In preparation for the coming semester, I started the year off by reading Cal Newport’s How to Become a Straight-A Student, a book about earning good grades while still having free time, and not pulling all-nighters. The tips he gives are pulled from the techniques of himself and other students, who he interviewed via questionnaire, who managed to do just that.
To sum up the theme of the book: “Plan ahead and don’t procrastinate.”
The book is broken into three sections, the first being on how to plan your day and avoid procrastination. The second section is specifically on how to schedule your study sessions in order to prepare for tests, and the third breaks down how to write papers. Each section ends with an example story to illustrate the method.
Now, I haven’t had the time to really test any of the techniques, but they make sense on paper, though he might lean towards optimistic time estimates.
Newport tended to hammer home the point that everyone he got quotes from were straight-A students. It felt like at least eighty percent of the time when he quoted someone, he would say they were a straight-A student, which felt excessive when he’d already stated that he only questioned straight-A students.
I wish he had added a few chapters on variations to the plans he laid out. I don’t how much he tested the various students’ plans, or if he just tried to pull out the common threads from their answers to his questionnaire. Either way I feel like it would have been interesting to see plans besides his, and seems like it would have only needed an extra chapter per section.
But as it is, the book is kept as a short, easy read, and I would recommend it to anyone in or soon to be in college, who is looking for a way to improve their grade. Whether they use any or all of the plans, the book is at least proof that it is possible to avoid last minute cramming.