You don’t need to work hard to get good grades in high school.
In fact, the opposite is often true. Working hard can be detrimental to your grades.
*Shut up Aaron… You’re off your rocker.
No… I’m serious. Working hard can be good but it isn’t always good. Working hard is good when you have a good plan.
Working hard when you have a bad strategy is bad. It’s just plain inefficient. Time you waste studying with a bad strategy is time you’re not learning a better strategy. Working hard may give your grades a tiny boost short term but it’s the hole that’s impossible to fill.
The Holey Bucket Hypothesis
It’s hard to fill a bucket with a hole in it. Sure, by pouring enough water into it, you might fill it up for a split second but that takes a lot of water. As long as you’re pouring more water than the hole releases, you’ll fill the bucket… eventually. This is the same problem with most student’s study strategy.
If you have an okay study strategy then you can improve your test scores by studying enough. You’ll slowly learn more and more stuff until you’re prepared for the test. Then, hopefully, you won’t forget it all before you finish the test. Your bucket won’t stay filled for long.
* Why are we talking about buckets and holes Aaron? Isn’t this supposed to be an article on studying.
This is important. I promise you.
What if you didn’t have a hole in your bucket?
Would you fill the bucket faster?
Well… You’re damn right you would!
Studying when you have a hole in your metaphorical bucket is possible. It’s what most students do. They study with their mediocre strategies and do okay in class. They hate every second of it and it seems to take forever but it works. These students work hard to succeed.
But what happens when they have a bigger bucket they need to fill? What happens when the subject is way more difficult than the last one you had to learn? Uh oh…
What Kind of Awesometastic Do You Want To Be
Imagine a student that teachers love. You know the kind I’m talking about. They’re a teacher’s pet. They work hard. They take tons of notes. They don’t slack off. They’re the classic nerd stereotype.
Have you got that image in your head?
Okay… now realize that image is almost nothing like what you want to be, right?
Sure… there are some positive qualities but be honest with yourself. Do you want to be a nerd? Do you want to work all night just to get some high numbers on your papers? Do you want to study until you lose all your cool friends?
I lost my cool friends. I studied late nights. I made the teachers happy to have me in class. I did all this for a while at least. Here’s what I learned: It’s not worth it!
Eventually, I learned that this cliche of a good student that I was trying to imitate hurt my grades more than it helped them.
Here are a few facts that might just blow your mind:
- You don’t need to study long to score high.
- You don’t need to suffer through most schoolwork.
- You can (usually) score straight A’s with less than 15 minutes studying a night.
- You can skip (some) homework and still score near the top of your class.
- You can learn more by studying less
- You can understand things better by memorizing.
*Excuse me Aaron. I’ve gotta’ go clean my brain matter off the wall. (Having my mind been blown and all.)
Have you ever met one of those “slacker” students that still scores high?
I remember this one drug addict from highschool that still seemed to outscore me on every test. It drove me nuts. This was before I realized his tricks. I worked hours a night and he’d just breeze through everything. He spent half of most classes in the bathroom using class 1 drugs while I was working hard to score B’s.
*Are you saying I should do drugs?
NOOOO!!! Seriously… that’s not my point because this guy scored okay but he had plenty of life problems beyond this. All I’m saying is, if this slacker could outscore me then I was probably missing something important. That obvious thing isn’t the drugs. (He actually ended up in prison but that’s also beyond the point.)
This student knew how to work priorities to maximize his grades.
Powerful Grade Maximization Priorities
The easiest way to improve your grades is to change what you’re focusing on.
Look at your syllabus. Look at what you’re being graded on. Use that information to focus your efforts.
If tests are worth 80% of your grade then spend most of your time preparing for those tests. You can skip everything except those tests and still score a B minus. Do a handful more assignments and you’ll score like the average good student.
If tests are worth only 10% of your grade then don’t stress about tests. If your goal is an A then you might want to skip studying for tests completely. Kick-but on the other 90% and don’t study. You’ll still score points on the test because you’re doing the work but tests are some of the most stressful points to earn. They’re just not worth it at that percentage.
I had one math class where the teacher assigned about 1-2 hours of homework a night. It was frustrating. It drove me nuts until I realized those homework assignments were only worth 10% of my final grade. From that day forward, I only did homework assignments when I thought they’d help me learn something. I scored near the top of my class and spent almost no time on homework.
Do you see what I’m saying here?
*Teachers are crazy!?
You’re not always going to get this lucky in class. Some classes are going to end up being 25% tests, 25% homework, 25% projects, and 25% classwork. That can make it tough to prioritize to improve your grades. In these cases, focus on what you care about most and avoid the parts you hate.
Do you hate studying for tests? Then focus your energy on getting every other point. Then only study what you have to.
But… better yet…
In Between Class
Before you sign up for any class (or on week one of the class,) try to figure out which classes have priorities that align with your preferences. Ask to see other student’s syllabi. Ask the teachers if they can send it to you early.
Get this information and select your classes based on it.
In high school, this can be tough. You may have to finagle with your counselor. If you get a little creative then you can usually get away with moves for this reason.
“Why do you want to switch classes?” your counselor may ask.
Be honest and you may actually be allowed to. Just say, “I’m not good at tests and I’m afraid how it will affect my grades applying for college,” or “This class puts a lot of importance on homework but I’m really booked up this semester. I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep up.”
This is just another form of priority.
Picking priorities can get you 80-90% of the way to good grades and you don’t even have to try harder.
Want to get the rest of the way? Then read this blog. Join communities that encourage you to study. Amazing grades are not difficult. They can be complicated but when you learn the process they’re easy.
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