Sometimes, it’s not enough just to work harder to improve your grades. Instead, you have to learn how to work smarter—that is, to find ways to work in a more organized and efficient manner that helps you remember what you learned. Here are five tips to becoming a better middle school or high school student in the fall:
Tip #1: Read actively.
Read with a pencil, pen, or highlighter in hand, and underline the key points of what you are reading. Skim the passage before reading to get the main idea and the overall context for the passage. As you read, underline the main details, and then summarize what you’ve read. If you write down your summary, it will help you recall your reading without re-reading the entire passage.
As you read, look up any unfamiliar vocabulary words. Building your vocabulary will also help you with the ISEE, SSAT, COOP, and other admissions tests for college. Keep a list of new vocabulary words and review them for 10 minutes each day.
Tip #2: Study word roots.
You can easily and quickly build your vocabulary by studying common Latin and Greek word roots and prefixes, such as “auto,” “anthro,” and “biblio.” SSAT and ISEE review books often have these roots, and you can expand your vocabulary by recognizing common roots. Studying Latin also helps you learn new roots and improve your vocabulary. Learn more about the benefits of studying Latin.
Tip #3: Get organized.
If you don’t have a way to organize and keep track of nightly and long-term assignments, find one now—before school starts. You can use a traditional planner, a smartphone, or any other device that keeps you on track. Practice putting your assignments into your planner and checking it regularly. For long-term assignments such as research papers, you should break down the work so that you put each mini-task in your planner. For example, write down the days you plan to go to the library to do research, the days you will work on your outline and rough draft, and the days you will complete your final draft. Leave time for revision and rewriting. Find out more information about how to organize your tasks.
Tip #4: Learn how to take notes.
If you are in middle or high school and feel that you need practice taking notes, you can work on this skill. Watch teachers’ videos online, on sites such as You Tube, and practice taking notes quickly and efficiently by using shorthand.
You may want to organize your notebook by writing the major ideas in each lecture on the left-hand side of your page and writing the details related to the main idea on the right-hand side. Each lecture tends to have a major theme or themes, and these are the types of ideas that teachers like to ask about on tests. You should identify the main idea of each lecture to prepare for tests. Review your notes after taking them and think about how you can organize the material more efficiently. Read more about taking notes.
Tip #5: Learn about your teachers.
Before the year starts, speak to older or other students who’ve had your teacher or teachers, and ask them how the teacher works. What does the teacher want, and what is he or she looking for in assignments? The better you understand your teachers, the better prepared you will be for tests and other assignments.
Carefully read the information your teacher gives you on the first day of class, as it usually spells out the expectations the teacher has and how you will be graded. If you have any questions, ask them before the school year starts so you will understand exactly what you need to do to have a successful year.