Getting the grades you want in school can sometimes seem overwhelming. Sitting at your desk on the first day of school knowing what you have to do can be the scariest day of the year. However, I have 16 years of school under my belt (some of them were really, really bad and some of them amazing) and I’m here to help you. There are a few things I’ve learnt throughout my time at school and I thought I’d share a few of them with you to help you have the best school year of your life.
1. Planners are essential
Any successful person, at school or in the workplace will tell that their planner is their secret weapon. This was a big change for me, my worst year at school was plannerless. For most of us our brain are much better at producing thoughts than remembering them, therefore its esential to find somewhere to store those important deadlines for projects, tests, homework, after school club times, revisions class. You don’t want to be trying to keep all that locked up in your head whilst you’re studying hard as well. I’ve seen so many of my friends shoot themselves in the foot by forgetting to right now what their homework was for that week, and after repeatedly doing this found themselves so far behind. If it’s in your planner it’s not going anywhere!
2. Get yourself a binder/folder for each class
Have a colour coded binder and class notes for each individual class that your taking and watch your life get easier. This tip is handy for three different reasons:
(a) being able to tell which file, notebook, source sheet belongs to which subject is invaluable useful – especially early in the morning when you’re in a rush!
(b) teachers will often ask you to refer back to sheets they’ve given out weeks ago – with a well organised binder system you know exactly where everything is and things rarely get lost.
(c) having a well looked after binder system will make everything throughout the year easier. For me it made a difference in the quality of my homework, class work and revision notes because all the resources I needed were in one place (and not crumpled at the bottom of my bag).
3. Start strong, finish strong!
My first tip is to put the effort in at the start of the year. I found that making the effort to make clear notes and trying to put the time in outside class (typing up your notes, researching next lesson’s topics, doing further reading, and even starting to create revision notes) will make the rest of your year a lot less stressful. The key to being successful in school is to do small chunks of studying often (this helps your brain retain information a lot more). That way when it comes to your end of year exams, you’re not attempting to cram everything into your head and left yourself no time to do it.
If you’re anything like me you tend to be much more inspired at the start of the school year than at any other time [see tip 15 to try and change this]. You should try and capitalise on this and put the effort in at the beginning of the year. I know exams seems so far away but they’ll come around quickly
4. Get your sleeping pattern in check
If you can get yourself into a healthy sleeping pattern (we tend to need about 8-9 hours sleep at least) early in the year you’ll be thanking yourself. There’s nothing worse than falling asleep in an early morning class, but it’s also important that the amount of sleep you get can have a serious effect on both your mental and physical health. It’s not possible to live off five hours sleep and nail your school life. It just can’t happen, especially in the long term. Doing everything else in this list will be a lot easier on a full night’s sleep.
5. Eat well and stay hydrated
You’re probably rolling your eyes at this point and saying ‘duh Lizz, we have to sleep, eat and drink – what’s tip 6? Don’t forget to breathe?’ Well you’d be surprised how much difference these simple changes can make to your life. Eating well and drinking enough water will increase your energy levels, clear up your skin, reduce headaches, so many other things.
I noticed that as soon as I started doing both of these I found school, studying and sleeping so much easier. Junk food, even though it tastes so good, makes you tired, sluggish and makes it harder for you to take things in. Feel free to treat yourself on the weekend – but try and eat well during the week.
There’s going to come a point in the year (and for some of you it may be the case from the get go) where you’re to do list is going to be 400 miles long and there’ not enough time in the week to do what you’ve got to do in the day. So you have to prioritise, and this is a really good thing to practice all through the year, not just at your busiest times.
I would suggest every night writing a list at the top of your to list of the most important three things you need to get done the next day. If you’re someone who gets easily overwhelmed by long to do lists this is a great tip for you. Doing this will allow you to focus on what tasks are essential for you having a successful day.
7. Do your homework!
Boooooo, I know. But this is one of the best things you can do to get the most out of your classes. Your teachers are setting you homework for a reason – to help you recap what you did in class that day or to encourage you to dig deeper into an important topic, etc. Remember that they know the course well, so they’re lessons and homework are designed to complement each other. Some courses have so much on the syllabus that some of the work needs to be set as homework so that you’ll be able to finish the course on time. Nine times out of ten their setting you home in your best interest.
8. Hand write your class notes
In class hand write your notes, I repeat hand write your notes in class. hand write your class notes, and then after your class type them up and re-write them neatly. Scientists have done the research and it appears that three i the magic number when it comes to memorisation. Studying something three times will drastically increase your likeliness to take it all in. I even had a teacher about three years ago who planned all his lessons around this idea.
I personally love the method of writing, typing and writing again because, (a) if you lose your folder you have a back up at home (b) you can play around with funky designs and layouts, and, (c) you can print them out during revision and write all over them and then print out a fresh, clean version the night/day before your exam.
9. Go to class (even when attendance is optional)
In high school you don’t get much choice about this, so this tip is mostly for those of you in higher education. Go to class – even if you don’t want to, even if you don’t have to – go, go, go! It’s so easy to tell yourself that you’ll copy your friends notes and catch up in your own time, and then never actually do that. Don’t take the risk! Go to class and take advantage of your teachers time.
10. Sit at the front
So you’ll followed my last tip and dragged yourself to class, the next step is to avoid wasting your time by staring at your phone or out of the window all lesson. My top tip to avoid this is to sit at the front of the classroom, or lecture. Whenever I do this I’m too worried about being caught on my phone to even think about getting it out, and I’m so close to the teacher that I have to concentrate. I find myself a lot more engaged in my lessons when I’m sat at the front of the class.
11. Re-read your notes all year (not just the night before the exams)
Re-reading your class notes within 24 hours of your lesson will increase the amount you remember by around 60%. After this reading them once a week will help you to maintain a complete understanding of the subject. Setting aside a little time each week to read over your notes will make revision season a breeze.
12. Make the most of your teachers
Take any help your teachers offer you! I’ve learnt this the hard way. My in my first year of A levels I did the opposite of pretty much everyone of these tips, I didn’t go to class, I barely slept, I ate lots of junk food and I failed everything. Then next year I went to every revision class I could and got A’s in all my written exams. Revision classes are great because the teacher will take you through the topics at your own pace until you get it. Asking questions in class when you’re confused is also very important, don’t just assume it will click eventually. Also most teachers are happy to correspond to you by email – so email them and ask for help or extra notes, they want you to do well.
13. Treat yo’self!
What I mean is when you finish a piece of homework, treat yo’self! Finish learning a list of vocab, treat yo’self! Finish that massive project, treat yo’self [x10]! Perhaps with a piece of chocolate, half an hour on your favorite game, a new notebook or with a night out. As long as it’s proportional to the achievement. Doing this is the perfect way to keep yourself as motivated as possible in the long run and it prevents burning yourself out by the end of September.
14. Don’t leave it until the last minute, no matter how tempting
The stress isn’t worth it, I promise you. Have you been given a month to write a huge essay, instead of leaving the entire thing until you have eight hours left, break up the task into 26 smaller tasks and do one everyday (leaving yourself four spare days to make any changes as the end). For small tasks try and do them the day you get them, start them straight away and all your tasks won’t get on top of you.
15. Seek inspiration
We all work better when we’re inspired, but some days we’re just don’t feel like doing anything. These days are the most important days to work on! If I didn’t work of these days I’d soon be drowning in stuff to do. My favourite thing to do on days like this is to go on my studyblr (a tumblr blog based around study inspiration and studying) and find something that makes me want to study. Here are a list of my favourite studyblrs:
The Studyblr community is a really lovely one, and always inspire me to work. If you’re feeling uninspired their worth checking out.
I hope you found these tips helpful, good luck with this next year…
Got any tips that aren’t on this list, put them in the comments!