How to improve your grades by the end of the semester

Allison Smith

Most college students are not taught how to study properly. Erin Fleming, a psychology teaching fellow, said college students consider just reading over their notes as studying.

“The whole idea is that you need to space the time that you study,” Fleming said. “Ideally, if you’re not pulling an all-nighter, you should be working with the material pretty much every day.”

Fleming said the best way for students to raise their grades in their classes is to study properly. She said flashcards help students understand how the concepts work rather than just memorizing words and meanings. When students understand the concept, they are more likely to do well on a test or exam.

“What a lot of researchers have found is that testing yourself over and over again is really helpful in retaining that information,” Fleming said. “You want to look at the term and actually be able to define that yourself.”

Fleming said personalizing your flashcards is the best way to remember and understand what you’ve studied.

“It’s important when you’re making your flashcards to actually try and use your own words and examples,” Fleming said. “Come up with more personalized definitions for the various terms and concepts because making things personalized like that helps it stick in your mind.”

Fleming said personalizing your notes is a great way to help start studying before your exam.

“The first thing you want to do is after each class, go home, look over your notes and rewrite them or type them up on your computer in your own words,” Fleming said. “Not just copying it, but actually putting it in your own words, inserting your own examples where you can, and that will become what you’re going to study from, rather than just studying word-for-word things from your book and the lecture.”

Colleen Garin, a student success specialist at the Academic Success Center, said it’s difficult for students to raise their grade this late in the semester, but there are still steps you can take.

“Our office provides drop-in tutoring for students who are in foreign language courses, writing, mathematics, chemistry, biology, lots of different classes,” Garin said. “Another thing that we really encourage our students to do once it comes to be this point in the semester is see your adviser. Your adviser can really give you some good advice about where to go from this point.”

Another way to help your GPA is to avoid pulling all-nighters. Fleming said spacing out study times will help you focus and get more done. Rather than setting a time limit, set a content limit.

“Set a goal for yourself. Say you want to learn five of the concepts that you have from your flashcards,” Fleming said. “Sit down and go through until you can recall everything. When you get through five of them, you’re done. Set them aside. If you want to come back and do another five, leave a little time in there and then come back.”

When it comes to writing papers and students are forced to pull an all-nighter, Fleming said to write the whole paper and set it aside.

“People have varying degrees of experience with writing papers. The biggest thing that I tell people to do is even if you wait until the day before you do your paper, write it all, when you’re finished, put it away,” Fleming said. “The next morning, save yourself about an hour to read through the paper and you’re going to see that there are some silly mistakes that you make when you do things last-minute.”

In order for students to see a big difference, Garin said to start at the Academic Success Center at the very beginning of the semester.

“If you’re at your wit’s end, at least you’ve learned your lesson for next semester, to kind of determine, ‘What could I have done differently?’” Garin said. “The first week of class we have intake, so they can come to the Academic Success Center where they can sign up to meet with a tutor once a week.”

Garin said another good thing to do is contact your adviser. Don’t just sign up for classes on Flashline, but speak with your adviser so you know you’re on the right track.

“If you establish that relationship with your adviser, he or she will better be able to give you a direction,” Garin said. “Having a relationship with someone on campus and with a staff member or faculty member on campus can really kind of guide you.”

To do well in your class, you have to put a little more effort into studying, Fleming said.

“I tell my students that it sounds so time consuming, but it really doesn’t take that much time,” Fleming said. “And in the end, you’re not going to have to cram. You’re not actually going to have to take as much time before the exam studying because you’re going to have a better understanding as you go along.”

Contact features reporter Allison Smith at [email protected].

If you have to pull an all-nighter (because we know you will):

• Limit caffeine to avoid crashes

• Limit carbs, especially sugar

• Eat more protein for a consistent source of energy

• Drink water for stamina

• If you nap, set a timer for 30 minutes to avoid waking up groggy

• If you don’t have flashcards, use iFlipr, a free online program that’s available at