Monday, March 30, 2015

4.0 GPA Challenge: Do More Than Just Pass Your Classes

challenge yourself to earn higher grades with study techniques

I performed a miracle.  I got a 4.0 GPA last term.  Okay, not really a miracle, but it was the first one I've earned since starting college!  Granted, I was taking some easier classes and retaking one that I didn't do so hot in Fall term, but still!  I'm proud of myself, and I did work for it.  Now, I'm heading into Spring term with 19 credits of harder classes, a new volunteering gig, and a new job.  This is all on top of the officer position I already hold in my sorority, along with everyday sorority events and other life commitments.  In short, I'm BUSY!

The point is, even though I have a lot going on in my life, getting that 4.0 really made me feel awesome about myself.  I experienced a renewed confidence in my academic abilities and ability to achieve my goals.  Because it felt so fantastic, I have decided that despite my busy life and seemingly endless commitments, I am striving to get another 4.0 term under my belt.  I've been inspired by Sanam's A* Grade challenge (I'm not 100% sure what the * means, but I'm guessing kind of like an A+?) to push myself in a more structured manner to get those high grades.  I'm not exactly joining her challenge, but my personal 4.0 plan will be similar to hers. 

I'm going to start by assessing what I did last term that worked exceptionally well, as well as the areas I felt I need improvement in.

What worked for me last term

Spaced repetition
By spacing out your studying, you give your brain time to condense information into meaningful memories that remain in you brain a lot longer.

Practice testing
Being able to objectively measure your abilities in a particular subject is invaluable.  I would work through a practie test, then go back and write down the topic of every question I missed or guessed on.  Those were the subjects that I studied more frequently and intensively until I understood them just as well.

Unprompted recall
For vocab-heavy classes like my Medical Terminology class, I would read through the vocab list a couple times, then try to recall as many words from memory as I could without prompting myself by looking at the list.  I then added to the list any words I had forgotten and corrected any definitions I got wrong.

Color-coding notes
I only stuck with this for the first half of the term, since it was so time-consuming to reqrite my notes, but for those first few weeks, color-coding my notes as I rewrote them really helping information retention and recall.

Studying my hardest subjects at night
I usually did this by accident, because I would put off studying, then had to do the homework for those harder classes first.  Then I would get really tired and go to bed, but I ended up remembering those topics significantly better than the ones I studied in the morning, when I had all day to forget them and be distracted.  By studying the hardest material before bed, your brain goes to sleep with that material fresh, so more of it will be processed into long-term memory as you sleep.

What I need to work on

Doing my assignments ahead of time
This is more of a time-management issue, but also goes along with procrastination, which I do a lot.  I'm trying to build in some library time specifically for completing assignments to combat this.

Studying for finals before Dead Week and Finals Week
I left the majority of my studying until the last minute, and then I was scrambling to remember Organic Chemistry mechanisms from Week 3.

Going to class and taking better notes.  
I'm currently exploring a couple different note-taking systems to see which one is most effective for my learning.  Going to class is half the battle for me, so I'm trying to make it more of a habit.

Spaced repetition
Yes, I know I said this was something that I did well last term. But I still need to work on it.  I'm going to try incorporating 15 minutes of review material into every hour of studying to help space out the review (instead of trying to remember everything the night before the exam!)

Beating procrastination
UGH.  Procrastination and I have an all-out war going on pretty much all of the time.  I'm trying a couple tricks from Robin Sharma (recommended by Sanam) to increase my willpower to overcome procrastination (I'll keep ya posted).

And with that, my 4.0 GPA Challenge is on!  Classes start today, so I say BRING IT ON.

Best of luck with YOUR studying!  How do you earn your high grades?  Let me know in the comments!


  1. Hi Lily. Thanks for the info and encouragement! I start finals on Monday. I am taking 21 hours and 22 in the Spring. Most folks say that is too much, but I am 47, not working while in school, and am able to cut out a lot of time in school (Associates in 1 year vs. 2, Bachelor in 2.5 instead of 4, etc...). I have found staying busy keeps me more organized. Thanks to Pinterest, I am a big procrastinator as well. Best of luck to you! Rock that 4.0! I will too!

  2. How did you do with the challenge?

  3. Hi, love your blog I have been trying to get 4.0 but had only managed to get 3.98 which broke my heart the next semester I didnt do so well either my CGPA is currently 3.7 which made everyone i know unhappy. The tips u gave out just made me realize that I need to list down the things distract me and remove it.

  4. Hello! I have had a 4.0 my entire life! Just a quick FYI... one of the best note-taking methods I have found for my tough classes is an app called Audionote! I just started using it on my laptop in my Microbiology class (yuck), and it allows you to record the lecture and take notes on the same document, so that if you search a key word, it takes you directly to that point in the recorded lecture. Sooooo helpful!

    P.S. I'm not getting paid to say this, I just really like the app!

  5. It's really amazing that you managed with all that you were facing beyond the studies I do have a problem that where ever I entered first time I used to be in the top students then my rank decreses step by step with the passage of time it happened with me during school when I was doing metric and then college during enter and now at the moment in undergraduates what to do please if you could suggest...?

  6. Love this! Going to be a huge help in college!