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Get to the bottom of your teacher!

    “Dear Alexander,” the geography teacher said, “unfortunately your test was negative. But I’ll give you another chance next week and take you again orally. The subject matter of the exam is the entire last semester!” Alexander had to think about that now, as he sat in front of the geography book and leafed through the material with increasing unease. “But that’s about a hundred pages, no one can learn that!” he was rather despondent.

    And Alexander was probably right about that, because you can’t learn “a hundred pages” by any stretch of the imagination, unless you’re a memory artist or a magician in the circus who can guess the phone number of everyone in the audience. Or even better a prophet, because he could find out what questions the teacher will ask next week. But the teacher himself might not know them yet. And how could one find out something so “secret” that the person himself does not know yet?

    Alexander, like many students, has to struggle with not knowing at first what is so important from the hundred pages that it is worth learning. If one is always afraid of omitting something important and desperately tries to learn everything, then nothing or only little will stick in one’s memory because of the overabundance of apparently and obviously important things! And this little is usually not what the teacher then asks. And the old trick of dividing the material into small portions does not change anything. Which portions? How extensive should they be? So what should Alexander do?

    The best thing for Alexander to do is to close his book and not think about the material, but … about his teacher. He should close his eyes and remember the last lessons. In particular, he should try to recall those questions that the teacher asks during the repetitions at the beginning of the lesson. All teachers have developed over time a very particular way of phrasing questions.

    – There are those who remarkably often ask for dates, numbers, or names: Who? What? When? Where?”
    – Others would like you to list as much as possible or recite what you’ve memorized.
    – Others ask more often, “Why?”
    – Others would like you to explain a concept or a fact in your own words.
    – Still others always want to know what you think about something.

    Knowing the pattern of questions that certain teachers prefer makes it much easier to prepare for an exam with you. For Alexander, of course, it is not easy to start only now in retrospect. Of course, the best way is to get to know the teachers and their questioning styles right from the beginning of the school year.

    For example, it is a proven method to note down in the back of the respective notebook those questions that teachers already ask during the lessons. These are often bogus questions, which they then answer themselves. Pay attention just once. Some teachers play a question-and-answer game with themselves throughout the lesson.
    Taking notes during repetitions or when other students in the class are tested is also a proven way to collect such “secret” information.

    If Alexander has now found out the “typical questions” of his teacher, then he can determine quite well what the teacher could ask in each case when working through the material. That he should write down these questions and then test himself with them, we probably don’t need to add, because as learning professionals you have surely already discovered this. And while Alexander is now going over the material, he wonders how few questions you can actually ask with so many pages …

    By the way:
    Have you ever wondered why in school it’s always the teachers who ask the questions and not the students who don’t know the answers?