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Making the Grade

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A lot goes into getting a good grade, and sure, you may feel some pressure. But by following some simple guidelines and communicating with your teachers, you’ll be on your way to earning the one you’re after, and hopefully deserve. Click through the slideshow below to discover common student concerns and get tips and advice from real teachers who want their students to succeed.

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What goes into your final grade? This varies from subject to subject and teacher to teacher. Usually it's a blend of test scores, quiz scores, papers, homework and participation.

Most teachers either hand out their grading policy at the beginning of the class that tells how much each type of assignment will be worth in the final grade. If your teacher doesn't tell you flat out, just ask. They have to have a formula to figure grades and will be happy to see that you care what goes into yours.

Up next: Extra credit

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Can I get extra credit? No. Survey says that most teachers aren't giving it these days. "The final grade reflects the work done in the class, not the student's ability to complete alternate assignments the last couple of weeks of a grading period," says Mark Bommarito of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Canada, Calif.

Extra assignments may be used in special cases. Some teachers note that while they don't take the place of exams, they can help nudge a grade up if it's on the borderline.

Up next: Participation grades

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What about class participation? It comes down to three things: doing in-class work, not being tardy, and being prepared for class, according to Grace Mendez of Holy Family High School in Glendale, Calif.

What will knock those participation points off? Distractions such as excessive talking, doing other work or passing notes.

Up next: Essay questions and term papers

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Will tests and term papers vary?Yes. "On a test, I look for answers to a given question; on term papers, I give a grade for content and one for style," says Kim O'Rourke of St. Lucy's Priory High School in Glendora, Calif. All teachers surveyed agreed.

With essay questions, focus on getting the information down that answers the question. With a term paper you have more time to get all the spelling and punctuation perfect, so that's expected too.

Up next: Neatness

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Does neatness count on papers? Bommarito admits, "I tell my students that neatness does indirectly effect the grade. If they make my job easier by turning in a paper that is stapled, clean, and easy to read, I'm happier. When I'm happy I feel nice. I try to grade based on information given, but I'm only human." Enough said.

Up next: Paper pitfalls

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It pays to go slow and steady. "Following directions and answering the question!," says Mendez. Her advice? Read the question several times until you are sure that you know what is being asked. Then start your response.

Other hot tips: Look out for words like "always," "never," and "not." Proofread rather than relying solely on the spell check.

Up next: Asking for help

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If things aren't going well, communicate. First, calm down. If you're worried, that means you care, and if your teachers know you care, they will probably bend over backward to help you. However, they aren't mind readers. You've got to tell them you're having trouble.

"Ask, or the teacher thinks it [your grade] is not important to you," says O'Rourke. If you had all the answers, you wouldn't need to go to school anyway.

Up next: When to ask

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When to ask fro help. Two times to avoid are when the teacher is in front of class or is helping someone else. "Before school, during break and after school are good opportunities," says Mendez. "If you are terribly shy, submit the question in writing," suggests Bommarito.

Up next: Understanding teachers

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Will the teacher think I'm not smart if I ask for help? No way. "If they don't understand, it doesn't mean they're dumb," says Jennifer Castillo from First Avenue Middle School in Arcadia, Calif. "Maybe it means that I'm not teaching it in a way they understand, and it's important for me to know that right away so I can adjust my teaching."

Up next: Pet peeves

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Here's what to do if you want to stay on the teacher's good side:

  • Listen: Otherwise you'll ask a question that was probably just answered.
  • Talk: Tell your teacher when you're worried about something.
  • Ask: When you don't get something.
  • Don't: Ask "Do we have to know this?" or "Will this be on the test?"
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