'How Do I Do Well In High School?' - The Evidence-Based Learning Technique That You Need To Know

We cannot reiterate it enough - doing well in high school should be simple. In fact, we believe in this so much that it forms the ethos of our company (Keep It Simple, baby!). There is one ingredient that we advocate as being the key to a successful outcome in high school - effective and consistent study.

It seems easy enough, yet research actually show that many students find it difficult to be proactive and self-regulatory about their learning (Zimmerman, 2011). The highest-scoring students are those who actively engage with their learning and have tactical awareness about their study skills.

Properly cultivating your study skills can be difficult, though. It’s not as simple as merely downloading an app or getting a tutor. These should only be supplementary avenues of bolstering your learning once you have a strong foundation of concrete  learning techniques.

Recent studies in the US have shown that the key to effective studying lies in self-reflection and awareness. Research conducted at one university demonstrated that students who developed strategies on how to learn effectively, deliberately select the resources that would be the most fruitful in cultivating expertise, and planning how to best use these resources outperformed those who didn’t (Chen, 2017). As a high school student, you’re exposed to a wealth of resources at your disposal, however, this may not necessarily be of benefit if you’re not engaging in consistent self-reflection and regulation when utilising them for your studies. If anything, simply informing students about effective strategies has been shown to be relatively ineffective (Balch, 2001).

Another study conducted amongst first-year college students in the US which aimed to explore the effects of ‘learning how to learn’ discovered a similar phenomenon. Students were allocated an assignment in which they read empirical psychological articles on different learning strategies. There were four articles - each varying in the utility of the learning technique that they espoused.  The students were then instructed to evaluate the paper and then apply it to their own learning discipline (Brown-Kramer, 2021). The results showed that students' exam scores improved in the semester following the assignment, elucidating the importance of displaying thoughtful analysis to study techniques. Additionally, those students who evaluated high-utility learning strategies significantly outperformed those who read about lower-utility strategies (Brown-Kramer, 2021).

How can I apply these results to my study?

We don’t expect that this article will inspire you to write an in-depth analysis of high utility study strategies, or to submit a weekly self-made questionnaire on the effectiveness of your study. What we would recommend is for you to take 2 key messages away from this:

1) Remember to actively self-reflect on your study strategies, if you aren’t already doing so.

2) Adopt higher-utility learning techniques to your study, and avoid lower-utility strategies

There are many ways to do this, but if you’re unsure of how to start implementing this to your study routine, we'd recommend considering the following questions:

  1. How am I studying for this particular topic?
  2. What is the likely effectiveness of this study technique?
  3. Is there another method of study which could help me achieve the same outcome with less time?
  4. How can I change my approach if I encounter difficulties?

Additionally, try and make use of high utility learning techniques (HULT) over low utility learning techniques (LULT). The two main HULT include practice testing and distributed practice (spacing practice out over time). LULT, which are not as effective for study, include highlighting, mnemonics and re-reading (Lerchenfeldt, 2016).

Ultimately, it pays to take your time and be mindful of how you’re conducting your learning.

If you're interested in reading these articles, click on the the links below!

  1. Balch, W. R. (2001). Study tips: How helpful do introductory psychology students find them? Teaching of Psychology, 28, 272–274. https://doi.org/10.1207/S15328023TOP2804_09
  2. Brown-Kramer CR. Improving Students’ Study Habits and Course Performance With a “Learning How to Learn” Assignment. Teaching of Psychology. 2021;48(1):48-54. doi:10.1177/0098628320959926
  3. Chen P, Chavez O, Ong DC, Gunderson B. Strategic Resource Use for Learning: A Self-Administered Intervention That Guides Self-Reflection on Effective Resource Use Enhances Academic Performance. Psychological Science. 2017;28(6):774-785. doi:10.1177/0956797617696456
  4. Lerchenfeldt S, Nyland R, 2016, 'Learning Technique Utility and Preferences Among Second-Year Medical Students: A Pilot Study of General and Pre-Exam Study Habits', MedEdPublish, 5, [3], 10, https://doi.org/10.15694/mep.2016.000096
  5. Zimmerman, B. J. (2011). Motivational sources and outcomes of self-regulated learning and performance. In Zimmerman, B. J., Schunk, D. H. (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 49–64). New York, NY: Routledge.

Jessica Hinh

Jessica Hinh