The 15 Min Stanford Study Hack To Get You That A

Finals have returned and I can already sense the impending doom. This summer, I read about a study hack that in just 15 minutes could be the difference between a B+ and an A. So this finals season, I am putting it to the test, and hopefully so can you!

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Finals week is arguably the most stressful period of the quarter and lucky for us, we get three sets of them. With reading period starting and only so many days before the dreaded economics exam, I am always looking for ways to make the most out of the limited studying time.

I came across this article about a study by Stanford researchers that claimed to raise student exam grades from B+ to A- in less than 15 minutes and I was intrigued.

The Study

In an introductory statistics class, a randomized half the class was asked to take a 15 minute survey on the final exam they were about to take. Questions covered the grade the students wanted on the exam and how important it was to them, then shifted to ask how the students would use the available resources to study. This created a kind of study plan for the students.

The control group received a reminder of the exam. After the test, the students who took the survey did about ⅓ of a letter grade better than students who didn’t. Those students who took the survey before also reported feeling “more self-reflective about their learning throughout the class” and used their resources more effectively.

The study fits well into an increase in studies that suggest that metacognition, the process of self-reflecting on the quality of work, can be one of the best interventions to close the achievement gap.

So How Will I Apply It?

I’m already a huge fan of self-reflecting on the quality of my work. I’d credit reviewing my goals and analyzing my effort towards them with my marathon and my (somewhat) improved grades.

I also take the time to plan out every hour of my finals week in advance so I can make sure I survive the week (and still sleep). Here is my plan from winter quarter finals.

The component that the study includes, which is not currently a part of my process, is the breakdown of my studying resources. I usually list the actions I need to take like problem sets and practice tests to review, but I don’t think about how I could use other resources like Office Hours and review sessions. This quarter, I’m going to follow the study in listing every resource I have available to me, and how it would be helpful to learn the material.

Although the starting questions about the grade the student expected to get on the test and the importance of the test to the student were used to control for differences in motivation between the two student groups, I’ve never really done this before so I will include it in my process.

How Can You Apply It

Ask yourselves these questions based on the ones in the survey for each of your classes.

  1. What grade do you want to get on the exam?
  2. How important is it that you get this grade? (1-10)
  3. How likely do you think you are to get this grade?
  4. What kind of questions do you think could be on the exam?
  5. Make a list of the resources available to you.
    1. Why would each resource be helpful?
    2. How would you use each resource?
    3. How much time will each resource take?
  6. Make a study plan.
    1. Which resources do you have time to use?
    2. Which resources would be most helpful?
    3. Integrate your other classes into the plan.

I’m not the only one that plans out their finals week way in advance. My econ study partner, Storm is always on his game, planning way ahead for the exam. “Coming to college, I was totally under the assumption that I could master any exam with only a day or two to prep. Now in my 3rd year, I know that I must set aside 3-4 entire days to study for an Econ exam. While I had to learn this the hard way, you can skip right to productivity by planning out your finals studying at least a week before! Doing this puts you in control of your finals week, while also making yourself feel super put-together (even though you haven’t started doing any work).”


Storm also keeps a log of his studying, so that if he doesn’t get to finish the work allotted, he can reallocate it to somewhere else in the week.


Do you plan out your studying?

Let me know on Instagram @xoxorosana.blog and on Twitter @xoxorosana_blog

Good Luck!

Xoxo, Rosana

Hello! My name is Rosana Rabines! I'm a student, stationery enthusiast, and runner constantly reorganizing my life to make the most of my college experience in Chicago.


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