Study Skills

How can you get the best possible grades? By studying, of course! Effective studying is a skill that takes practice. It’s also a skill that will serve you throughout your whole life. No matter what career you choose, you’ll always have new things to learn.

Follow these tips to get the most out of your homework and study time.

  • Make a schedule: Use a digital or paper planner to keep track of assignments and tests. Plan out your week, and schedule study time around other commitments. Figure out the system that works best for you.
  • Find your learning style: Do you learn by reading? Writing? Listening? Seeing and doing? Knowing your learning style can help you fine-tune your study skills. You might prefer to read course material out loud, copy over your notes, study with a partner, or watch videos.
  • Limit distractions: Find a place that’s quiet, comfortable, and distraction-free. Does your phone pull you away from your studies? Try leaving it in another room and only using it during study breaks. If you use a computer to study, try a website blocker to limit distracting notifications.
  • Get a study buddy: Find a friend or family member who can support you with schoolwork. Grab a classmate so you can quiz each other before tests. Ask a family member or friend to proofread essays and reports.
  • Teach to learn: The best test of your knowledge is whether you can teach it to someone else. Explain your study material to a friend, family member, or even an understanding pet. If you can’t explain it, keep studying!

Test-Taking Skills

Tests aren’t fun, but they’re part of life in school. Good test-taking habits can help you conquer your exams and ace your classes. And they’ll help with standardized testing, too!

  • Don’t procrastinate: Start studying for a test well in advance. The more time you spend on the material, the better you’ll know it (and the longer you’ll retain it – hello, finals!).
  • Don’t cram: It’s tempting to stay up late the night before a test and cram. But you’ll probably be tired and stressed out in the morning. And you’re less likely to remember material you crammed at the last minute, anyway.
  • Prepare your materials: The night before a big test, organize your materials and get everything ready for the morning. Get a good night’s sleep and eat breakfast. You’ll feel rested and more confident knowing you’re prepared.
  • Answer the questions you know first: If the test format allows it, you’re usually better off tackling the questions you know first. Skip the ones you don’t, then go back and answer them later.
  • Check and double-check: Try to leave yourself enough time to go back through the whole test. Make sure you’ve answered everything, and, if you have time, double-check your answers.

If you’re having trouble studying or taking tests, talk to your teacher or school counselor. They might have strategies to help you succeed.

Challenge yourself

It might seem tempting to coast through high school taking easier classes. But there are lots of reasons to challenge yourself. Take as many honors, AP (advanced placement), or IB (international baccalaureate) classes as you can comfortably manage. Here’s why:

  • You’ll be better-prepared for college. AP classes are similar to first-year college courses. And the more you challenge yourself in high school, the sharper your skills will be when you get to college.
  • You may earn college credit. Some colleges will give you credit for AP classes that you take in high school. This can save you time and money.
  • You’ll beef up your GPA. Honors and AP classes are usually given more weight in GPA calculations. This means that an A in an AP class counts more, and brings up your GPA more, than an A in a regular class.
  • You’ll strengthen your applications. Colleges like to admit students who challenge themselves and can handle tougher classes. Try to take more than the minimum course requirements. Colleges usually require you to have taken the following classes in high school:
    • English: 4 years
    • Math: 3+ years (some majors require pre-calculus or calculus)
    • Science: 3+ years
    • Social studies: 3+ years
    • World languages: 2+ years of the same language (some require 3 years in a row)

You might also consider challenging yourself to earn college credits while you’re still in high school. Check out Early College Credits & Special Programs to learn more.

Add extracurriculars

Extracurricular (outside of school) activities are a great way to explore your interests and passions. Sports, music, volunteer work, drama, the school newspaper, and student council are just a handful of possible options. Choose activities that truly interest you. Don’t sign up for things because they’ll “look good on your application” (colleges can tell!).

Try to stick with the same activities over time, and pursue leadership positions. This makes the experience more rewarding for you, and also shows your commitment and leadership skills. Ask teachers and friends how to get involved with the activities you’re interested in.

Use your summers wisely

Use your summer breaks to build your skills and help yourself stand out on college applications. How?

  • Volunteer: Summertime is a golden opportunity to volunteer your time. Interested in history or literature? Volunteer at a local museum, library, or historical society. Love animals? Ask an animal shelter how you can help. Giving your time and energy can help you get experience and find out if you’d like to study – and work in – the field someday.
  • Intern: Look around for paid or unpaid internships in the field you’re interested in. Ask your school counselor to help you find leads.
  • Work: Summer jobs are a great way to earn extra cash. They’re also a good opportunity to get experience and start building your resume. Try to find a job in a field you’re interested in.
  • Take classes: Check out summer classes at local community colleges. You might be able to get high school or college credit. If you’re interested in a certain area of study, look into summer programs.

Summer is a great time to build your skills and experience, and strengthen your college applications at the same time. Talk to your school counselor about opportunities in your area. Check out our Summer Series for summertime workshops and webinars on college planning and applications. And explore TeenLife’s Summer Programs for Teens to get more ideas.

Wondering about your future career?

Take a look at Uncover Your Interests for guidance on exploring careers, discovering your skills and interests, choosing a major, and more.

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