3 Secrets to Getting and Keeping a top GPA in High School

1. Don’t be afraid of “looking stupid”

Students who are self-conscious about their intelligence often perform worse in the classroom. They tend to participate less in class and ask for help less often. They often believe they aren’t smart enough to make the grade or compare themselves to other students who seem to be accomplishing a task with ease.

Students who are unchecked by such fears, ask more questions, find resources to help them, and look for ways to improve the effectiveness of their studying.

Let go of the idea that if you are smart things will always come easy to you or that you will never struggle or be confused. You are smart! And with work you can become smarter! Everyone has to work to learn, and everyone needs tools to help them. Once you let go of your fear, you will focus more on getting the right help and the right plan to grow your natural intelligence. Plus, you’ll actually enjoy your classes more!

2. Have a quality study plan

Top performers in the classroom consistently have one thing in common:

An extremely high IQ? No.

A million hours of studying? No.

A study plan? Yes!

Studying is all about quality not quantity. In fact, did you know there is a point where more studying can become negligible? As in, it doesn’t raise your score at all!

So, how do you come up with this plan? Here are a few tips:

Plan Ahead

Review your syllabus and know what is required in your classes. How many chapters will you have to read? How many exams do you have? When do you have papers due? What homework do you have? Map out what is required in your classes ahead of time, so you can effectively schedule when you will study and/or complete a task.

Schedule Daily Studying

Cramming for a test or finishing a 10 page paper in one sitting is stressful, exhausting, and ineffective. Chances are your grades will suffer, and you’ll gain a piercing migraine.

Instead, schedule daily studying time, so it becomes a habit. 1 hour of studying a day beats 7 straight hours of studying every time!

Plus, don’t just plan the time, plan the place. Have a set place where you go to study (the library, the desk in your room, an empty classroom) that is free of distractions and clutter. Put away your phone, turn off Netflix, and focus only on your assignment.

Have Realistic Goals

All the careful planning and dedicated studying won’t help you if you over pack your schedule. You have to have a realistic idea of how much you can accomplish in an hour, a day, or a weekend. Try to accurately estimate how long it will take you to complete a task and readjust as you go. If you consistently aren’t finishing your “to-do” list, it’s time to modify your expectations.

Plus, don’t forget to schedule time to relax, refresh, and sleep!

Maximize Your Study and Homework Time

Remember when we said it’s about quality, not quantity? But what does that really mean? How do you make sure its quality studying?

There are two keys ways you can maximize your studying.

The first is to break down your homework, test prep, or general studying into manageable tasks.

Don’t just schedule “Write English paper!” on your study plan. Instead, make it something more like this:

  • Review English paper assignment
  • Review Notes from class about English assignment
  • Review grading rubric for English assignment
  • Brainstorm 3 ideas for paper
  • Pick best idea for paper
  • Write a general outline
  • Write Introduction
  • Write 1st body paragraph….
  • …all the way to Proofread final paper
  • Double-check format requirements
  • Print final paper

By breaking down your tasks, you make big assignments seem less daunting, which will cut down on procrastination and anxiety. You can also more easily estimate how long it will take you to complete the entire assignment and schedule accordingly. You can try to complete the first 4 items on one day, and the following 4 items the next day.

Plus, when you have 20 small tasks to do rather than 1 large task, you’d be surprised what you can accomplish during short periods of time. Waiting for your ride after school? Complete 2 items. Finish a class assignment 10 minutes early? Use those 10 minutes. You may accomplish more than you think before you even get home from school!

The second way to optimize studying time is to break down your study time.

You’ve already schedule yourself time to study and broken down your assignments into small steps. The next step is to break down your study time into smaller chunks.

Have you scheduled 2 hours to study and complete homework every day?

Take out your phone and set your stopwatch for 30 or even 20 minutes. Then try to accomplish a certain amount of tasks before the 30 or 20 minutes is up. Then repeat. Take 5 minute breaks as needed.

Studying this way will cause you to intensely focus on your task and be more efficient rather than aimlessly studying for hours. You’ll find as time goes on that you need less time to read that chapter, study those notes, or write that paper using this method than you did when you gave yourself a whole day!

3. Build a solid foundation

As you progress throughout high school, it is only natural that your classes tend to become more advanced, especially if you are on the right track. Pre-calculus becomes Calculus, Chemistry becomes AP Chemistry, and English becomes Honors English.

In order to thrive in any of these classrooms, you have to build a solid foundation. You have to understand the fundamental concepts behind any subject or concept.

As you complete an assignment or task, check in with yourself about core ideas.

When you’re answering a question, writing an essay, or calculating a solution does the reasons why you’re doing it a certain way seem fuzzy? Do you feel like you only somewhat understand why the answer should be this, why you should include this in your essay, or why you should solve a math problem this way? Does it sometimes seem like you are just trying to memorize the way the teacher did it without really understanding why they did it that way? Or that you are somewhat groping in the dark, but seem to generally come to the right answer or the right grade.

If so, you may have some foundational gaps in your knowledge. Eventually, and sooner than you think, these gaps will catch up to you and your grades will suffer. Plus, in general, they make your learning confusing, frustrating, and time-consuming.

Review your notes, re-read chapters, talk to your teachers, and look for resources to fill in those gaps until you have a strong core understanding of a specific concept.

Put it all Together

Start using these 3 secrets right away and you’ll see your GPA go up and stay up!

MEK is there to help you with our Summer H.S. Honors Courses that prepares you for rigorous Math and Science courses. Plus, our (P)SAT Core class boosts your Reading and Writing Skills.

These courses demonstrate the effectiveness of these 3 tips by teaching you core skills and content, showing you how to create effective study habits, and filling you with confidence for the classroom.

Katie Weisman

Katie Weisman is a driven, dedicated English teacher at MEK Review, who leads group test prep classes, as well as one-on-one sessions with students. Her passion for teaching, in-depth knowledge of test content, and use of our systematic approach to test preparation helps her guide students to high test scores, strong writing skills and their full potential.


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