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Success isn’t automatic.

Success is achieved through hard work, making the right decisions, and finding support from the people around you. Check out these tips from students on being successful at WSU. You can find more about these tips in The A Game: Nine Steps to Better Grades, by Ken Sufka. It is available on reserve at WSU libraries or you may request a copy of your own here. Sufka presented more strategies to improve learning and academic success in a 2014 presentation at WSU.

Find even more tips for academic success here.


Go to class, always

It’s tempting to skip a class now and then—especially on those cold mornings. But professors share a lot of important information during each class that can’t be found anywhere else but in class. This tip is number one for a reason! Here are some tips to help you get some sleep and get to class.

Never sit in the cheap seats

Avoid distractions and get the most out of your limited time in class. Focus on the lecture and the material being presented and you’ll have an easier time recalling it later. Sitting in the front is a great way to proactively engage in the class.

Come to class prepared

Get a good night’s rest before your morning classes. Take a short nap before your afternoon classes, if possible. Prepare for the lecture by reading ahead. Familiarize yourself with key terms and summary statements from your textbook, so that you will be able to follow the lecture, and take notes in more detail.

When lost, ask questions

Office hours are for students. Use them, meet your professors, make a connection and don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re lost. Professors and teaching assistants are valuable resources and are willing to help. Do not be a “stealth student” as Sufka calls those that are anonymous in class, don’t ask questions and don’t utilize faculty’s office hours.

Get spaced out

Avoid pulling an all-nighter before your final. The amount of time you study is important, but you should focus on quality study time rather than long blocks of study time. Spread out your study sessions. For tests, study two hours a day for four days rather than eight hours the night before. It’s much more efficient. Start studying material early on in the semester and build your knowledge base slowly instead of procrastinating.

Develop learning objectives

Go into each study session with a game plan. Instead of re-reading your lecture notes or focusing on highlighted sections of your textbook, use learning objectives, concept maps, notation reduction, or reflective (active) learning. You’ll learn the material on a deeper level, and retain information at a much higher rate. Read more about these techniques in The A Game, or ask a tutor on campus.

Learn material at all levels

Memorizing key terms and facts is important, but understanding the broader concepts and the connections between them is often much more important. After you are familiar with the terminology and concepts, take the next step and understand the application. The final step is understanding the material on a conceptual level. By understanding this hierarchy, you can go beyond simply memorizing facts and grades will improve.

Use learning checks

Make the most of your study time by focusing on areas that you do not already know well. By using learning checks, you can discover your strong points, and find the areas you need to work on. There are several effective techniques for learning checks laid out in The A Game, including “White Board Learning Checks,” “Self-Testing with Friends” and “Role Playing.”

Be exam savvy

While there is no substitute for great preparation, there are some test-taking tips that can help improve grades. Make sure you read each question carefully. Don’t feel pressure to answer every question in the order it’s presented. Make sure you fill out your Scantron form correctly, and don’t miss any questions – check the back page. The A Game has many more tips for taking tests that will help you maximize your results.