10 Skills/Habits of Successful Students

By Drew Sarmiere - October 17, 2019

Help Yourself Succeed at School - 10 Skills for Success

Success at school, as in life, is not a simple matter of intelligence. To get the most out of your education you have to work hard and apply yourself in all of your classes. You also need to make good choices and work efficiently so that you have time to relax and be a kid.

Here are some skills successful learners use. Some are probably familiar, but others may be new.

1) Successful students manage and organize their time and materials:

What does this mean?

  • Bring your planner to every class, every day and write all your assignments in your planner.

  • Plan in study time as well as other responsibilities and appointments

  • Finish all your assignments and hand them in on time.

  • Print assignments at home and put them into your notebook.

  • Organize your desk and backpack before starting your homework.

  • Keep your binders and notebooks organized.

  • Have all your work from your current unit in your notebook.

  • Review your planner and unit calendars often, so you can budget your time appropriately.

  • Put away distractions like your phone when doing schoolwork


2) Successful students take excellent notes in their classes:

What does this mean?

  • Write down anything that your teachers write on the board.

  • Write down anything new or surprising.

  • Write down anything else your teacher says is important.

  • Write neatly so you can study from your notes.

  • Use a heading and date to indicate where notes begin and what they are about.

  • Clearly show where notes end by starting a new page or writing a line.

  • Use headings, subheadings, indent and use structure, create lists.  

  • Review your notes after class to help you remember the material better.

3) Successful students write correctly and effectively: 

What does this mean?

  • Spelling and grammar count, even in math and science.

  • Look up words you don’t know how to spell.

  • Use complete sentences and paragraph structure in all classes.

  • All written work should be neat and word-processed, if required.

  • Think about why and for whom you are writing; put yourself in your reader’s shoes.

4) Successful students read critically:

What does this mean?

  • When appropriate, take written notes to reinforce and remember what you read.

  • Use sticky notes to mark important passages.

  • Read actively to comprehend what you’ve read.

  • Look up key words you don’t know.

  • Notice when you don’t understand—try re-reading and, if that doesn’t work, ask a question.

  • Closely examine and study pictures, diagrams, tables, and graphs.


5) Successful students think critically and use logic:

What does this mean?

  • Don’t rush to find the quick “right” answer—use critical thinking skills to evaluate and examine many points of view when given a complex thinking task.

  • Solve problems, evaluate arguments and consider alternate viewpoints.

  • Ask yourself why you think as you do; have good reasons for your positions and be ready to explain them.


6) Successful students apply and demonstrate their knowledge:

What does this mean?

  • Show all the required steps when solving problems.

  • Show your understanding by synthesizing knowledge in projects, research papers and essays.

  • Act with integrity

    • i. Do your own work.

    • ii. Do not use anyone else’s work without giving credit.

    • iii. Do not copy or plagiarize others’ work.

  • Review all areas of rubrics before starting the assignment and before turning it in.

  • Complete all steps in essays and projects, including research, outlines, and drafts.


7) Successful students evaluate their learning and seek help when needed:

What does this mean?

  • Ask questions in class when you don’t understand something.

  • Get extra help after an absence.

  • Attend office hours and study sessions.

  • Attend literacy and math labs.

  • Correct homework in a different colored pen.

  • Rework problems that you got wrong.

  • Learn from your mistakes.

  • Take advantage of opportunities to re-do work.

  • Read teacher comments on graded work.

  • Set goals for future assignments.


8) Successful students study effectively for quizzes and tests:

What does this mean?

  • Use your notes, handouts, homework and quizzes to study.

  • Study for short periods of time and study repetitively

  • Complete review/study guides carefully and then study from them.

  • When studying—do the work rather than just looking at it.

  • Predict what will be on the test.

  • Use flashcards or Quizlet for pure memorization.

  • Study in advance so you do not need to cram the night before.

  • Self-quiz to test your knowledge.  


9) Successful students use effective test taking strategies: 

What does this mean?

  • Read all questions and directions carefully.

  • Skim the whole test first, so that you can pace yourself.

  • Note all parts of multi-step questions, problems and questions.

  • Circle your answers in math and science and include units, when appropriate.

  • Check your work for small details, like negative signs, significant figures, spelling and accuracy.

  • In multiple-choice questions, eliminate wrong answers first, then choose the best answer.

  • Give your answers the common sense test…your answers should make sense.

  • Start longer answers by restating the question.

  • Skip over problem/questions you don’t know, mark them clearly and return later if you have time.

  • Use extra time to check your work and make educated guesses for answers you don’t know.


10) Successful students find balance in their lives so that they can also have fun:

What does this mean?

  • You don’t have to be perfect.

  • Spend reasonable amounts of time on assignments.

  • Communicate with the adults around you when you are having trouble…in other words, ask for help.

  • Don’t overload yourself…you don’t have to do it all.

  • Remember that school is about learning, not about grades. 


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