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I Study Hard, So Why Do I Get Bad Grades?


A boy hiding a bad test mark behind his back

You studied hard, knew the material… but you still failed the test.

What’s going on?

It might sound strange, but studying hard doesn’t automatically mean you’re going to ace your test—it’s just one part of preparing for an exam.

“I Know The Material, But I Still Failed The Test!”

Studying effectively is the real key to a successful grade. And if you’re studying hard but still getting bad grades, it’s probably the part you’re missing

So, now you know the secret isn’t studying hard, it’s studying more effectively. But where should you start?

The first step is figuring out what your problem might be and how to address it.

Here are the 9 most common reasons students get bad grades, despite studying (plus tips to help).

Cause #1: You’re Struggling With Test Anxiety

The problem: If you feel so nervous that your mind goes blank when you sit down for a test, you could be struggling with test anxiety. This makes it hard to remember what you studied and concentrate on answering the questions in front of you.

The solution: If you’ve studied and you know the material, try to relax on test day. Think positive thoughts (“I studied for this, I know the material”) and practise taking deep breaths while you’re taking the test.

Cause #2: You’re Not Studying to Understand

The problem: When you study, you only memorize the material rather than thinking about what it means.

The solution: It’s important to not just memorize the material; you need to understand it. Think about how the material you’re reviewing connects to other topics and ideas. This will give you a deeper, more complete understanding of what you’re studying.

Cause #3: You Don’t Start Studying Early Enough

The problem: You procrastinate studying, not leaving yourself enough time to absorb the material before test day.

The solution: Create a routine that involves reviewing your notes regularly. Each night, take a few minutes to go over your notes from class. This ongoing review will help make sure you remember the material long-term.

Cause #4: You’re Pulling All-Nighter Study Sessions

The problem: You pull all-night cram sessions instead of studying a little bit each day leading up to the test.

The solution: Sleep is when material is moved from short-term to long-term memory, so getting a good night’s sleep before a test is more effective than staying up all night. Plan ahead and start studying at least 3 days before your test to avoid last minute late-night studying.

Cause #5: You’re Trying To Do Too Much

The problem: You study for hours at a time with no breaks. But spending more time studying doesn’t always mean you understand the material any better.

The solution: Instead of studying in large time blocks, use the spacing study method. This means studying for set amounts of time with time intervals between each session. This will help your brain absorb and retain the material more effectively.

Cause #6: You’re Missing A Study Plan

The problem: You don’t have a plan to guide your study sessions, making it hard to know what you should focus on while you are studying.

The solution: Set goals for each of your study sessions of what you want to accomplish. This will help you keep track of your progress and know which areas you still need to review.

Cause #7: You’re Studying The Wrong Things

The problem: Your study sessions go fine, but when you sit down to take the test you see questions that you didn’t include in your review notes.

The solution: Start creating more organized and effective study notes. Pay close attention in class to important things your teacher says (especially if he or she repeats something!). Highlight these things in your notes so you know to come back to them.

Cause #8: You Only Study For The Exam

The problem: Studying is something that you only do when you are preparing for an upcoming test.

The solution: Take advantage of studying opportunities like in class discussions, peer study groups, and reviewing your notes after class. Studying a little bit each day makes it easier to study (and remember) the material, giving you a head start when it comes to test time.

Cause #9: You’re Using The Wrong Learning Method

The problem: You are using a study method that doesn’t match with the way you learn. For example, auditory learners learn best by hearing, not writing notes.

The solution: Find out your learning style with our complete study guide for every type of learner. Then, try different study methods to find the ones that work best for you:

  • Auditory learners: read your notes aloud while you are reviewing material
  • Visual learners: visualize the material with mind maps or use visual elements like colour
  • Read/Write learners: read over class notes and write out new study notes to review
  • Kinaesthetic (hands-on) learners: create hands-on study activities, like a matching game

Still Struggling With Poor Grades?

If your child is studying hard but still getting bad grades, our tutors can help. Contact your nearest Oxford Learning Centre to book an appointment today!

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