Research different professors' styles to set yourself up for success
Some of the strife caused by fretting over tests can be eliminated before the class even starts. As we all know, each professor structures class a little (or a lot) differently. I'm not talking about the professor that hosts "Quixotic Tangent Hour" versus the prof that watches paint dry while he speaks, but rather the testing style that each professor prefers.
Some professors prefer the 30 percent midterm, 50 percent final approach while others prefer the five quizzes each at 5 percent, two midterms each at 20 percent and final at 30 percent approach.
If you lose weight due to furious foot tapping when faced with hugely weighted tests no matter how well-prepared you are, then you might want to do some research and take the professor who opts for the second route.
Secondly, there is the open-note/closed-note dichotomy. My first encounter with an open-note test was sophomore year in my Applied Managerial Statistics course. Open-computers, open-textbook, open-notebook, cheat sheets, the whole shabam.
The class average for that test was 34 percent.
Lesson learned: Open-note does not mean easier.
Professors that allow open-note test-taking stress a more thorough understanding of the concepts at hand. Open-note test questions will be longer and much more intricate than closed-note questions, and a rote understanding of the steps required to complete certain problems won't cut it. The upside is that no memorization is required. If you are a student who always attends class and prefers a more concept and reasoning based approach to math-based topics, "open-note professors" are probably the way to go.
So save yourself some angst during the term by selecting professors that jive with your academic style. Next time your friend belabors their professor's terrible teaching you can say, "Dang, how the heck did you get paired with that guy anyway?"
What do you think the benefits are of heavily weighted tests versus a more spread-out testing approach? How about closed-note or open-note testing?