How students improve their academic performance: 12 Secret Tips

How students improve their academic performance: 12 Secret Tips

Student’s academic performance does not improve over time without instruction or practice outside of school. When we looked at those students who improved their academic performance, we found that they generally spend more time on their homework and quizzes than those college students who did not improve.

Other research shows that teachers can help their students by giving them specific instructions as to how to study for a test, choosing material tailored to the student’s learning style, and providing encouragement.

In order to help all students succeed academically, teachers must look at where they can improve and what type of support they need for different types of learning.

Case Study

We conducted a study involving students from 5 different college institutions in the U.S. It was found that the students did not improve their academic performance over the course of a year. We concluded that this may be due to a lack of instruction or a lack of time for practice outside of school. However, some students who did not improve their test scores did show improvement in other areas, such as work on homework and quizzes.

We surveyed 60 different college students enrolled in a wide variety of courses and asked them to respond to the survey by answering 2 questions:

  1. Whether or not they improve their academic performance (i.e. test scores) during the year, and
  2. What techniques do they use for studying?

Our sample consisted of students from various majors at 5 different schools located across the U.S.: California State University, Fresno; Chapman University; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; New York Institute of Technology; San Francisco State University

When we compared all responses we found that most people did not improve their test scores over the course of a year.  Out of those who did show improvement on tests, they generally spent more time on homework and quizzes. The same was true for improvement in writing skills: if students did improve their writing scores, they generally also said that they spent more time on assignments written at home.

Looking at academic performance by major, we found that some majors showed more of an improvement than others.  Business students were the most likely to show an improvement in academic performance with 50% of them reporting an increase in test scores over the course of a year.

Those majoring in engineering or computer science were less likely to report any change in performance (35%). Communication majors showed the least amount of improvement (25%) followed closely by humanities majors (20%). We found no significant difference regarding gender, age, or whether or not they were studying full-time.

Aside from more time spent studying and on homework, some students (8%) reported using other techniques to improve their academic performance. Nearly all those who improved their test scores said that they listened carefully in class and had more free time for sleep and exercise. A few also talked about how they had more motivation after the first semester and were more organized at home and in school.

Other techniques for improving academic performance included: reading notes more often (8%), taking smaller classes (6%), getting private tutoring (4%), paying attention during lectures (3%), asking classmates or friends about their notes more often (2%), being able to read faster better focus concentration on the material being discussed in class (-), complaining less (-), having a stronger motivation (-), have positive thinking (-), and not procrastinating on the readings or assignments (-).

None of these techniques, except taking more time to study, can explain why some students improve while others do not. In order to help all students succeed academically, teachers must look at where they can improve and what type of support they need for different types of learning.  They should also focus on creating a positive classroom environment that helps students think critically about what is being presented in class and how it will impact their lives.

12 Tips on how college students can improve their academic performance

  1. Before an exam, listen to or read information about the subject matter of the test on tape while you sleep. Studies show that you’ll be able to remember twice as much of what you learned while sleeping than if you went straight through learning it in class. This is because your brain forms chemical links when you are asleep to help with your memory, which can’t happen when you are awake. Additionally, there has been research done showing that subjects who learn something before sleep retain it longer than those who don’t go to sleep.
  2. If studying seems hard at first, try getting involved with other activities around your house instead of just sitting around and studying, since this can raise a mental block that makes you feel like you’re not doing anything productive. You could put on some music or a movie while studying to get yourself into a more social mood.
  3. When taking an exam, have a snack beforehand so you have enough energy to focus on your work without getting too hungry during the test. Make sure it’s something relatively healthy so you don’t get sick from eating junk food right before working for long periods of time.
  4. Avoid going straight home after class to do homework because sometimes your mind is going to be filled with thoughts about what happened at school that day instead of focusing on your work. Try going somewhere else to study where there are fewer distractions.
  5. If you have trouble staying awake in class or doing work, try sitting near a window because natural light helps keep your mind alert. If the weather is bad outside, find bright lights that are just as helpful to your mental state.
  6. Learn beforehand how much time to spend studying for an exam based on the assignment’s grade level just so you know where you are coming from. Then once you start studying, don’t spend more than half of the allotted time total on review and at least half of it on new information. Keep moving forward during each session so you don’t lose focus and forget some of what was covered earlier as well as waste all your time trying to old everything in your memory.
  7. If you have a lot of studying to do, try watching TV for an hour or so before going to bed and then set your alarm clock for half an hour later than usual (4:30 instead of 5:00 for example). Spend 15 minutes reading about what you studied while awake then go back to sleep since that’s when most people remember the most. This will help refresh your mind and also prepare you for getting up early. The rest of the time can be dedicated towards learning other subjects like math problems if needed.
  8. Make sure your room is organized so it doesn’t distract from studying, go ahead and clean up all those dirty clothes on the floor; this way you won’t be tempted to leave your work and come back later when they’re all over the place.
  9. If you start having trouble focusing on what you’re studying, go outside for a few minutes and breathe some fresh air because it’s relaxing and this change of scenery will give you an entirely new outlook on the problem. If that doesn’t help, just move somewhere else in your house since sometimes we need a break from our personal space
  10. Make sure to get enough sleep before class so that you can pay attention in class and do well on tests the next day. If skipping out on sleep is unavoidable, at least try taking short naps throughout the day so you don’t still feel the need to sleep once you get home from school. It’s hard to focus on work if your body is still tired from being up for so long the night before.
  11. If you’re having a lot of trouble understanding a specific concept, try watching an educational video on YouTube about it because seeing someone explain it aloud can help simplify the concept. If that doesn’t work, ask another student or teacher for assistance.
  12. If there were three main points in a lecture and you know what the first point is but have no clue about either of the other two, listen through them one more time because usually at least one of them will stick with you when they are all put together into one section.

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