Happy New Year! One goal that is always on my new years resolution is to try my best to get good grades. If you’re a student, the new year means a clean slate in the grading system. This can be intimidating, but if you work hard towards your academics, it is highly likely that you will see positive results. In high school, taking some of the most challenging classes helped me develop study habits that I would like to share with you. These tips helped me with getting good grades in all my classes, and more importantly allowed me to master the content.
Here’s how to form good study habits, take notes, and study before a test in order to get Good grades in School:
1. Show Up to Class and Take Notes.
This tip is a no brainer. However, as the semester or quarter rolls on, it can be tempting to skip class, especially in college where attendance is not taken. Resist the temptation to do so! Being present in class allows you to know the material that your teacher will likely test you on. Be sure to take notes, which will be important when you start to study for tests.
2. Sit Near the Front of the class.
If you have a choice, sit near the front of the class. This will decrease the chances of being distracted by other people or your phone since you’ll be closer to the teacher. No one likes getting caught talking or being on their phone by the teacher! The less distractions there are, the more attentive you will be in class.
3. Make a Friend in Class. Form a Study Group.
Make sure to have at least one person’s contact info in each class so that if you are absent or have any questions, you can ask them. Forming a study group before a test is also a great idea as long as those people are not distracting. Aside from the academic part of this tip, talking to people in class is a great way to make friends. Some of my classmates who I initially talked to only about class eventually became my closest friends.
4. Talk to your Teacher. Ask Questions.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your teachers and ask them questions. This is probably one of the most crucial pieces of advice I can give. Knowing for sure what the teacher expects from you will give you will increase your chances of scoring higher on a test or paper if you prepare the way they suggested. For example, I would stay after my writing class to ask my teacher to read over certain parts of my draft, give me feedback, and answer specific questions that I had. Incorporating my teacher’s suggestions payed off in the end. Most teachers aren’t out there to get you. They want to help you and see you succeed.
5. Do Your Homework.
Homework helps reinforce what you learned in class. I admit that some teachers assign homework that can be considered as just “busy work.” However, for classes such as math or chemistry, doing the homework will give you the practice you need to master the concept. Nail the problems that you struggle with because in my experience, a lot of what teachers test are covered in the homework.
6. Read and take notes from the textbook before class.
Make sure to read the textbook material that will be covered in the next class because you will have a clearer sense of what your teacher’s lecture is about. Also, the lecture will just reinforce what you already learned from the textbook. If the reading is a lot, give yourself some time and split the amount of pages to read per day. For instance, last quarter, my chemistry teacher would lecture one chapter per week, and each chapter would be about 35 pages. Thus, I would read 7 pages within 5 days, which is not bad!
Take notes while you’re reading, but don’t feel the need to write down every single detail. I will give more tips on how to take notes in the next section.
7. Stay Organized.
Organization is such an important skill to have as a student. Invest in a planner so that you can write down deadlines and homework assignments. Buy separate notebooks for each class and have separate folders and/or binders to put your homework and handouts in. Keeping track of your things will make it easier when finals comes around and you need to look back at past assignments.
8. Avoid Procrastination.
Give yourself time to complete homework before the due date, and start studying for your test a couple days before. Avoiding procrastination will leave you less stressed! What I like to do is at the start of my week, I’ll look at all of my deadlines and then divide the amount of work I have per day until the end of the week.
9. Know what’s the best environment you work in.
Can you concentrate with music playing or while others are around you? You know yourself best. Work where you can focus without any distractions. Personally, I like to study in the library. If I’m doing math or chemistry problems, I’ll listen to music. However, music distracts me when I’m writing essays.
10. Get Sleep and Eat Breakfast.
When you’re super tired, you’re not going to be as productive for the rest of the day. Start your day right with breakfast and plenty of sleep. It will also help you focus in your classes throughout the day.
11. Know Your Limit.
There is so much more to life than school. Even though this post is about getting good grades, you have to remember that your grades do not define you! Don’t overwork yourself to the point that you’re burnt out early on in the school year and you’re not able to finish strong. Give yourself breaks, and don’t be so hard on yourself. If you don’t get the grade you want, it’s not the end of the world.
12. Avoid Cheating.
Copying someone else’s homework or cheating on a test may seem like the easy route, but it will affect you in the long run. When you copy, you’re not learning the material on your own, and this can be problematic when it’s time for a test or finals. Instead of already knowing the concept and just reviewing it, you will have to spend extra time learning it right before the test.
13. Use additional Resources.
There are so many helpful additional resources online that you can refer to. In addition, if your school offers tutoring, take advantage of that! Some of the websites that I used for homework and studying help in high school are:
Sparknotes: Sparknotes provides chapter summaries and analysis for nearly all the books that you will read in high school. For some Shakespeare plays, you can read the original play along with a modern translation.
Shmoop: This website also provides chapter summaries that are outlined and more detailed.
Easybib: This website generates citations for you. It comes in handy when writing essays that have a lot of sources!
Purdue Owl: If you ever have questions about how to write an essay in MLA or APA format, this website provides a lot of information.
Slader: Slader gives you the explanations to answers that are in your homework. I used Slader to check my math homework in high school and see if I was doing the problems correctly.
Patrick JMT: Whenever I was unsure of how to do a math problem, I would often search tutorials on Youtube. Patrick JMT’s channel helped me a lot!
Symbolab: This website is a calculator that will solve complex math problems and provide a step by step guide to the solution.
Desmos: If you don’t have a graphing calculator, use Desmos to plot multiple equations on one plane.
Crash Course: This channel was created by Hank and John Green. They have fun and informative videos for science subjects such as chemistry and biology. They also have videos for other subjects such as history. I like their videos because they have great visuals and are fast-paced.
Bozeman Science: Bozeman Science saved me during AP Biology!
The Organic Chemistry Tutor: This is a great channel for chemistry help.
Tyler DeWitt: Another channel I used while taking chemistry. As you can tell, I needed a lot of help in chemistry lol.
Google Drive: As a student, I rely on Google Drive. If you don’t have an account, I highly recommend you to create one! Google Drive allows you to create documents, powerpoints or slides, and spreadsheets for free. The reason why I like it so much is because you can access it online, which is convenient when you don’t have your own computer with you. Let’s say I need to print an essay but don’t have my laptop with me. If it is on my Google Drive, I can still print it using another computer since it is online. If I was using Microsoft Word, I wouldn’t be able to do that.
Quizlet: I’ve been using Quizlet since middle school. It’s a website that you can create online flashcards with. You can also search through flashcards that other people have made, which is very useful while studying.
Khan Academy: Khan Academy is a free online classroom. There are videos to teach you concepts for math, science, coding, etc. Then, you can apply what you learned through practice problems that they set up for you. It’s super cool! Instead of paying for a class, I used Khan Academy to prepare for my SAT exams.
↠ How to take notes:
I prefer to handwrite the notes that I take in class and when I’m reading. There are multiple studies that show that students who handwrite their notes perform better on tests compared to those who digitally take notes (NPR article). However, do what works best for you. Here are some general tips on how to take notes:
1. Choose a method to take notes.
There are multiple ways to take notes. There’s the Cornell Method, outlining method, mind mapping, charting method, and sentence method (see this article for examples of each method). Find the method that works best for you by trying out each one. I like to use the outlining method.
2. Color Code your notes.
If I can choose between taking notes with a pencil or different colored pens, I would choose the latter. However, it depends on what class you are taking and the professor you have. I usually take notes in pencil during math or when my professor talks really fast and does not provide a powerpoint during lecture. Afterwards, I would rewrite my notes in pen in a more organized manner, which actually helps me understand the content even more. For the rest of my classes and while I’m reading from the textbook, I take notes with pen.
The reason why I prefer color coding my notes is because it makes it easier to read while studying. I associate each color with a different component. For example, I write words or sentences that are headings, subheadings, and key terms in the color red. I use blue ink for details and definitions. Then, I use black ink for sub-details. Here’s an article that explains how color coding your notes helps you retain the information longer.
3. Be Concise.
Take notes on only the main points that your teacher expects you to know. I know it might be tempting to write down every single detail, but you can save a lot of time by being concise. Here’s what I mean. Last quarter, I took a US history class in which my professor told us the main topics that would be tested at the start of each class. While reading the textbook, I took notes on everything, even the topics that he didn’t explicitly say would be tested. When I took the midterm, I realized that I spent too much time taking notes on things that weren’t necessarily important to the test. It does not hurt to know extra information, but if you want to be time efficient, be concise!
4. Draw Pictures.
If you’re a visual learner, draw pictures to help you memorize things such as complex scientific processes or cellular organelles.
5. Keep one notebook per class.
Buy a notebook for each class so that all of your notes are in one place and you’re not scrambling from one notebook to the next. It pays off to be organized!
Here’s an example of my notes:
↠ Tips on studying for Tests:
1. Start studying a few days earlier.
Avoid procrastinating, and give yourself time to study. The more time you have to study, the more likely you will master the content. In addition, if you have any questions or uncertainties, you have enough time to answer them.
2. Create a study plan.
Before I even study, I create a study plan in which I write down the topics I want to study each day. This helps me stay on track.
3. Read over your notes from class and the textbook.
4. Rewrite your notes.
If your teacher gives you a study guide, rewrite your notes to fit it. Draw pictures and create acronyms to help you with memorization.
5. Do practice problems.
Go over practice problems from the textbook, homework, and class. The problems that your teacher expects you to do will most likely be tested on!
6. Use flashcards.
7. Use External resources.
Watch Youtube videos to help you visualize what you’re studying or if you are not confident with certain topics. If you don’t like using physical flashcards, use Quizlet. There are so many resources online to assist your studying. Take advantage of them.
8. Know your study environment. Where are you most focused?
9. Take breaks. Don’t over study.
10. Form a study group.
11. Sleep early and be confident.
I hope all of these tips helped! Please know that everything in this post is not a sure guarantee that you will get good grades in class. There are many factors outside of your control when it comes to grades such as the difficulty level of your professor and the work that you put in. However, these tips will make you a good student, and with hard work, your chances of getting good grades will increase. Let me know if this helped and if there is something that you do to study or take notes that I missed! Thank you for reading!
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