Top habits of top students

21 Oct 2017


The toppers in any school or class are popularly considered as nerds or geeks, those who don’t get noticed until there is a test or it is exam time. Then everyone envies their flair in acing the papers and getting all the awards.

Despite trying to be as discreet as possible in our admiration, we do get impressed by how they make it seem so easy to get top grades while most of us struggle for B and C grades. We all wish to score like them, but feel it’s their higher IQ or special genes that give the super tests-acing powers to them.

Well, that’s right, their grey cells probably have a turbo mechanism but more than that, it is their positive mindset and habits that help them achieve academic success.

They are in the habit of doing all the right things at the right time and avoiding anything that can shift their focus from their goals. They take a lot of small positive steps, all the time, and they steadily move towards their destination. They are like seasoned marathon runners, the ultra-marathoners, who set a steady pace from the start and even after hours on the track, they keep going steady until the finishing line.

The rest of the ordinary denizens of the class too can do well and excel if they just pay attention to the productive habits of top graders. Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for success, it is within everyone’s reach, provided they are ready to go the extra mile, or rather, run a marathon.

finishing line. The rest of the ordinary denizens of the class too can do well and excel if they just pay attention to the productive habits of top graders. Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula for success, it is within everyone’s reach, provided they are ready to go the extra mile, or rather, run a marathon.

So here we will discuss some habits of high achievers that can make everyone do well in studies, and, in the process, learn a few things that we can avoid if we want to do better than before.

Don’t wait for motivation

Motivation is not going to come to you until you make the effort to get it. You need to find reasons to become motivated to study well and get better grades than before. And a good way to motivate yourself is to visualise success.

Use your power of daydreaming to see yourself as a top grader in your school, getting into the best college and university, and becoming a successful professional. You are bound to feel good. Use this adrenaline-boost to motivate yourself to work harder, study intensely and be the best you can be.

You can’t wait for motivation to strike. Successful people take hold of their present to march towards their goals, because they know that the perfect moment is now — or never. If you keep waiting for the next test, the next exam or the next class to take positive actions and work harder, you will always have an excuse about why you can’t start today and you will never start. Just do it!

Don’t resist change

You need to be ready to change if you want your results to change. Don’t fear change, because change is the only constant. Nothing remains the same, and to evolve, especially into a better person and better student, you must be willing to change your study habits. Change is required for self-improvement in all spheres of life.

Move out of your comfort zone, take on new challenges and don’t be afraid to fail. These are what you need to be proactive and productive. Get rid of your ego or any fear that is stopping you from changing your fruitless habits for some fruitful ones. Don’t be afraid to be called a geek or a bookworm — a high-achieving geek is better than a failure with a lot of swag.

Take personal responsibility for studying

Every student is responsible for their own studies and education. It is not the responsibility of your teachers or your school, their responsibility is to teach you, yours is to learn. It is not your parents’ responsibility to make you study because only you can make yourself study.

You will only be successful if you want to be so. So become responsible for your grades as the marks you get are yours and yours alone, so the task of studying is yours alone too.

Lectures are your lifelines

While weak or mediocre students focus on the boring aspects of a lecture, the top ones are like detectives, keeping their attention focused to look out for clues to get to the wealth of knowledge hidden in each lesson.

They don’t let themselves get distracted by gossips, giggles or glances. This is why all toppers know what the teacher said and did in each class while the rest of the class knows what they said and did in a class. So do you want to stay updated on class gossip or class topics?

Anything discussed during a class is important, and topics and problems discussed in detail are very, very important. Teachers also drop hints about topics and sections they will be testing students on and such hints before an upcoming exam are not to be missed.

Therefore, in the class, always bring your related textbooks and notebooks, note important points and examples, underline important terms and sections in the textbook. All these are productive ways of attending a lecture. And do try to sit in the front rows so as not to get distracted by others, and to hear the teacher and see the board clearly.

Make your own notes

Good students go through the class lecture notes, notes given by the teacher, the textbook and other study material, and consolidate and organise them into their own individual notes.

By doing this you will be studying all these and by the time you have completed your notes, you would have understood and learnt most of the stuff. And when the exam time comes, you will not find it hard to understand and learn your notes because you have written them after understanding them!


The top position is above all others, so it requires an effort that is more than that of others. Toppers don’t just study to learn, but they study to over-learn. Yes, “over-learn”. This sounds insane, doesn’t it?

Well, it really isn’t. Let me explain, by over-learning I mean making the effort to learn more about any topic and not relying on ‘memorising’ more because we can only memorise a limited amount of things. However, the learning process is a life-long one, so you should focus on being interested in knowing how to solve a problem, why a certain formula is used in solving it and the steps required, rather than just memorising the steps without understanding them. Learning and knowledge stays with us for long while our memory can fail.

The purpose of everything that tops students do is to learn something new or more about something they already know. They watch TV programmes that add to their knowledge, play word and strategy games, take online quizzes, read lots of books and all their discussions are centred around sharing information and knowledge.

By frequent processing and absorption of information, their brain becomes sharper and quicker. The brain is a wonderful organ, the more it is used, the better it gets. And if the most you use your brain for is to decide what to wear, eat or comment on your social media account, your grey cells are going to get sluggish and rusty.

Apply your knowledge

Knowledge, when applied, becomes reinforced and lasting. This is especially true about technical subjects and skills. Tops students apply and practice what they have learnt. Subjects such as maths, especially algebra and calculus, and language, need practice for active application of rules and formulas.

Practice under test conditions

Good students don’t rely on only doing all the regular assignments and learning their course, they test themselves too. To make tests and exams pressure become easier to handle, especially answering question under time restrictions, they attempt practice test questions and past exam papers. This is done with all books closed and time limits set.

Repeated self-testing shows them their weak areas and help in retaining things longer. In addition, past exam papers are great for learning how questions can be formed and how they need to be solved.

Study your mistakes

Doing corrections of question done incorrectly in the class and tests is important in order to not repeat it later on in mid-terms or final exams. Mistakes also show our weak areas and what we need to work harder on.

Ask for help

Successful students use all means to improve themselves, even if it means asking for help from teachers, seniors and their fellow students. Staying silent when you don’t understand a lecture is not going to make you seem smarter because when it will come to answering questions about it, you will be stuck. So ask for help when you are lost.

These are well-known ways of doing well at studies and in other things in life, I am sure all of you are smart and already know all that has been discussed. You just need to put these secrets of success into practice — and start from today. Good luck!

Published in Dawn, Young World, October 21st, 2017