How to get better grades–the question we’ve all asked a million times.
College can be really hard. And it can be very demoralizing when you don’t seem to reach a single one of your college goals. I’ve definitely been there before!
But every now and then, it’s important to take a step back and troubleshoot. Is there a reason you’re not getting the grades you need? And if we can find what that reason is, what’s the solution? Just worrying about your grades won’t accomplish anything, so let’s take some action steps to try and fix the problem!
1. You haven’t actually created any goals
When you’re trying to figure out how to get better grades, you can’t just leave it at “I want my grades to improve.” That isn’t going to change anything.
Goals for getting better grades need to have a specific end game–are you trying for a grad program that requires a 90 average? Are you trying to keep a scholarship that requires an 82? Figure out what your goal GPA is.
Once you know what you’re actually aiming for, the rest of these steps can help. But until then, you’re not going to see any change. Without an actionable goal, it’s just wishful thinking.
2. You don’t adapt your study methods
I was in a course this year where the entire midterm was just memorizing lists the professor gave us. You just had to memorize pretty much every slide–and that was it. It was pretty hard, yes, but if you knew the lists, you were guaranteed a 90.
On the first midterm, I had quite a few friends who only got in the 60s or 70s. This course is known for people struggling on the first test, so I didn’t think anything of it. They asked me how I had studied, since I had done well, and I told them that I just made flashcards of every single slide.
On the final, however, there was absolutely no improvement! They still got in the 60s and 70s! And the reason wasn’t that they weren’t capable of learning the material, it was that they didn’t adjust their study method after the midterm. I even asked, the week before the final, if they were going to memorize more this time. And they said, “No, my study habits work pretty well for me so I’m hoping I get a better grade this time.”
You have to learn to adapt how you study to fit the way the exams are written. In a super conceptual class, don’t waste time memorizing dates and names. Focus on the big picture. But on a class like the one I just described, don’t worry at all about how they connect, just memorize the dates and names!
3. You aren’t studying efficiently
When you’re studying for a midterm or an exam, you want to do the least amount of work possible for the highest possible grade.
Here’s the trick I learned: if you put in one or two hours every week for each course’s readings, when midterms come you just need to read through your notes and do flashcards. That’s it.
Now, there is a specific way to go through your readings and your notes, and I wrote a whole blog post about it before so you can head over here and read it!
4. You aren’t utilizing office hours
Talking to professors is vital if you want to improve your grades. I cannot stress this enough. If you struggled on a midterm, or if you don’t quite get a concept, go ask for help! I had a class where I got an 80 on a midterm. That’s not a bad mark at all, and most people’s reactions would be to just leave it and be content with the 80. But I wasn’t, so I went to my professor’s office hours. She let me look over my exam, and explained why I had gotten the questions that I had wrong. The next test, I got a 92.
When trying to figure out how to get better grades, you cannot fail to use the biggest resource available: your professors. They want to help you, so let them!
5. You aren’t reviewing your exams
Reviewing your midterms and exams helps you see where you need to study more, what kinds of answers your prof is looking for, and what kinds of material from the text and classes is on the test. This is vital information if you want to get better grades in the course than you’ve been getting in the past.
If you’re looking at how to get better grades, the first place is always to check where you went wrong before!
6. You aren’t starting projects early enough
If you want to get a good grade on a project, you have to start it very early. This is so that you can go to your professor’s office hours to have him or her answer your questions before you hand it in. Also, this gives you time to put real effort into it instead of just pounding it out the night before it’s due.
If you’re starting your assignments the week before they’re due, you’re starting them too late. My rule is that I have an outline of the project finished the week it’s assigned, the rough draft finished two weeks before it’s due, and then the final copy finished a week before the due date. This relieves a lot of stress since you’re working on just a little bit at a time, and you have lots of time to ask for help.
7. You aren’t going above and beyond
This is really applicable to people who are trying to get into that 90s average for grad school. If you’re skimping out on the little assignments, even if they’re just worth 2.5% of your overall mark, or if you aren’t going 10x above what the requirements are for your papers, you’re never going to get above the low 80s. For example, there was a class I was a part of where you needed 10 sources for your research paper. I had 32, one of my friends had 10. Her paper was fantastic, but she got an 80 and I got a 93. You have to put in the extra effort to get the marks you need.
8. You aren’t getting any down time
If you’re just studying and at school all the time and you aren’t taking any time to just take care of yourself, you’re going to burn out! You need to learn how to put down the books and go relax. Take a bath, watch some Netflix, it’s OK to just have some me time :)
9. You’re skimping on the basics
If you’re skipping class, not reading your textbook, or not studying the powerpoint slides, you’re just not going to do very well in the class. The first step of how to get better grades is to simply show up and do the work.
10. You aren’t actually studying
You aren’t “studying” if you’re also on Facebook every five minutes, or checking your twitter, or watching YouTube. If you’re finding yourself pouring over books and notes for hours and feeling like you’re getting nowhere, see if you are actually studying or if you’re flitting back and forth between studying and the internet.
If this is a problem for you (it really is for me), I’d highly recommend the self-control app. I talk about it more here.
11. You aren’t really committed
The truth is, getting good marks requires a lot of hard work. Unless you really want to get that average and it is a real priority in your life, over going for drinks with friends or staying up late watching reruns on Netflix, it’s just not going to happen.
You need to decide that this is what you want, and that you are willing to do the work, and then go out and do it!
12. Your goals aren’t realistic
This one does need to be addressed. The truth is, not everyone has the same abilities when it comes to academia. Now, I firmly believe that academia doesn’t actually have all that much to do with intelligence–I actually feel a bit dumber and less well-rounded after coming out of university. But it’s a certain skill set. Many people who get low marks can bring them up if they start studying better or dedicate a bit more time to their studies. But others are always going to struggle in university courses, and that is perfectly fine. It doesn’t say anything about who you are as a person, it’s just not a good fit.
If you are consistently struggling and nothing seems to be helping you bring up those grades, PLEASE read this post. I wrote it for you!
13. You need to remember WHY you’re doing this
The number one thing you need to get good grades is passion. Without a firm conviction for why you’re in school, studying what you are, you’ll have a very hard time staying motivated. So remind yourself of your dreams, your goals, and the reasons you’re where you are.
College is such a fun time, and leads to some amazing opportunities. So remember why you’re there!
What are your best tips for how to get better grades? What have you done that’s worked? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
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