Effective students have several key characteristics in common, and anyone can become a more effective student by adopting the habits these students share. Effective students take responsibility, manage their time, use their strengths, address their weaknesses and use the resources available to them.

Take Responsbility

Portrait of a young man holding books

Effective students see their education in general -- and each class, assignment and test in particular -- as their own responsibility, not a parent's, a teacher's or anyone else's. This basic assumption leads to smart moves such as paying careful attention to the instructions and due dates for assignments and tests, asking for clarification on things that aren't clear and keeping track of grades. It also prompts students to take action when they need help -- by meeting a teacher after class, by hiring a tutor, by spending extra time on practice and review, or by seeking out additional resources.

Manage Your Time

Students sitting in lesson, in classroom

To be successful, students need to manage their time effectively both during class and outside of it. During class, good students find ways to make the most of their relatively brief time in the classroom by learning and accomplishing as much as they can. Such strategies as leaving behind electronic devices and other distractions, sitting up straight in a seat close to the teacher and away from distracting friends, and taking thorough notes can all help. Reviewing notes immediately before and after each class, and always asking questions when something isn't clear are two more tricks of the effective student.

Outside of class, effective students make their education a priority in their schedule and always block out a realistic amount of time for study, review, test preparation and working on assignments. Having one or more designated locations, such as a bedroom, an office or a coffee shop, and one or more designated blocks of time, such as an hour every evening or every Saturday afternoon, can help.

Play to Your Strengths


The most effective students recognize their strengths and put them to work. They use their creativity to figure out how the things they already do well can help them succeed as students. Are you artistic? Use drawings, doodles and diagrams to help you understand and remember the concepts you are learning in a difficult class. Are you athletic? Consider memorizing vocabulary or listening to class-related material while you run. Don't forget to consider how you can build bridges from subjects you are good at to those you find difficult. If you're a math and science person, make strong outlines for your literature essays, and approach the task of finding the theme of a short story as if you were searching for the missing value in an equation. If you're more of a language type, invent your own acronyms or slogans to memorize math equations.

Know and Guard Against Your Weaknesses

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Effective students are not students without weaknesses, but students who know what their weaknesses are and have strategies to deal with them. The most successful students recognize their trouble spots as specifically as possible. Do you have a hard time taking notes fast enough in class? Do you procrastinate when you have a deadline? Are you a slow reader? Do you lose your assignments or other paperwork? Do you get distracted when you're studying? Ask a friend or a teacher to help you pinpoint what is tripping you up in a particular class or project.

Once you know what your weak areas are, come up with the most specific possible strategies to counteract them. If you don't take notes well, ask to copy a friend's notes. If you get distracted in class, move your seat to the front of the room. If you can't concentrate late at night, when you need to study set your alarm early instead. If you can't focus at home because of all the distractions, find a bookstore or coffee shop where you can spend some distraction-free hours studying.

Use Your Resources

Portrait of student holding pile of books at library

The most effective students are those who figure out the earliest that most people will have at least some classes, subjects or assignments where they can't succeed just by showing up, listening to the teacher and doing the assigned reading in the textbook. Instead, effective students recognize that the world is full of resources, and that smart students take responsibility to find the ones that will work for them. Get to know the resources your school offers. Discover the public library. Build a collection of helpful websites. Look for a tutor or put together a study group. Effective students make success look easy, but they do it by knowing when to get help and where to look for it.