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How to Become a Straight-A Student

The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less

By Cal Newport
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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How to Become a Straight-A Student by Cal Newport

How to Become a Straight-A Student offers you successful strategies used by actual straight-A students to help you score better grades while studying less. From time management to concrete advice on developing a thesis, this book gives you all the tools you need to earn the perfect 4.0 without burning out.

Key idea 1 of 11

In order to study more efficiently, manage your time and work in short, intensive bursts.

How do you manage basketball practice, your English essay, your social life, and the rest of your homework? Many students believe there just aren’t enough hours in a day to get it all done. But that is simply untrue!

Most people waste their time working at a low intensity, i.e., pseudo-working. This kind of “work” occurs when you study in a distracting environment, such as in front of the TV, or working through a long and continuous period of time where your concentration drops.

For example, while it might feel like pulling an all-nighter was “hard work,” the loss of concentration due to sleep deprivation means that you were really just pseudo-working.

A better way to focus your time is to work in short bursts with a high intensity. Indeed, many straight-A students spend a few intense intervals studying, while their less successful counterparts study much longer at lower intensity.

In fact, studies show that the optimal learning period is roughly 50 minutes, so you should work no longer than one hour before giving yourself a break.

Think of it this way: the work you accomplish is equal to the time spent working times the intensity of your focus. In other words, if you spend three separate hours of study at an intensity of “10,” you get the same outcome as you would if you study for ten hours in a row at an intensity of “3”!

By reducing the time and ramping up the intensity, you’d find yourself with seven hours to do whatever you wanted – meet friends, party hard, sleep, relax, you name it!

But in order to start working in short bursts, you’ll need to carefully manage your time.

Keep a detailed calendar with all your deadlines and upcoming tasks. Always carry a list with your day’s schedule on your person and write down any new deadlines or tasks that crop up during the day. Spend five minutes each morning putting those new deadlines in your calendar.

And remember: keeping a calendar will only help you manage your time if you actually use it.

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