are taking.
When learning terms and definitions, particularly ones which seem similar, make sure to keep them properly organized in your mind. If you confuse terms, your answer may be a good discussion of one topic, but a poor discussion of the topic you were actually supposed to cover. (The Midterm Notes give specific examples of terms that are often confused.)
I often discuss the history of astronomy, but the examinations do not cover the history of astronomy. Discussing how we learned about things makes it easier to understand what we know, and the significance of changes in our viewpoint, but only currently accepted facts and theories will be covered by the exams. Similarly, you will become familiar with the astronomical theories and observations of various historical figures, but you do not need to know anything about those figures as individuals, for the exams.
Each midterm will start at the beginning of class. Try to arrive early, so that if you are delayed in getting here, you can still arrive in time to finish the exam. If you are late arriving, I will allow you to take the test, but you will not be given any extra time to make up for your late arrival. It is important to try to take both midterms, no matter how difficult it is to do so. Even though you can replace a missing midterm with the Makeup Final, missing a midterm deprives you of valuable feedback on how you are doing, and having to take both Finals makes Finals Week far more difficult.
All my lecture examinations are closed-book, closed-note tests. Although you are encouraged to thoroughly prepare for each exam, and to write out practice versions of the essays, you will not be allowed to use any notes while taking the exams.
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When answering the questions, your answers must cover every part of each question in as much detail as possible, given the time constraints. Your answer should be as detailed, thorough, complete, and well organized as possible, particularly if you want a high grade, as I grade you only on what you put down, and if you leave things out, you will receive a lower grade, regardless of why you left them out. Since you know all the questions in advance, you should be able to prepare answers which cover everything, but are sufficiently concise that you have time to complete them. Do not make the mistake of spending too much time on one question, then running out of time for other question(s).
To help you finish, you may use tables, diagrams, and any abbreviations of words and grammar which do not make your discussion difficult for me to follow. You do not have to use a standard English essay structure. Do not waste time writing down the question. Do not waste time stating general background for the question, then going over it in more detail, or summarizing what you already wrote. Put down as much as you can, but only put it down once, then go on to other material.
I do not grade answers on the basis of length, as there is a tremendous variation in the nature of the presentation written by different students; but in general, you should expect to write 3 to 4 pages for each answer if you are shooting for a C, 4 to 6 pages if you are shooting for a B, and 6 to 8 pages if you are shooting for an A. Some questions are longer and more involved, and may require even longer answers, and others are shorter and less involved, and may not require such a long answer, but this is about what other students have done, in the past. In particular, answers which are substantially less than 3 pages long are rarely good enough to earn a passing grade.
When you receive your exam, there will be notes at the top of it which contain important instructions. Be sure to read those notes; if you do not read them, you could make a fatal mistake on your exam.
Try to arrive early for the exam, so that if something untoward happens and you are delayed in getting here, you can still be here in time to take and finish the exam. If you are late arriving, I will allow you to take the test, but you will not be given any extra time to make up for your late arrival.