Use Psychology to Get Better Grades

It’s no secret that success in academia takes more than just doing the readings and coming to lectures. You actually have to apply yourself, and use the right study tactics to get you those much-coveted A’s. You need to be focused, tenacious and savvy and above all, you have to know the little tricks that’ll help you study smarter, not harder. Below I list some tips based on principles rooted in the discipline of psychology – tips you can use to become a better student and earn better grades.

1. Visualize, but not the way you think you should. Instead of fantasizing about acing the exam or owning the research paper, use the ingenious technique of mental contrasting to commit to your goal and follow through with it. Put simply: Imagine your rosy future, in positive terms of course, in vivid detail. Next, dwell on the decidedly greyer, negatively slanted reality of the present. Next, do a reality check by comparing these two visions. One-two-three, hey, presto! Instant commitment and follow-through.

2. While you’re at it (visualizing, that is) see the process, not the outcome. Rather than focusing so much on the ends, remember the means: those daily, weekly, monthly steps you need to take on the path to achievement. See yourself reading that textbook, writing that paper, sitting and scribbling away at that test. As an added bonus, this technique is a proven anxiety-reducer.

3. Fight procrastination by thinking in concrete terms. Concentrate on the details – the number of pages you have to read, the best colour scheme to use in highlighting and sticky-noting your notes and whether your pen still has ink. Forget the end goal for a moment. But don’t think of this tip as a contradiction of the above two, though. Rather, if your aim is to just get started on a task you’ve been avidly avoiding, start with the concrete details and later move on to grandiose visions of triumph.

4. Take micro-breaks throughout your reading time. A short break after reading gives your mind a chance to consolidate all the information you’re trying to take in, resulting in better retention and an improved memory of what you’ve just read.

5. Meditate to improve focus and attention. Relax your body and your mind. Become mindfully present in the moment. Concentrate on something, such as the steady rhythm of your breath or the patter of rain on your window. Do these things for a few minutes each day and you’ll notice the effects on your study routine.

6. Study before you sleep. Rather than cramming until the wee hours of the morning the night before a test, make it a habit to study in weekly intervals during the evenings, finishing an hour or so before bedtime. This practice will, again, consolidate your learning and improve your performance – and the same applies to sports conditioning. There’s something about evening time that makes it just right both for learning from a textbook and training at the gym.

Use these tips for more than just good grades; apply them to other aspects of your life outside academia and reap the rewards. Careers, relationships, hobbies – the possibilities are very near endless.

Word Count: 530; The Lexicon

October 2, 2013: http://thelexicon.ca/2013/10/02/use-psychology-to-get-better-grades/

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