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How to Study Less & Still Get Better Grades in High School

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High school students don't have much free time, but that doesn't mean your grades need to suffer. By improving the efficiency of your study habits, you can spend less time studying while enjoying improved grades.

High School Schedules

If you're a high school student, chances are you don't have a lot of time on your hands. Underclassmen are kept busy adjusting to the rigors of a new school, juggling extracurricular activities, and trying to keep up with homework. Upperclassmen don't have it much easier, as they need to worry about college applications, AP or IB exams, and other pre-college tasks.

busy student

With such a busy schedule, you need to be careful not to let your study schedule suffer. Many students feel like they need to make a choice between studying and getting enough rest, but it is certainly possible to have both.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, studying less can actually improve your grades, provided that you remain focused and commit yourself to following a rigorous schedule.

Improve Efficiency

Just because you're studying less, it doesn't necessarily mean that you aren't putting forth your best effort. The old adage 'work smarter, not harder' holds true for the classroom as well as the workplace. In fact, marathon study sessions such as the infamous 'all-nighter' are actually ineffective and could lead to health problems, according to USA Today.

Of course, spending less time studying only works if you know what you're doing. Let's take a look at a few studying techniques and strategies that will help you get the most out of your study sessions.

Choose the Right Location

A major factor in effective studying is your ability to concentrate, focus, and block out distractions. An easy way to ensure that you'll stay on task is to select a quiet, isolated study location that allows you to focus on your work without being bothered by distractions.

focus

Trying to work in your own room can be hard when you know that multiple sources of entertainment and distraction (TV, video games, etc.) are just a few feet away, but a quiet nook in the library or a secluded spot in your school's study hall offer ideal spots to bear down and focus on your work.

Additionally, the general atmosphere serves as a helpful motivator if you're feeling listless. It's a lot easier to study when you're surrounded by other students who are all doing the same.

Utilize Group Work

If you're more of a socialite, you should know that your friends and peers can be a valuable study resource. Working in groups poses a number of benefits when studying and can lead to much more effective sessions.

group work

As with working in a library, having a study group can help keep you focused. It's easy to put off studying by yourself, but when you have three or four other students waiting for you, you have an obligation to keep working.

When you're surrounded by peers, you also have access to instant support. Instead of researching a question and being distracted by the internet, you can instead consult your friends and learn from their experience, all while saving yourself valuable time.

Working in groups also allows you and your classmates to use a 'divide and conquer' method, wherein each student tackles a different subject and then shares their findings to form a cohesive picture of the topics being discussed. Not only will this help you learn better, but it makes bigger tasks seem more manageable and less time-consuming.

Take Better Notes

Though many students take it for granted, note taking is practically a science, with all sorts of methods and strategies that can help you take better and more efficient notes.

Spend some time experimenting and see which style works best for you. There's the Cornell Method, which involves organizing and dividing your notes into easily-accessible pockets of information, and the outlining method, wherein students begin by noting general ideas before zeroing in on more specific concepts.

organization

These are just two possible systems, and there is no one 'best' method for taking notes. Find the one that helps you take notes quickly and effectively, and use it to boost your productivity. It's a win-win situation; your notes will help you understand the content better and you'll spend less time taking them.

Reward Yourself with Breaks

Even if you're spending less time studying, it doesn't mean you need to force yourself to work non-stop. In fact, taking breaks can even boost productivity and enhance overall focus, according to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

By giving yourself breaks and letting your brain recharge, you calm down, renew your focus, and return to studying with enhanced vigor.

As always, you need to be especially careful when taking time to recharge. Occasional breaks are important for productivity, but too much time spent relaxing will only cause you to fall behind.

Spending two hours studying instead of five may seem like you're slacking off, but if you maximize your efficiency and cut down on distractions, you'll enjoy the same results and save yourself some time. By using these methods, you can have the best of both worlds: more free time and better grades.

By Bill Sands
November 2017
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