How to Get an A* - What I Did (In Month 2)

If you're new here *Oh hey there, newbie!*, to summarise, the A* grade challenge is a journal where I record my pursuit in achieving top grades, pushing myself further and learning more.

And because this is a goal that SO many people want to achieve, I thought 'why not share what I'm doing with others, and they can learn from my successes and failures too'. 

So I create an update on what I'm doing to meet this challenge every month (if you're interested in improving your own grades, you can join in more actively here).

Here's a brief outline of the ups and downs for last month (December):


  • I boosted my motivation by using the following techniques: Visualisation, dream collages and listening to motivational speeches twice a day
  • I organised my subjects by creating tracking sheets
  • And used a free 'deadline-setting' service ( to get an A in my Psychology practice exam
  • I'm beginning to struggle with a procrastination issue (and have come up with a bizzare but suprisingly effective solution - the '5 Minute Studying Challenge')
  • I'm still finding the use of a traditional studying timetable challenging

I've tried to make this post in the A* Grade Challenge series a lot more in-depth, including step-by-step details on what techniques I'm using, along with videos and pictures to illustrate it, so it will be a more valuable resource for you.

So off we go, here's last months what-to-do and what-NEVER-to-do list when studying:

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Things I did that worked well:

1) Boosting my motivation

A video by Robin Sharma that I watched a while ago, who's the guru of all things success, was about how he beat procrastination. 

Because if we really think about it, we don't procrastinate because we're genuinely busy.

I, and many others, procrastinate out of fear and discomfort (like the thought of studying instead of watching that REALLY EXCITING UNMISSABLE NEW TV SHOW *gasp*) - But it's time to let that go.

And so I found some of the techniques he talked about, specifically creating a dream collage, useful in terms of 'tactics' to deal with de-motivation (which you can watch below). 

It essentially involves using pictures that represent your dream life or you achieving your goals, and putting them together as a collage in your planner or diary - something that you'll look at everyday. 

It works not only by reminding you of WHY you're doing something, but also on a more subconscious level.

Which is significant - after all, 95% of your mind is run by the subconscious, and only 5% by the conscious. 

So if we want to stop the mental conflict we're having about a goal (i.e. "I really want to study right now, BUT, Doctor Who is on"), we should try and influence that 95%, because hello, it's looking pretty important.

And that 95% works using visuals (aka pictures). 

So by feeding it those pictures of your goals every day, you begin to alter your mind, and therefore your behaviour.

To really amp up the effects though, I also use visualisation techniques (where you visualise your goals mentally on a regular basis) and listen to motivational speeches twice a day (once in the morning on the way to school, and once on the way home)

I do this to INFLUENCE myself, by exposing myself to empowering, motivational messages day in and day out. 

You'd be surprised at just how massive the effects of someone's' influence is.

After all, if you're around lazy, unmotivated people, their ways of being and beliefs will become really infectious.

And let's compare that to you being surrounded in a competitive, motivating environment with a whole bunch of people who are driven, focused and high aspiring.

Will being around these 2 types of people have different effects on you?


One group will leave you feeling unmotivated, and the other will inspire you to take action and succeed.

And I know which group I'd want to be around.

But sometimes these people are pretty hard to find in person. 

So I listen to their videos, read their books and blogs to get exposed to their beliefs and messages instead.

And it is HANDS DOWN, the MOST powerful thing I've done to change my attitudes and behaviour.

Here's a small selection of the kind of stuff I'm listening to at the moment:

2) Making tracking sheets for each subject

Ok - so you've got some exams coming up. 

But you're not sure exactly what you'll need to know.

Well then, it's time you met my friend Specification, he'll tell you EXACTLY what you need to learn for the course.


I spent a good few hours across 2 days making tracking sheets for all of my subjects, that included the material I needed to learn (copy and pasted straight from the specification - as you can see above).

I included a column where I talked about what Mr. Very Important Specification *ehm. Has the message been drummed home yet?* told me to learn.

I would then tick a box in the second column once I'd read about that topic.

Then once I'd made notes on it, I'd tick the third column.

And finally, I would make a small tick in the final column whenever I had memorised the topic the 1st time. Then a second tick, for when I memorised it AGAIN, and so on.

From studying Memory (in Psychology) I know that in order to store information into our long term memories, we need to keep rehearsing it.

And after reading 'How to Pass Exams', I discovered a great new system to rehearse information, which is:

  1. When you memorize the topic, rehearse it IMMEDIATELY (so get a blank piece of paper and, without looking, write down EVERYthing that you remember immediately) - then check what you remembered (have you missed anything?), and put 1 tick in the 'Palace rehearsed' column
  2. Then 24 hours later, rehearse it again - add 1 more tick
  3. Then 1 week later, rehearse it again - add 1 more tick
  4. After a month, rehearse it again - add 1 more tick
  5. After 3 months, rehearse it again - add 1 more tick
Just make sure you keep a note of when the next 'rehearsal date' is.

And the ticks on the tracking sheet will help you identify what information needs rehearsing, and when (eg. 24 hours later, or 1 month later etc, depending on how many ticks the topic has in the 'palace rehearsed' column)

FYI - I've named it the 'palace rehearsed' column because when I memorize information, I use the Method of Loci, and create a 'memory palace', which needs to be rehearsed. 

In addition to the tracking sheet, I made flashcards on the assessment objectives for each subject (this is the criteria the people marking your exam papers will be looking for when giving a paper a good grade).

Now that I've done these 2 things, I feel MUCH more organised with what I'm doing. 

Plus, rather than being in the situation where I sit on my butt ready to revise but have NO idea where to start, I'll just look at the tracking sheet to see:

a) What have I not read/made notes on yet

b) What material needs memorising

And hey ho, I can get straight on with it, rather than wasting time aimlessly trying to find work to do.

3) Using to create deadlines

So a while ago I ran into this website called Stickk, which helps you achieve your goals by:

A) Making you create a deadline for tasks you need to complete

B) Putting some pressure on you to do it, by creating consequences for not achieving it. Which you do by putting money on yourself. I tend to put $8 (so about £5ish) as my consequence, which can go to a charity/anti-charity/a friend.

C) *An optional bit* you can get someone, a friend or family member, to be your 'referee'. They'll check that you've ACTUALLY done the work, and report back to Stickk. If both you and they say you've achieved it, you won't lose your money.

So far it's been really useful.

I used it to force myself into learning my Psychology Unit 2 course and did a test paper on it, in which I got an A (I got 59/69)!

It's my first high A of the term and has really boosted my confidence.

But there was just ONE little hiccup using this service in the beginning: 

The first time I used Stickk to set a goal, I actually failed. 

But because I didn't have a referee, I (guiltily) let myself say that I HAD achieved it, because I didn't want to lose my money. *bad Sanam*

So in the future I'll be roping in a friend to be my referee, so I can't pull another sneaky tactic like that again, which is so counter productive!

Things I struggled with this month:

1) Sticking to a traditional studying timetable

A piece of paper that says 'at 6:43pm I will do Physics. At 7:28pm I will do English' just dosen't work for me. 

I either forget I even have the studying sessions, or once I mess up the first slot (by going over the allotted time for example), I feel lost for the rest of the day and give up on it. 

How I'm going to tackle this:

I'm going to try out this fixed schedule productivity technique from Ramit - he advices:

"Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit - ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, become hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way."
So for me:
All crucial work will take place between 8.30am and 6.30pm. After which I'm free to do whatever I want (which is getting stuck into some new books I bought, starting to exercise and watching the new Revenge series!)

2) Fear and discomfort led me to the DREADED world of Procrastination

So 2 weeks ago, I created a deadline in order to get my Psychology Unit 2 work done and dusted (which I mentioned above). 

Except here's the mistake I made:

I put a HUGE stack of papers I needed to memorise on my desk - to complete within a day.

I thought I could do it, but when I woke up the next morning to get started, it terrified the fudge out of me.

So I avoided it. 

TV and Pinterest became my best friends for the week, which only made me feel stressed out throughout the day at the thought of attempting the work, and guilty for NOT doing anything.

And hey ho, there I was wrapped up in the world of procrastination.

And it just made me feel - like a piece of turd, people.

How I'm going to tackle this:

About a week later I ran into Stephens' blog, where he talked about having similar problems with his workout regime.

He talked about how he really wanted to stick to his intense but beneficial workout routine, but just felt paralysed by the amount of work involved, and ran away from it. 

It really resonated with me (minus the fitness of course - I am queen of 'no exercise in about a year' after all).

But you know what his solution was? 

The completely BIZARRE 1 Push up Challenge.

He decided in order to start becoming fit, he would commit to doing just ONE push up a day. 

Not 20, not 100. Just 1.

*I can just SEE your 'is this guy STUPID?!' faces right now*

And I know what you must be thinking (I did too, initially) - ONE push up? That's worthless.

But the idea is that when you commit to doing something as easy and quick as one push up, you're resistance to exercising drops significantly. 

Then once you've done that one pushup, you're like, heck that was easy. 

I'll just do another pushup, and maybe another one... 

Before you know it, you've done more than you thought you were capable of.

Now let's compare that to an overcommitment of 'I'll do 100 push ups today, complete 150 crunches, and run in the park for 30 minutes, then get out the bike and cycle for another 30 minutes" - in which case your minds resistance is WAY UP HERE, and you just avoid exercising ENTIRELY.

You see, there IS a lot of logic behind the 1 push up challenge.

One VERY important thing that you need to keep it mind though, in the words of Stephen, is that:

"If you believe that it is worthless unless you do more than one push up, you have undermined the power behind what makes this work! This means you need to be willing to do just one push up and be 100% satisfied with it. Anything extra is in bonus land. You can't think bigger yet."
After hearing his idea, I thought it was GENIUS. 

And definitely transferable to other areas of our life - like studying.

I hear SO much about how people want to work, but find the workload really daunting, and never bother.

So I decided to extend Stephens idea to the world of school, and created the 5 Minute Studying Challenge, which you can read about in full here.

Now I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below:

  • What grades are you aiming for?
  • And what ONE thing could you implement, from the ideas above, into your own studies?

A* Grade Challenge Series so far:
Month 1 
Month 2 - that's this post!
Month 3

Image courtesy of Collage Vintage

Want to Join 13,900 Students in Learning How to Crush Procrastination, the Fear of Failure and Fear of What Others Think? 

Get Bi-Monthly Email Updates with Actionable Advice on Overcoming these 3 Mental Barriers to Achievement:

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  1. Hi! I'd like to become a contributor at your Pinterest group: SImply Chic.

    Plese see my profile:

    Thanks! xxx

    1. Hey Laura,

      Sure, I'll send you an invite now :) (Oh and please check out the community board rules before pinning - they're in the board descriptions) :) x

  2. Great post!

    I just started my spring semester of uni this week and I really like what you have posted. From this post, I plan to use the motivational speeches as well as the 5 Minute Study Challenge and possibly the tracking sheet. That sounds pretty interesting. I think that it might be able to work for my history class! Great post! Looking forward to more as well as hopefully reporting back to you with some good news of my own!

    -- Ciara ^_^

    1. Hey Ciara,

      Thanks so much, I'm glad it was helpful :D

      And that sounds like a great plan, good luck! I'm looking forward to hearing your progress :)

      What subjects are you studying at uni then, is it a full major in history? :) x

  3. after reading your post, I just didi the 5 minute challenge that turned into an hour of work! + a 1min plank lol

    1. That's absolutely brilliant! Keep up the great work ;)

  4. Hey love your blog was wondering how you revised in the month before your exams and the evenings before etc, im slightly stressing because most of my exams are consecutively after eachother so im struggling to figure out how i should go about this especially as im retaking some exams! any advise will be sincerely appreciated!

    1. Hey Anon,

      Good luck with your exams!

      Planning your studying (eg. knowing specifically what you need to do and when) will be really helpful. Perhaps try keeping a weekly to-do list with all the topics you want to make notes on and revise listed, and then assign each task to a certain day so that you know when to get them done.

      I also made a post about how to revise 1 month before an exam which will hopefully be helpful to you:

      What exams have you got coming up?


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