Some useful information for students that feel like their teacher has asked them things on a test or quiz that they have “never seen before.”
Often times, your teacher is trying to assess whether you have really mastered a subject. This may mean asking you to answer a question that requires you to take what you know and extend it to a situation that is different than what you’ve seen in your homework. Students that find these situations difficult often remark that, “we never saw this in our homework” and, they are right, but that doesn’t mean your teacher won’t ask you to do it anyway. The trick to dealing with this situation is to honestly ask yourself whether you have truly mastered a concept, or have you just familiarized yourself with it? These things are not the same. When we ask a student to show us that they know something, we make him prove to us that he can actually do work associated with the concept. Students often confuse having “done problems like that” with being able to do those problems, right here, right now. It’s great that a student can do a particular problem in a section of a book, but that doesn’t mean the concept is mastered. How do you know when a concept is mastered? One measure is when you recognize that there are patterns in problems. When you see a problem and can say, “that reminds me of the other problem we did,” even though the new problem is different, you are on your way to mastery.