The announcement, “Today I have a little quiz for you,” has to rank amongst the “Top Five Most Terrifying Moments” in an academic career. When your professor springs a “pop quiz,” usually he’ll instruct you to write essays answering two out of three questions. Will you be prepared? It might be useful to think about how 007 (James Bond) would deal with this situation. Bond trivia fans know that he was kicked out of Eton for repeated curfew violations and “trouble with one of the maids”*, yet went on to attend Fettes College and the London School of Economics. Since he obviously remained enthralled with women, he must have discovered some tricks to studying with maximum efficiency in the least amount of time. What were James Bond’s secrets for always being prepared to write essays for a pop quiz, without working very hard? I have some theories.

The rationale for pop quizzes is to help professors ascertain whether or not students are keeping up with their reading assignments. Some professors seem to take perverse pleasure in giving pop quizzes; others couldn’t be bothered, assuming that students are mature enough to adhere to the reading schedule. Each semester, different professors may teach a particular course on different days of the week. During an “online enrollment period,” students can choose which class to attend on a “first come; first served” basis. James Bond would determine in advance which professors were prone to giving pop quizzes and try to avoid them. The vast majority of his classmates would not have the foresight to take that precaution.

Devising a plan for online enrollment in next semester’s classes is an absolutely critical academic survival skill. Students should know the date and exact time (usually 7AM) online enrollment begins. They need to know their enrollment password. They need to investigate the reputations of professors conducting each class. Students usually benefit when attending classes taught by dynamic professors who are never boring. 11AM classes meeting on Tuesday & Thursday fill up quickly. Students who dawdle may discover that the only classes left meet at 8AM Monday-Wednesday-Friday. 8AM classes are death. Set your alarm early and be prepared to log in at 7AM sharp!

Not even James Bond can avoid classes taught by “pop quiz” professors every time. What would be his next line of defense? What do you suppose would be his cardinal rule for achieving academic success?

“Always complete each reading assignment before the next class?”


Answer: “Always go to class.”

One reason for attending class is that since you paid the tuition, you might as well get your money’s worth. True, but the most important reason is this: you need to be in class to find out which information the professor deems important in the reading material. When a single textbook costs $150, it must contain a substantial amount of “filler” to justify such an outrageous price! Bond would want to discover which sections the professor emphasizes in his comments. This provides insight as to what questions might appear on a pop quiz or on the final exam. James Bond not only would go to class, but also he’d sit in the front row and participate actively in class discussions. He knows A) this will make mastering the material easier; B) it will help him identify those concepts most important to his professor; C) it will ensure that the professor remembers his name; and D) he’ll gain a distinctive advantage over students who often skip the class.

Does this imply that James Bond would seldom complete his required reading? Well, not exactly. However, he’d probably take a few “shortcuts.” Here’s one: most textbooks contain a “Summary” at the beginning of each chapter, which can be read in less than 2 minutes. Even if Bond has a “hot date” the night before the next class, he’ll exercise a bit of self-discipline. He’ll always read the summary and skim the text briefly before going out on the town. He’ll devote an extra 60 seconds to considering how the material might relate to the professor’s favorite themes. Finally, he’ll pick out the dates of two events linked to those themes. That may not sound like much, but in just a few minutes, James Bond has given himself a fighting chance of getting a passing grade on a surprise quiz.

There is no pop quiz at the next class. However, Bond’s date had been so marvelous that he’s arranged to meet her again at 7pm. He won’t have time to read the chapter thoroughly. Nevertheless, he has the discipline to spend 15 minutes performing the following task: referring to notes taken during class, James uses a yellow marker to highlight sections of the text dealing with points his professor identified as “significant,” while at the same time, ignoring others. The chapter now looks like Swiss cheese.

When class meets again, there’s a test. Students must write short essays, answering two out of three questions. One question covers a topic James failed to highlight, but the other two questions concern material he reviewed briefly. Because he attended every class, James Bond knows the responses the professor expects. He answers the questions in the first sentence of each essay. Then he lists reasons to support his position. He hasn’t read the material, so Bond states conceptual reasons. Lest his essays seem like pure B.S., Bond cites the two dates and events he memorized to provide factual detail. In his last sentence, he paraphrases his first sentence as a conclusion. essay writing service reddit 

The professor decides that Bond answered the questions “correctly.” He articulated important concepts rather vaguely, but did include some detail. While he offered no great insights, Bond presented his ideas systematically, making his essays easy to read. Since Bond always came to class, sat up front, and participated in class discussions, the professor gives Bond the benefit of the doubt and awards him a B on his essays. That’s not bad for a guy who hadn’t done his homework.

The point of this hypothetical story is to suggest students should emulate James Bond’s judicious application of self-discipline at just the right moment on a daily basis. A main challenge students face when entering college is learning how to balance their social lives with their academic responsibilities. Many take an “all-or-nothing” approach. “I can’t do any reading tonight because I’m going out with Sue.” James Bond might reply, “It won’t hurt Sue to wait 15 minutes.” He’s right. Even a few minutes of review before going on that date could make a surprising difference. Everyone can spare a few minutes. James Bond’s secret is that he recognizes those times when a few minutes of effort will produce maximum results.