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How to get straight A’s in college is probably one of the most popular questions every college student will ponder. 

This is because any student will always hope to get the best grades possible in college. And that means getting straight A’s.

But…it is not that easy…

It involves a lot of hard work, perseverance, and more, among many other factors such as how you study, is it effective etc.

In this article, I am going to list and break down every single factor you need and should have to get straight A’s in college.

1. Create A Timetable

Study schedule

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash | Timetable 

A timetable helps you manage your time effectively and productively. Not only can you arrange your time to make your study session more productive, but you can also track your study progress with it.

Constructing a timetable has 2 main factors to it – A To-Do list and the time blocking technique.

a) A To-Do List

Without knowing what task you need to do, you will not be able to create a study timetable.

That is why you need to come up with a To-Do list first.

Once completed, a To-Do list shows you all the tasks you need to complete. These tasks can then be inserted into your timetable so that they can be completed within the allocated time. 

You can even add a priority or urgency factor to your To-Do list so that you know which tasks need to be completed first and in what order. 

b) Time Blocking

Ever heard of time blocking?

Time blocking is a time management technique where time is divided into smaller segments called time blocks. Tasks and activities can then be allocated to each time block and the time allocated to the task can be decided. 

Since time is now seen as blocks, you can easily find empty time blocks that have not been filled or even wasted. Either you have not allocated a task to that time period or the task that you allocated that time for takes a much shorter time to complete.

This helps you sieve out and identify any areas where you can allocate tasks and improve on. That is why it is one of the best productivity techniques out there.

To me, a timetable is a crucial first step to getting straight A’s in college. If you would like to learn more about a study timetable, you can head over to this article “Study Schedule: Why you need it and how to create it” to learn more.

2. Create an optimal study space

Optimal study space

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash | Study space

An optimal study space will allow you to focus on one thing and only one thing: Studying. 

This will be a space where you can learn effectively and absorb information quickly.

It will also be a place where you get the most motivation and concentration to study. 

Again, there are two components to achieving an optimal study space.

The first component is a space free of distractions while the second is a space that is comfortable.

a) Free of distractions

i. Technological distractions

Technology has become so prevalent that it has become invasive and harmful to a certain point. As students, many of us are glued to our phones. We are addicted to mobile games, social media, and more. Put it simply, we can’t stop using and thinking about our phones.

Other technology that we may be addicted to could be our gaming consoles, computers, and more.

This is why technology is constantly distracting us from studying and learning effectively and is also why we need to remove it temporarily

Once you have entered your study space, there should be zero signs of technological devices that can distract you. This means putting these devices outside and far away from your study space, where you can’t even hear them.

ii. Other distractions

Technology is not the only thing distracting us. 

If there is noise, people walking around etc, you will inevitably be distracted. You will not be able to think clearly and hence, focus. 

If you are studying outside, let’s say in cafes or public places, you will likely encounter noise or the constant movement of people which can be distracting. 

Hence, it would be good if you can constantly find a place where the noise is insignificant and there are not many people. In other words, a place where you will not be distracted.

b) Comfortable environment

Now you may be thinking why your study space needs to be comfortable. Wouldn’t that make you sleepy easily? 

No, because I am not talking about having beds or lying on your comfy sofa while studying. 

I am recommending a cool environment where the lighting is good and you feel comfortable to stay for a few hours. 

i. Cool environment

A cool environment makes it more comfortable not only to sit in your chair and study, but to stay in the environment for a long time. 

This way, you can study comfortably and even feel like studying longer.

ii. Good lighting

A place with good lighting would be a place where you can see your worksheets clearly and easily. 

It won’t be so dark until you are unable to see what you are writing or even feel sleepy. 

It is that right amount of light that you again, feel comfortable in for your eyes (without feeling sleepy) and tasks.

3. Learn how to study smart

Learning is probably the most important part when it comes to scoring stellar grades.

Because…obviously you would have to understand the content very well to score high marks.

However, straight-A students do not just score better because they spend more time learning. They learned how to study smart too!

Studying smart is not just about learning content effectively, but also efficiently. Not only can you learn the content thoroughly and well, but you can also learn it quickly.

There are 2 parts to being able to study smart.

They are learning the material and retaining what you studied.

a) Learning the material

i. Reading up before the first class for every topic.

First up on the list is reading up on the topic before the first class for that topic. Why is this studying smart? 

By reading before the first class, you would have gained a rough understanding of the topic before the teacher even goes through it. 

Then, when the teacher goes through it, you start being able to fill in the gaps to your understanding. The concepts that you did not understand when you first read the topic would probably be clarified in the class. 

Moreover, when you have gained at least a basic understanding of the topic, you can ask questions to clear any further doubts you have. 

Compared to students who are reading the topic for the first time in class, they would probably think that their doubts are because they still do not know the topic enough. Some are even lost as to what is going on in the class!

That is why reading up on the material before class is so beneficial. You get what is going on, you get a second revision, you can clarify any doubts and you can ask questions. 

By the end of this first class, you would probably be quite well-versed with the topic already! That is how straight-A students learn so quickly.

ii. Note-taking

Secondly, taking notes in class can easily strengthen your understanding of the topic and remind yourself of important points to take note of.

The main things to write down are the important points and common mistakes that have been highlighted by your teacher. 

It doesn’t have to be pretty. As long as you keep it coherent, neat, and legible, you are doing a good job. 

If your teacher is going too fast, you may opt to write in short sentences or bullet points so that you can keep up.

After the class, you can then make these notes into a nice pretty summary and also fully convert the short bulleted sentences into complete ones. 

iii. Understanding

If you have implemented the above mentioned 2 tips and still struggle to grasp a topic, this tip may help you.

Understanding a topic is the core fundamental to scoring well in every topic, subject, and exam. 

This is because you build on from these fundamentals, you strengthen them and you solve questions using them. 

Needless to say, they are incredibly important.

If you still struggle to grasp a topic after reading up before class and note-taking, the way you understand may be an issue. 

You see, to really grasp a topic or even a concept, you have to run it through your head first and really think whether it makes sense to you. 

If it does, hooray, you understand the concept. However, if it doesn’t make sense to you, you do not understand it. 

And even though many students do not understand the concept, they plainly accept it, thinking that that is called understanding and learning the concept. But…it isn’t! 

You need to be convinced that the concept makes sense! That is when you truly understand the concept.

So, go back to your notes and look at every concept, are you convinced it makes sense? If you don’t, you have not grasped the concept. 

b) Retaining what you studied

After understanding the material, you would want to be able to remember the concepts involved so that you can apply them during your exams. Below are 2 ways to do so effectively and efficiently.

i. Active recall

Active recall is one of the most powerful memorization techniques in the world. 

Active recall is the process of stimulating your brain to remember information. It is thinking hard on the information that you have learnt and trying to recall it. This means racking your brain and making sure that the information you have learnt can be easily retrieved when needed. 

To recall actively, all you have to do is to try to remember as hard as possible what you learnt before. 

If you have just learnt a Chemistry equation or a historic event, try to retrieve it from your memory. 

This act of recalling strengthens the neural pathway to this memory which then makes recalling this memory easier than before. 

Gradually when this neural pathway becomes strong, recalling this memory would be both easy and quick. 

ii. Rote learning and other memorization techniques

Another excellent technique to retain information is to learn it periodically. 

This means revisiting the content again and again over a period of time. 

Again, everytime you revisit the content, the neural pathway to this content strengthens. 

Furthermore, you can remember whatever information you have forgotten, ensuring the content that you have remembered is complete. 

These are the 2 main memorization techniques that I find are the most useful and beneficial. 

Depending on you, you may also like to use some of the memorization techniques I will be mentioning below.

Other memorization techniques/methods/tips:

  • Memory palace
  • Mnemonic
  • Mind Maps

4. Know when it is time to study and when it is time to play

Next, knowing when it is time to study and when it is time to play is also one of the prerequisites to scoring straight A’s in college. 

In other words, you need to be disciplined so that you get enough rest without sacrificing any study or revision time. 

If you would like to learn to be more disciplined, here is an article I have written on 5 ways to build up self-discipline.

5. Ask when in doubt

Raise hands to ask questions when in doubt

Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash | Ask questions when in doubt

Do you know why some successful people dedicate their success to asking questions?

Because asking questions, especially good questions, helps you learn and grow faster. 

Not only do you learn from the experts (your teachers), but you also get to clarify any doubts and strengthen your grasp of any content. 

That is why you need to start asking questions when in doubt. 

Are you confused with a concept? Ask your teacher.

Are you unsure why you got this question wrong? Ask your teacher.

Whether you consult your teacher during class or after class, it doesn’t really matter. As long as you ask and clarify your doubts, you are good to go.

Furthermore, even though I recommend you to consult your teachers when in need, there will be times where your teachers are unavailable. 

In this case, your friends are next in line.

You can consult your friends, provided they know what is going on too! Be careful of this, do not ask someone who may explain a concept wrongly to you.

6. Treat yourself well

Treat yourself well after a productive study session

Photo by Fernando Brasil on Unsplash | Treat yourself well after studying

If you are thinking that treating yourself well means playing excessively, you are wrong. 

Treating yourself well means taking care of your physical and mental well-being. 

a) Physical and mental health

i. Sleep

Sleep is more important than you think for your academics. When you sleep, your brain consolidates everything that you learned during that day and converts this information into memories. The new pathways connecting these memories helps you learn and remember information. 

Not only that, but sufficient sleep also ensures that you can function optimally during the day. This means being focused and awake during class to learn and absorb information.

Hence, you need to get the recommended amount of sleep. Whether it is 7, 8, or 9 hours of sleep, schedule it and make sure you do not sleep fewer than it. 

ii. Food

Food can also affect your mood, sleep, and energy levels.

Getting sufficient healthy food ensures you are fully energized, happy, and able to focus and study effectively.

iii. Exercise

Of course, exercising is a must too. 

Exercising, even once in a while, helps keep you healthy and energized.

You wouldn’t want to fall sick so often that it affects your study and revision progress.

Moreover, falling sick during an exam period may waste all the hard work that you have put in. 

Exercising also improves your concentration and memory, aiding your learning and absorption of information.

If you do not feel that sleep, food, or exercise helps you get the results you want, it would be good to closely monitor how you study with and without these 3 factors. 

I am confident that you will find that with sufficient sleep, healthy food, and exercise, you will study and score better than before.

b) Reward yourself sufficiently

Earlier, I mentioned that playing excessively is not treating yourself well. 

However, playing the right amount and stopping to study afterward is.

By rewarding yourself so that you remain happy and motivated helps you study more effectively and procrastinate less. 

A reward does not have to be playing. It can be eating your favorite snack or walking around your park. As long as you become happy and motivated, your reward is an effective one.

However, a caution to take is not to choose a reward where you will be addicted to it. Immediately what comes to mind is games. Games are designed to be addictive. If you cannot control the addiction, you should not use it as a reward.

It would be counter-intuitive to do so if you can’t stop.


Finally, we have come to the end of the 6 steps you can take to get straight A’s in college

I truly believe that these 6 steps will get you the results you desire, be it straight A’s or not, of course, with hard work too!

Now, what are you waiting for?

Start the first step to get your straight A’s now. 

Keep calm and study hard!

I wish you the best of luck!

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A former 'A' Level student heading into university next year, is passionate to help others excel in school! He regularly shares tips and strategies on various aspects of school, focusing mainly on studying, time management, and organizing.

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