how to get good grades
Getting good grades in high school translates to higher salaries after graduation. Source: Chung Sung-Jun/Pool/AFP

“How to get good grades?” is a question every student asks, especially those abroad.

The most common myth bandied about student life is that you have to choose just two out of these three: good grades, a great social life and a sound night’s sleep. 

It does take some time management skills but it’s not impossible to have it all.

Regardless of whether you’re only abroad for a semester or for years, getting good grades should be your priority. 

Studies have found that getting good grades in high school paves the way to getting bigger salaries in the future.

According to the data, top performers in A Levels – those achieving four As — can earn up to 40,300 pounds (US$48,832.92 at the time of writing) five years after graduation.

Students who pass only one or two A Levels are earning just 23,200 pounds (US$28,112.25) post-graduation.

We get it. Studying abroad in a new country is exciting with lots of new things to explore and new friends to meet.

Not to be a party pooper, but you probably also forked out a lot of money to study at the likes of the US, UK, Canada and Australia, instead of just locally.

Even if you didn’t fund your programme, and are on a scholarship or other forms of financial aid, good grades are often a key condition for you to keep receiving your stipend. 

We believe in you — and have tried-and-tested tips to offer below.

How to get good grades: Five effective ways

how to get good grades

International students have to learn how to juggle between having fun and getting good grades. Source: Jens Schuelter/ AFP

1. Having a strong grasp of the grading system

The first thing to be aware of when learning how to get good grades is understanding your host country’s grading systems. 

For example, the US and UK grading systems differ greatly in terms of how grades look on paper.

While both countries measure grades with percentages, the US has something called a Grade Point Average (GPA) that’s applied across all degrees. 

The UK, however, has a degree classification or the standard “distinction/fail” system that distinguishes the highest average percentage grade. 

Understanding the grading system can help you set better expectations for your own grades.

Sometimes what may seem like a failing grade is actually an A — and what may seem like a good grade isn’t very good at all.

Learn more about other grading systems here

2. Prepare and do the reading

When you’re in university, always read and prepare before class. 

You might be wondering where you’re going to find the time to juggle assignments, classes, a social life and weekly readings.

Sometimes the readings can feel overwhelming, making it easy to fall behind. But you’ll be surprised how much more fruitful your takeaways in class will be.

Plus, if you skip them you’ll only end up with more unnecessary work and stress during assignment or exam season. 

If you haven’t already, here’s your reminder to set aside time each week to do your readings so that you stay up to date with everything!

Remember, a little investment goes a long way.

3. Find what works for you 

As obvious as it may seem, one of the most important ways of learning how to get good grades is to find what works for you.

There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution when it comes to learning effectively as everyone absorbs information differently.

Some are most productive in the wee hours of the morning, while others work best late at night while everyone is fast asleep.

Some require complete silence while others need music to help them focus. All that’s left for you to do is experiment and find what works best for you.

4. Ask questions

how to get good grades

Asking questions is a great way for you to learn and gain a different perspective. Source: Tobias Schwarz/AFP

Asking questions in class is the fastest way to widen your thought processes and challenge your arguments especially when you’re surrounded by people of different cultures.

It may be intimidating to participate in class if you’re an introvert but that shouldn’t stop you from reaching out to your lecturers after class or even dropping them an email.

Here are some tips for introverts on how to connect with their teachers.

5. Have fun! 

The most overlooked and underestimated bit: have fun! While grades are a priority, so is your mental and physical health.

Take some time on the weekends or after classes to meet up with friends or go on a hike. The goal is to relax and take your mind off stress.

When you take some time out, you’ll often be able to see the topic you’re studying from a fresh perspective and you’ll come back to it fully energised.