Do you need that A? Think you’ve done everything you possibly can to get better grades? Well, think again. We got the inside scoop about what teachers really like to see from an exceptional student both in and out of the classroom.
Follow these 10 steps to get better grades without turning into the teacher’s pet.
1. Study the syllabus
We know what syllabus week is like. You move through your schedule without paying much attention, collect those little packets they hand out in each class and scurry off to party with your crew as soon as the sun sets. You just got back from break and there’s no real work yet, so why not? If you’re striving for that A though, maybe you should actually take a second to read those packets—they contain a lot of information. You’ll know exactly much weight each assignment carries, what the teacher’s office hours are and even the midterm exam date (just in case you’re booking your spring break flight).
2. Ask questions
Especially in the first class, listen intently. Once the professor has finished explaining himself, go ahead and raise your hand. Don’t be afraid to voice your uncertainties about the course in general. “Ask your teacher lots of questions: questions about attendance, quizzes, tests, papers, team projects, etc.” said Dr. Sean Gresh, professor of communication at Boston College. “Then ask how she/he would distinguish an A student from B or C students.”
3. Sit in the front
We all know the common assumption that the kids who sit in the front row are the smartest. Whether or not seat choice actually has a direct impact on your performance in a course, we do know this: Professors appreciate the students in the front of the room. Your face is right in front of their face, so they’ll remember you as more then just a name when assigning you grades—especially participation marks. It also forces you to pay attention. At that point, it becomes pretty easy to contribute the conversation—you just have to raise your hand. “Sit in the front of the classroom (first couple of rows), ask questions regularly, answer questions and actively participate in group discussions,” Gresh said.
4. Take notes—by hand
Laptops are just so easy. Instead of carrying a stack of notebooks in your backpack, contorting your back while you trudge from building to building, you can tote one, lightweight piece of technology. You can also multitask during class. *Wink, wink* *Nudge, nudge* However, as nice as it is to get a head start on your homework in a different class, it’s not the best idea when trying to raise your grade. Teachers are humans, just like you. They know when people listen and when they’re picking out new Lulu leggings. “Take notes in longhand. Studies show that students who take notes this way remember more than students who use computers to take notes,” Gresh said. It also may be faster to type your notes, but it may not be the best way for you to remember the material.
5. Tackle readings aggressively
Gresh recommended a personal favorite approach to reading assignments called the SQ3R method. The “S” stands for “survey,” or scanning the entire textbook chapter or article, noting the headings and getting a better sense of what you’re getting yourself into. Then, “question” the material and write down all the inquiries you come up with. They can be as broad as “what is the main idea of this chapter?” Or they can be focused and specific. Next, “read” the section quickly, highlighting and making notes in the margins. Afterwards, according to this strategy, you should “recite.” This means that after each chapter, you should ask yourself key questions about the material you just read, and then speak or write the answers in your own words. Finally, “review” the text.
6. Study twice
We all look for ways to make our endless hours of study time more manageable, and sometimes even more fun. This next suggestion will sound daunting, but it’s the most thorough approach to exam prep. Study twice. Set some time aside to sit in the corner of the library—alone—and review the information in the way that works best for you. Then, message the GroupMe to set up a study sesh so you can quiz each other and ensure that you’re all on the top of your game. “After you’ve studied for [tests], get together with three or four classmates and discuss strategies for answers to possible questions,” Gresh said.
7. Don’t cram
Just don’t do it. I know you’re busy and you’ve successfully cranked out an entire 10-pager the night before a deadline, but just because you can do it doesn’t mean it’s the best idea. Start the essay a week in advance—that way you have time. With enough time you can develop your ideas, revise and edit all you want. You can also go to office hours and check in with the professor—get some feedback and work with that. If it’s an exam you’re prepping for, you’ll have more time to review and get together with those study groups.
8. Get in with the right crowd
So this one might sound a little bit forced, and well…weird. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone and talk to people you wouldn’t necessarily approach otherwise. You might think that you already have your core group of friends, so there’s no need to branch out. But making new friends is healthy. Especially in college—the only time in your life when you’ll be surrounded by such a large, diverse group of people your own age—it’s important to be open. “Hang out with the smartest students in the class,” Gresh said. “They’ll challenge and inspire you.” So if you know that those two kids who sit up front have aced the last two exams, go chat them up one day after class.
9. Actually use office hours
For any subject, major, minor or concentration, office hours are key for a better understanding of the material. It’ll cut down the time you spend re-reading the same paragraph and wracking your brain because you don’t understand a tiny idea. It’ll also help the teacher to match a face to your name—just like sitting in the front of the room. And we like that.
10. Just don’t…take it too far
No one likes that kid sitting front and center—the one who shoots his hand up before the professor even finishes his question. Every. Single. Time. Everyone gets a little more irritated each time he corrects the other students, and (surprise!) that includes the professor. So work hard, participate and give it your all. But don’t forget to use your common sense. If you feel like you might be annoying people, you probably are. And that definitely won’t help your grade. Or your social life.