Top 10 High School Study Tips

Co-authored by Renae Hintze


I still remember the day when I walked into my 9th grade Geometry class and was handed a test that I had completely forgotten about.  I got a 44%.

Because of this one mistake, I spent the rest of my year working to bring my grade up and it was unbelievably hard…

BUT,

It was a great life lesson. It taught me to be focused and develop some essential high school study skills which continued to help me in college and beyond.

The faster you can master these 10 study tips for high school, the better off you are going to be in both high school and life.

High School Study Tips #1: Be engaged, take notes, and listen. 

So you’re sitting in your class and your teacher is talking about Chemical Bonds, and suddenly you’re thinking,

What did I pack for lunch? Do I have soccer practice today? Did I remember my cleats? … What am I doing this weekend? 

instagram.com/snoopygrams/
instagram.com/snoopygrams/

Our minds naturally wander, and when this happens, our focus is removed from the present which MEANS we’re not absorbing the material being taught! Ahhh

Participating in class is a great high school study skill to build. It helps you to stay focused on what is being taught. Do this by:

  • Taking notes
  • Raising your hand to ask questions
  • Engaging in class discussion

One method of note-taking is to rephrase your notes in a way that helps you better grasp the concepts, as is shown in the Cornell Method Note-taking.

note taking high school study taking tips

If this method doesn’t work for you, another method you can try is to draw pictures in your notes.

Spending time to come up with a picture representation will reinforce the concept in your head the same way re-phrasing might.

Another high school study note taking strategy
www.teachthought.com

And if you’re not super artistic, don’t worry! The pictures don’t have to be as good as this one, they just have to convey the concept to you in some way other than words.

High School Study Tips #2: Keep up to date with your homework 

Why is homework important?

It may seem like a pain sometimes, and often times kids will ask “What do I need THIS for?”

The truth is that homework is designed to help reinforce what is taught in class. Repetition is often the key to memorizing something. It is a key high school study skill that should not be missed.

Use a high school planner to stay on top of assignments that are due and upcoming. Don’t just do this by writing down what is due each day, but:

  • Pencil in study time for your upcoming quizzes and tests
  • Break larger assignments like essays and research papers into steps

Student-Tutor organization study planner

Doing your homework on time means you will be more prepared for your tests and quizzes, but…

What happens when you need help with homework?

  • Ask your teacher for clarification after class
  • See them in office hours
  • Ask a smart kid — you can usually tell if someone else gets what you don’t. So don’t be afraid to ask them if they can help you, and exchange numbers. (You may even get a new friend out of it!)
  • Get tutoring
  • Check online.
  • Check the textbook
  • Go back over your notes
  • Form a study group

High School Study Tips #3: Have an organizational system in place

If I asked you to show me your homework for tonight, how long would it take you to do so? Would you have to ruffle through a mess of papers to get it? 

Having a 3-ring binder for your high school classes can be a big help to keep those stray papers out of your backpack.

What to put in your 3-ring binder:

  • Looseleaf paper for notes and written assignments
  • Printer paper (If you find it more effective to draw your notes, this can be great alternative to those pesky blue & red lines)
  • Hole-punched folders — keep assignments for each class in a different colored folder, or label folders on the front with their class name (Ex: “English”)
  • Dividers labeled with class name — so you can have all your classes in one binder, but separated.

When you buy dividers, try to get the kind with tabs on the ends. This way, you can open directly to the subject you need without leafing through the binder.

How to be organized in high school
livecraftorganize.blogspot.com

Other goodies for your binder:

Sticky notes are great! You can buy either the standard note pads or get the kind that work as bookmarks (“Post-it Flags” is one name for them).

You can mark different areas of your binder this way and write on the ends of the sticky notes so you see them even when the binder is closed.

High School Study Tips #4: Have a routine

Aside from keeping track of your assignments in your high school planner, another good high school study skill is to get into a regular routine. For example, waking up the same day every morning.

Here’s an example for you:

Routine improves your high school grades

When you’re creating your routine, take these steps:

  1. Decide when you want to wake up, and when you want to go to bed. Make a habit of it.
  2. Then write down everything you do in-between. If it’s different for different days of the week, then do this for each day.
  3. Note the time that different things start and end, and how much time that is overall (Ex: [10:30] AM – [11:00] AM is 30 minutes)
  4. Fill these into the spaces between when your “start” and “end” times.
  5. Note any gaps and decide what to do with them
  6. Make sure to include 2 or more hours for homework every day after classes. (If you don’t have homework one day, you can still plan to, and then be pleasantly surprised by extra free time!)

High School Study Tips #5: Have daily and weekly objectives in place

Remember the graphic I showed you in step 3? 

It showed a planner with a “Weekly Goals” section. You want to have both weekly, AND daily goals.

Weekly study objectives

Utilizing this high school study skill is important because it allows you to practice breaking larger tasks into smaller ones so you don’t have to keep reminding yourself to do them and you still accomplish what you wanted to.

High School Study Tips #6. Do not procrastinate

When you get home from a long day at school, it’s easy to think “I need a break” and flop down in front of the TV or crack open to the next chapter in that book you’ve been dying to read.

Trust me, I’ve been there. We’ve all been guilty of procrastinating. But in the long run, it ends up causing us MORE trouble, right? 

The 2 most effective ways to beat procrastination are:

  1. Strong habits created through routine repetition
  2. Doing before you think

Strong high school study skills can come from refining the routine we talked about in step 4.

So what do I mean “Doing before you think”? 

Nike’s on the right track with “Just do it.” The more you think about how hard or unenjoyable a task is going to be, the more you push it off. Instead, think instead of how things will be after you FINISH that task, and use this to fuel your energy towards getting it done!Making your words actionable study habits

High School Study Tips #7: Have an ideal study station

Since clutter is a distraction, keep your study spot organized. One student we interviewed had the following strategy for keeping track of assignments:

I’m a list person, so I make lists every single day of what I need to get done that day and then add extra stuff to the list of things I’d like to get done that day. I have boxes for if they’re half done, if they’re fully done, if I don’t need to do them today…

Erin Hintze, XCP Graduate

Other ways to create the ideal study environment:

  • Go somewhere quiet
  • If there are distracting smells (body odor or cookies baking), move to another spot
  • Make sure that the lighting is not poor
  • Make sure you are not too cold or hot
  • Don’t be so comfortable you could nap, but so uncomfortable you can’t concentrate (Find a happy medium!)
  • If checking the time is going to make you anxious, try not to have clocks visible, and set an alarm if you have another engagement
  • Unless you work well with others, don’t work around others — friends may fight for your attention, or you may start eavesdropping on someone’s conversation

And…

High School Study Tips #8: Unplug, log off, mute, and power down.

What do the tabs on your computer look like right now? Are there more than 1? 

If you are trying to focus on some high school essay writing, checking facebook, streaming music, AND texting friends – how much quality study time do you think you’re REALLY getting in? 

It takes time to shift attention from homework to some other source of information and additional time to shift attention back. Not only does that constant shifting influence the amount of time it takes to get work done, it also affects the quality of the study itself.

Art Markman

Having your phone out or checking Facebook while working is not just a HIGH SCHOOL habit, it’s something everyone is guilty of. You’ll find that breaking this habit is going to increase your workflow tremendously.

High School Study Tips #9: Manage high school stress

I have 2 suggestions for this:

  1. Take breaks
  2. Think positive

Take Breaks

Sitting at a computer for 5 hours… or doing ANY one task for an extended period of time can put a strain on you.

Stillness Buddy mentions different studies done on taking breaks while working:

Studies by Gao et al (1990) and Floru and Cail (1987) concluded that performance starts to deteriorate after 50-60 minutes of continuous work. This trend can be reversed by taking rest breaks every 40 minutes at least.

Think Positive

Don’t tell yourself negative things like “I’m not good at this” or “I’m going to fail this class”.

Doing so lowers your confidence, and lowered confidence can directly affect your performance on tests and assignments. 

One of the best ways you can counteract negative thoughts (like you did with procrastination in step 6) is to replace them with positive, actionable ones. Our article on test anxiety goes into detail about how to do this.

5

Cognitive restructuring (what I just showed you) is a high school study skill that isn’t talked about NEARLY enough! So don’t write it off.

High School Study Tips #10: Take advantage of technology available

There are many high school apps that can serve as effective study methods.

Use the app that works best for you — any of these apps can make high school life just a little bit easier!

High School Apps:

Reading & taking notes: High school homework help: Studying for a test:
Notability 30/30 Quizlet
Talkboard Google Drive iFormulas
inClass Duolingo Study Blue
MarginNote Reader Free The Homework App AP Flashcards
Audible
iBooks
Sparknotes
Kno Textbooks
Studious

Conclusion

Whew! That was a lot of info. To review, here are the top 10 high school study tips we discussed:

  1. Be engaged, take notes, and listen
  2. Keep up to date with your homework
  3. Have an organizational system in place
  4. Have a routine
  5. Have daily and weekly objectives in place
  6. Do not procrastinate
  7. Unplug, log off, mute, and power down
  8. Manage your stress
  9. Have the ideal study station
  10. Take advantage of technology

All of these things play a key role in how to effectively study!

Did I miss any high school study tips in this list? How do you study, and does it work well for you? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
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Kate
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Kate

Thanks for the article — I am at one of my lowest points as an academic and a musician. Old habits die hard

Laura Petersen (@lsp_s)
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Laura Petersen (@lsp_s)

Yes, Kate, let us know what specifically we could help with!? 🙂 We love this stuff and would be happy to share ideas/recommendations depending on what you might need.