How Do Top Students Study?

This post may contain affiliate links, meaning we get a commission if you make a purchase through our links, at no cost to you.

Spread the love


We all know who the top students are at school. The students who always set the curve in class, seem confident on test day and get into prestigious colleges. The question, however, isn’t who they are, but how do they do it?

Whether you are determined to become a top student or you are looking to simply further accelerate your schoolwork, we are here to let you in on some of the secrets of top students. We will outline how to prioritize school and study in a way that helps you excel academically while managing your time and stress along the way.

How to Be a Top Student?How to Be a Top Student?

So you want to be a top student. Coincidentally, this is a common goal for students of all ages. Who doesn’t want high grades? The main difference between these low-achieving students who have high goals and the students who earn these goals is the work they put in.

Often, both average and top students devote time to their schoolwork. In some cases, this time is more comparable than one may initially think in terms of quantity. However, it’s the quality of time dedicated to studying and their academic performance that separates this next group of students from their highest-achieving peers.

So how do you step up to be among the top students? Reflect on your time spent outside and inside the classroom. How can you put not only more time into your work, but also enhance that time to study more effectively, organized, and intentional? If you are struggling to think of ways, don’t worry.

We have plenty listed below that will help you step up your game. Some may seem obvious while others at first are intimidating. Perhaps you are extremely busy and simply don’t have more time to invest. Again, don’t worry. These skills will help you manage the hours in the day to ensure that you have enough time to study purposefully and effectively while maintaining a sense of balance in your life.

What Do Top Students Do Differently?

What Do Top Students Do Differently?

The last section touched on how smart students study and use their time in a more mature and focused manner. What else do top students do differently? Most of it has to do with how they spend their time, yes, but the aspect of priorities is also extremely important. Top students usually prioritize school over their other commitments.

Excuses for poor academic performance may be justified by other commitments (family, friends, sports, clubs, etc.) These are valid reasons why your time is split up but they shouldn’t limit your performance academically. Learning to invest time in these additional activities while making sacrifices within them for school is when school truly becomes a priority.

Plenty of top students are also athletes, siblings, musicians, employed individuals, and artists. Therefore, you don’t need to stop participating or investing in these activities to become a top student. However, top students can spend their time and energy wisely by accomplishing schoolwork while balancing their other commitments. If one activity is dominating your life and significantly limiting your academic performance, then you are likely to have a hard time becoming a top student.

21 Things Top Students Do

21 Things Top Students Do

1. Pay attention in class

This sounds easy, right? We all know how truly challenging this can be, however. Perhaps it’s a class at the end of the day or one with particularly dry instruction or one with all your friends. There are distractions, naturally, in each class and the possibility of zoning out.

Top students can focus in class and block out these temptations since the classroom is one of the best places to absorb information. You have the material, teacher, and resources at your fingertips and hours to concentrate so it’s impractical not to use it then and there.

2. Take effective notes

Note-taking is something that some teachers and professors require while others don’t. The unfortunate part about classes that do require notes is that they are often guided. This can be helpful for students in terms of keeping themselves organized, however, it limits how much students are truly paying attention if they are merely filling in a blank for credit. If you are taking notes, top students will be intentional with doing so to be able to recall the information in the future.

3. Emphasize notes

Once you have taken your notes whether it is in class or on your own, make sure to draw emphasis with either a highlighter or by underlining important information This will draw your eye to key information while studying and helps top students visualize their notes while being tested on the material.

4. Ask questions

Raising your hand in class to ask for clarification. Will other students think I’m dumb? Will the teacher be irritated? Often the answer to both of these questions is no. Your teachers are there to help you understand the material and extend your knowledge to apply to other situations. Additionally, your peers are also probably wondering the same thing you are. Be confident in asking questions, you will thank yourself (and some of your classmates will as well) on test day!

5. Notice verbal clues

Some teachers are not predictable. Others will flat out say, “this WILL be on the test.” Use these verbal cues to your advantage. If your teacher is giving a hint, write it down. They are saying these things to help you come test day so take advantage of it! Listening to these hints will also keep you engaged during class.

6. Participate in class

We know it’s intimidating to participate in some situations. However, pushing yourself to apply and test your knowledge in a classroom environment will prepare you for test day more than you may think. For example, if the teacher asks a question for the class to answer, chances are that question will also make its way on the test. Therefore, use these opportunities in class to test your skills before it counts. Also, many teachers use participation as a grade for their class so it will help you in terms of that too if this is the case.

7. Ask your teacher for help

In addition to asking for help in class, going before or after school for help will also be helpful. It will advance your knowledge while showing your teacher that you care. They will likely remember this while grading your assignments which will be advantageous if you are on the cusp of a certain grade.

8. Make a study group

Invite some students to study with you to prepare for a test. Chances are they remember and understand some topics covered more than you do and vise versa. Take advantage of this and learn together!

9. Take tests seriously

Test-taking can be stressful for some and easy to blow off for others. The harsh reality for most classes is your grade comes down to how well you score on the tests. During the semester it can be tempting to disregard the fast-approaching final exam. However, preparing for the tests throughout the quarter will help you score higher on them in the future and will ultimately bring you from an average student to a top student.

10. Manage your time

Yes, this sounds obvious. Believe it or not, many students struggle with this. Set aside time each night to study what you learned in class that day in addition to extra time devoted to preparing for a test or quiz coming up. This can be an especially difficult skill for busy students to master since sometimes sports schedules and club schedules can conflict with your study schedule. That’s exactly why it is so important to take additional time to make your study schedule flexible.

11. Set goals

How do you want to perform in a class? To accomplish that, how well must you score on your next quiz or test? If you don’t have a high goal in mind then you will likely not score well on your tests or in the class in general. Having a mindset that sets you up for success is the best way to mentally prepare yourself for the preparation going into becoming a top student.

12. Develop a study plan

Going along with our last tip, how will you achieve these goals? The answer to these questions will influence how you study. If you approach an assignment with the intent to ace it, chances are, you will be more motivated to score well on it to accomplish your goals. Like we have stated above, use your extra-curricular activities as a framework for the timing of your studying and perhaps to break it up.

For example, if you have soccer practice at 5 PM usually, maybe you will study for math until you leave for practice and focus on your other subjects after you get home. This will allow you to stay organized amid your busy schedule.

13. Take practice tests

If your class grade is based mostly on tests (this is the case, usually) then we can not stress the importance of taking practice tests enough! They truly test your knowledge before test day. What is worse than showing up on test day and being surprised by what you see on the exam? Let’s be honest, this is a feeling we all want to avoid. Top students take practice tests and it’s as simple as that.

14. Rewrite important notes

This is tedious, we know. But trust us, if you get yourself in this habit, you are well on your way to becoming a top student, no doubt about it. This will repeat the information in your brain and emphasize the most important information for you to remember. Besides the mild time commitment to this habit, there isn’t anything negative about this task.

15. Make a study guide

This is something that seems overwhelming, yes. However, it is extremely rewarding. What better way to study than to write out everything that you need to remember? That is exactly why top students take advantage of this pre-test preparation. At the end of the day, if you want to be a top student, then create or use study guides to prepare for tests. If you simply don’t have time to do this, then you can usually find one online for free that matches your course curriculum.

16. Prioritize classes

It’s easy to put sports or clubs or friends before academics. We get it, these other aspects of your life are usually more fun than school and that’s ok. We aren’t saying to cut out these activities, but once again, when they become a distraction from your schoolwork is when an issue develops. How will you combat these temptations when you need to focus on school? That’s a question that top students have the answer for: sacrifice.

17. Don’t procrastinate

This is a tip that doesn’t require much explanation. Top students rarely cram to tests and exams and that is because they don’t procrastinate their work, especially their work leading up to a test or quiz. Getting work done in a timely fashion ensures that you visit all of the material without stressing out about time.

18 Be consistent

Consistency is one of the things top students do. They are consistent with their routines, their priorities, and usually, their grades. If you want to truly be a top student, you will be one in all of your classes. Students rarely excel in one class and struggle in others since the habits of successful students follow them from class to class.

19. Prepare for class

This one is easy. Bring what you need to class both in terms of books, notes, and knowledge. Be prepared each day for class and confident in what you know. This will help keep you on your toes and caught up with the classwork.

20. Tutor someone

When you know the information well enough to teach it to someone else, you know that you have it mastered. Tutoring is an easy way to test yourself and review information while helping out a classmate or making some money. When preparing for tutoring sessions you are also preparing for that class and its assessments so you are likely to score higher than if you hadn’t devoted this additional time to the material.

21. Be confident

You have put in all of this work to be a top student so be confident in what you know! Second-guessing yourself after hours of studying can become a vicious cycle that ultimately leads to not performing as well as possible. Furthermore, as we have said earlier, your attitude and goals determine your performance much more than you may think.

Wrapping Things Up: How Do Top Students Study?

Ultimately, it’s the little habits both inside and outside of the classroom that adds up to make an average student into a top student. These changes overall may seem overwhelming at first, especially if they haven’t already been embraced. However, rest assured that with some discipline and determination, your schoolwork will be enhanced in a manageable way. We hope that you find some, if not all, of our tips to be practical ways to improve your performance in school enough to become that top student who is setting the curves and walking into school each day confident in their knowledge and skills.

Picture of Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

If you found this helpful, help us out by sharing this post!


Readers of this post also read...

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

A Guide to Effective Study Group Strategies

Perhaps you have exams coming up and you’re considering studying with your friends but aren’t sure how to kick things off. Crafting the ultimate study group involves making sure that the time you spend together...

Read More