How to Avoid Getting a Bad Grade

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A Brief History

In 1785, the first grades issued at Yale University (and possibly the first in the United States of America) were given out when President Ezra Stiles recorded in his diary that there were “Twenty Optimi, sixteen second Optimi, twelve Inferiores (Boni), [and] ten Pejores” among 58 Seniors.  Today, bad grades scare most students and it is also true that neither students nor teachers like seeing a bad grade.  Fortunately, grades can be improved by following some strategy.  This article elaborates on some ways to avoid bad grades in high school and college.  If avoiding a negative grade is one of your academic goals, you must let your natural talents be guided by pro-active academic measures.

Digging Deeper

If you claim you want better grades, then to increase your grade point average (GPA), you can count on receiving the maximum amount of 100% scores as the surest way to raise your GPA.  When you say that your GPA is “down the drain”, it usually means you did not understand the current content of the subject being graded.  Chances are that you did not understand the class content from the start.

You need to look at the content of your future courses and make sure that they match your educational goals and program of study. This effort is done via conversation with the teachers of that course and examination of course descriptions.  Find out if you have the prerequisite classes and knowledge to allow yourself a chance of success at your next courses.

What do you need to learn in the courses you plan to take?  You have to know the educational goals, otherwise, you will be trying to learn the new material without the basic building blocks of knowledge provided by appropriate prerequisite learning, which will lead to lower grades.  This sort of preparation and attention is what you have to do for the rest of your academic career to maximize your academic performance, grade wise.

You may need help with your study skills; however. even improving study skills cannot insure improved grades without this specific increasing your prior knowledge of the subjects you are about to take and ensuring that you have the prerequisite knowledge to succeed at those courses.  Raising your GPA is not a goal, but a side effect of your goal of improved learning. If you are passionate about something, you are inspired.  Motivation is an “internal” factor and not something that can be applied to you externally. Find out what you want and then find out if you have the talent to do it.  Chances are your research is telling you that you do not know 30% of the needed information for your next course.

Never rely on the “copy-and-paste method of writing an academic paper.  Plagiarized content is a key factor of receiving a failing or poor score.  Such an attempt at an easy way to write a paper is a “sweet knife” that cuts into your grades.  “Perhaps one of the worst things that may happen in college is being accused of plagiarism,” says Essay Shark.  In short, you need to do your homework. Let me elaborate on some proven ways to avoid a bad grade:

  • Avoid Pressure when Studying: Several scientific studies conclude that when students read under pressure those students understand study material less.  Although pressure is not always bad, it is the biggest reason students absorb information temporarily when they study.   Later, when you have to answer what for you have read, you cannot remember or you take several minutes to recall what you read. That is one major drawback of reading under pressure.
  • Prepare Early: The good student never looks at the end point first, but instead prepares from starting point. Similarly to win the teacher’s heart and get a good grade, one must start studying early.  Do not wait for the exam time-table!  Schedule reading time as the semester or term begins and keep up with your reading.  Never rely on reading so much at one time that it overwhelms your mind, but read your course material without pressure and in a timely manner.   Just enjoy your reading.
  • Take a Study Break: When we work for a long period of time, our mind needs break for refreshment. To do well in school and to become a “genius” student, you must read for hours.  Reading for ten plus hours is not a tough deal when you have concentrated on avoiding a bad grade, but never skip your Study-Break when you experience fatigue from reading for long stretches of time.   Make a short call to a friend, relative or loved one. Walk in an open area of your home or dorm, or even outdoors.  Take a selfie (but do not waste time to upload it on social media). Hum your favorite song, have a snack or a beverage, stretch out your muscles, just do something!

Bottom line: Everything we have told will not help you unless you follow the advice. You have to find what you want and then figure out how to get it.   It starts with learning what you might have missed for your next course, and the knowledge you need to succeed at that next course. The best things you can do for yourself to get good grades are what we have told you in simple terms.

Question for students (and subscribers): How do you study?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Hansen, Katharine and Randall S. Hansen.  The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Study Skills.  ALPHA, 2008.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Tony Alter from Newport News, USA, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  This image, originally posted to Flickr, was reviewed on  by the administrator or reviewer File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske), who confirmed that it was available on Flickr under the stated license on that date.


About Author

Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland