How to Succeed in School When You Understand Nothing

So, it’s that time of the school year where you either have your life together or you don’t. If you’re like me, you’re sitting in math class wondering what the heck a proof is and why you’ll ever need it. I don’t understand a thing in class, however my grades are still poppin’. If you want to learn how I do this, read on.

1. Memorize

Many teachers value their students actually learning the material that is taught in class as opposed to just memorizing facts, but when it’s the night before an astronomy test and you don’t even know one of the vocab terms you don’t have the time to really grasp a true comprehension of the material. In this case, I would recommend using Quizlet (if you don’t already) and cycling through all of the cards until you know the definitions word for word. I would also suggest making up rhymes to go along with the facts that you need to know. For example, if you need to know that the Catholic Church was pissed off during the Reformation, make up a rhyme like, “The Protestants started the Reformation, but the Catholics didn’t have much fun.” It’s a short term solution and you’ll most likely forget it right after the test, but it will definitely help you if you know nothing. Additionally, while making the rhymes you will be reviewing the information and it will get somewhat drilled into your head.

For vocab lists, read the first five words over out loud, then go back to the start and recite them from memory (it’s okay to peek.) Then, read the next five vocab words over. After, start reading the vocab list from the beginning from memory until you get to the tenth word. Read the next five, then recite from the beginning. Once you have gotten to the last word, read the entire thing over three times and it should be drilled into your memory.

2. Get help from a friend.

When I’ve just read a piece of Greek literature and have NO idea what any of it meant or when I have an essay on a historical event that makes no sense to me, I face time up a friend and ask them to explain it as though they were telling me a story about something that happened to a classmate. For example, instead of saying, “In June of 1746, after the Battle of Culloden, Flora MacDonald helped Bonnie Charles take refuge on the Isle of Skye and dressed him up in women’s clothing,” they would say, “So basically Bonnie Charles was running from this terrible battle and he went to this island in Scotland called Skye. When he was there he was, like, really scared so he needed to take refuge. Lucky for him there was this bad-ass lady named Flora and she turned him into a drag queen so nobody would recognize him. This all went down in 1746, by the way.” That will be much easier to remember because you are actually learning the information, and you can go back and memorize the dates and other specific facts afterwards.

Get help from a teacher.

Now, you obviously can’t do this when it’s the night before the unit’s big test, but if you notice early on that you are struggling with a certain topic, it will be very beneficial for you to ask for help early on. Plus, the teacher will most likely appreciate you coming forward because it will show that you actually care about the class (even if you totally don’t.) If you’re too busy or don’t like the teacher and don’t want to spend any more time with them than you have to, you can also just shoot them an email with your question and they will hopefully get back to you soon.

Just B.S. super hard essays.

It takes a lot of skill to perfectly B.S. an essay, but if you can pull it off it can be so worth it. While, as always, it’s better if you actually learn the info, these strategies should help you get an A (or at least a B) on that tricky paper and you might actually learn some of the info along the way.

Start out with looking at the prompt. If it’s a factual essay, it’s probably going to be much easier than if it’s opinionated, because if it’s opinionated you have to take a stance on something that you know nothing about. In both cases, though, the textbook is your best friend. Start out by very basically outlining the chapter with the paragraphs you need. Then, slowly fill in the paragraphs with supporting facts (they don’t even have to be full sentences yet.)

At this point, your essay will probably only be about a page long and filled with incomplete sentences. Unless your teacher is really, really nice, this probably won’t get the grade you were hoping for. So, finish the sentences and add many descriptive phrases. For this I would recommend Instead of saying, “In 1800 the battle of so-and-so happened and 300,000 people died,” say “In the year 1800, this person fought this person in the Battle of So-and-So. Because of this battle, 300,000 lives were taken and this battle led to greater tensions between this group and this group or whatever.” Be as descriptive as you can, and bulk up your essay with as many descriptors as possible.

Once you’re finished with this, read it over and use your textbook and other sources to see if you have any historical inconsistencies, and if you do, fix them (obviously.) While doing this, fix any grammatical and punctuation errors.

Finally, send it to a smart friend and ask them to proof-read it (first make sure that you’re allowed to get peer help on this essay, though,) and you’re done! Submit it to the teacher and you’ll hopefully get that grade you’ve been wanting so badly.

So, I hope this helped! If all else fails, though, talk with your teachers and explain how you are struggling. Get support from your friends and family, too, and they will probably be able to lend a hand in understanding the information. Also, no more zoning out in class! Your grades are too precious. Good luck!


1 Comment

  1. Lily Shayani says: Reply

    This is going to deeply help me in my educational carrer.

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