How to Ace a College Class

Three Methods:Behaving Effectively in ClassStudying EffectivelyMaintaining a Good Relationship with Your Professor

Maybe you’re struggling in your college classes and want to do better, or perhaps you are a few points shy of a perfect A and are looking for ways to ace the class. Expectations can be high for college students to do well, especially if the program they are in is competitive. You can take certain steps to ace your class and ensure you maintain a high grade point average, as graduating with high marks from college can set you up for a career or more schooling in the future.

Method 1
Behaving Effectively in Class

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    Show up on time and prepared to learn. A big part of making a good impression on your professor, and acing your class, is showing up for every class, on time. Being present in class will ensure you do not miss any critical discussions and that you can take notes on the course materials as needed.[1]
    • Showing up prepared to learn means bringing your textbooks and other assigned reading materials to class as well as paper and pens. If you bring in your computer to class, make sure you have the professor’s permission to do so as some professors do not allow computers in class. Try to sit near the front so you can hear exactly what the professor is saying and be visible to the professor.
    • You should also review the key concepts and ideas for the class before the class begins. This could be a quick review of the class syllabus and the class readings the night before or a review of the class materials a few hours before class. This will help you better understand the professor’s lecture and be more proactive in class.[2]
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    Ask questions, even if they may seem obvious or dumb. Though you may be hesitant to ask a question that seems obvious or dumb in class, it’s often better to take the risk and ask. This is especially important if the professor is discussing a complicated topic or a complex idea. Other students in the room may have the same questions as you but are too afraid to verbalize them. Speaking up and asking questions will show the professor you are paying attention and engaged in the subject matter. This will likely impress the professor and make you stand out among the other students.[3]
    • Try to ask open ended questions and don’t be afraid to ask questions that are half formed. The professor will likely be happy enough that you are showing an interest in the material and are willing to try to work through your understanding of the material.
    • For example, if the professor is talking about the role of philosophy in American politics, you may say, “I’m not sure if I understand what you mean. Can you give me an example of this?” Or you may say, “Can you expand on what you mean? I don’t think I quite understand.”
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    Contribute to the class discussion. Many college classes have points set aside for class participation. To maximize your points and earn high participation marks, you should push yourself to ask questions and contribute to the class discussion.[4]
    • You may ask open ended questions to get the discussion going in class or respond to a question posed by the professor. You may also challenge another student on their position or state a position that is contrary to the ideas of the rest of the class. Doing this will help to fuel the discussion and engage other students in the class.
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    Take detailed notes on the professor’s lectures. To make the most of your time in class, you should take detailed notes on the professor’s lectures so you can refer back to them in prep for any exams or to use for any assignments for the class. This will help you do well on any assignments or exams and also show the professor that you are paying attention in class.[5]
    • You should have all the necessary note taking materials with you in class, including, paper, pens, highlighters, and/or sticky notes. You should also focus on key words and concepts when you are taking notes to ensure you capture the most relevant information from the professor’s lecture. You can use shorthand to capture the most information and to make it easier to read through your notes later.
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    Do not use your cellphone in class or be distracting in any way. Avoid disrupting class and distracting others as well as yourself. Put your cellphone away and do not refer to it during class. If you use your computer to take notes in class, do not surf the Internet or do online shopping in class. Turn off your wifi connection and only use programs for taking notes.
    • You should also try not to be distracting in class in other ways, such as clicking and tapping your pen on your desk or fidgeting with your notebook or textbook loudly. You should also refrain from distracting others by talking during class or while the professor is giving her lecture.

Method 2
Studying Effectively

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    Create a study schedule. A study schedule can help you better organize your time and your priorities for the class. You can do this by looking at the course syllabus and blocking off time each week for each assignment, reading, and prep for any exams. Do this for the entire term so you can look ahead and know exactly how much time have allotted to prepare for the class and study.[6]
    • Be detailed in your study schedule and avoid vague planning. For example, rather than note on your study schedule, “two hours for assignments”, you should note, “two hours for the census assignment due 11/13”. This will ensure you know exactly what assignment you will be working on and the due date for the assignment, allowing you to better manage your time.
    • You should also prioritize important assignments and get them done first. If you know the census assignment is due the following week it is assigned, for example, make sure you have time set in your study schedule to do it the week before or the weekend before it is due. You should consider any assignments due for your other classes and factor them in based on priority. This may mean doing an assignment for another class first, based on the earliest due date. Once the assignment is completed, you can move on to the next assignment that is due, even if it is for another class.
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    Try the capture, control, plan, and evolve method. This method can be used to help you get straight A’s in a class. It can also be used to get good grades in other classes and improve your overall GPA.[7]
    • Start by capturing all your obligations as a college student. This includes academic obligations, such as test dates and assignment due dates, as well as administrative obligations, such as application deadlines and expectations from extracurricular activities. Make a list of these obligations, making sure you cover all of them. This will allow you to have a foundation from which to then control, plan, and execute.
    • Control your schedule by blocking out every hour of the day. You should note which hours will be dedicated to work and what exactly you will be working on during these hours. Stick to the schedule and make sure all of your school work is accounted for in the schedule.
    • Plan out your studying by focusing on specific assignments. Note specific actions you are going to take, such as “work on the book review due 11/5” or “prep for the mid-term exam on 11/21”.
    • Evolve your study tactics by embracing any shifts or changes you need to make to your study habits. Re-evaluate and tweak your study habits as necessary, keeping only tactics that work for you and your brain. If something is not working, try a new tactic. Ask yourself, “What worked when I studied for that exam and did well? What could I do better to get a better grade on the next exam?”
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    Avoid all-nighters by breaking up your studying into chunks. All-night studying is often a bad tactic as it can lead to feeling burned out and exhausted on the day of an exam or in class. Studies have shown that you retain more information by studying in shorter chunks of time than you do pulling an all-nighter. Cramming for an exam may be a study habit you need to break in order to ace the exam and ace the class.[8]
    • Having a well planned out study schedule can help you avoid all-nighters. Make sure your study schedule allows you to prepare for an upcoming exam in chunks, focusing on one to two chapters of the assigned textbook at a time or one to two key concepts from the class at a time. You may go back and review the material you studied during the previous study session to ensure it is fresh in your brain before you move on to other chapters or concepts.
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    Review class material one to two hours before bed. Research shows that if you review material one to two hours before bed you have a higher likelihood of retaining it. Set aside time in your schedule to review your class notes or read several chapters of the assigned text. You may want to highlight or underline key concepts and ideas so you can return to them later in your study schedule.[9]
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    Study with a friend or peer who tends to get straight A’s. The company you keep can also help you ace a class. Surround yourself with study pals who tend to do well in their classes and get straight A’s. You can then learn study tactics from them and improve your existing study habits.[10]
    • You may want to consider setting up a study group with one to three peers who do well in their classes. You can then schedule weekly meet ups with the study group to go over specific chapters and/or concepts. It may also be useful to try to set up study meet ups closer to an upcoming exam so you can all prepare for the exam together.
    • Another option is to hire a tutor, especially if you are struggling with the course material. You should ask friends or peers in your study group for recommendations on a tutor for the class. Start with bi weekly tutoring sessions and then increase or decrease the tutoring sessions as your grades improve.

Method 3
Maintaining a Good Relationship with Your Professor

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    Communicate with your professor about her expectations. Maintaining a good relationship with your professor can be a key way to ace the class, as most professors appreciate students who try to build a healthy student-teacher relationship throughout the semester or term. Communicating with your professor about her expectations will also show the professor you are engaged in the class and determined to do well. Often, the professor will remember you as an eager, motivated student and possibly factor this in when giving you grades on assignments.[11]
    • You may get better sense of the professor’s expectations by taking a moment to talk to her after class on the first day. Ask her what she looks for in an A+ student and how you can do well in the class. Let her know that you are determined to do well in the class and participate in class discussions. This will ensure she remembers your name in a sea of other students and recognizes you as a potentially high performing student.
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    Hand in assignments on time and according to the specified requirements. Another way to show the professor that you are engaged in the class and on top of your studies is to hand in assignments by the due date and according to her requirements.[12]
    • This means checking the class syllabus for her rules and requirements around formatting assignments and completing them. Follow all noted requirements for the assignments, from the type of font specified, to font size to margin size and spacing. If the professor would like a title page for the assignment, make sure you create a title page. You should also always check that you have included your name on every page of the assignment and page numbers, as most professors will appreciate these details.
    • You may also want to email the professor if you are unclear about any of the required formatting for any of the assignments, as it is better to ask than to hand in the assignment in an incorrect format that will lead to docked points or marks.
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    Set up a one on one meeting with your professor at least once in the semester. To foster a strong, healthy relationship with your professor, you should try to set up at least one in person meeting with the professor during the semester. This will show the professor that you are engaged and motivated. [13]
    • Set up the meeting during the professor’s office hours, if she has them. Email her in advance and note what you would like to discuss in the email. Show up on time for your appointment with the professor and prepared to discuss any issues you may be having in the course.
    • If possible, try to have one in person meeting at the beginning of the semester and one in person meeting at the end of the semester. This will ensure you have check ins with the professor during crucial times in the term.
    • If you are struggling in the class, do not hesitate to set up an in person meeting with the professor, as most professors will appreciate students who want to work on their poor grade. The professor may show leniency towards you or allow you to do bonus assignments to make up any marks you lost out on in the class. This will bring you one step closer to acing the class.

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Categories: College and University Study Techniques