Everything you wished you asked your professor before a midterm but didn’t

Katherine Chen/File

It’s midterm season, ladies and gentlemen, and that means studying all the material you strategically put off until the weekend before your exam. But who’s to say you still don’t need a few questions answered from your professor? We certainly don’t. Not everyone is the kind of person who already knows the professor’s top three favorite colors and routinely asks questions after lecture that make the line of people behind him or her groan in frustration. So the following questions might give you a few ideas the next time you’re stumbling with what to say to your professor.

1. Is there a curve? Actually, please, please, tell me there’s a curve?!

Nothing can lift our spirits quite like the comfort of knowing that there’s a curve on the midterm. It’s the great safety net the founders of socialism had in mind. Nevertheless, curves are totally in — just watch a music video. Or don’t, if you have any appreciation for the finer aspects of music or filmmaking.

2. Would you console me if I cried uncontrollably during your office hours or exam time?

We’re talking a conspicuous amount of tissues, at least two warm hugs and a generous number of pats on the back. It’s not too much to ask — we live in a society, people! A small blanket, stuffed animal and a few chocolates would be welcome, but it’s not like we are needy or anything.

3. Will any of this material be useful someday?

It is a question that has led to the fading of elbow patches on multiple tweed jackets and the twirling of countless pairs of thick-rimmed glasses. Coffee has been spilled over this dilemma — the expensive hipster-y coffee kind, too. Most liberal arts majors will, at one point or another, ponder this one but conclude that it’s better than morning labs.

4. How would you go about studying for this midterm?

This is a good question to pose to your professor, but you are seriously banking on the fact that they’ve thought about this before. Otherwise you’ll find yourself thinking, “Oh, you’d reread the lecture notes you handed out. I would have never thought of that one! I guess everything just has to be about you.”

5. Is there a correlation between the amount of times I’ve facepalmed and a good grade?

The facepalm was the “I can’t even” before we all decided it was okay to speak in incomplete sentences. The answer to the above question is, yes, it’s just an inverse correlation. Basically, the more times you facepalm, the lower the grade you get. “What’s that? You already knew what an inverse correlation was? Perhaps you’ve forgotten the target audience.”

6. If I tell more people about my upcoming midterm, will I do better on it?

We all know that person. Frankly, we are all that person at some point, too. Just know that it’s only a problem when you start conversations about your midterm with people you normally don’t talk to. Think of it like calling your parents to ask for money — sometimes it’s necessary, but it’s better to not make a habit of it.

7. Do you take pride in reducing me to the fetal position more times than I’m willing to admit?

Kudos go to you for asking this. It will definitely tug at the heartstrings of your professor, unless they’re the kind of soulless machine that teaches new material during the class before the midterm and then asks questions on it, sending you into a panic, convulsions and ultimately the fetal position. So we guess this doesn’t work.

8. Tell me all about your research? I’m just so fascinated! *artificial smile*

This may or may not help, but it sure as hell will kill an hour. If you want to put off studying but not feel bad about it, use the time you should be spending studying to chat with your professor. You’ll still fail the test, but you’ll have a hell of a dinner conversation prepared. And isn’t that the reason most of us take classes outside our major?

9. Professor _____, did you know your eyes sparkle in the light?

This is a bold move: high risk, high reward. Either your professor bats his or her eyes and is left positively smitten for the rest of the day, or they make an awkward chuckle and start talking about their spouse’s job. Expect the latter more than the former, though miracles can come true, right? You’ll certainly need one for your midterm if you resort to asking this!

10. I noticed an error in our problem set. You see, you haven’t factored our inability to complete this in a reasonable amount of time into any of these equations.

Math jokes are fun, but you know what isn’t fun? Copious amounts of math homework and debatable math jokes.

11. I may have forgotten to ask this before, but is there a curve?!

Asking a second time is kind of like what they tried to do in the movie “Inception.” The more times you casually bring up a curve in a covert manner, the more likely you will be able to plant the idea in the listener’s head. And if you do find out there’s a curve later on, be sure to tell all your friends about your DiCaprio-esque exploits. Just don’t get stuck on this dream – the top is still spinning!!

12. What does the midterm emphasize?

This is a practical question that will actually help you.

13. Can I see the midterm?

This is not a practical question and will most likely not help.

14. Can I take home the midterm?

This is more likely to hurt than to help you, BUT, if you’ve been shooting blanks on all your practice tests, screw it and give it a shot!

15. Can I just not take the the midterm?

Yup, at this point, you have accepted impending doom. Symptoms include calculating the highest possible grade you can get in the class if you receive a zero on the midterm.



Contact Ismael Farooqui at [email protected].