11 Mar 2019


Sometimes even the brightest students may find themselves under-performing academically, often because of no fault of their own. All you need do is get to grips with the problem, feel better about yourself, learn and grow more as a person, and, yes, get better grades.

1. Adopt a positive mental attitude

It is only human to react by feeling disappointed with oneself in the face of lower than expected grades. When you often receive lower grades than you would have hoped, you may begin to feel depressed or defeated, and you may feel like giving up. Turning the negativity on your head is the first step to improving your grades. If you are to have a chance to improve it, you need to be positive about the situation. Recognize that your grades are not what you want, but believe you can do something about them. And start by taking control of the situation mentally: instead of thinking “I am a failure,” think “I can and will do better than this.” Don’t give up –take positive steps to achieve the improvement you are more than capable of achieving.

2. Comprehend yourself

Having the right mindset is a big part of academic success. Not only do you have to believe in yourself, but you also have to know enough about yourself to know how to succeed. Take the time to look at your academic strengths and weaknesses and find ways to capitalize on your strengths while minimizing or overcoming your weaknesses. Finally, understand how best to learn things-your learning style-and try to find classes and methods of study that best use your learning method.

3. Work out where you fall short

You need to work out which areas you need to target before you can draw up an action plan, figure out what areas you are under-performing in and why. Are your grades consistently lower than you would like them to be across all of your topics, or is there a particular area that you are struggling to bring down your overall performance in a particular topic? Has there been a general decline in academic achievement, or have your grades always been lower than you would have hoped in certain areas? Are your grades always low? Think about the reasons why you’re not performing in the areas you’ve identified to your full academic potential. Are there any external factors that may have a negative impact on your grades, such as a family issue or worrying about a school social situation? Are you struggling with any specific academic skills, such as essay writing or note-taking, that might drag you down? And in a way that works for you, are you studying? These are all factors that might affect your academic performance, so once you’ve isolated what the problem is–it might be a combination of more than one of these issues–you’re going to be able to start addressing it. If the problems are external, you will need to take steps to get them to a point where they will no longer adversely affect your studies.

4. Pay more attention to your studies–and ask questions

It’s time to focus, instead of talking to friends or allowing your mind to wander, listen to what the teacher says and make sure you understand it, make smooth notes so you can understand them when you come back to them (more on that later), don’t be afraid to talk up when there’s something you don’t understand or want to clarify. Asking a teacher to explain something differently is much easier than trawling through books trying to find a clearer explanation for yourself.

5. Get the help that you need.

Don’t wait-find the help you need in the course as soon as possible, long before you start to worry about whether or not the course can be saved. Of course, your first aid line is your teacher and/or graduate assistants. Most schools have maths, science and foreign language labs, find your own personal tutors. If your problem is less academic and more related to other issues, visit the academic support center of your school-where you will find help with learning disabilities and other guidance. Finally, don’t forget to turn to your classmates for help for more informal help.

6. Improve your note-taking skills

One of the reasons you may have identified is because you don’t take good enough notes. Misunderstanding your own notes and failing to get a strong enough grasp of the topic is all too easy. Therefore, it’s imperative that you make good notes from each of your classes and from the books you’re using –notes you can read, useful, and logically organized. If you make notes by hand, for instance in class, try typing them in at the end of the day while they are still fresh in your mind.

7. Study differently and daily

Every single academic success study shows that students who commit a certain amount of time each day to study-reading, writing, reviewing, etc.-perform much higher than those who study in larger chunks, and much better than those who cram. Studying daily builds and increases your long-term knowledge base-assuming you are actively studying rather than passively. Active study means practicing behaviors such as generating outlines, developing flash cards, engaging in study groups, rewriting notes, etc. Take practice quizzes and tests as far as possible to prepare for the actual exams.

8. Improve your essay-writing skills

Another common reason for under-performance at the academic level is that the essay-writing skills of the student are not sufficient for the level needed to achieve top grades. By improving your essay-writing technique, this is fairly easy to fix. Good essay technique encompasses all aspects of essay writing, from the research phase to the final proofread, and even how you respond to your essay feedback. It will be particularly useful to respond in the right way to feedback–and not to take criticism personally–if you feel that you are underperforming, as this should give you the guidance you need to be able to improve.

9. Make learning more fun sometimes because students simply have lost the motivation to learn

When the pressure of exams and doing well at school takes away the enjoyment of learning, it is not surprising. It’s easy to get so focused on achieving top grades that you forget that learning can be fun–and not just that, but when you enjoy it, it’s much easier to do well. It’s time to put the fun back into learning if studying has become a chore for you. You can do this by playing your studies or trying out some of the ideas that you probably might be good at.

10. Hire a private tutor

As a last resort, if all the ideas have not worked for you, you might consider hiring a private tutor to help you improve your grades for a particularly challenging topic. Some extra tuition may be just what you need to help raise your grade, as you’re going to benefit from one-to-one tuition in an environment where you might feel more able to ask questions without being afraid to speak to your peers. If you think this will help you, then go ahead in learning what best suits you.

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