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How to Get Good Grades in College: 16 Best Tips

Updated: June 19, 2024 | Published: April 11, 2020

Updated: June 19, 2024

Published: April 11, 2020


Have you been wondering how to get good grades? Here is a list of 16 hints and tips to help you improve your high school or college grades. Truthfully, the ultimate secret to getting good grades is to develop super study skills.

Top Tips on How to Get Good Grades

1. Attend All Your Classes

Try your absolute best to attend all of your classes. Sometimes missing a class is unavoidable, but there are enormous benefits to making sure that you never miss a class:

  • You will be more likely to keep ahead of your subject
  • You will avoid knowledge gaps due to missing out on important material
  • You will have the opportunity to make your presence known, by answering questions, participating, and contributing your ideas, thoughts, and opinions.
  • Some colleges give attendance points, so if this is the case, make sure that you benefit from them.

2. Master Your Professors

  • Get to know your professors and make sure that they get to know you. They will have a better opportunity to understand your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Let them know when you are struggling. They are there to help you.
  • Understand your course expectations. If there is anything that you are unsure of, don’t hesitate to ask your professor to clarify.

3. Stay Organized

If you want to know how to get even better grades, organization is really key.

  • Use a planner or calendar and make sure that you are up to date with all of your deadlines
  • Create a designated workspace with good lighting and a comfortable chair
  • Declutter your desk
  • Schedule blocks of time for learning
  • Organize your digital files in named folders for ease of access
  • Keep stationery on hand. Make sure that you have pens, highlighters, eraser, sharpener, notebooks, flashcards, and colored markers
UoPeople student Tidy Workspace
Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

4. Time Management

Balancing work, study, and family responsibilities can be challenging if your time is not managed carefully. Time is a valuable commodity.

  • Make a To Do list: Once everything that you need to do is written down, it not only helps you to remember it, but it gives you some relief from worrying about it.
  • Use a planner/calendar: Record assignment deadlines and schedule your learning.
  • Set goals: Decide on your daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Once you know where you need to get to, you will already be half way there. Setting goals gives you clarity and motivates you to take action.
  • Utilize your “dead time”: Such as time in a doctor’s waiting room or time travelling on buses or trains. This time can be used for reading, researching, or typing up your thoughts, ideas, and notes.
  • Clear your workspace: Our physical environment has a major effect on the way we work. A tidy space creates a tidy mind. Keep your workspace tidy and remove all clutter. A tidy workspace helps you to have a clearer mind. Marie Kondo, a decluttering expert and author of the book “Spark Joy” has some excellent hints and tips on how to keep your workspace tidy.

5. Taking Notes

Taking notes will help you at the revision and exam stage. The use of abbreviations is the best way to speed up your note taking. Your abbreviated notes should then be written out fully after class.

According to a research study on the correlation between writing and memory at Princeton University, there is a direct correlation between writing and memory. Writing involves a thinking process, resulting in greater retention of information, while typing on a keyboard can be done verbatim, without processing and reframing information, resulting in a lower rate of retention.

In order to get better grades, close your laptop and go back to old-fashioned pen and paper!

6. Become An Active Listener

  • Concentrate on the words and messages. Avoid being distracted by a lecturer’s accent, clothes, speech, or mannerisms.
  • Try to identify the most important points and take notes on them.
  • Avoid getting distracted by your smartphone. Turn it off completely in class.

7. Participate In Class

  • If you ask questions, you are more likely to remember the material, as the answers to your questions relate to your thoughts on the subject. If you make a habit out of asking questions, it has the additional advantage of encouraging you to listen well.
  • Listen to the opinions and thoughts of your classmates. Listening will help you to process and remember information. Conversations tend to be remembered more than written information.
  • Contribute to the discussion — by developing a regular habit of making contributions to discussions on the subject, it encourages you to listen, focus, and process. You will want to make a good impression by making educated and intelligent contributions.

8. Develop Good Writing Study Habits

During lectures, it’s generally a good idea to write down points, which can act as memory joggers. Then, after class, you can write out these notes in full.

Another popular method is to draw out mind maps during the lecture and expand on them later on. A mind map is a visual, usually colored diagram designed to be a hierarchy of information in which main points can be expanded on in note form later on.

How to Mind Map with Tony Buzan

Another tip on writing notes well is to draft, rewrite, and proofread your work. The more comprehensive your notes are, the easier it will be to review and study them at the exam stage.

9. Learn In Groups And Learn From Each Other

  • Studying in small groups can break up the monotony of revision.
  • You will have the opportunity to learn from each other.
  • Make sure that when you are learning in a group, it doesn’t turn into a social event and you don’t get too distracted by unrelated conversations.

10. Know Your Learning Style

In order to become a better learner, you need to define and categorize the method by which you learn best. Once you have done this, you will have a much clearer idea of how to help yourself to process, absorb, and memorize information.

The VARK model of learning styles, developed by Neil Flemming — an educational theorist — identifies 4 distinctive categories of learners:

  • V – Visual – Visual learners learn through seeing, therefore respond well to visual aids such as maps, charts, graphs, presentations, images, and videos.
  • A – Auditory – Auditory learners learn through hearing and best absorb information that they hear such as lectures, discussions, and listening to audio books.
  • R – Reading and Writing – Reading and writing learners learn through the input and output of words. This includes writing assignments, essays, reading books, manuals, and websites.
  • K – Kinesthetic – Kinesthetic learners learn through touching, interacting, and doing. They learn best when they are physically engaged or active during the learning process. They remember and process knowledge best by interacting hands-on with their environment.

Assess yourself! Once you know how you learn best, you will be a far better learner.

11. Use Learning Aids And Study Resources

There are plenty of online tools and resources for flashcards, mind maps, quizzes, record keeping, scheduling, and memorizing that can be highly beneficial to learning.

To save you time, we have compiled a list of excellent study resource websites. Check out the following:

12. Manage Interruptions And Distractions

  • Find a quiet place to study. It can be a designated space at home or a library.
  • Turn off your smartphone during your study sessions. Checking your phone every time you receive a notification is distracting and will take your mind off your learning and hinder your concentration.

13. Eat healthily and exercise

  • Make sure to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Exercise regularly. It doesn’t need to be a full workout or an expensive gym membership. Go for walks, jog, run, or take a regular exercise class.
  • Exercise improves concentration and memory.
  • Drink plenty of water.
Healthy eating and exercise
Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

14. Ask For Help

Many students see asking for help as a weakness. But asking for help is a strength! It shows that you have maturity, self-awareness, and that you are able to recognise a problem before it develops. If you are struggling with your schoolwork or have a personal problem, speak to your professors about it. They are there to help you with all your needs.

15. Take Regular Breaks

In order to get the most out of your study, you need to take breaks regularly.

Set an alarm every 30 to 60 minutes and get up, close your laptop and books, and get some fresh air for 5 to 10 minutes. Do any activity that will take your mind off studying so that when you come back to it, you are feeling refreshed and energized.

16. Sleep

Everybody knows that lack of sleep is detrimental to your health. It produces lethargy, lack of concentration and “brain fog,” a form of mental clouding.

However, research has shown that a good night’s sleep is not only vital for health and general well-being, but extremely beneficial for learning and memory. During sleep, our brain is not resting as is commonly believed. Findings reveal that our brain mechanisms are at work during sleep, solidifying our memories by transferring them to more permanent regions of the brain.

The Bottom Line

If you follow these 16 tips on how to get good grades, you will surely see a marked improvement on your next test scores.

If you are still undecided on your choice of study and need to balance studying for a degree with work or family commitments, University of the People is a tuition-free, American accredited university that provides world-class bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

To learn more about us, see our informative and inspirational TED talk by Shai Reshef, founder of UoPeople.

At UoPeople, our blog writers are thinkers, researchers, and experts dedicated to curating articles relevant to our mission: making higher education accessible to everyone.