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How To Get Better Grades

Updated on June 28, 2019
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I've read several books about better ways to study, this includes 'Study Smart, Study Less', and also 'A Mind For Numbers'.

Climbing The Grades Ladder

Studying can be a daunting task, and there are only 2 ways to be a more effective learner. To improve your grades, you can either increase the time spent on studying or improve your effectiveness. I like to use this formula to breakdown this message.

Grades = Effectiveness X Time

(To remember this, use the acronym GET)

As you can see, you can leverage either effectiveness or time to get better grades. However, which one is better to leverage? Time? Effectiveness? Personally, time will not be my answer to you. Why? I have a simple answer for you, and that is scarcity. Consider this, we have only 24 hours in a day; however, let us be honest with ourselves, in practice, we can perhaps work up to 12 hours (and I'm being very generous). The amount of time spent on studying is critical to maximizing learning; however, if we were to just simply leverage time, we won't have time for our families, friends, hobbies, and leisure.

How To Actually Study

You've heard the saying "Study smart, not hard", now it is time to arm yourself with heavy weapons and prepare to deploy them!

Textbook Approach


This method is not widely known, however, its potential is sky-high. Textbooks are actually designed to engage in pedagogy (this means to facilitate learning).

Survey and Question

This is very much similar to our daily lives when we are about to go somewhere, it is wise to walk around and familiarize yourself with the surroundings and routes. This very approach can be used in studying.

Before reading up, briefly scan through the pages of a chapter, look at the headings, pictures, keywords, and new facts. Then, ask questions along the way (you may write it down or just think to yourself).

Common questions include...

• What's this diagram about? (Mind maps, Scenarios, and etc)

• What is evolution? How long does it take?

• How do I calculate the standard cost of a product?

By doing so, you get a big picture of the entire chapter, and thus, you can see the links between the concepts and facts.

Read, Recite, and Review

• Read

This involves finding the answers to your questions. Reading for key points and highlighting them to make it easier to review. It helps to slow down when you read difficult passages, only moving on to the next sentence when you truly get the meaning of it. It also involves studying diagrams and study aids.

• Recite

I like to call this the check-and-go, as you have to check while reading through. After reading a passage, look away from the book, and summarize out loud what you've just read. This ensures that you actually understand the topic, thus able to explain it. It is important to summarize it in your own words to make sure you were not just regurgitating what you've read blindly.

• Review

This is what separates short-term memory from long-term memory. Long-term memory requires continuous review, this tells your brain that this information is critical, and what is critical gets remembered. For facts, you have to sort of memorize them (I have better tools later). For concepts, you review to make sure that you can explain it correctly.

Dealing With Concepts

• Feynman Technique

This technique was named after Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize winner in Physics. The popular saying is true, "If you can't explain it well, you don't understand it." To do this, one has to teach the concept to someone. It can be a classmate, family member, or even the chairs (People might doubt your sanity but it works!). This forces your brain to summarize the information well and explain it in simple terms. When you can't explain it well, it's time to hit the books again.

• Meaningful learning

Some of us might do this without realizing but it is worth noting this too. When you learn a new concept, it is highly recommended to link the concept to what you've already known. For example, after learning about heat absorption and release. One can come up with an actual example of ice and water. Ice absorbs the heat from the water, and the water releases heat to the ice. The ice will then melt. You will be surprised at how this little example can enhance understanding and memory.

You can't argue with facts.

Dealing with Facts


This is the grandfather of memorizing facts. It comes in many different varieties, to the point which this list will be exhausting if I wrote all of them.


Ever wonder why big brands and organizations shorten things into acronyms? It sticks in our mind.

Common examples are...

ROY GBIV (The colors of the rainbow)

RMIV UXG (Electromagnetic waves)


The 8 planets: My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos.

(Mars, Venus, Earth, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune)

Electromagnetic waves: Raging Martians Invaded Venus Using X-ray Guns.

(Radiowave, Microwave, Infrared, Visible light, Ultraviolet, X-ray, and Gamma-ray)

The key is to come up with your own mnemonics for yourself. Be creative, the weirder it is, the easier it is to remember it! Stories work too, the human mind love stories.

Rote Memorization

When you read something over and over again, the term for that is rote memorization. This is the classic way to remember facts, it is still very much one of the solid ways to remember facts. However, I find it exhausting to remember facts in this manner. I do use it from time to time to remember mnemonics or facts that require constant recalling for a particular subject.


• Immediate recalling when needed

• Facilitates long-term storage



• Constant repetition

• Does not stimulate creativity

Do's and Don'ts


• Do practice questions under exam conditions.

• Differentiate between facts and concepts. One is memorized, another is understood.

• Apply this formula: Input + Output + Review = Lasting Memory

Input = SQ3R, Output = Explaining and doing, Review = Revision


• Study for long hours without breaks. Instead, try using the Pomodoro Technique, 30 minutes of studying followed by 5 minutes of rest (This can be adapted to your preferences). This helps you to study longer without feeling exhausted.

• Try to spot questions. Instead, gain an understanding across the whole syllabus.

• Procrastinate

© 2019 Godwin Light


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