Tips for Academic Success - Iowa College Access Network - ICAN

Tips for Academic Success

A few strategies will boost your chances of doing well in college, whether you're a senior or a freshman.

Attend Class

It should be obvious that students who regularly go to class get better grades. If you're in class, you:

  • Get information straight from the professor. Along with in-class exercises and handouts that aren't available in the textbook.
  • Show the professor that you're willing to participate.
  • Might be able to find a mentor in one of your teachers.
  • May get participation or bonus points.
  • Have a chance to sit close to the front – studies show students up front get better grades.

Get to Know Your Professor

Every teacher has a different system and, of course, a different personality. If you know your professors, you can:

  • Adjust your style to suit theirs, which can mean better grades.
  • Let your professor know if you're having trouble. If you're struggling with the work or tests, schedule an appointment to get some help.

Take Good Notes

Not just notes, but good notes. Effective notes will reflect what will be on tests and what is needed for projects.

  • Be an active listener. Learn how to listen in class instead of passing the time with text messaging or chatting.
  • Focus on the main ideas. Your professor may repeat the most important points or even tell you what will be on the midterm.
  • Rewrite your notes later, if that helps you learn the information. Rewriting notes has been shown to help students remember and understand better.

Use Your Textbook

Your professor chose this book to go along with the discussion points and to help you study for tests.

  • Read all the assignments. Skim the headers, charts, graphics and callouts; then read the entire assignment.
  • Highlight. Take notes or use a highlighter to pick out the important points. This will help you find them later when you review.
  • Outline. Outlining the information will help you see how it all fits together and increase your understanding.

Study Effectively

Try to study at least two hours outside of class for each hour you spend in class. Some other suggestions include:

  • Study early and often. Last-minute cramming rarely works. Break your study time into small segments so your mind can absorb the material.
  • Develop good study habits. The earlier you begin, the easier it will be to stick with them.
  • Find a system that works. Try different methods (and combinations of methods) until you find a system that's effective for you. You can:
    • Use flashcards.
    • Rewrite notes.
    • Study with one or more classmates.
    • Ask the professor for review sheets or guides.
    • Find the perfect location or setting.
  • Buddy up. Find someone who is doing well in the class and ask them for help, or ask your professor to help you find a tutor.
  • Make studying job one. Schoolwork is your top priority in school.

Prepare Well for Tests

Many times, test scores will make up a large part of your grade. These tips can improve your test-taking ability.

  • Know what to expect. Learn the professor's test style by asking students who have already taken the class about the types of questions that are asked and what content will be covered.
  • Think it through. Read test directions carefully and come up with a plan. You may want to tackle essay questions first, for example, to make sure you don't run out of time and miss sections worth more points.
  • Set the pace. Your professor created a test that students who know the material can finish in the time allowed. Estimate where you should be halfway through the test period and aim for that.
  • Clarify during the test. If you have a question about a test item, ask. Don't wait until you get the exam back to find out you misinterpreted the question.
  • Keep going. If you find yourself really struggling with a question, try moving on. It may be easier to answer the challenging item when you've finished the rest.

 

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