One way to get better grades is to think about how you think, according to one very smart person.

It sounds like a shortcut to a headache, but it’s a theory worth paying attention to. It’s called metacognition, and Patricia Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford, told Quartz:

All too often, students just jump mindlessly into studying before they have even strategized what to use, without understanding why they are using each resource, and without planning out how they would use the resource to learn effectively

She says this approach hinders them from learning and performing well, but that they can be easily taught metacognition.

Chen recently conducted a study where she offered students prompts to help them think about how they studied, and how they could do so more effectively.

They were tasked with thinking about what grade they wanted to achieve, how important that was to them, and how likely they were to achieve it in 15 minutes. They were then prompted to think about what questions might be on the exam, and what resources might help them

Compared to a control group who weren’t given any prompts, this group performed half a grade better. They also reported having less stress before the exam, and more control over their performance.

Educational charity Education Endowment Foundation says that metacognition involves setting goals and monitoring your own performance.

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