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My Secret for Good Grades

There’s a very simple secret to getting good grades.

Some of my friends think that I’m just smart, and that’s why I get good grades. But my friends are smart, too. Everyone at our school is smart. If they weren’t smart, they wouldn’t be here. So it’s not that.

Some of my friends think I’m a nerd. I agree with that, though I would love to trade places with Serena on “Gossip Girl.” πŸ™‚

But the secret is really much simpler: I do the work. All of it, including extra credit. Then I review it. And then I test myself on it to find out what I misunderstood or got wrong.

I never get worried if I don’t understand something the first time I read it. I never get worried if I get a question wrong the first time I answer it. If I already knew everything about a subject, then I wouldn’t need to take the class. The important thing is not where you start, it’s where you end up. If you end up understanding most of what you need before the test, then you’ve achieved your goal.

Have you heard that “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well?” There’s another saying that I like even better:

If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly the first time you try it.

If you get something right the first time, that’s great! Try it again to make sure that you weren’t just lucky the first time. Practice it a few more times just to make sure you’ll remember it.

If you get something wrong the first time, don’t worry about it! Figure out what you did wrong, then avoid that mistake and try it again until you get it right. You can do it, as long as you do the work.


Copyright 2010 by Rinth de Shadley.

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  1. David
    February 16, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    You will go far, with this attitude. I wish I knew it when I was your age…

    • Rinth de Shadley
      February 17, 2010 at 12:51 am

      Hi, David πŸ™‚

      I can’t take much of the credit. I have some really great teachers. But thanks.

      • David
        February 17, 2010 at 7:59 pm

        Teachers can teach, but you still need to do the work. I learned a lot from my teachers, but was unwilling, at the time, to make much effort. Once I started making the effort, it really paid off, but until I did that, the learnin’ was trapped inside.

        Just keep being so diligent…:)

  2. January 21, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Hello, Rinth. I teach college at the University of Vermont. I followed the link on your NYT comment to this posting on your blog. They were both excellent! So lucid.

    Would you mind if I put a link to this for my students? I’m planning to also send them to the Times story, but I think your commentary has particularly strong credibility.

    Thanks, LPR

    • January 21, 2011 at 5:20 pm

      Hi LPR πŸ™‚

      Thank you for the nice compliment!

      Of course it’s fine if you post the link to my blog article. I’m flattered that you think it’s good enough. And it will be nice to get more readers at a different school.

      I hope that you and your students have a great spring semester!

  3. Ray
    January 26, 2011 at 11:02 am

    I saw your link in the NYT, I like your attitude regarding studying, something I learned only later in life, but your comment – “The daughter of over-achieving parents” – says a lot also, environment and encouragement are also very important, parents can make such a great difference in one’s achievements, it is not just one’s natural talents. In one of his books, Malcolm Gladwell, illustrates how someone even with a very high IQ was a failure because he came from a dysfunctional family. We are social beings in very deep ways.
    Take care, Ray

    • January 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Hi Ray πŸ™‚

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment and the compliment!

      You’re totally right that we don’t achieve anything alone. Parents, teachers, and friends all help us. In addition to my parents, I am lucky to have brilliant, supportive teachers at my school.

      I wrote that blog post last year, and I admit that my senior level classes this year are making me work even harder. But I’m learning a lot and enjoying it.

      I hope that you have a great week!

  4. Sarah-Wade
    January 28, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Hello Rinth,
    I, too, stumbled onto this blog post after reading the Times article which someone had “shared” on facebook. I am also a Moho (04) and was particularly interested in this article because I am in 2nd year med school right now which involves learning (or memorizing?) A LOT of material and FAST. I try different study methods but haven’t found anything that’s a sure bet. The thing about med school is, you’re not just trying to get through a class – you need to actually know this stuff for your career! So one day after an exam as my classmates and I were rehashing test questions, I wondered if actually taking the test was a learning process in itself. We all remembered the questions and answer choices that were difficult. Indeed, one comment on the Times site was from an MD who remembered a detail that he missed on a Board exam. Anyway, I wondered: how do you test yourself when you study?

    • Sarah-Wade
      January 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      And Thanks,
      Sarah-Wade

      P.S. I enjoyed reading your blog and reminiscing about Mount Holyoke. I miss it so much!! I know some things have changed a lot since I was there, but reading your posts made me think maybe things are more the same than not…..at least the important parts of the MHC experience. πŸ™‚

      • January 28, 2011 at 7:58 pm

        I’m going over to the Dirty in a little while. Is there anything you’d like me to get for you? πŸ™‚

    • January 28, 2011 at 7:49 pm

      Hi Sarah-Wade πŸ™‚

      Thank you for your nice words! Most people don’t understand what Mount Holyoke means to us, and it’s hard to explain.

      If you’re in medical school, I’m sure you know more than me about effective study techniques, but I’ll tell you what I do.

      First I look at a chapter to see what it talks about, but not reading it yet. I read the chapter introduction and the summary points at the end. Then I list the main terms, along with any questions that occurred to me. With those in mind, I start reading through it. As I read, I add terms and questions to my list.

      I don’t assume that I’ll understand all of it the first time. When I finish a section, I try to remember and write down its main ideas. Then I go back and look at the section, comparing it to what I wrote. That shows me what I got right, what I got wrong, and what I forgot. Repetition is the key, but not just repetition: focused repetition. Before I even start reading, I identify what the main terms, concepts, and questions are. Then I read, test myself, and review, each time focusing on those central ideas and questions. I don’t know if you took an MCAT prep class, but I did, and it’s similar to some of the things they teach. BTW, I am waiting to hear from my #1 choice, which is less than two miles from where we live and is where my Dad went to medical school. πŸ™‚

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