Are you struggling with how to get good grades?
Don’t worry — you’re not alone.
I’ve spoken to thousands of students around the world, and many are quick to say:
“I study hard but I still get bad grades.”
Here’s the thing…
Those successful students that you know? They aren’t necessarily any more intelligent than the rest of the class.
They’ve simply developed study strategies that help them perform better in school.
You can get good grades, too. Your academic goals can be achieved by studying more effectively, not by studying “harder”.
In this article, I’ll cover the winning habits I used to be a straight-A student throughout my academic career — no all-nighters required.
Ready to stop stressing about grades and start doing better in school? Then let’s explore the useful strategies that will help you do just that.
Why is it important to get good grades?
The first step to doing better in school isn’t cracking open a textbook — it’s understanding why good grades matter.
Now, let me say this…
Your grades do not define your intelligence or self-worth.
Your academic record is only one part of your education, and you can lead a successful life with or without straight A’s.
That being said, there are real benefits to getting good grades.
For example, a solid academic record provides more opportunities for scholarships, higher education, and employment. Academic excellence may be the bridge to your dream career.
More significant, though, are the life-changing skills you’ll gain as you work toward becoming a top student — traits like focus, determination, discipline, and confidence. These values are crucial to achieving any of your goals, inside or outside the classroom.
A good grade is more than just a letter on a page. Achieving academic success after learning how to focus when studying is a rewarding experience that offers long-lasting benefits.
10 ways to do better in school
Now that you know the value of good grades, let’s dive into the habits that will help you get them.
1. Know why good grades matter to you
We already covered why academic success is generally important.
But if you really want to know how to get good grades, it’s essential to understand why academic success matters to you.
What difference will good grades make in your life, now and in the future?
Do you have dreams of attending a specific university or following a particular career path?
Maybe you want to develop your grit and persistence — to have the confidence that comes with knowing you gave school your best effort. Or perhaps you want financial security and the ability to provide for your family in the future.
There’s no right or wrong here. Just ensure that your motivation for pursuing academic excellence is a compelling one.
Even with the best study habits, it isn’t easy to consistently put in the work required to get good grades.
Sometimes, you’ll want to quit. When you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, come back to your why. It will put all those study sessions in perspective — and make the journey to becoming a successful and resilient student a more rewarding one, too.
2. Write down all important deadlines and dates
Upcoming exams. Project assignments. Events and extra-curricular activities.
You’re a busy student with a lot of dates to remember.
It’s normal to think that you can keep track of all your deadlines in your head. The only problem is, relying on memory (and memory alone) doesn’t work for anyone.
Instead, it leads to forgotten assignments, last-minute panic, and low-quality work.
There’s a simple way never to forget another assignment again. Write down every due date. Use Google Calendar or Google Keep. You can even jot it down in an old-fashioned notebook.
Choose the medium that works for you.
The less you stress about deadlines, the more energy you’ll have for completing your assignments. You’ll become a more effective student and you’ll free up valuable mental capacity for the things that matter.
3. Don’t forget to schedule your downtime
In your calendar, take a moment and block out time for relaxation.
That’s right. Not only am I permitting you to schedule downtime, I’m encouraging you to do so.
Relaxation is necessary for mental and physical well-being. You’re not a robot — no one expects you to study like one.
Pursue the activities you love. Allow your mind to be at play. Your overall health and happiness will improve, and you’ll become a better student in the process.
That’s because exercise improves concentration and creativity. Relaxation promotes memory and retention.
Free time to pursue the activities you love outside of academics develops a school-life balance — a lifelong pursuit that brings more meaning to your goals and joy to your life.
Even small blocks of relaxation are helpful. Most students can only maintain deep focus for 30 to 45 minutes at a go. Scheduling short intervals of downtime after longer chunks of work is a strategic and fun way to approach assignments.
And try not to use your phone or computer during your quick study breaks. As studies have shown, your brain won’t fully relax, and the distraction often makes it more challenging to go back to the task at hand.
4. Find a seat at the front
Can you choose where you sit in class? Then grab a seat at the front of the room.
Studies show that students who sit in the first few rows tend to get significantly higher exam scores than their peers.
Why does sitting at the front of the class make such a big difference in test scores?
One reason is focus. If you’re at the back of the room, it’s easy to become distracted by your classmates. If you sit at the front, your attention will be on the teacher — not what is happening around you.
Then there’s the issue of accountability. If you’re tucked away in a corner, it’s easy to get away with passing notes, dozing off, or doodling.
Set yourself up for success by controlling as much of your environment as possible, and you’ll stop fretting about how to get good grades.
5. Take more effective notes
Now that you’re sitting at the front of the class, you’re ready to take notes as you actively listen to your teacher.
You’ve got your notebook open and your pen in hand. What more do you need to know?
Well, there’s a structure to note-taking that works. Otherwise, you risk jotting down ideas that make little sense later on.
Here are some tips for note-taking success:
Handwrite your notes
Handwriting your notes helps you to process and frame the information in a way that works for you.
You’ll think more deeply about what you’re writing and, as a result, remember more from the lesson during your study sessions later.
Organise your notes
Whichever note-taking method you use, keep your notes neat and organised.
Group together similar ideas. Copy your notes after class if your handwriting is messy and hard to read. Clear, easy-to-navigate notes are crucial for anyone struggling with how to get good grades.
6. Understand the topic (don’t just memorise the information)
Many students think that studying is all about memorisation.
So they make heaps of notecards for dates, facts and names, then hope they can retain enough information for the exam day.
The problem with memorising information is that it only works for the short term.
Have you ever taken an exam, only to forget most of the material a few weeks later? That’s because memorisation is not an effective way to categorise and recall information — skills that become increasingly important as you progress in your studies.
You’ll learn more and become more successful in school when you actually understand the topic at hand.
Note-taking is an excellent first step towards processing information. From your notes, summarise the material. Find connections with other topics, and draw your own conclusions.
When you realise that getting good grades is less about memorising the material and more about understanding the topic, you’ll find it much easier to perform well academically.
7. Create a consistent study routine
The students who do the best know they can’t wait for inspiration to study.
Instead, they consistently show up and do the work, even when they don’t feel like it.
You’ll become a more efficient student when you make your study routine a habit. Soon, you won’t have the mental debate over whether or not you should study. You’ll just do it.
And that’s when the magic happens — better grades and more time for the other activities you enjoy.
The first step to creating a study routine is to set up a schedule. Plan out your week in advance with set blocks of time for your studies. Faithfully stick to your plan.
It typically takes a few weeks to form a new habit, so don’t be discouraged if you find it difficult at the start to follow your routine. With time and dedication, your study schedule will become second nature.
8. Use smart test-taking strategies
There’s no sugar-coating it: If you’re asking how to get better grades, you’ll need to perform well on exams.
But what if you’re not good at taking tests?
Many students get test-taking anxiety or struggle with exam pressure. But you can still perform well on exams, even if you’re not a confident test taker. Here’s how:
Manage your time wisely
When you see the exam paper, note the total number of questions. Calculate how much time you can allocate to each question to finish within the testing period.
If you come to a question you’re unsure about, move on when you reach your self-imposed time limit. Then, you won’t miss answering the questions you do know how to do.
Avoid common mistakes
One of my top tips for how to get good grades is to avoid small errors. Always read questions twice to prevent misreading. If you’re shading your multiple-choice answers, check that you’re shading the answer that corresponds with the correct question.
When you’re nervous, it’s easy to make silly mistakes. Come equipped with the right tools and test-taking practices to stop anxiety in its tracks.
Stay focused for the entire exam
Staying focused is easier said than done. If you’re finding it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand, take a break!
Put your pencil down. Take a sip of water. Breathe deeply. It’s better to pause for a moment to regain clarity than speed through the rest of your exam.
Want to improve your grades by 20-30% right away? Check out my ultimate guide to acing tests and get 58 pages of my best exam-taking tips.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Your teachers and parents want to help you in your pursuit of academic success. If you need support, don’t be afraid to ask for it.
A study by Saint Louis University researchers found that students who ask for help are more likely to get straight A’s.
That’s not surprising.
But what if I told you the same study found that only 1 in 5 students take the time to ask their instructors for support?
Be one of the few who asks for help when they need it. You’ll likely discover that you no longer worry about how to do better in school.
10. Reward yourself for making progress
You’ve worked hard to get good grades. When you’ve made progress in terms of your habits and attitude, it’s time to celebrate!
Rewarding yourself now will help you continue to get good grades in the future.
The key is to connect the increased effort to a positive feeling or outcome. You’ll stay motivated to continue working hard — and it’ll make studying more fun too!
Remember, learning how to get good grades is just as important as finding school-life balance. Rewarding yourself when you make progress is an excellent way to do that.
The bottom line
You’re already capable of getting good grades.
All you need are the right strategies to help you become a more effective student.
I guarantee that the tips in this article will help, so try them out today!