Every student has asked themselves the question in this post’s title at some point. Maybe it was about a grade on a certain test or the college essay you’ve been working on for months. In this first installment of our new “What If It Sucks” series, we’re going to talk about mid-term grades and what you can do if they, well, suck…   

Right about now, mid-term grade reports are going home. For some students, these reports are just a checkpoint on the path to some pretty awesome final semester grades. For other students, these reports aren’t exactly happy news.

Chances are that you fall into one of these categories:

  • You didn’t do your homework but your test scores saved you.
  • You didn’t do well on tests but your homework saved you.
  • You didn’t do your homework AND your test scores still stink.

Let’s go over what you can do for each of these.

You didn’t do your homework but your test scores saved you

Let’s face it: A lot of times, bad grades sneak up on us after a little slacking off. A couple of missing homework assignments, a few grades marked down for being turned in late, and suddenly you’ve got a C instead of your usual A or B. Thank goodness for good test and quiz grades, or your grade would be even lower!

If this is you, then your path forward is pretty clear: Do. Your. Homework. On. Time.

That’s it. That’s the key to your success. You already know the material or you wouldn’t be doing as well on tests and quizzes. You just need to buckle down and get stuff done. Some organization and time management help is what you need. Here are some tips:

  • Keep track of assignments and deadlines: Writing down assignments will help you to better remember them. With a super computer in your pocket during most of your waking hours, there really is no excuse for forgetting about a homework assignment! Use your phone’s calendar app or download a specific homework planner app (like myHomework or MyStudyLife) and set up notifications to remind you of upcoming deadlines.
  • Stop procrastinating: There’s no magical trick to ending the procrastination habit other than to put in conscious effort to stop the cycle. When you catch yourself thinking, “I can start that paper tomorrow,” say, “Bad, self! I shall begin my assignments now!” (Okay, don’t really say that. But you get the idea.)
  • Actually schedule homework time: You’re busy, we know. Between all of the obligations and activities in your life, it can be hard to squeeze in homework time. But if you want good grades – and we know you do – homework time has to be a priority. Even if you can only fit in 30 minute blocks, schedule those specific times that are only for homework and nothing else.

You didn’t do well on tests but your homework saved you

And then there are the students who diligently complete every assignment, but just can’t seem to get good enough grades on tests and quizzes. You’d swear you know the material – right up until you sit down to take the test. Suddenly every piece of carefully stored knowledge just flits away.

There are two likely causes for this situation: You might not be studying effectively, or you might have a serious case of testing anxiety. Perhaps both. Here are some tips to help:

  • Break it up: Don’t study for long periods of time. You’ll end up wasting a lot of brain power just trying to keep your concentration. Break your study sessions up into smaller chunks and space them out. Instead of staring at a geometry book for an hour and a half, do practice problems for twenty minutes several times a week.
  • Study in different places: The brain creates associations between the environment and the material being learned. Change in scenery will help, creating more and more environmental associations with the information, making it easier to recall later.
  • Not. Cram.: It might work in the short term, but you’ll quickly forget everything you learned. When that material shows up again later, you’ll regret those cram sessions. Reviewing information repeatedly is the only way to convince your brain that it should retain the information.
  • Sleep: Sleep is important for memory. While you sleep, your brain stores new memories. If you’re not getting sufficient sleep, your brain is not properly storing new information.
  • Learn relaxation techniques: If test anxiety is a problem, learn a couple of relaxation techniques like deep breathing or positive imagery. Before a test, sit at your desk and tune out your surroundings. Breathe in slowly, using your diaphragm rather than your chest. Then breathe out slowly, thoroughly exhaling the entire breath. Do this five to ten times.
  • Get outside help: Places like C2 Education offer help not only with learning new material for class, but also with building good study skills and overcoming test anxiety problems. Don’t feel like you have to do it alone.

You didn’t do your homework AND your test scores stink

You let a few assignments slip between the tracks, you forgot to study for that first big test, and your grade is slipping further into the hole. Now, halfway through the semester, you have no idea how to dig yourself out of this giant ditch.

First things first; you’re likely bombing tests and quizzes BECAUSE you’re not doing your homework. Homework is intended to reinforce the things you’re learning in class and in your reading. If you’re paying attention in class and doing all of your homework, the effort should be reflected in your quiz and test scores. So the first thing to do to break the cycle is to make sure you do your homework. The tips in the first section will help you get organized so those assignments don’t slip through the cracks anymore.

By now, you’ve probably got a bit of a knowledge gap going on. By not finishing assignments or studying for tests, you’ve fallen behind in the class. You have a couple of options to help close the gap, but you’ve got to move fast in order to bring those grades up before the end of the semester:

  • Talk to your teacher: Be sincere. Explain your situation. Your teachers are there to help you learn, and most teachers are more than happy to help students catch up when they’re truly invested in correcting their mistakes.
  • Talk to some fellow students: Is there classmate who seems to just automatically get all of the material? Maybe he or she might be willing to help you out by meeting up after school once or twice a week.
  • Look back in the textbook: Time to learn all the stuff you missed – go back to the last chapter you recall truly understanding and work from there. If you’re good at self-learning, you might not need to look further than your textbook.
  • Look for online resources: Depending on the class, you might find some really great tools online. Khan Academy has some great videos to explain tricky math concepts. Sparknotes has some great analyses of novels you might (not) have read for class (note: Sparknotes isn’t a substitute for the novel itself).
  • Get outside help: Places like C2 Education offer subject tutoring to help you catch up in your classes. Our expert teachers can help you close the gap while maintaining pace with the rest of your class. With enough effort, you might even get ahead of your classmates!

Now go bring those grades up!