To get better grades in college, you could try your usual last-minute approach where you cram before your exams, or use a brute force approach of spending every minute of the semester studying.
However, a better way to meet your GPA goals is to create a targeted plan that’s designed based on research in cognitive science, learning methodologies, behavioral psychology, and leveraging university policies to your favor.
Our guide to GPA hacking uses strategies culled from researchers and top students. Find out how you can strategically work to improve your GPA.
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Getting a Better GPA: Class Schedule
The GPA you get at the end of the semester is, in part, determined the moment you set your class schedule. Here are four ways you can influence your GPA when you’re signing up for classes.
1. Pad Your Schedule with Easy Classes
Your college degree would be less useful if you took only the easiest classes. However, getting one “A” from an easy class can have an impact on the semester’s GPA. If you’re a B Student, you’ll see a +0.2 GPA boost from getting an “A.” If you’re a C Student, you’ll see +0.4 GPA increase, and D Students will see a +0.6 GPA increase.
Therefore, if you know that you have a tough course, you can balance it out with an easier course to keep your GPA up.
Classes That Students Say Are the Easiest:
2. Choose the Right Professor
- English Literature
- Bird Watching
- Gender Studies
- Sports Management
- Underwater Basket Weaving
The same class can be taught by lenient or strict teachers. Especially for challenging classes, choosing the right professor can make a big difference to your eventual grade.
For example, data from University of Illinois on the grades received in Calculus 1
classes had nearly a full letter grade difference based who taught the course. A teacher whose students had the lowest grades had an average GPA of 2.05, and the teacher whose students did the best averaged a 3.00 GPA. The average of all sections was 2.70.
Whether the difference in grades is due to a professor’s grading style or teaching style, choosing the right professor can make a difference to your grades.
Ask other students, advisors, and online forums the following questions to get to know more about any professor:
3. Design the Best Schedule
- What’s the difficulty level?
- Do they grade on a curve?
- Does the teacher weigh participation, homework, or exams heavier?
Academic performance can be significantly impacted by the time and day of your class. There may not be a one-size-fits-all schedule, but you can build your ideal schedule with some thought and consideration.
For example, to schedule classes when you’re at your peak alertness, consider if you’re a morning person or a night owl. Be sure to avoid brain-overload by spacing out intensive classes. Plan your schedule around your other obligations, such as work. When possible, avoid the 2-3pm time block, which is known for post-lunch drowsiness. Consider social schedules such as late-night parties, and avoid early morning classes the next day.
4. Use Pass/Fail Classes
When signing up for classes, you may have the option to register for a course as Pass/Fail. Typically, this means that the course will count toward your degree credits, but it won't affect your GPA.
All schools are different, so check with your Registrar about the rules and implications.
GPA Hacks During the Semester
After you’ve started your classes, you can do a few key things to boost your GPA.
1. Use Online Class Notes from OneClass
Materials covered in class typically weigh heavier during exams. Consequently, you can improve your grades by focusing on these materials in particular.
On the OneClass
platform, you can search for your college and your courses to see the materials that have been shared by your classmates. Accessing shared class notes
and study guides
can help you learn concepts that you didn’t understand during class, or fill in the blanks if you missed a class. Moreover, shared materials can be very useful for students with a language barrier.
OneClass is effective for many students, and more than 90 percent of users improved by at least one letter grade.
2. Attend Office Hours
A little bit of face time with your professor can go a long way toward helping your grade. By regularly meeting with your professor and TA during office hours, you’ll have a chance to ask questions, and it may put you on your professor’s good side to show that you’re trying. Additionally, if you’re looking to form a study group, office hours can be a great time to connect with other students.
3. Seize Extra Credit Opportunities
When it comes to extra credit, never wait until the end of the semester; get extra points whenever you can!
We can only hope that your professor has extra point opportunities that are as good as this extra credit question
Boost Your GPA: Final Exams
When you're nearing the end of the semester, it’s time to get real about preparing for final exams. Here are four points that are key to making a strong game plan.
1. Strategize for Exams
A Stanford postdoc researcher found that just 15 minutes
of strategic study planning could improve your scores ? of a letter grade.
The researchers recommended asking these six questions one to two weeks before your exams:
2. Avoid Distractions
- What grade do you want to get on the exam?
- How important is it to get this grade?
- How likely are you to get the grade?
- What kind of questions will the exam likely include?
- Which class resources will you use to study?
(Class notes, practice exams, study guides, textbook readings, instructor office hours, study groups, private tutoring)
- How will you cover the resources you've shortlisted for your study?
Those cat memes won’t help you prepare for your test, so just say no
To help yourself stay focused, try to identify what distracts you the most. If you’re distracted by the internet, try using web-blocking apps. If you’re losing time on social media, use a timer app to curb your usage. If your friends cause you to lose focus, head to the library for some focused study time.
3. Diversify Areas of Study
Applied cognitive psychologists say that alternating between subjects, topics, or skills can help you learn better.
In an experiment, researchers
found that students were able to double the number of correct answers when they varied material during study sessions, as compared to students who repeatedly studied the same type of problem. Students who mixed material scored 77 percent correct, while students who repeated material scored only 38 percent correct.
4. Ask for Help
Don't hesitate to reach out to your class TA when you're stuck on a concept or a problem. Additionally, there are also online tools where you can get help on demand. For example, the app Solvit
is a platform where students can ask and answer questions about calculus, physics, chemistry, history, economics, English, biology, and more. There’s even an “Express” option that costs only $5 to get an answer within 24 hours from one of the platform's Certified Experts.
Troubleshoot Your GPA After the Semester
You can do a few things to improve your GPA after the semester has ended.
1. Take More Classes
Because classes affect your GPA proportionally, the more classes you take, the less impact one bad grade will have on your overall GPA. That means that a bad grade you get during freshman year will have a smaller impact when you’re a senior.
Taking summer classes can be a fast way to dilute the impact of one bad grade.
2. Retake a Class
Retaking a class can be a great way to boost your GPA, but you should confirm with your school about how it handles retakes.
Typically, retaking a class will replace the initial grade with the most recent grade, so getting a better grade on the second try will help your GPA. Both grades with appear on your transcript, but the class will only count once toward graduation requirements.
Learn more about how OneClass can help you get better grades.