Follow these quick and easy to implement study tips to boost your grades within as little as a week. Make sure to grab your free ‘Straight A Study Techniques Guide’ at the end to where I reveal some of my best study techniques!
Want top grades but don’t attend a good school? I’ve got you. I achieved 12A*s overall, with 45A*s and 3A’s across my individual modules from a ‘not-so-great’ school. This is a dilemma thousands of students around the world face every single day, so you’re not alone.
I have met thousands of students just like myself who didn’t receive the support, guidance or help they needed in school to achieve the best possible grades. I’m not talking about the students who simply couldn’t be bothered to learn, I’m talking about the students who really wanted to succeed, but the education system failed to support them.
To give you a brief backstory, I attended a school which is rated as 2 stars online by teaching authorities and newspapers. There were obvious problems caused by a lack of funding such as a high student to teacher ratio, but that wasn’t the main problem.
In 10 out of 12 subjects, I found that I was missing key material that I needed to know for my final exams. These weren’t little snippets of information missed either; I was missing full topics.
In one of my subjects, I was missing two thirds of the information necessary to pass the exam i.e. two thirds of the curriculum hadn’t been taught during lessons.
Sometimes, we also had supply teachers who didn’t know what to teach us, or simply relayed incorrect information. It was a disaster. Yet, despite all this, I still managed to achieve 12A*s at GCSE, with 45A*s and 3A’s across my individual modules, putting me into the top 2% of all GCSE test takers.
Here’s a copy of my overall grades so you know these tips work!
I scored 100% UMS marks across the majority of my modules.
Here’s how you can achieve top grades even if you don’t attend a good school
First, let me iron out a few myths.
Myth number 1) You have to be a genius to get good grades.
You don’t have to be a genius to achieve top marks. Regardless of how intelligent you are, if you don’t have the right learning material to work and study from, you will fail. It’s a simple but harsh reality.
As stated above, this is something I personally had to battle with in the majority of my subjects in school – either we were taught incorrect information or certain topics were just skipped completely.
This puts you at a major disadvantage in exams. If you are currently not working at the level or grade you want but are trying your best, and don’t know where you’re going wrong, don’t be disheartened, follow the tips below and I’m sure you will start to see a difference almost immediately.
Myth number 2) You have to work and study an insane amount of hours to achieve excellent grades.
Good news! You really don’t need to study for hours and hours on end to achieve top marks.
In fact, numerous research studies have proven that students who spend more than 3 hours a day studying or revising (trust me, this is plenty if you know how to work, study and revise effectively) retain less information than students who study less than 3 hours a day, and they run the risk of a complete burnout. Never a good thing.
Myth number 3) You have to attend an elite or prestigious school to achieve top grades.
I just like to laugh at this one, because it’s so not true. I’ll be honest though, having known students who came from a privately educated background, sure, it gives you a slight advantage in terms of class size, and (often) better learning materials, but it’s not a necessity for success. I’m proof that this one is a complete myth.
Myth 4) It will be easy.
So now I have to be the bearer of bad news, but yes, I am not going to pretend that this will be an easy task. After all, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it right?
1) Make Gap Filling A Priority. As Soon as Possible.
Most teachers and instructors will try their best to provide relevant, accurate and up to date information. However, this doesn’t always happen.
To ensure you have a full set of notes, you must learn how to research information for yourself. Independent learning and research is the best way to fill the gaps in your notes.
There is also another benefit to independent learning; because you are the one doing the research, your brain will automatically start to digest, process and retain the information better than if you were just simply handed a full set of notes. Think of this as early revision.
So where do I find this information?
If you are based within the UK, and are looking for GCSE, A-level or even university material, I would highly suggest checking TES out. TES is a teaching community, where teachers create resources for other teachers to use in their lessons.
The beauty of this site? You don’t have to sign up as a teacher to access their resources! Missing some Biology notes? Want to brush up on your French? Struggling to understand some key concepts in History? Sign up to TES.
It’s completely free (unless you want to pay for some of the guides – but I personally don’t think it’s necessary to pay for them because there are literally thousands of free, high quality resources posted every day across all subjects). Some of the resources I used were fantastic.
If you’re based elsewhere and are sitting exams other than those mentioned above, I would highly recommend checking Youtube out for online tutorials and guidance videos. When I was studying for the American SATs and ACT tests, I found heaps of information on Youtube, and just by listening to and noting some of this down, I was able to gain near perfect scores.
Alternatively, type the subject you are studying into Google and simply look for student forums, or key websites which provide additional information to supplement your teacher’s or instructor’s course notes.
Try this Google Hack: site edu: world history exam –> this will help you to find LOADS of practice papers, exams and even other college’s or school’s notes! Just replace the subject after site edu:
Want to go to university or college? This tip is also super beneficial if you are wanting to go to university or college. Even though most degrees are taught by a lecturer, you will often be expected to conduct some independent research either in the form of a project or an academic dissertation.
Knowing how to find relevant information online is a key skill which, when practiced, will aid you in becoming a successful student in college or university.
Okay, but how do I know when I am missing key information? How do I know when I haven’t been taught something I should have been? This leads me onto my next point.
2) Cross-Check (& download) your Specification or Curriculum with your Notes.
This is your lifeline. Seriously. If you don’t know what your specification even looks like, let alone have a copy, you are putting yourself at a major disadvantage. Specifications and curriculums contain all of the information you will ever need for a particular topic, subject or exam. I used them as a checklist to carry out my independent research.
Like I said previously, I was missing information for 10 out of 12 subjects. How did I know that? I had copies of the specification and cross-checked the information with my notes. I then used them to carefully plan my research and revision sessions to fill in any gaps.
Bear in mind that specifications are often written using formal and technical language, so they may be hard to work with at first, but you will soon learn how to decipher the key points you should be pulling from the curriculum. Try to spot keywords and phrases too; specifications are littered with them.
3) Get Oragnised Now. Even if You’re Halfway Through the Year.
Okay, okay, I get it, you have probably been told this ‘tip’ a million times before, but in all seriousness, if your notes are a mess, they’re scattered everywhere and everything is just thrown back into your bag or onto your desk at the end of the day, you will find studying difficult.
- Buy an Expanding File to House all Your Notes for Each Subject. I used this one from Amazon.
- Create a system for taking notes. I personally love colour coding my notes as it enables me to quickly find a keyword, topic or date. Don’t know what I mean? Check my image below to see how I colour coded my notes for success!
4) Learn How to Teach Yourself
This one is a little trickier. I get it, you shouldn’t have to teach yourself, but if you want the best grades you are going to have to! I am going to be honest, teaching yourself unfamiliar concepts can be extremely daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
Here’s a simple checklist of things you will need to be able to teach yourself the material effectively:
- The specification or curriculum
- Your current set of notes (ideally with the gaps already filled in)
- A whiteboard and marker pen. This was my life-saver. I am a huge fan of using whiteboards to teach myself new material. Don’t understand a new concept? Map it out on the whiteboard and try to make links and connections with other material you have found on the internet.
Here is an example of how I use my whiteboard to map out a key concept (in this case organic compounds in chemistry):
5) Purchase the Books Actually Designed to Supplement Your Course
This might seem like a no-brainer but some students forget to purchase the books which are specifically designed to complement their course. Make sure to check out your individual exam or study board to check which books you need.
However, I found that the books made for my courses were a little basic in information, or didn’t explain the concept in enough detail. Therefore, I would also suggest having a look around on the internet for other books which will supplement your course structure.
For example, as an international student studying for SATs and ACT exams, I frequently combined the traditional College board approved textbooks, in addition to Barron’s textbooks. I especially loved using Barron’s books for the subject specific SAT tests.
They cover each topic in great detail, include handy diagrams for more difficult concepts, and provide sample tests for each topic so you know what you do and don’t understand. I also used the Princeton Review and Kaplan books to prepare for each test.
You might be thinking, ‘but won’t they give the same information?’. Surprisingly, no. Whilst they may cover the general topics you need to study, they often provide information in very different ways, and some books (e.g. Barron’s books) will cover subject knowledge in more detail, whereas other books (e.g. Princeton Review) will provide more practice tests. It’s all about finding the right balance.
Having a mixture of books to study and work from ensures that you will be prepared for the exams, and achieve the best possible grades.
6) Discover Your True Learning Style
If you want top grades, you are going to need to remember the information you research. How do you do that? You find your individual learning style, and find study and revision techniques which work for you. There are seven learning styles in total, but most people fall into one of four learning style categories:
- Visual – You learn through pictures, diagrams, videos or a practical demonstration.
- Auditory – You learn through sound or music e.g. podcast, recording your notes etc.
- Kinaesthetic – You learn through movement, physical application or touch.
- Verbal – You learn through words, either by spoken or written.
Pro Tip: In the beginning, every student thinks that they are verbal learners, when in fact, most students aren’t! Ever find yourself simply re-reading textbook pages hoping the information will finally stick to only find you can’t recall it 2 minutes later? Chances are, you are not a pure verbal learner.
Your choice of revision and study technique will largely depend on which category or style of learning you prefer. There are some ‘experts’ who believe that your learning style can only fall into one category, but I disagree.
I personally fall into both the visual and kinaesthetic categories, so don’t limit your choice of study and revision techniques to just one category. Experiment to see what works best for you.
7) Find the Study Techniques That Will Actually Work For You
Don’t know of any good revision and study techniques? Don’t worry. I have put together a handy 13 page guide listing 10 revision and study techniques which have been proven to boost student’s grades within one week. Plus, how to use them and when!
I have also included some of my own personal techniques including a completely new strategy called the ‘House’ technique which I used to achieve 12A*s at GCSE.
To download, simply click here, and the Study Techniques Guide will open in a new window. To save it, simply press the little download arrow, or print it immediately to use now. Completely up to you. I hope you find the guide useful!