What It Takes to Earn an A


Students often ask me, usually in the final weeks of the semester, what it takes to earn an A. This course combines a variety of assignments and skills which will require continued effort on your part, and if you’re interested in excelling you will need to produce excellent work. Since I have never offered these last-minute scholars extra-credit assignments, the time to show concern about your final grade is now. Here are some things I think every student should know early in the semester:

  • Earning an A or B: From the first week leave time to complete all readings and take reading notes for every class day. Your reading notes will help you on daily quizzes which will account for a portion of your grade and can give you an advantage on the unit exams. Turn in blog posts that not only consider some compelling aspect of individual readings, probably something not discussed in class, but also illustrate your mastery of standard English usage. Finally, prepare for unit exams from the first by reading consistently and carefully throughout the semester. It may surprise you that setting aside time to read and respond to each of the assigned readings now will make studying for exams later a rather painless experience.
  • Earning a C or D: I’m afraid this will also require completion of the readings. Most of the students I’ve observed trying to just pass the class by reading the bare minimum—because of the trouble they have with daily quizzes, quizzes, and blog posts—find themselves fighting to avoid retaking the class. There is no substitute for reading in a reading course. In addition your blog responses should each provide an acceptable discussion of some aspect of the reading, even a discussion we started in class, not as carefully polished or revised but illustrating some fluency with basic college-level writing. Finally, the unit exams will still require your attention; I have had a few students in the past earn scores lower than 65 or even 50 on the first exam and then struggle to bring their average up the rest of the semester. Don’t get behind.
  • Earning an F: Most of the failing grades I’ve given in past semesters stem from the failure either to prepare for or to attend class. If you do all the reading, think about the reading, and come to class, you will have a hard time earning below a C in this course. When you sense yourself having some difficulty with the material, come see me immediately. We are far more likely to improve your grade after the first test than after you have completed twenty quizzes, two exams, and a couple blog posts.

As we begin this class together, I’ll wish you more than luck; I wish you all the determination it takes to complete the semester with the same energy that you begin it.