Tuesday, September 30, 2008


You just got the exam back and your grade isn't looking too good. What do you do now?

First, ARGUE CLOSE CALLS. Do not sit back and just accept the answers the professor said are correct. If you have any, no matter how slim, reason to argue your answer may be correct, speak up. Most professors will give you points just by putting forth a semi-intelligent argument for your reasoning. Now here's the tip: make sure you speak up at the right time. Some professors want you to approach them privately immediately after the corrected exam has been returned, while others want these discussions to be held during class time. Use statements like, "that answer seemed ambiguous to several of us" or "question 9 was misleading the way it was written" or "my lecture notes indicated this while our text stated that". Get your timing down, be polite and serious in your reasoning, and see how many points you can pick up.

Second, ASK FOR CURVE POINTS. If the whole class has done terrible on an exam many professors will automatically add 5, 10 or more points to each student's grade. It never hurts to ask for curve points when the professor doesn't automatically offer them.

Third, PRIVATELY ASK FOR SPECIAL PROJECTS. When your grades are especially low, make an appointment to privately speak to your professor. Explain to your professor why you feel your grades are bad and what you plan on doing to improve and ask them if you could do a special project to improve your grade. Specifically state that you want to do a special project to prove your knowledge of the subject, that the test you recently bombed did not truly show your knowledge. Now many professors will refuse this request but then you follow up with a request for more help with the next exam, such as a specifically targeted study guide. If your professor does allow you special credit for a project, make sure you do the best job you can. Most professors will not give you a second chance with a request like this.

Fourth, DON'T LET ANY POINTS GO. Ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to get points in your classes. If the professor gives 10 points a week for turning in homework, this is an automatic 100 points (10 points x 10 weeks)toward your grade per quarter or 160 points (10 points x 16 weeks) for a semester. Are you turning in that homework every week or are you slacking because it's only 10 points? Here is a situation where you can guarantee yourself points and you can't afford to not take them, all of them. Whenever the professor is handing out points outside of exams, do what it takes to get the points. So completely answer those discussion questions, hand in the homework, show up for the participation and attendance points, watch how you format your papers, proofread your writing. It's all about getting your share of the easy points. Don't ever leave any points behind.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


Many students feel pressured and stressed by their relationship with their parents. I'm here to tell you that there is hope at the end of the tunnel. I have some stellar ideas on how to reduce the stress in your relationship with your parents.

So what do parents want? They want me to
  • have better grades

  • be healthy

  • be safe

  • be polite

  • spend time with them

  • be successful

  • manage money better

  • not date losers

  • get a job

  • yada, yada, yada

Is it any wonder you are stressed out? Truth is, most of us want to please our parents but we also want to be true to ourselves. Most of us aren't experienced enough to get all that stuff right all the time. So we make mistakes, we screw up, things slip through the cracks, we make some bad choices.

So how do we repair and improve our relationship with our parents? I got two easy steps for you:

  1. Call your parents from time to time to simply say, "Thank you." Parents want to know that you genuinely appreciate the sacrifices that they have made for you, that you realize all that they have done for you. When you say, "Thank you for sending me to college." Or, "Thank you for coming to watch my soccer game." Big or small, when you say thank you, you are acknowledging to your parents that you appreciate them. That is music to their ears and takes such a small amount of time and effort on your part. Plus these thank you phone calls will pay big dividends when you need to make the "I need some money" phone call. Parents will feel much more inclined to hand over the money when they feel you are grateful for what you receive.

  2. If you screw up, recognize that you have made a mistake, come up with a plan to correct the mistake, and then call to inform your parents of what you have done and how you plan on correcting it so it never happens again. Parents want to know that you are mature enough to correct mistakes and learn from them. The worst thing that can happen is to make a mistake and not to learn anything from it. Then you are doomed to repeat your mistake over and over again. If you are able to communicate to your parents how you plan to never make that mistake again, you will tamp down the anxiety that parents feel when their child has done something wrong. You will be dealing with them as an adult would.

Hopefully your phone calls to your parents will only be filled with "Thank yous", but it is good to have a plan in case you need to make that difficult "I've screwed up" call.


My first year in college I happened to make friends with some upperclassmen in my major. It was a great way to get an inside look at what I would be facing in the next few years. These girls shared with me tips on how to get accepted into our major.

One of the biggest lessons I learned was at the expense of one of them named Angel. Like most majors, upper classes get harder and harder. You can't afford to coast. My friend Angel was able to achieve decent grades and was even on the dean's list.

Then spring semester rolled around . . . Angel started going out more at night during the week. Angel was drinking more and started smoking again. Her grades started slipping. She was barely holding on to a "C" which she needed in her major classes. Angel was getting desperate and that's when she decided . . . TO BUY A PUPPY!

Now folks, I love puppies, kittens, all animals, really! But when your back is to the wall and you really need to pump up your grades, the last thing you need is a distraction like training and caring for a new puppy.

Yes, the puppy was the last straw for Angel. She failed two classes spring semester and was kicked out of her major. She dropped out of college. When you are fighting for your academic life, you don't have the luxury of taking on unnecessary projects, like caring for a new puppy, or chairing the homecoming committee, or volunteering to bake 100 cupcakes for the bake sale. Tackle those projects when your grades are no longer an issue.

Always remember to keep your eye on the prize - getting your diploma! Make sure that the choices you make are leading you closer to your goals and not away from your goals.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Thanks for a great first week of blogging! This site has had great traffic, over 130 visitors. Thank you for your time and I hope you have found some useful tips to help you improve your grades or at least some interesting reading. Please come back and put me in your "Favorites" to make it easy to check this site daily.

Beginning Monday we will discuss more ideas to improve your grades and also talk about more interesting stuff like relationships, food, and money. Please send this link to your friends who may need this advice.

Enjoy your weekend and if you have implemented some of my strategies this past week, you can do it guilt free!

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Hey, you don't think I'm talking about the guy getting down on one knee with a big diamond ring kind of thing, do you?

Really, in my quest to spend more time doing fun things and less time studying, I decided I must be engaged while in class. If you are already spending time to attend class, then you might as well get everything you can out of it. So what does it mean to be engaged while in class?
  • Ask questions

  • Participate in classroom discussions

  • Clarify unclear concepts

  • Take good notes by listening carefully to the lecture

  • Listen and record due dates for homework, projects, exams, study sessions

  • Read assigned material before the class lecture (you will understand everything so much more if you read before the lecture)

Now here is what NOT to do:

  • DON'T bring your lunch and spread out all over your desk like you're at McDonalds. How many notes are you taking while dipping your greasy french fries in ketchup?

  • DON'T come late to class. Get there early enough to set up your books, notebooks, pens, and pencils. No one wants to hear you rustling through your backpack while trying to hear the professor lecture.

  • DON'T leave class early. A lot of good information is given either at the very beginning of class or at the end of class. Be there to hear it all.

  • DON'T text or call on your cell during class.

  • DON'T check your cell during class. It's a distraction plain and simple. You can't be absorbing the lecture and taking notes if you're checking your cell. Plus, you will be making the professor mad.

Now here is the most important tip of all. Read your notes directly after class, fill in any missing areas, firm up any areas you are unsure about, plus you will be setting firmly this information in your memory banks. To further increase your memory of the material, take the time to write your 3" x 5" index cards immediately after reviewing your notes. (See yesterday's blog regarding the use of index cards.) If you read your notes directly after class and immediately write up your index cards, you are well on your way to superior grades.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Put this on your next shopping list: 3" x 5" index cards. Index cards will become your best friend when it comes time to study for your exams.

I used index cards in several different ways while in college. Depending on the material you need to master, you may want to use both sides of the index card, with perhaps a word on one side with its definition on the reverse side or a question on one side and its answer on the reverse side. Using Pharmacology class as an example, I would put "Beta Blocker" on one side of the card and on the reverse side I would list all the information I needed to know about Beta Blockers for my exam.

Another way to use index cards is to put main points from your lecture notes on one side of the card. This is especially effective if you use colored index cards and use all one color for similiar material. Once that material is mastered, you easily can eliminate that color from your deck of index cards.

The best way to begin using index cards is to FILL OUT THE INDEX CARD AFTER EACH LECTURE CLASS. If the professor stressed a particular point, you write up a card. Did the professor write something on the blackboard, you write up a card. Did the professor say, "You will see this again", then you write up a card on that item. Also if there are terms in bold print in your textbook, most professors will test on them so write up an index card on those terms.

The point is, if you expect it will be on a test, write an index card using as few words as possible to explain the term, concept, or material. I normally title the index card with what concept I'm explaining and then use bullet points. Here's an example (pretend it's on an index card!):


  • Looking for angina

  • Diagnose unexplained heart pain

  • Determine how much damage has been done to heart

  • All patients have injection of Thallium and xray, after exercise, more Thallium

That's it. I want to be able to look at the card and quickly get the information I need to know. If you write too much on each card, it's too overwhelming and you won't be able to quickly memorize the information.

If you write your index cards up after each class, the next step is to shuffle through your cards several times a day. As you are able to basically verbalize the points listed on the index card, that card can be removed from your pack. As time goes on, your pack of cards should become smaller until you only have the most difficult material left to master.

Before your exam, put all of your index cards back in the pack and go through them a few times to refresh yourself. If you follow this method, you will force yourself to study for a small amount of time each day or so and you will have NO NEED TO CRAM the night before a test.


Several years ago I was in a very difficult Pharmacology class. It was really important for me to get a great grade in this class. The first test was coming up. I had spent alot of time studying and I do mean alot of time. Hours and hours were spent with my book and notes. I ended up with a "C" on the test. That is when I decided to get smart about studying. I looked at how I studied and what I could do better next time so that I didn't spend all that time to end up with just a "C".

Here's what I figured out: Just because I had my book open and notes out didn't mean that I was doing anything to get that material into my head. Has this ever happened to you? You are sitting there with all your school notes and books out but in your head you are daydreaming, thinking about something else, listening to the TV or radio, anything but actually studying? I was wasting time, not really studying and not really doing what I wanted to do.

That's when I decided to GET REAL. I hate studying. I would rather do just about anything other than studying so I decided I would spend as little time studying as I needed to get a good grade. But when I did need to study, I would really put 100% effort in. That way, I would have more time to do the stuff I like to do.

I call it ACTIVE STUDYING when I put 100% effort into studying. I spend much less time studying but when I do study, nothing else interferes. So that means no cell phones, no texting, no TV, no friends, although sometimes I do listen to music. I'm in the zone. You will need to find what gets you in the zone and lets you stay in the zone. If you aren't in the zone, you are wasting time.

So what is 100% effort, being in the zone? This is when you are able to make connections between what you are trying to learn and what you already know. When you are able to make a connection you add to your knowledge base and you can go on to the next concept.

Here is an example: In Pharmacology we needed to know about different classes of drugs. One particular class of blood pressure drugs are Beta-Blockers. One way to recognize that a drug is a Beta-Blocker is that the drug's name will end with "OLOL". I was able to memorize this fact and remember it because I knew of someone who was taking Atenolol for high blood pressure. So when the test asked for the side effects of taking Metprolol I would know they are talking about a Beta-Blocker and to look to typical side effects of low blood pressure. I took something that I already knew (my friend takes Atenolol for high blood pressure) and matched it with what I needed to learn (Beta-Blockers are high blood pressure medications that end with "OLOL").

In the future I will go through other methods of making these connections between what you already know and what you need to know. By the way, I ended the semester with an "A" in Pharmacology.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Okay, it's the week before the big exam. . .what should I be doing to insure I ace that test? In order to do well on your exam you need to KNOW WHAT TO STUDY.

I have several tricks up my sleeve and after reading this, you will too. First off, ask your professor for a sample exam. This is especially important for the first exam of the quarter/semester. Each teacher has a different way of wording their questions. You need to know how this teacher asks test questions. By reviewing a previously given test by this teacher you can discern their way of asking questions. Plus it gives you insight on whether this teacher uses "all of the above", "none of the above" or even worse, "A and B only" type answers.

When reviewing the sample exam, see if you understand clearly what the teacher is asking. Do they use words or terms that you don't understand? How confusing are the multiple choice answers?

Make sure to ask the professor for a breakdown on what will be on the exam: how many multiple choice questions, True/False, fill in the blank, short answer, essay. This is important because if the entire test is multiple choice you only need to study to RECOGNIZE THE ANSWER. Whereas with fill in the blank, short answer, essay you need to actually know your material.

Additionally press the professor to breakdown what percentage of questions will be about Chapter A vs. Chapter B. Assure the professor that you will be studying everything but that you want to put your studying time to best use and make sure you are putting the right emphasis on what the professor feels is important. Most professors want you to do well on their exams and will be helpful (if you ask!) in telling you where to spend your study time.

Finally, if in class the professor was not willing to discuss in detail the upcoming exam, visit the professor during their office hours and ask again. Reassure that professor that you only want to make sure you succeed in their class and that you want to target your studying to insure that success. Most professors will reward that initiative with good insider information.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How do I get started studying smart?

Here's the situation: your parents are nagging you about your poor grades, you feel hopeless to improve your grades. That's where this blog is going to help. I have some very concrete ideas to assist you in studying smart. Some of these require that you start before the test, some are useful while taking a test.

Let's start with classroom attendance. First off, we all know that perfect attendance would help us in attaining better grades, but really what gets you noticed is attending class on days when most of your classmates have slacked off. Think about it. . . your teacher won't notice you are in class if the classroom is filled. But the teacher will notice you are there if the class is half empty. That teacher will be grateful for those students who made it to class even though it was raining cats and dogs, or it's the day after a campus-wide party, etc.

These are the most rewarding days to attend class. These are the times when a teacher will let down their guard and give those students who bothered to attend the upper hand in the next exam. Many teachers will give out hints, tips, extra credit points because the teachers want to reward those students.

How do you get these extra credit points, tips, hints on what to study? Ask.

When you find yourself on one of these special days where many students have skipped class, this is your opportunity to bond with the teacher, get to know the teacher as an individual. Your big impersonal class now becomes much more personal since there are fewer classmates cluttering up the room. It becomes an atmosphere of we are all in this together, let's help each other out.

Specifically, I would say, "Mrs. Brown, it wasn't easy for us students who showed up to get out of bed this morning, but maybe you could make it worth our while by giving us some tips on what you think is important for us to study on our next exam?"

Or, "Mrs. Brown, the weather today didn't make it easy for us to get to class so could you give us some extra hints on what we need to know for our next exam?"

Or, "Mrs. Brown, how about giving everyone who showed up an extra credit point for the extra effort we made in getting to class today?"

The worst thing your teacher can say is "No." If you ask in a respectful manner, no harm will come to you and your classmates who are present will love you.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Welcome to Study Smart

Welcome to my new blog. I recently graduated from college Summa Cum Laude. I'm not bragging, just wanting you to know that I know a thing or two about studying and making great grades. It occurred to me that many of my fellow students had no idea on how to get good grades, how to approach studying for that big exam, how to structure their classes to get through college in 4 years or less.

My blog will give you concrete ideas on how to study, give you strategies to improve your GPA, and get you through college quickly without spending every hour memorizing. Also along the way, I'll also blog about relationships, parents, budgeting when you have no money, athletics, Greek life, and other such stuff.

I encourage all of you to send me your strategies too. Let's share what we know to help all of us to study smart. College should be the best years of lives, not the most stressful!



This blog is for high school and college students trying to improve their GPA's, get through college in 4 years (or less), pass their courses without spending every waking hour memorizing facts.

Along the way, I'll also pass on information on living within your means, job interview skills, relationship help, and how to get along with your parents.