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Be the Smartest Person in Class: Study Tips

Updated on December 23, 2012

Stress Of Tests And Exams

Tests and exams can be a source of immense stress for any student - especially at the high school and post secondary levels. Testing and exams for most courses comprise a very large part of the final grade. A poor result on one test can have a huge negative impact on the final grade attained. It is extremely important, then, that studying and review become a daily part of a student's life. Cramming for tests and exams the night before is rarely an effective method for success. Even if successful on one or two tests using this method, the information will not be retained over the long term and when studying again for exams, the older information will need to be relearned as virtually none of that information is retained during the cramming process. How then does the successful student study? There are a number of techniques that work depending on learning style but generally, all students can benefit by utilizing the advice laid out below.

Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.
Chinese proverb

Making Smart Academic Choices And Organizing Yourself For Effective Studying

1. Choose your courses carefully.

  • Keep in mind that during your first year you may not have much choice if you have a specific course of study but choose your field of study carefully.
  • Focusing on science and math courses if you had a hard time passing these in elementary and high school may not provide you with success.
  • Choose courses based on your high level of interest as well as with a career goal in mind.
  • If you have a diagnosed learning disability or feel you may not be able to successfully handle a full course load especially in your first year, speak to guidance or campus student services to explore the possibility of a reduced course load.

2. Know and utilize the resources offered at your school.

  • library
  • guidance
  • student services

3. Meet and get to know your teachers, professors and educational assistants.

  • Being able to converse easily with your teacher/professor makes it easier to advocate for yourself regarding assistance, clarification and possibly extensions on assignments and course material.

Be Successful Your First Year Of University

4. Manage your time well.

  • Use a wall calendar at home to have a visual aid showing your present and future work load.
  • Use a paper agenda or your smart phone or tablet organizer to keep track of assignments and test dates as they are provided by your instructor.
  • Plan work and study periods for each course using the same tools in order to keep on top of the workload for each course.

5. Know and actively use reading skills.

  • You must be able to pick out important information from assigned text selections..
  • Use graphic organizers, mind maps and point form notes to consolidate information taken from assigned readings.

6. Develop strong listening and note-taking skills.

  • Actively listening in the classroom and taking note of important concepts is the first step in studying. Utilizing your class time effectively is key to academic success.
  • Some instructors, especially at university level courses, talk only and provide little in the way of notes.
  • It is important to be able to take notes of important facts quickly while the instructor is speaking.
  • Recording the professor while listening is one method. Notes can be transcribed later.
  • Developing your own shorthand is another method. Your learning style will dictate which method would work better for you!

7. Develop and improve writing and speaking skills.

  • Most courses will require the completion of at least one essay for which a specific format must be followed. Logical and concise arguments will be necessary.
  • Tests and exams are written and will usually involved many short answer and essay style questions. Organization and concise, logical writing is key to successful completion.
  • Strong writing skills are a plus in creating effective study notes.
  • Many courses involve seminar classes which revolve around small group discussion. It is key that you be able to express yourself in a logical, coherent manner.

8. Create a study nook at home.

  • Make sure it is a quiet place away from television and mainstream family traffic if you are living with your family.
  • Make sure it is comfortable for you and has a place for your course materials, paper, pencils, calculators, dictionary and textbooks.

Helpful Hints For Studying Effectively

Useful Study Techniques That Will Boost Your Success In School

1. Study each night.

  • Review the day's material and complete any assigned homework.

2. Make your own notes.

  • When completing assigned reading from texts or other sources make your own point form notes or use graphic organizers or mind maps to consolidate the information.
  • Put information into your own words when making your notes. It will be much easier to remember.
  • Read the hub, How to Organize Notes For Studying, for further tips on how to improve your success on tests and exams.

3. When studying for a test or exam do not spend much time on the material you already know well.

  • Review this material quickly to make sure you still remember everything.

4. Study when it is quiet and your brain is well rested and ready to absorb information.

  • Getting a good night sleep is key. A tired brain will have trouble concentrating long enough to push information into long term memory.

5. Study in one hour chunks with 10 to 15 breaks to rest the brain.

6. Divide your workload into realistic chunks.

  • Create a study plan that breaks up your required study material into a daily and weekly schedule. Do not leave studying for tests and exams to the night before or even to a few days before the scheduled test day.
  • Follow your study plan and build in extra time for when emergencies crop up.
  • Use active studying techniques when possible. The following hub, How to Better Remember Information You've Studied, provides specific studying techniques designed to push information from short term memory into long term memory.

Practicing Active Studying Techniques Can Make You A Successful Student


Improve Your Chances Of Academic Success

There are no guarantees in life. However, by working very hard and by working smart, you can improve your academic performance. By reviewing the resources above and applying all or at least many of the study tips and study techniques provided, in your daily routine, you will have the potential to be the smartest person in class.


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    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It is a great characteristic. Keeps you young!

    • profile image

      Grace Mowery 

      4 years ago

      I love to study science. I am a kid!!! I also love learning new things!!!

    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Good luck Jordan on your next test. Any extra work will pay off!!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Thank you I hope it will function in my next test which is in three days

    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Paul, so glad you found the hub useful. It is true that high marks in highschool do not necessarily translate to the same high achievement in college or university. However, if you have learned true learning skills and had to apply those along with hard work in high school your chances are better at maintaining those marks. It is all a learning curve as you imply. Thanks so much for the vote up and sharing. It is so very much appreciated!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 

      7 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      If an individual has the ability, aptitude, and interest in a course, he or she can be the smartest kid in class by following your study tips. Unfortunately, being the "smartest" kid in high school does not necessarily mean you will be the smartest kid in college. When I went to high school, most of the tests I had in math and science did not really test my ability to think or apply concepts to something new. If you had a good memory and a feel for what the teacher was going to put on a test, you could "Ace" the test all the time. It is extremely important to understand your abilities and aptitudes before signing up for college courses. If you don't, you'll be banging your head against a wall even by studying hard because you don't have the aptitude to do well in something. I found this out by personal experience when I was an undergraduate. Voted up and sharing.

    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks so much shiningirisheyes. I agree wholeheartedly. Hope you are having a very Merry Christmas!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      7 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Great job. Organizational skills practiced early on assist us throughout our future endeavors as well. Great article.

    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      carol7777, thanks for the positive feedback. Hope you too have a blessed holiday!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Even though I am not in school or have kids in school I enjoyed reading your ideas. They make a lot of sense. Have a wonderful holiday season.

    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      everythingdazzles, thanks for reading and commenting on this piece. As exam time draws near for a lot of high school students I hope it provides a good resource for some! Merry Christmas

    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Theresa, it is alast something not a lot of students think to do which is research how to learn. It is also something not always taught in the lower grades. Many of these my oldest son has learned in order to cope with his learning disability but he too could use a refresher course. Have a fantastic Christmas with friends and family!


    • Teresa Coppens profile imageAUTHOR

      Teresa Coppens 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      wendi, thanks for the generous feedback. My son finds that practice, practice, practice works for math studying. It is one subject that requires thorough knowledge of problem types and the ability to apply those formula's to novel problems. I also have to work much harder at math and I'm glad my son's inherited their father's native ability!

    • everythingdazzles profile image


      7 years ago from Houston

      Well-written piece that offers a lot of good suggestions. Thanks!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Excellent advice, well organized and well- written. Now if we could just get college students to read this hub and put all your suggestions into practice! :) Hope you have a wonderful Christmas. ~~Theresa

    • wendi_w profile image


      7 years ago from Midwest

      Your suggestions for oganization are in my opinion the most important to success in school. I am a returning student, and I have a son who is a freshman this year. Prioritization, Organization and Scheduling to be the most important skills college teaches. Those 3 are half the battle. The problem I have had though is that studying for a Math course seems to take a slightly different skill set. One I am am not good at evidently


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