Muhammad Rafiq is a freelance writer, blogger, and translator with a master's degree in English literature from the University of Malakand.
Your grades are important if you want to get into a good university or graduate school. Good grades can also help you get a better job. Getting good grades is not easy because your professors expect you to understand concepts and show that you have skills. This is where I am here to help you. I've been a student manager for several years and a tutor for many more years than that. After helping hundreds of students, I've learned the following 10 best techniques to help students improve their grades:
- Study smarter, not harder
- Come up with a study plan
- Set goals
- Find out your strengths and weaknesses
- Get rid of distractions
- Avoid skipping classes
- Start Your Homework Early
- Stay on top of your work
- Work with a friend or tutor
- Don't stop learning
1. Study Smarter, Not Harder
Students think that studying harder is the key to high grades, but they are wrong. The most important rule for doing well in school is this: study smarter, not harder.
When students ask me for advice on how to get good grades, I tell them to study less.
Students often feel like they have to spend hours and hours studying to do well. But in my experience, that's not true. The fact is that if you just learn what's on the syllabus and do a few practice problems, you'll probably do just fine. That's because most of the information you need to know for a course is in the book or online. If you spend your time skimming these sources and doing a few problems, you'll probably get at least an A in the course.
Many studies have shown that people who spend several hours a day studying don't get better grades than people who spend an hour a day. Instead of spending more time studying, you should spend your time differently.
2. Come Up With a Study Plan
The best way to learn is with a study plan. A good study plan is a list of the things you need to know and when you need to know them. Then you work your way through the list, one thing at a time, in order.
Everyone has their own way of learning, so no one study plan works for everyone. But there are some steps that go into making a good study plan. First, decide what you want to do: get better grades or do better on tests?
Second, decide what you're bad at: math, reading, or writing?
Third, choose how much time you can devote to studying. You'll have more success if you limit yourself to an hour or two every day instead of trying to cram everything into a couple of days before the exam.
Fourth, look at the material your teacher will be covering in class and decide how much of it you already know—and which parts you don't know but should learn.
Fifth, make sure your study plan covers everything that's on the exam—and nothing else.
Sixth, make sure it stays on schedule; if it's too easy for you, move on; if it's too hard for you, slow down so that it doesn't become overwhelming.
3. Set Goals
Setting goals is a way of telling yourself what you want. It's the first step in making sure that you get what you want. One thing that keeps many people from giving themselves good grades is that they have never thought seriously about what they want.
The first thing to do is to write down some goals. Don't worry about whether they are realistic or not. The whole point of setting goals is to try for something better than you would otherwise get. You can revise your goals later if your first ones don't seem to be working out.
A good way to get started writing down goals is to ask yourself questions like these: What do I really like? What would make me happy? What am I really good at? Which activities do I most enjoy doing? Which subject do I most enjoy studying? What kind of work would really suit me? What type of person do I wish to be?
You might find it helpful to talk this over with someone else, especially someone who knows you well and has noticed which things you are interested in. And don't forget to think about this not just for school but for other areas of your life as well, such as sports, art, music and so on.
4. Find Out Your Strengths and Weaknesses
Experienced teachers say that if you want to get good grades, the first thing you should do is find out what you're bad at. If you don't know your own weaknesses, it will be hard for the teacher to help you. Why? Well, if you don't know what's wrong, how can you know what's right? If the teacher tells you that something is wrong, and you think it's right, then of course you're going to argue with her.
If you know what's wrong, then when the teacher tells you that same thing is wrong, instead of arguing with her, you'll think: "I knew that! Now I just have to figure out how to fix it." So it will be easier for the teacher to help.
To find out what you are bad at, ask your teachers. But don't just ask them "What am I bad at?" Instead ask them specific questions -- what kinds of mistakes do they see most often? Then they'll tell you more than just "you're bad at everything." They'll tell you exactly what things are hardest for you.
5. Get Rid of Distractions
Distractions are everywhere, but they are especially pernicious when they are disguised as pleasurable activities. Video games, internet chatting, and surfing the web may seem like fun, but if you have to study for a test in the morning, it will be hard to focus on your homework.
The solution is obvious: no social networking, no TV, and no video games until you finish your homework. If you need some quiet time before bed or in the morning to wake up, limit your web surfing to one hour per day.
This applies to students of all ages. It's a rare college student who can consistently get good grades while keeping up with what's happening on Facebook or YouTube. Be honest with yourself -- if you're having trouble focusing on work after an evening spent doing Facebook and YouTube, you probably have ADHD.
It can be tempting to justify certain activities as "recreational," but regardless of how you label it, if it takes away from schoolwork then it is a distraction. Even if a student wants to spend time on schoolwork but finds that he can't because his roommate is listening to loud music or his girlfriend is calling him all hours of the night, this behavior falls under the same category as Facebook and YouTube -- it is distracting and inefficient.
6. Avoid Skipping Classes
One of the most common ways students sabotage their education is by skipping classes. I'm not talking about skipping classes to go drinking or surfing or skiing. I'm talking about skipping classes to avoid doing any homework, and just hoping to get good grades anyway.
It doesn't work.
The way to get good grades is to do the homework, and then go to class and pay attention, so that you understand what's going on in class when they do the next homework assignment.
If you are not doing the homework, your other option is just to memorize everything in the textbook and hope you have enough memory capacity to pass tests without understanding anything. It sounds like a crazy strategy but some students really do this. It does not work very well; even if you can memorize enough, eventually you will reach a limit where there is too much new stuff coming at you too fast for you to hold it all in your head at once. And then you will fail tests very spectacularly.
So don't skip classes. And don't be afraid of them either; they are the best place we have found for turning books into knowledge.
7. Start Your Homework Early
If you are a student and want to get good grades, there is one thing you can do better than any other. Start your homework early. Most students wait until the last minute to start their homework, and then have to rush through it.
The problem with this is that you are tired when you start working on your homework. If you are tired, it's hard to concentrate on what you're doing. And if your mind isn't concentrating on what you're doing, it's very hard to do a good job.
Trying to finish your homework in a hurry makes three mistakes:
1) It wastes time at the beginning of the project because you make lots of avoidable mistakes at the beginning, so that you are slowed down for the rest of the project.
2) Rushing yourself means that you are too tired to think clearly about what you're doing, so that more mistakes creep in.
3) Rushing yourself leads to taking shortcuts; not worrying about writing things down or paying attention to details because they aren't important anyway. When writing something down or paying attention to details matters, these shortcuts make your work less comprehensible, so that people who read it have trouble figuring out what's going on and may think less of your ability.
Look back at some school papers you have written. How much better would they have been if you had started earlier? How much earlier could you have started if these tasks didn't take so long?
8. Stay On Top of Your Work
Staying on top of your work means you must know what is going on in your classes. You can't ask your teacher to tell you everything that is going on in class. You need to be aware of the subject matter, what's been covered and what is still to be covered.
You will benefit from staying on top of your work if you take notes in class. No one else may look at them again but you, but they'll remind you about the things that have been discussed or will be discussed in class. They'll help you get ready for tests because they'll jog your memory about important facts, concepts and details from class discussions.
It makes a difference if you take notes during class or not. If you don't take notes then you're relying solely on your memory for information which will make it harder for you to understand and study for tests.
9. Work With a Friend or Tutor
Working with someone else is a good idea because it forces you to review the material. You can also ask questions when you don't understand something. This will help you learn the subject better and score higher on tests. Studying with someone else allows you to share notes, too, which means less work for each person.
Tutors are great because they know the material really well. Tutors also have more experience studying for tests than students do, so they can give good advice about how to study for a test. Working with a tutor is also more time efficient than studying by yourself, because you can get more done in less time. If you're lucky, your school offers free tutoring, or tutoring at a low cost. A private tutor isn't that expensive, either; if money is an issue for you, it may be worth considering.
You'll probably still have to do most of the work yourself, but having someone else to bounce ideas off of can take a lot of pressure off. It can also help you see things from different points of view.
10. Don't Stop Learning
The last thing is not to stop learning if you want to get good grades. It's a fundamental truth that the more you know, the easier it is to learn new things. If you have mastered the basics of English, for example, you'll find it much easier to learn advanced vocabulary, or writing skills, or mathematical concepts.
Trying to learn at school without mastering the basics will be a frustrating experience. You won't be able to get good grades and you'll feel like a failure. So don't try to move ahead until you've mastered the basics first.
There are many ways in which the school system fails to teach students properly. But one of the most fundamental is that it doesn't make sure they have mastered the basics before moving on. It picks up speed too soon and then leaves students in its dust.
But if you've mastered the basics, then nothing can hold you back as long as your desire remains strong enough.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Muhammad Rafiq