While some students can pat themselves on the back for a job well done after quarter grades were sent home, others still have a great deal of work to do before semester grades are finalized in January. Whether students are hoping to earn a coveted A in their AP class or are just hoping to pass, they need to change how they study in order to improve their grade.
The first step is figuring out what went wrong. To improve grades, students need to avoid making the same mistakes that hurt their grades in the first place.
“It shouldn’t be a matter of raising the grade. It’s a question of why did the grade fall in the first place. Most of the effort should be done on the prevention side, because trying to raise your scores after the fact is very difficult,” said AHS teacher Nik Joshi.
For many students, the problem is getting distracted while they’re studying. According to Director of Burien Sylvan Learning Center, Jenny Haaland, M.Ed., distractions can be far more problematic than students might believe.
“You can make a half-hour long homework assignment turn in to three or four hours if you’re checking Facebook, if you have the TV on in the background, talking to friends, or texting in between,” said Haaland. “You think, ‘oh, it’ll just take me a second,’ but you’re actually distracting your mind from what you’re doing.”
Some students fall behind because they procrastinate on school work. For chronic procrastinators, waiting until the last minute on assignments can be a habit that leads to both stress and lower quality work.
“The quality of work is a lot better when you don’t have to rush. When you get things done early you have more time to do things that you want to do, like hang out with friends or listen to music,” said AHS junior Danika Drugge.
Turning in a significantly higher quality of work is necessary to improve grades. This means spending more time and effort on assignments.
“If you’re getting C’s on your papers, and you want to get a higher score, then the process of drafting and getting feedback and editing that paper before it’s due becomes really important. You can’t just get another C paper, that’s not going to raise your grade, you have to get an A paper to raise your grade. You have to do what A students do, and they edit their papers, they come up with new ideas. They’re thinking about it more, in a more complex way,” said AHS humanities teacher Marcie Wombold.
However, procrastinating can be a difficult habit to beat. Breaking the habit is a matter of individual discipline and setting limits.
According to Haaland, the key to avoiding procrastination is to form a habit of getting work done early.
“It takes thirty consecutive days–thirty days without stopping once–to create a habit,” said Haaland, “You have to train it out of yourself.”
For students that don’t know what led to their poor grades, their teachers are an excellent resource.
“Many teachers are available for extra help or for feedback or to check, ‘Am I on the right track?’ and very few students actually take us up on that,” said Wombold, “It’s my A students who ask me ‘Are my notes complete?’ or, ‘Am I getting this idea correctly?’ and it shows in their performance, because if they’re not, I can redirect them.”
When students ask for help, they should bring in graded tests and assignments. This helps teachers understand what they need help with and provide more useful feedback as a result.
Students also need to communicate with teachers sooner rather than later. Whether they’re asking for an extension, or just asking for help, the sooner students tell teachers about problem, the more likely it is that it’s not too late.
“Be proactive, if you have a question, go ask for help,” said Joshi, “Asking a question in a panic the morning before a test is not the right time to be asking the question.”
Studying with peers can also help students understand what they’re missing.
“We are verbal creatures, we talk about movies we like and the music that we like, and the events we’re experiencing, so talk about what you’re learning in class,” said Wombold, “It will help solidify it for you.”
Getting organized is the most important step to getting on track. Not only does it help students stay on top of assignments, it saves them time overall.
“Students should be more organized because it just makes life easier,” said Drugge. “Instead of spending an hour looking for things, they could be using their time to do more important things.”
If better grades aren’t motivation enough, students can think of it in terms of spending less time doing homework.
“You work hard all the time, and if you work smarter with the time that you use, then you’ll be able to have more fun in it, and find that balance between working hard and playing hard,” said Wombold. “It’s important to have downtime too… you’re not having fun when you’re procrastinating. So plan fun, and plan work.”
For most students, getting organized means using a planner. Some may find that a virtual one such as Google Calendar is more useful to them. Not only is Google Calendar accessible anywhere, it can sync with smart phones, to help keep users on track.
“What’s great about the virtual calendar—I live off my virtual calendar—is you can create repeating events, and even set alarms,” said Haaland, “So then your phone will go off and remind you that you should be studying right now.”
Raising grades is an individual process and requires students to be honest with themselves about the effort they’re putting into their classes.
“I think every student knows in their heart when they’re studying effectively, and when they’re not,” said Joshi. “It’s a matter of having the maturity to admit it to themselves and to act on it.”