How to Make All A's in High School

Three Parts:Getting OrganizedStudying HardGrowing Outside of the Classroom

Whether it’s for pride or to get into a college or technical program, striving for good grades in high school is important. Good grades are not only a sign that you are a good student – they also show that you study hard, know the material, and demonstrate maturity. It will require effort, though. You’ll need to be organized and committed to your studies in order to stay on top of assignments and to pass with flying colors.

Part 1
Getting Organized

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    Set up a study space. First things first, you’ll need a quiet sanctuary for studying if you want to get good grades. Think of it as your “fortress of solitude.” A good study space will put you in a the mental mood to hit the books.[1]
    • It could be your room, a nook at the library, a table at your favorite cafe, or a home office. It doesn’t really matter so long as you feel at ease there and are able to focus.
    • Make sure that your space is distraction-free. If you get sidetracked by the internet, be sure that your computer isn’t connected. If you are bothered by noise, find a study space that is out of the way and quiet.
    • Try to make the space as comfortable as possible. If at home, use an ergonomic chair. Plants can make a study space more calming, as well.
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    Establish a regular study routine. Successful students usually set aside regular times during the week to study. You don’t need to spend hours every day on task. You might schedule study sessions three times or four times per week; it all depends on what works best for you.[2]
    • It is better to spread out studying over time. This will give you more time to digest, and then review, material. The important thing is that you study regularly enough to avoid last minute cramming, which studies show to be ineffective.[3]
    • Another important point is that you keep to your routine. Establishing a schedule is not just about learning, but about making studying part of your life. When the time comes, you’ll be able to transition into the right, focused frame of mind.
    • Make sure that your study sessions have a clear goal, as well. For example, you might make a plan for reviewing last week’s material each Sunday night. On Tuesdays you work on the week’s new math chapter and do reading for English. On Thursdays you go through your new material in biology and history. Set specific goals for each session to help you focus.
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    Go to class regularly. This is maybe the most important part of getting good grades. Every class that you miss puts you behind in terms of notes, explanations, assignments, and reading. You can’t afford to miss these things – you cannot fully catch up with what you’ve missed.[4]
    • Class should be your first priority as a student. Make a concerted effort to get out of bed and to school every day. And, of course, don’t cut classes.
    • There are clear benefits to being in class. What you learn in class is usually a supplement to what’s in your textbook. The teacher might present things in a different light, use different examples, or give new perspectives that improve your grasp of the material.
    • Consider that your studying will be easier if you pay attention in class. Having reviewed the material once before, you will already be familiar with it and can often cut down on your total study time at home.[5]
    • If you must miss a class or two, make sure to ask the teacher what you missed. You can also have a friend bring you up to speed or, if possible, ask to see her notes from the class.
    • Remember, however, that taking your own notes is better than borrowing a friend’s. In fact, one study shows that students who use borrowed notes score much lower than students who regularly attend and take their own notes.[6]
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    Keep your papers and assignments organized. Disorganization is a big pitfall in school. Some people can keep track of assignments, papers, due dates, and classes in their head. Most of us cannot, though. Try to create a system or organization that keeps you on top of things, be it through a day-planner, folders, binders, or filing system.[7]
    • Notebooks are useful for note taking. For example, you might buy one binder for each of your classes to keep your notes separate and easy to access. Buying different colors will also make it easier to tell the subjects apart.
    • Binders are the next level in organization. For example, you might divide a binder into sections for classwork, completed homework, and tests. Some have pockets in which you can store your notebook, as well. Again, it’s good to have different binders for each subject, each in a different color.
    • A day planner will keep you on top of all of your classes, assignments, tests, and deadlines. Planners come in several varieties. Some have a few lines each day for reminders. If you need lots of structure, however, consider getting one that lets you plan each day hour-by-hour.
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    Develop good time management. Having good time management is important to studying hard and effectively. Part of using your time well is organization, while another is knowing and training yourself. Developing these can help you to get those higher marks.[8]
    • Set priorities. You will need to prioritize school and study in order to get good grades. You might make a “to-do list,” for instance, for each day or even each week or month. Start with the most urgent tasks and then list them in order of priority.
    • Schedule your time. Using an aid like a day planner, block off time when you will work on given tasks. You might try scheduling the most urgent tasks first and at times when you’ll have fewer interruptions. Or, try scheduling challenging tasks for times when you’ll have lots of energy.
    • Push out distractions. Avoid things you know will distract you, be it noise, email, your phone or computer, or otherwise. If it helps to maintain your focus, break tasks into smaller units – then reward yourself for completing each unit.
    • Avoid multi-tasking. You might think that you’re good at doing many things at the same time. In fact, science suggest that you aren’t.[9] Multi-taskers actually make more mistakes, forget more, and take longer to complete items. This is because you lose time and focus in switching from one task to another.
    • Get started early on big projects. Long-term time management is important, too. A lot of students fall into the trap of putting off projects until the last minute, and then struggle to finish them. This can lead to poor marks.
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    Form a study group. Study groups can work great – after all, don’t people say “two heads are better than one”? For one thing, a study group can help if you don’t understand a concept. By teaching each other, you and your partners will also internalize material more quickly.[10]
    • Study groups are great if all the members are committed. However, they are less helpful when members are not committed and the group is not structured.
    • Try to hold your study group regularly. Make sure that your friends and peers are all in – members should be actively contributing and not just along for easy answers. Study partners can also hold each other accountable.

Part 2
Studying Hard

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    Take good notes. Reviewing and studying often starts with your notes – the notes that you took in class. We tend to forget things very fast. Studies show that, without review, we forget 47% of material within twenty minutes. We forget 62% in a day.[11] Having good notes can determine how well you do on tests, quizzes, and mid-terms. Taking them will also help you to stay attentive and listen to the material actively.
    • Good notes don’t include everything that the teacher says or explains. They condense it into the most important points. Learn to recognize important information. Listen for keywords and phrases. Anything that the teacher writes on the board or repeats is usually important.[12]
    • Your notes should consist of points or short sentences rather than entire explanations. Focus on the “fat” rather than the “trimmings,” and keep in mind that you should be able to return and fill anything you’ve missed.
    • Try to record facts, details, or explanations on the main points. Include important definitions, if they are given, word for word. Again, anything that is put on the board, on slides, or is repeated is probably important and should go into your notes.
    • Go back and review and edit your notes within 24 hours. Highlight anything that you can’t read or that you don’t understand, writing your questions in the margins. Try to fill the gaps by comparing your notes to readings. If you still have unanswered questions, ask your instructor to repeat the information the next class.[13]
    • Consider taking notes by hand rather than on a computer. Using a pen and paper forces you to listen, summarize, and pick out the most important information. It means that you are actively thinking about what the teacher says. Research also shows that people who write down notes recall information better than those who use a computer.[14]
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    Hit the books. Studying, and studying often and regularly, is probably the most important part of getting good grades outside of attending class. Here is where your notes come into play. Review them, rewrite them, synthesize them, and make an outline. Find methods that help you to internalize the material.
    • Try outlining and rewriting your notes. Re-reading what you’ve written is helpful. However, using a more active strategy will force you to think about the concepts and explanations. It puts the words and terms into your own language. Talking aloud while you write helps, too, and engages another part of your brain.[15]
    • Use mnemonic devices. These are things like word play or rhyme that help you to recall information. For example, you might remember the names of all of the Great Lakes with the word “HOMES” – Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. You could do the same by inventing a song.
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    Complete your assignments. Make sure to tackle any and all assignments and homework. Remember that your grade might be based mostly on assignments. Even if you have a lot of homework for a class, missing one assignment could cost you 3, 4, or 5% of your final grade. It could mean the different between a B+ and an A.
    • Rely on your organization to remember your assignments. Make sure to write down all of your homework and deadlines in your day planner.
    • Give priority to upcoming assignments. Plan accordingly. For example, if math homework usually takes you a while, block off enough time so that you can complete it and complete it well.
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    Reward yourself. Studying is hard. To make it less of a chore, try to motivate yourself by taking breaks and giving yourself small rewards. These will make the task easier, give you something to work towards, and reinforce your study habits.[16]
    • For example, break your studying into sections. Promise yourself a 15 minute break for every hour that you study. Use the time to daydream, check your email, or take a breather outside.
    • You can promise other rewards as well. Like cookies? Say that you’ll treat yourself to a cookie after dinner if you can finish your math problems. Or, give yourself 30 minutes of computer gaming for each biology chapter that you are able to review.

Part 3
Growing Outside of the Classroom

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    Don’t be afraid to seek help. Be proactive inside and outside of the classroom. Your instructors are usually happy to help if you ask for it, and oftentimes have time set aside specifically for answering student questions about ideas, assignments, or projects.
    • Bring your questions to the instructor before or after class, for instance, when they are around and not busy with other students.
    • You might also find out if your teachers have special “office hours.” Write the hours down in your planner for later reference. If you later have questions or would like extra help with a concept, pay a visit.
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    Live a balanced life outside of school. Keep in mind that study is not the only part of being a successful student. Balance is important. When life is out of balance, everything from focusing to studying becomes much harder. Remember that you’re not just a study machine but a person with other emotional and physical needs.[17]
    • Make sure to eat well and exercise. A good diet and physical activity will not only keep you healthy but prime your brain for learning.
    • Sleep is another important element of balance. We need sleep in order to function at our highest level. Aim for at least 8 hours a day, if possible. Avoid activities, food, or drinks that keep you up late and try to stick to a regular sleep schedule.
    • Too much work can lead to stress, anxiety, and sometimes depression. Get out, see friends, and socialize; spend time with your family and loved ones. Find ways to reduce levels of stress.
    • Take up an extra-curricular activity. While it isn’t good to overload your schedule, playing a sport, doing drama or debate, or joining a club is a great way to socialize and to meet new people.
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    Set goals. Studying and good grades are only the beginning. Where do you want to go and what do you want to do with those grades? Think some about the future and set goals. Be specific. Be ambitious. Having a clear sense of purpose will reinforce your study habits and keep you on track.[18]
    • Your goals don’t all have to be lofty. They could be as simple as passing an upcoming test. Still, that gives you something to work towards in the short term. Other short term goals could include making the Honor Roll, getting into Advanced Placement courses, or getting Student of the Year in Latin.
    • Longer term goals might have to do with what college you want to attend, what you want to study in the future, or even what career you want to pursue.
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    Learn to cope with failure productively. There is a big difference between being a high-achiever and a perfectionist. Perfectionists set unrealistically high goals and judge themselves harshly, often because they want other people’s approval. In fact, perfectionists are often more anxious, depressed, and prone to emotional problems than others.[19] Know your limits, and learn how to grow from setbacks.
    • Nearly everyone has to deal with setbacks at some point. Don’t let it get you down. Do not think that making a mistake means that you have failed personally.
    • Try to use your setback as an opportunity to grow and learn. If you got a bad grade on a math test, go back, review the concepts, and talk to your teacher about your difficulties. If your essay got a lower mark than you expected, talk to the teacher about how you can improve in the next one.
    • Set standards that are high but achievable. No one can be absolutely perfect. Most of all, remember that your success in school is measured by grades but that, ultimately, the most important thing is learning.

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Categories: Improving And Maintaining Grades