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By Sarah Arsenoff for The Real College Guide

A lot of factors can negatively affect academic performance. Doesn’t mean you’re any less smart — just that you haven’t found what works for you. Ask yourself these questions to help improve your performance on next semester’s finals:

How did I study?


The environment in which you study can affect your absorption of the material. A noisy room can be distracting for some students, while others find that a quiet room is too quiet. Music can be helpful in providing light background noise, but make sure you’re not singing along. Ask a friend to change your Facebook password for a few days so you can get work done.

Did I go to class?


Believe it or not, showing up for class can make or break your grade. Lectures and presentations most often highlight what will be on exams and papers. By listening to the material and then reviewing your notes at a later time, you’ve seen and heard the same information twice, which makes it easier to remember come exam time.

Did I utilize my resources?


If you know you’re struggling with writing, then see if your school has a writing center where you can have your paper reviewed before you turn it in. Go well before the deadline so you can revise your paper if needed. The writing center won’t write your paper for you, but it’ll give you constructive feedback on how to make your paper better. Most schools also have learning centers where you can get a tutor to help with math, languages and sciences. Many classes also offer supplemental instruction that allows you to meet with someone who’s taken the class before and ask him or her questions that pertain to your lecture material.

Did I talk to students in my classes?


Maybe some of the students in your dorm are in your class. You all should talk about class regularly and study together before exams. It helps to discuss the material with other people. If you can explain a particular concept out loud to another person, then that means you understand it.

What study habits have worked for me in the past?

Odds are if those skills worked for you before, they’ll work again. Try making flash cards, study guides, notes for review and notes for rewriting. You can also record lectures and listen to them, put sticky notes around your room, use PowerPoint presentations or record yourself reading your notes and listen to it.

Do I remember what I learned at the beginning of the semester?


In college, material builds off of things you learned earlier in the semester. If you find yourself struggling from the start, don’t wait to seek help or change your study habits. Staying up all night to study for exams only puts information in your brain for the short term. It’s great for that first test, but it doesn’t really help you when you need to draw on that information for later exams.

Did I ask my professor?

Talk to your professors early, even if you’re doing fairly well. Ask how you can excel in class. They should know what it takes to get a good grade and they can help you if you’re struggling with a particular concept. The key is to ask early, before the midterm of the semester.

Do I have good time-management skills?


Think about it and be honest with yourself. How do you slice and dice your time? Prioritize your schedules so that you leave yourself plenty of study time.

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