Do you wish to improve your test scores but cannot find time to study? There is great news for you: working more strategically, not harder, leads to better grades.
A paper from Stanford psychology scholars shows that conscious, self-reflected studying helps college students improve their scores by one-third of a letter grade.
The author of the study, Patricia Chen, a postdoctoral research fellow in Stanford’s Department of Psychology, was inspired by students that were disappointed after getting low grades despite their great effort.
Chen then thought that the problem was that students did not apply a strategic approach to their learning.
“Blind effort alone, without directing that effort in an effective manner, doesn’t always get you to where you want to go,” she said.
Metacognition: thinking about thinking, was proven as an effective tool for academic performance by previous studies, but Dr. Chen and her team wanted to find specific strategies that aid in learning.
The researchers worked with two groups of students. The control group received a normal reminder of an upcoming exam. The intervention group received the same exam reminder and a Strategic Resource Use exercise, which asked them to think of their expectations for the exam and think about the resources they would use.
After that, students were asked to explain why they chose those resources and how they planned to use them.
Students that implemented the strategic approach outperformed the control group classmates by an average of one-third of a letter grade in the class.
The researchers found that the exercise made students self-reflective about their learning and, therefore, it allowed them to use resources more effectively.
Dr. Chen thinks that this strategy can be used beyond academics.
“Actively self-reflecting on the approaches that you are taking fosters a strategic stance that is really important in life. Strategize how you want to effectively direct your efforts before you pour your energy into it”.