Before I get into this post, I would like to make a disclaimer: the tips I share in this post are from my own personal experiences and from the book How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport. I can not make any guarantees on if you will actually get straight A’s since each person is different, this just serves as an aid and to introduce you to any new study habits you may not be aware of.
The book is broken up into three parts: Study Basics, Quizzes and Exams, and Essays and Papers. I’ll tackle each section separately.
I. Study Basics
While a lot of stuff in this book is common knowledge, there were a few key gems that I will try to implement for this upcoming semester. For example, many of us tackle big assignments by setting aside a day (mine is usually Sundays) to dedicate to that task. So instead of thinking “I’ll start my 5 page paper at 9am and work on it for the entire day”, break it up into chunks. So if it is due Monday schedule an hour on Saturday to knock out 2 pages, then another hour on Sunday to knock out two pages, take a break then knock out the last page. Majority of this section talked about time management and it gave a few ideas to manage free time and school time without stressing yourself out. If you want to read about my favorite apps to keep me organized click here.
II. Quizzes and Exams
The key to studying for a test or quiz is to have good notes. The book talks about how to take notes if you are in a technical course (science, math, engineering) or non-technical classes (art, journalism, history, etc), so I won’t give away all the tips especially because I am not taking any technical courses and I believe that in those types of classes the structure is dependent on the teacher, so I would suggest trying different methods of note taking until you find the right one for you. It may help in a History class to write down the main topic then writing subsections that include dates, terms, and over arching themes and importance, or try Cornell Notes. For math classes, make sure to write down as many examples are you can, it will help when you are studying.
III. Essays and Papers
Honestly, I pretty much skimmed through this section because I believe my method of writing essays is the best for me, and it has worked well in the past so I am not doing to much to alter it. For those of you who think you can improve on your essay writing, this chapter is really helpful because it takes you through the entire process of writing an essay (choosing a topic, creating your thesis, researching, creating a draft, etc.). Out of all the sections, I feel that this one would be the most helpful because, personally I feel that it is harder to write an essay than it is to study for a multiple choice exam.
Overall, I feel like the book had some good points, but I think this was written for the student who doesn’t have a job. I work two on campus jobs and take classes, so some of the scheduling tips were unrealistic (sometimes I’m out from 8:30am-6:30pm so I don’t have a lot of time to do things other than homework). Also, I want to stress again that reading this book will not guarantee straight a’s. What will get you good grades is taking good notes in class (cater your methods to the different teaching styles), having a good time management system (you can use paper and pen, your phone, a planner, whatever will help you stay on track of assignments), and giving your assignments your best effort (which means you can’t always procrastinate which is why you need good time management).
If you have any questions or any help, feel free to leave a comment below.