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I get a variation on this question on a regular basis. I usually avoid it because of how difficult a question it can be to answer. Since I get it so often, I figured I should touch on it.

I’ve been getting A’s most of my way through school. It’s taken a ton of work on my part to do as well as I have but some of your writing has made me think twice about it. Is it pointless to get straight A’s? What grades should I be aiming for? I definitely can’t compete for a super competitive school but I would like to get into a good college.
-Alexa

As I can imagine most of my regular readers would imagine, the most important point to make is the personal nature of this situation. The right grades always come down to your individual goals and situations. There are plenty of people that should be comfortable with B’s. There are plenty of people that should be wildly disappointed with an A-. This is all super personal. Here are the factors that you need to consider.

College (Future Academic) Aspirations

This is an idea the question writer skimmed on herself. To some extent, you can’t decide your grades without considering your future academic goals. For example, a particularly gifted student may be able to score straight mid A’s without studying but straight mid-As will only get them so far. A particularly competitive school will look at the grades and say, “that student is not extraordinary,” despite that student investing no time into their grades (and other students that they’re competing against having to invest hours.)

If you want to get into a top notch college, you have to get top notch grades. If you want to get into a competitive college, you need to get competitive grades. While I don’t consider anything less than top notch, worth competing for, if you want to try for a slightly harder than average college anyway, you’ll need to consider that in your grade aspirations.

In most cases, if you can get into the school with mid A’s but can’t get into the school with B’s, it’s probably not worth it’s costs. If you accept that philosophy then you should usually be happy with A’s and B’s.

Personal Skills

Intelligence, class history, and academic skills definitely play a factor too.

While virtually all students are intelligent enough to score at least B’s with less than 15 minutes of studying using a good study strategy (like the 15 Minute Study Strategy discussed on this blog,) there is some variance between students of different levels of intelligence and skill level. A gifted student should hardly need to put in any effort for A’s using an efficient strategy. A less gifted student may need more time investment.

That being said, all students that have fallen behind in past course work should expect lower grades in the short term. If a student has gone 2 years scoring D’s in a course, they’ve likely missed a ton of important factors (math is particularly harsh in this department.) This can hold their grade down some for a couple semesters. In general, B’s should be obtainable with a reasonable amount of effort.

Personal Motivation

You should do better in classes that you have some kind of personal motivation to succeed in. For example, a math major should do better in their math courses (in general, I can understand a slight dip in the hardest classes.) A student that wants to be a writer should do better in their writing courses. A student that just wants to get good grades because they like the feeling of good grades, should get better grades than a student that couldn’t care less.

This should be obvious but it’s a point that’s worth paying attention to. When you see your grades starting to dip in any particular area, it’s usually related to your motivation in that particular area. When you notice that your grades are dropping and realize it’s due to motivation, it’s a bit of a problem solver. Instead of having to worry about tweaking minor details, you can instantly boost your grades just solving the motivation problem.

Yes… the motivation problem isn’t always the easiest problem to solve but it tends to be worth it.

The Real Goal

Notice how I never say the right grades to get are below B’s. Sure, there may be a rare scenario when a student shouldn’t expect to get B’s but 99% of the time, B’s should be reasonably attainable. If you use the study strategies recommended on this blog, even a struggling student should be able to hit B’s (a thriving student should be pushing towards upper A’s) with less than 15 minutes of studying a night.

The real goal is not to get any particular grades but I would still say there is a right grade to be getting. The right grade to be getting is the grade you want! If you want to get a better grade (and are willing to put in a reasonable amount of work to get it,) you should be getting that grade. If you’re not getting it then you need to look into your strategies.

If you’re looking for the best study strategies then you’ve found the right blog. Smart Student Secrets is the home of the 15 Minute Study Strategy. Be sure to check out the archives and follow to learn more. Also, check out the ebooks in the sidebar for even more tricks to higher grades (with less work.)

Q/A – What Are The Right Grades To Get?

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