Since I’m back in college and I got two A’s for my assignments in the first semester (sorry for the humblebrag, but at least you know the tips below work, am I right?) I’ve been thinking about studying effectively a lot.
What separates truly successful students from those who aren’t as successful? You might say ‘intelligence’ right away. While that’s true in some cases, work ethic almost always beats out intelligence. You don’t have to be born a genius to get good grades – I certainly wasn’t. Below you’ll find five habits I’ve consistently worked on in the first semester, and that have played a big part in getting only A’s so far.
Go to the lectures and pay attention
Even if you think you don’t have to. Or because you think you already know all of the material. A lot of professors will give you clues as to what they feel is point of emphasis. Take notes in class. It’s tedious, but you’ll thank yourself later when the test comes up. I like to write my notes down on paper, because it forces me to focus on the lecture more. My laptop is just a distraction for me.
Before getting to class, do the recommended preparation. If you have any mandatory reading assignments, do them before your class. This allows you to understand the class better, because the information isn’t new. I also like to reread my notes from the last class to freshen my mind on the topic a bit. This allows me to connect the dots between different subjects more easily. And when you understand something, it’s much easier to remember.
Read the syllabus, and the rubric while you’re at it
It’s shocking how many people at my college bitch about assignment due dates, exam dates and the structure of essays they need to write. At the beginning of every semester – before the very first class – read the syllabus. It will not only make it clear to you what you’re going to do in that specific class, but also what the professor expects from you. When reading the syllabus, immediately enter any due dates in whatever calendar you use. You’ll thank yourself later.
If you need to write an essay, the rubric will give you practically an outline of what the professor wants you to write. I like to make bullet points out of the information given in the rubric, and I check them off when I’ve included them in my essay.
Study often, and study consistently
I know you’ve heard this over and over again, but cramming and entire semester’s worth of information in a few hours isn’t going to land you a good grade. Straight-A students study consistently. They rewrite their notes, reread the textbook, make lists and use flash cards throughout most of the semester to help them understand and memorize all of the material.
For example: I’m currently making a list of important concepts and terms of the recommended reading I needed to do in the first week of this new semester. This’ll help me to remember everything for my exam (which is in less than 4 weeks) and it’ll come in handy to read through later. When I’m reviewing a few days before the exam, for example.
Study actively – practice your active recall
This means doing more than just reading. If your college provides them, take practice tests. Otherwise come up with your own questions. These will let you test how prepared you are for the real deal and you’ll see what you’re comfortable from a knowledge perspective and what you need to brush up on.
You can also study using flash cards. Whatever you decide to do, It’s incredibly important to practice your active recall. Active recall is a principle of efficient learning, which claims the need to actively stimulate memory during the learning process. It contrasts with passive review, in which the learning material is processed passively – for example, by reading or watching it. Active recall forces you to really work your brain.
Become friends with your professor
Or maybe ‘friends’ isn’t the right word. But I find it incredibly useful to touch base with my professors from time to time. If I don’t understand a certain part of the material and I haven’t had the chance to ask them about it in class, I will visit them during office hours.
Some professors appreciate it when you ask them for constructive criticism or feedback. It helps them remember you as someone who is actually invested and wants to do well, and that never hurts.