Whenever I used to think about writing a study plan, I thought that it had to be this super in-depth schedule about exactly what I was going to study and when. The problem with this was that I was always terrible at sticking to an exact schedule because things always came up that I couldn’t predict. One small deviation and my plan completely fell apart.
Since finals are just around the corner for me, I thought it would be helpful for all you guys to share how I make my study plan now. I even have a printable study planner for you, so you can get right into studying!
It can be hard to know where to start studying for a subject. I always have this difficulty in math or computer science subjects, but it holds for all classes. Since you have a whole semester’s worth of studying to cover for the final exam, you want to make sure that you don’t miss anything. For me, a study plan is all about writing out what you need to study. I work much better with a checklist type plan than a schedule (plus, it has a lot more flexibility). When I have a clear idea of what I need to do, I can pick a starting point and go from there. A strong focused plan cuts out a lot of the procrastination and floundering that comes around during finals.
What do you need in your study plan?
I divide up my study plans by class. Having a separate plan for each class helps with prioritisation and visualisation of where your effort is going. This way you can easily see the classes that need more work and which ones you are prepared for.
Now, for each class you want to make a list of all the topics or chapters you have covered in the course. Any large topics can even be broken down into a few smaller sub-topics. Once you have your list, ask yourself these questions:
- Have you written notes for this topic?
- Have you revised this topic?
- Are you confident in this topic?
The aim of this study plan is to be able to answer YES to all these questions before the exam. The checklist is for your own benefit, so if you aren’t confident in something, don’t mark it off. Consider what you need to do to feel more confident about your knowledge of that topic so you can say “Yes! I am confident in this topic and I will totally nail that exam!”
Once you have a list of topics, you can start studying anywhere you like. Since you have a good focus of what to cover before the exam, you’ll know exactly how much work you should do to feel prepared. Tick off the questions as you go for each topic. Starting a study plan early in the semester means you can add topics and write notes for them as you learn each week. It makes it way easier to start your revision when you’re prepared in advance!
Every study plan needs a place to write down questions
I always love to attach a questions section to my study plan, because it’s a key part of learning. There are always going to be things that you might find difficult or still not understand even after reading the textbook. If you come across any questions or difficulties, write them down. Instead of ignoring them, you are going to actively seek out answers. It might be a case of asking your lecturer to clarify something, or studying a topic further before you fully grasp the concept. By writing them down you are ensuring that any gaps in your knowledge are addressed before the exam. When I write down a question after a day of studying, often when I continue the next day I answer my own question, or a concept I thought I didn’t understand becomes a lot clearer. Try putting your questions on post it notes and sticking them somewhere that you can clearly see them. As you answer each question, you can eliminate the post it note and make room for other questions.
If you are trying to answer YES to the confidence question but you aren’t quite convinced, think about why you aren’t confident in that topic. It may be because you haven’t done enough revision, but it also might be that you are having some difficulties with a small part of it. Write it down so you can find an answer and have full confidence that you know the topic inside and out.
A checklist of past papers is super useful!
Past papers are so important! Don’t overlook them. Having the knowledge is great, but knowing how to apply that knowledge in exam style questions will drastically improve your preparation. In my study plan, I always like to have a list of the past papers that I can use to practice, and mark them off as I complete them. It gives me a good idea of how much preparation I’ve done. It’s also a great way to find out anything that you still have questions about.
I have a wonderful, classic style, printable study planner available at The Cosmic Road Resource Library for you. It includes all the sections mentioned in this post on a single A4 page. You can list your topics (and check off notes, revision and confidence), make a checklist of past papers, write down any questions that you have, and there is even an “Other Notes” section for anything else you want to add. It’s got everything covered! Since it all fits onto one page, you can have a quick look to get a good overview of your plan.
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