University is tough. I am sure yours is as was mine. It is a constant battle of going from one deadline to another. Some of us find it hard to make it through the four years while others might seem to cruise through university life. This is equally reflected in the GPA disparity. We often look at the students at the extreme right of the bell curve and think how do they manage to get a 4.0 GPA? Are they real-life geniuses? Well, I am not sure. Though, what I am sure about is that they work hard but effectively.
” Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration” –Thomas Edison
If Thomas Edison attributes the act of being a genius to hard-work, then who am I to differ. But we all already know this, don’t we? What we remain unclear about is where and how exactly to invest the effort- after all, we want the maximum outcome.
So, today I am going to discuss four effective tips that can actually help you to improve your GPA. I have been using them for years and managed to secure the top position at my university GIK so these techniques are tested to the core. I won’t promise that you can achieve a 4.0 GPA (or a 3.89 GPA as in my case) by simply using these but I can guarantee that these will definitely help in your pursuit.
Plan your Study Schedule
If there is only one thing you wish to take home with you today, this should be it. Such is its importance. Always plan before you dive into the exam preparations. Don’t just open the coursebook and start the most difficult subject or the one whose exam is coming up first. Plan exactly how you are going to do your preparations before you start.
I make use of a special technique that was introduced to me back when I was in secondary school and I have been using it ever since. It is quite simple but highly effective. Begin by drawing a margin on a blank sheet of paper and titling one side as ‘Date’ and the other ‘Subjects/Topics to Cover’. Then from the current date onwards till the end date of the exams, write out the date and days. If you are making this well in advance and the exam dates of individual subjects remain unknown, simply do this from the current date till the start of the exams. By writing the dates down, you kind of get a sense of how close the exams are.
Then on one corner of the page, list down all the subjects you have to study (if need be, you can go about listing the individual chapters of the subjects as well but I prefer not to). Next to each subject, write a realistic estimate of how long will it take for you to complete the preparation (in days). Then, add these days and compare it against the days remaining until your exam starts. If these are equal you are in good shape and should comfortably complete the preparations.
However, almost always, the estimated preparation time exceeds the time available. So, now you have to look at days where you can squeeze more than the normal study sessions. For e.g. if I normally can study for 4-5 hours every day, I can try to make this into 6-7 hours on weekends to accomplish two days worth of study. Try adjusting until your plan fits (be realistic with yourself but not lenient- you might have to skip/postpone a few plans to make this work). Then, next to the dates write what exactly you are going to study each day. Now, your exam preparation schedule is complete.
I usually stick it next to my studying table so that I can glance over it every too often. By having a schedule made out in advance, you know exactly how much and what you need to study each day. There will be days when you might not be able to complete the target but you will know that you are lacking behind and by how much. Knowing this is all crucial. You can always work a little bit harder the next day to come back in line with your target. By working through each day, you will know for sure that you will complete the exam preparation well in time thus reliving a lot of pressure. We mostly worry more about the exams then we prepare for them, so this method tackles this problem perfectly. Make sure to tick off each day after you are done, it gives a sense of accomplishment or as I call ‘ a small win’.
Attend Classes. Take Notes
This is really a no brainer. Attend all your classes even if there isn’t an attendance requirement. Why? By attending a class, you get to know what a professor considers important. This is usually the topic that he/she spends the most time on and has a much higher chance of appearing on the test. You also get to know how much information the instructor is covering each lecture and will be helpful for you when revising it (more on this later on). Lastly, you won’t miss out on any important assignment or quiz reminders that are usually called out in class.
Now that you are (partly) convinced of the importance of attending lectures, may I suggest that you take notes too? An average person’s attention span is hardly 10 seconds, so the chances are you are already daydreaming before the lecturer finished writing the first sentence on the board. Expecting yourself to pay attention throughout the entire hour let alone remembering what is taught is childish. The solution to this is simple- take notes. Write down what the lecturer writes on the board, write down the definitions, write down the main points, draw diagrams, and basically keep yourself engaged. I am not suggesting that you write down the presentation word for word but shorten and summarize the points. There will be times in a lecture when understanding a concept is more important than jotting down and you should realize that. As a rule of thumb, if you feel something is important, write. If you feel bored or daydreaming start writing.
What if you don’t like the teaching style of the professor or don’t understand much from his lectures anyway? Even then, write and take notes. In such a case, I am not suggesting that you refer back to these notes ever for if you don’t understand the lecture, there is no guarantee that you haven’t messed up when writing concepts or drawing diagrams. However, writing at that moment will help you to pay attention which might just help you understand more and writing is a good technique to memorize information. Even if you think you won’t remember anything by taking notes, you will still recall bits and pieces of information from the lecture once you start studying for the exam (try it and see). You will recall a few definitions, a few examples, and diagrams won’t seem so frightening if you are seeing them for a second time. My point is, if you are in a lecture, why not make the most of it rather than putting an extra half an hour later on to gain that same information.
Don’t be a Fool to put in the Effort Twice
Always remember that our main objective is to work hard in an effective way to reap the most benefit. If you have to put effort twice towards the same thing, you are probably doing it wrong. Always work in a systematic organized manner. I had a separate sub-folder on my computer for each semester, further divided into each subject sub-folders and further divided into ‘Slides/Powerpoint presentations’, ‘Assignments’, ‘Notes’, ‘Books/Reading Material’ sub-folders. You can try modifying this structure to suit your needs.
Having information organized saves a lot of time, trust me! Often while studying, you wish to refer to a similar problem you solved for an assignment months ago or you wish to revise a topic you studied three semesters ago- all of this is available just 3 clicks away. If it wasn’t, you would spend a lot of time searching or the worst-case scenario would be to redo a lot of effort. Whenever I came across a good diagram/animation/video on the internet which helped me to understand a concept better than in the coursebook, I would save it in my notes folder and put a link to it in my e-course book. So, when the time came for studying for the final exams, it was just a click away. The take away is if you have to study a chapter for a quiz, then for the mid-term exam, and then the final exam, why not have everything you have learned and curated in a safe place to not have to spend time re-learning but just to quickly revise and move on.
P.S. The organization of my university lectures and notes is a life-saver for me even now (two years after graduating). Often, I come across stuff that I learned in university but quite can’t recall properly, so this is my go-to place. Using the same source to revise a concept is the most efficient way.
Revise on a Daily Basis
Revising the lectures daily sounds time-consuming. But let’s be practical. Assuming you have four lectures a day, it will require you approximately two hours to revise them i.e. roughly half the lecture time. That’s not too difficult, is it?
What if I tell you that you can actually recover at least half of this time later on? Please, allow me to explain. If you revise daily, chances are you will understand the concepts better and go into the follow-up lectures with better motivation. This also gives you a chance to clarify any questions or confusion you might have during the very next lecture (something which isn’t possible if you decide to binge study a day before the exam). By having a better grip on the topic, it will be easier to concentrate on lectures, and note-taking will become a breeze. You will be able to participate in class discussions better which again leads to better motivation towards going to class. All in all, when you sit down to study for the quiz or the exam, you already would know a lot of stuff and would find it much quicker to complete the preparation (hence recovering a lot of time that you spent earlier).
It really is the use of the Small Step Technique. You can take any dream, goal, task, or aspiration, however daunting, and break it down into smaller and smaller steps until it becomes manageable.
I genuinely hope you make use of these tips and I would love to hear back from you on how well you have managed to implement these and improve your grades. Have any questions or have any tips that I missed? Send me an email or a Linkedin message — I’d love to help and hear them!