How to improve your TVCA grade

This past week has been midterm week so many of the courses in the graphics technology program have incorporated TVCA assessments into their course, in response to “What the industry expects from graduates”. I’ve had a few students ask what they could do to raise their TVCA scores so I thought I’d offer up a few suggestions.

  • Don’t miss class and be sure to show up on time. Miss a class and you could end up slipping up on learning some of the key concepts in a course. But just showing up isn’t the only factor that’ll make a difference in doing well in a course.
  • Come to class alert and prepared to pay attention. In fact, be sure you are not only attentive but you are taking notes during demonstrations and lectures.
  • Crack open that book and read it. Even better – take notes. Reading the book before class helps prepare you for material that will be taught.
  • Ask and don’t ask questions. Huh? That makes no sense right? Here’s the deal – if you are paying attention, taking notes, and reading assignments you SHOULD ask questions to clarify concepts that are perhaps unclear. However, if your questions are a constant repeat of material you should have read, heard, or taken notes about then you might need to pay close attention to comprehension skills. I’m reminded of the first time I taught the introductory course in our program, Digital Media & Design where many students learn to print using QuarkXpress for the first time. And despite having an assigned reading and a demo, over half the class ended up asking “How do I print?” So just remember, when you enter the industry many employers won’t repeat instructions repeatedly.
  • Make an attempt to learn independently. This means use your resources FIRST and then ask questions. In fact, go out and seek resources beyond the course such as other books, or online tutorial resources.
  • Make efforts to exceed course expectations. Doing the bare minimum requirements will likely earn you a C. An A exhibits mastery of course expectations – in other words, you are going beyond what is expected of you.
  • Complete all steps of the creative process AND apply what you’ve learned to your projects. This means do your research, rough drafts, and comps BEFORE you’re done with the project. Just last week I noticed one of my students quickly sketching out rough drafts just before a project was due. Why? What’s the sense – is it really going to help your project AFTER you’ve finished it? Sure it might help earn a few points, if of course the teacher doesn’t see it – but seriously – when you don’t complete your creative process first it shows.
  • Take some initiative and motivation to not only express your sincerity towards your future profession, but go out and do something that WILL benefit your soon to be career. That means get out there and network and get involved in local and campus creative organizations such as Graphics Hangouts, Orlando AIGA, Creatologists, and AAF Orlando. This valuable connection with the industry will certainly make a difference when it comes time to get a job. If your work schedule or other obligations prevent you from participating in other organizations consider getting involved in other ways such as online creative communities. Here’s a hint – start interacting on this blog and in our flickr. But don’t stop there, there are many more online communities that will allow you to network online beyond school.
  • Proof your own work. I am baffled to see how many students do not even bother to use the grading criteria I offer with all of my project handouts. It’s like a checklist – before you’re complete go through and check off what you’ve finished so you can be sure you’ve met project objectives.
  • Take pride in your work. This means that regardless of whether you are a print or web/interactive designer you present your work in a professional manner, so much so that a client or employer would be impressed. Remember, sometimes first impressions are the only chance you have to sell your work. Poor craftsmanship and presentation can easily become a turn off.
  • Value the opinions and feedback you receive in class, learn from them, and do something so your work improves. Now is the time to learn and polish off your work. Just nodding your head during a critique thinking “ya, I suppose I could do that” and not doing anything to fix the matter really does not help you improve your work.
  • Communicate and participate in class. Don’t expect to be called on to participate, do so on your own free will. Most teachers will encourage such interaction in the class. Not only will you improve your communication skills but you’ll help make the class a bit more involved.
  • Don’t come to class to disrupt class with cell phone calls, typing emails, or playing flash games or music. This not only disturbs others in the class but it is evidence that there are distractions present which will likely affect your performance in class.
  • Spend time outside of class doing homework, reading, and working on assignments & projects. According to Valencia’s recommendations, students should expect to spend a minimum of 3 hours per credit hour outside of class. This means if you are taking a 3 credit hour course you should plan to set aside 9 hours a week. If you are not it will show in the work you are doing.
  • Turn your projects in on time. Don’t procrastinate and put off starting your project until just before it’s due. Doing so is asking for unexpected problems to sneak up on you. Remember, Murphy’s Law always applies when you’re trying to finish your project at the last minute!
  • Take responsibility for your performance in the course.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a bit of motivation to get started and gear yourself towards doing exceptional work you might want to check out “How to be an expert”. What’s worth noting from this article is, “The only thing standing between you-as-amateur and you-as-expert is dedication. All that talk about prodigies? We could all be prodigies (or nearly so) if we just put in the time and focused.”

Categories:   general info, industry expectations


  • Posted: November 3, 2006 09:02


    Great information. Even if your not a student all the above items can help improve the quality of your life and those around you. Just the bold words alone is like a shopping list to succes!
    • Posted: January 14, 2011 12:47

      Audris Billberry

      TVCA is doable by everyone. It requires each of us to first take an honest look at ourselves. We have to honestly evaluate what we see and then finally we have to commit to change the weak areas and accent the strengths in our lives. The creation of an action plan with measurable outcomes for success will prove helpful in this process. Since it is a challenge for me to get out I found the on-line network opportunities idea valuable. Discipline and responsibility stood out to me as two of the most valuable character traits needed to succeed in TVCA. As I embark on this phase of my life this article caused me to reflect on how I have applied TVCA principles to my life. I could see areas where I had fallen short in my past. I am convinced that through consistent use of the TVCA principles I will be well on my way to establishing a life legacy for my family. Thank you for a good read!
  • Posted: November 3, 2006 10:08

    Barbara Peterson

    You've said it so well, Amanda. As I tell my students, if you are successful in your TVCA goals you will be successful in the class - and your career for that matter. I wish I had been provided a formula when I was in school. Often I just got a grade of B or C - work harder. Or A - good work. How did that help me learn to be a better designer? I'd like to add a special thanks to our dedicated faculty and the passionate students that demonstrate daily they really care. It shows. I was so proud to see the many faces of our graduates - now working in the industry - and all the students at the Mac Paper Show. I heard one paper rep describe it as a "feeding frenzy". That's passion!
  • Posted: November 3, 2006 12:26


    Great Information Amanda! I made sure to follow many of her suggestions as part of my learning style which allowed me to get more out of the classes. I was an A student and continued to ask questions beyond the norm to further my understanding of branding. It was important for me to know why one design worked best which really helps me evaluate my work today.
  • Posted: November 3, 2006 13:57

    Nadine Caldwell

    Great practical and useful information. I have found that in most cases, the TVCA grade and the grade in the class are directly related. I tell students that the TVCA guidelines and the grading criteria sheets I give out with the assignments are like a recipe for success in the class. A student may have all the talent in the world, but this alone does not guarantee success.
  • Posted: November 3, 2006 22:47

    Kevin M. Scarbrough

    >>Make an attempt to learn independently. This means use your resources FIRST and then ask questions. In fact, go out and seek resources beyond the course such as other books, or online tutorial resources. This is my favorite part of the entire post. Buy a Drimmel from Home Depot, they are about $30-40 and can be used to distress objects a lot better than Photoshop. Use a mask and goggles. Buy a camera. Or rent one, or borrow one. Study photography, take a photography class, talk with the photographers at school. Don't rely on iStock, get up and get out and go and move and jump and practice and fall and stumble and get up again. Learn not to be shy. Go to a fast food restaurant, find an old couple, explain you are a communications student (it is true in an abstract sense), and you need to practice interviewing people. Ask about their children, grandchildren, their day, what they were like when they were kids. Using old people, you can be pretty certain you won't be kidnapped (and if they try it, you should be able to get away fairly easily). Be an interesting person, and you'll come in contact with interesting people.
  • Posted: November 4, 2006 16:23

    Cinthia Stetson

    Well Amanda I am going to try harder to use these suggestions and produce better quality work. I do read my book as assigned, but don't resource enough outside materials. I'm going to improve my work techniques and get my grade up. Thanks for the post.
  • Posted: November 5, 2006 18:24

    Stacey Barton

    This is a post everyone should read. I know I always make it to class but I feel I could participate a little more. I try read as much as possible but should definitly try reading other materials then just my book. Thanks for the advice Amanda!
  • Posted: November 10, 2006 19:11


    I think this is very good information we should all take to mind. Everyone has somthing to work on. I'm going to try to work even harder to bring my TVCA grade up. It's pretty important. ^_^
  • Posted: November 21, 2006 11:09


    I agree that we should all read our books before class or even outside of class log into webct there is always something new and important to read and learn, also look at websites in general and criticize and learn from them, i should ask more in class and also participate
  • Posted: May 15, 2009 10:46

    Greg Leibowitz

    Thank you for the insightful post. I appreciate the TVAC's imposed self-reflection and think many of us will need these skills in the profession. The TVAC is simply a self-evaluation tool commonly given out by HR departments in larger companies and organizations. We need these exercises to help us as freelancers and as artists. The article details how to be a better student, designer, etc. and that advice is priceless. Accountability is lacking in my generation and these exercises will hopefully help. So many classes teach us how to be better artists and skilled craftsmen, but few do us the favor of improving our habits. Our habits dictate our final results. And the final result, be it, our projects, portfolios, books, etc is a reflection of us.
  • Posted: January 14, 2013 04:05

    Reiven Andersson

    Thanks for the great article! It'll be great to have it bookmarked so I can come back and look at it again when I need some reminders. I really found the TVCA a great "tool" to make ourselves better as persons. At first when I heard about it, I got a little scared. I didn't want to evaluate myself truthfully just to found out that graphic design is not the right field for me. But at the same time I felt that I really had to be honest with the answers cause it's better to know now than months in to it. Of course as a newcomer to the art of graphic design and to the real business world, most of the answers are far away from what I would like them to be by the end of the semester. When I answered the questions it kind of felt like I was beating myself down because most of the answers weren't what I wanted them to be. But that's what made me realize that I'm going to have to work harder on getting to were I want to go. I can't procrastinate like I've always have and miss class week after week like I used too. I need to become more serious about it all and I think the TVCA is just the kick in the butt I needed and it will be good to have it as a helping tool along the way so I can keep myself on track.
  • Posted: January 13, 2014 20:44

    Ashton Dzialo

    Definitely keeping all of this in mind. And taking the evaluation test was scary, but how can we improve if we can't face our own faults? My weakest and feared being communication, but I'm ready to brave it. Just starting out in the graphic design program and only being self-taught in drawing beforehand, so I'll always be full of questions about what to do and what's best, it's exciting getting to finally take courses that I love. The one fear I have is presenting my art in front of others, it's far easier to do so by posting it on a site, but in person it can be nerve racking. Hopefully as I take these courses and get to be up in front of others it'll help pull me out of the shadows and get wonderful insight.
  • Posted: May 9, 2014 00:05

    Charity Dyer

    I enjoyed this article. Even though I am not a Graphics Design major, I feel this information is still very applicable to all careers. I am studying to be an art therapist. I am taking graphic design courses because I know it will make me more effective and self-reliant in projects I work on with clients. Grading myself in my design courses and my career objective is very important so I can use the TVCA in both areas. I feel that all of the suggestions you offer will help make me a stronger student now and a better career person. I really like the point of not procrastinating and I love how its in bold type. Creative types tend to be disorganized and being a graphic designer with deadlines, people are forced to get things done or lose money and opportunity. Learning to not procrastinate now is so important.
  • Posted: January 22, 2015 13:09

    Irene Acevedo

    This article is very helpful and encouraging. I am glad that Valencia requires us to take this TVCA Assessments. This suggestions will definitely help me to get ready for the industry. I just finished an AA in Business Administration here at Valencia. Since I had to take some classes that where not even related to my degree I started to get discouraged. Lack of motivation lead me to procrastinate, but little by little I've become more responsible. I love business and marketing, but since I also like graphics I decided to start a TC in Graphic Design. This article encouraged me to strive for excellence.