You’ve probably noticed that enchanted student in your classes who seems to sail through engineering school, showing up seemingly without prepping and acing every. dang. exam. You know the one….
Maybe they show up to class, maybe not. They just make everything look so Chuck Norris easy while everyone else army crawls through the trenches.
Wanna know a secret?
They’re likely not as special unicorn magic as you might think. (Even they can’t divide by zero, friends.)
Instead of marveling in their “magic” or getting all covetous, try stealing their ninja tricks to passing engineering classes.
The thing that drives people crazy about these engineering school ninjas it that they’re so casual about their success. We know, engineering school is hard and it sometimes fights dirty: impossible exam questions, unhelpful professors, overwhelming projects. Brain-fried, much?
Yet these fairy-students are like those Hollywood actors who just came out of a faux war zone and still look photo-shoot ah-mazing. Irritatingly, not only do they pass classes without ruffling their hair, maybe they’re even ridiculously nice or—shudder—helpful.
When you see these it’s-so-easy students and they’re not looking, you can’t help but either rubberneck like they’re a star or give them side eyes like your passing them sitting in a swanky first-class seat on your way back to the cattle feed lot in coach. #PrivilegedAnalogy
The point is, we all want to do this thing called engineering school well. We all want good grades, especially if it requires little to no effort or change. Ugh, change!
Lacy’s been there, on both sides of the side-eyes. I started as the giver of stank and awe, but then I slowly pieced together how to slide on over the side of Chuck Norris engineering unicorns. (And it totally is the better side.)
We promise there is no magic to becoming a successful engineering student. And you can get there without spinning your wheels and feeling like a train wreck. It just takes some sleuthing and practice.
What Tips Can We Borrow from Amazing Engineering Students?
Chances are, these folks have their stuff organized, even if they don’t advertise it. We’re not talking color-coded binder tabs and highlighters. (Dude, stop doing already that if you’re there. Pretty is a big distraction from what matters.)
We’re talking about having a system for where to put notes (not old pizza box lids or scraps of paper), assignments, quizzes, old finals—everything for the class should have a home from day one. And if they don’t have that, they have a way to get organized before reviewing for exams.
You might be thinking, They don’t have notes. Their engineering knowledge is a divination from heaven.
Okay…. We know that neither osmosis nor prayer alone works to understand moments of inertia, right? If they don’t go to class, it’s all the easier to organize their papers (just like Hassan did during his undergrad degree), but there is still course content to filter, sort, and store for later even if it’s purely mental.
Admittedly, there are a few people that absorb info without writing, but they still must process and internalize the information.
Don’t have a system to get organized for exam review yet? Download the Crammables Exam Prep Guide to study like a pro.
Schedule stuff that matters
Maybe you have a schedule, but maybe it’s a time table of classes, labs, events, and some meetings. What about ensuring the other time is earmarked and in line with your goals? (Including awesome goals like lounging on the couch for hours or finally destroying your nemesis at ping-pong.)
Time management is often billed as a way to “get more time out of the day”. Really, time management should make sure that you’re clear on what activity your doing (or not) and that it’s in line with your goals, so you don’t waste your life away alternately drinking coffee, binge watching, and freaking out when responsibilities catch up with you.
Check out this post dedicated to engineering student scheduling and how to nail. it. down.
Win the head game
Taking exams is a total head trip. The typical student starts with anxious, moves through overwhelmed-running-circles, and builds to puffing-in-a-paper-bag crazy with finals. Don’t. This is all in your head.
Take a second to think of the worst possible scenario: you fail your final, you fail your class, maybe you get kicked out of school and your parents are going to kill you disappointed. But you don’t die. Maybe you have to circle back and restart engineering school. There is no serious life-ending consequence to botching an exam except for those that live inside your irrational fear.
Read that again. There is no serious life-ending consequence to botching an exam except for those that live inside your fear. You’re gonna be okay. Life is so much bigger than this!
If the worst case scenario happens, it will suck for a while. And then you’ll get over it and move on to awesome things. Pinky promise!
Your student envy is a light saber of confidence, and it’s a big part of her self-fulfilling prophesy of acing exams while making it look like a piece of cake. Put this school hurdle in perspective, and move past the exam head trip into brilliance.
Have verifiable test anxiety? Check out our series on overcoming your exam fears to become the confident test slayer we know you are inside.
Stop complaining (so much)
The best students sometimes give lip service to complaining about professors, unfair policies, exam questions out of nowhere, too much work, blah-ditty-blah. But if you look closely, they don’t really dwell there. Because, what an energy sink.
There will always be stuff you can’t control. Circumstances suck or are unlucky or legitimately unfair sometimes. And…?
Unloading about it might feel good, so do it for a rowdy minute. And then move on to solving the problem.
You’re an engineer, fergoodnesssakes. Solving problems is what we do, including life ones. If you’re just here for a lucrative future of designing formula one cars and Nobel Prize winning prosthetics…. We honestly don’t know what to tell you.
This is practice for the real world. Identify the problem, define what you’re seeking, and find the path forward. You know: problem solving skeels.
If you want to maximize your next exam grade, learn how to hack points like a pro on every engineering exam you take.
Stop group studying for exams
When engineering gets hard, people love to take comfort in numbers. Hence the study group. “It keeps me accountable. It answers my questions. It helps motivate me.”
Listen. Unless you go to the group for short periods of time, exclusively to (1) ask a question you’ve tried a million times and are really, really stuck on or to (2) cement your knowledge by answering questions for others, study groups distract you, atrophy your problem-solving skills, and waste your time.
The exam likely isn’t going to allow pinky holding, so remove this crutch when exam reviewing.
Not convinced? Read more about how a reliance on group studying is a fast path to mediocrity and wasting time.
It’s make-believe that someone can show up to an engineering class, do nothing, not study, and supernaturally learn all of its content if they’ve never seen it before. There is a lot of behind the scenes, including studying and rehearsing for exams.
There’s a reason good students make passing engineering look so effortless. At the end of the day, studying for exams really a solo effort, just like the exam itself.
You might not be there when they try a problem for the sixteenth time or visit office hours or use the phone-a-friend lifeline, so of course it looks mystical when they’ve figured it all out.
Snag this free guide to study like a pro and learn how to effectively study solo.
What at first looks like magic is really just a slight of hand. The same is true of making engineering school look easy. You can too! #bebest
Now that you know the technique of smoke and mirrors, you’re ready to be more efficient at studying and slay your next exam. Wanna give it a try? Score a free step-by-step guide on how to exam review like a pro now.
Have some other magical engineering unicorn tips? Share them with us below already!