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High school can be a stressful place.

Particularly now it seems.

There’s never been more pressure on teens to get good grades.

A discussion on the negative effects and downright sadness of this state of affairs is a conversation for another day… BUT — TODAY — this is relevant because we’re here to tell you that you DON’T need to focus on getting top grades in order to do well in exams.

IN FACT — you SHOULDN’T do this!

This means, if you’re a teen, you should be focusing on sticking to a solid study plan, and rewarding yourself for sticking to it.

And if you’re a parent, this means that you should basing any incentives you set for your teen on the EFFORT they’re putting in, and NOT the grades you’d ideally like them to get or the grades they end up getting.

Why focusing on particular grades is a bad idea

Pinning all your hopes on getting particular grades in your exams can be completely counterproductive.

First of all, what grades you get, is — to at least some extent — out of your control.

You will never be able to predict exactly what types of questions you’re going to get asked in your exams, and you can’t control who the examiner of your exams is either, or what sort of mood they’re in when they’re marking!

Second of all, this approach of hoping to get particular grades is much more likely to cause you a heap of unnecessary and unhelpful stress.

Stress that you don’t need.

Why focusing simply on studying is the way to go

When you’re preparing for exams, how much study you do is something that you are in control of.

You get to decide how much study you do.

If you make it your goal to stick to an Exam Study Timetable and you put in the hard yards, you’re going to get the grades you’re capable of ANYWAY, without having spent the last two months (or more) stressing about getting particular grades.

Your motivation will suffer too

Another VERY important reason why you should put your energy into worrying about STUDYING, and NOT getting particular grades, is because your motivation might suffer.

And it’s hard enough to get motivated about studying sometimes without making it harder for ourselves!

How much work does it take to get an A on an exam? I mean, more work than getting a B or a C, but who knows for sure!

If your focus is on getting particular grades, you might find that, particularly when you’re feeling a big sluggish, it’s really hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch and study, when who can say exactly how much study you should be doing to get the grades you desire.

BUT — if your focus is on doing a particular amount of study each day in the lead up to exams, that is a tangible goal that is completely achievable.

You can sit down at your desk, smash out the amount of study you’ve set for yourself, and feel right chuffed afterwards because you stuck to your plan.

PLUS — if you’re sticking to a study plan, you should find that it’s easier to keep your stress levels under control, because you can rest assured that you’re on track to get the grades you’re capable of anyway!

This worked for us

You might be thinking now, okay sure, but I DO want to get good grades and I DO want to get A’s (or whatever it is you’re striving for), and that it’s all well and good for us to say ‘don’t focus on goal grades and don’t get stressed’.

But seriously, this technique worked for us.

We wanted to get good grades at high school. The courses we wanted to get into were restricted entry, and both of us, at the time, had Med School on our wish list. So we get it. Of course it’s completely normal for you to want to get good grades.

But we found that putting our energy into actually studying, rather than hoping to get an A on every exam, meant that we didn’t lose our minds with stress during exam study, weren’t completely devastated if we got an A- or a B+ on an exam (getting straight A’s is realistic for very few people!), and ended up getting good grades anyway!

So what we’re saying is that you CAN get good grades, and that you CAN do it by focusing on the amount of study you’re doing, rather than having specific goal grades in mind for every exam.

This way, you’re going to get good grades anyway, without the added stress and worry of hoping that you get a specific grade for every exam.

If your focus is on your INPUTS (i.e. studying), rather than OUTPUTS (i.e. particular grades), you should find that you survive your exam preparation without unnecessary stress, that you feel more motivated to study more often, and crucially, that you nail your exams anyway.


Photo credit: Marco Verch


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High School Study Advice | The Study Gurus