Student writing a study plan for an exam

How to Create a Study Plan for Exams

Though in varying degrees, most students feel a sense of worry or even panic about final exams. It’s a completely natural sentiment, especially because most exams have a heavy impact on the final grade and would usually cover a wide range of topics. If you’re reading this, chances are you have an important exam coming up and you’ve chosen to take proactive steps to be prepared for it. It’s definitely a good place to start.

Keep reading to discover these life-saving final exam study tips that will help you pass with flying colours. Let’s dive right in!

Be Sure of the Scope

The first crucial step is to be absolutely sure about the topics that are to be covered in your final exam. Although knowing the ins and outs of a subject can be useful, you would want to be able to focus on the topic outline for the exam (if any) given out by your teacher or professor due to the limited time you might have for preparing for the exam.

Audit Your Learning Materials

Nothing can ruin a learner’s momentum more than not having the resources needed to prepare for the exam. As soon as you already know the scope of the exam, try to audit if you have all the needed books, handouts, PDFs, slides, and etc. Make sure that you have the notes for the times you may have been absent. This way, the moment you start studying, you will not be interrupted by any missing materials.

Students studying in a cafe

Know Your Hours and Create Your Blocks

How much time can you allocate to studying each day? Try to see how many hours you have left once you have deducted the hours for the other vital activities in your day. Try to take into account the hours for full sleep, meals, and other day-to-day activities.

As soon as you’ve figured out the number of hours you can devote to studying, plan out study blocks. You would need to have planned breaks as well. Planning your breaks will help make sure that you will steer clear of procrastinating into long breaks or having too many breaks.

If you don’t know how long your study blocks should be, you can give the Pomodoro Technique a try. This time management method breaks down tasks into 25-minute intervals. Doing so is said to increase productivity.

Prioritize Effectively

Some experts would suggest that easier subjects should go first on a study plan. But then again, you would want to make sure to prioritize the exams that are scheduled earlier, even if they are not easy to study. Because this would depend on factors like how much time you have and your own personal preference, we leave it to you to choose which works better for your situation.

Here is an additional point. In the study blocks you have already created, there are bound to be blocks that align with your highly productive hours. Each person tends to have specific hours when they are most productive. This has been roughly dubbed as “being a morning person” or “being a night owl.” You can refer to past experiences and figure out which times of the day you are usually the most productive. The reason why we are identifying these hours of high productivity is so that they can be allotted to more difficult subjects if you would like to increase your memory retention rate for those subjects.

Cut Up the Topics Into Logical (and Digestible) Chunks

The human mind has a high retention rate for information that is presented at the beginning and at the end. This is why it’s advisable to cut long topics into chunks – because then, there would be more beginning and end-topics. These chunks can be then allocated to the study blocks that you have planned.

When doing so, make sure that the divisions make sense and that the length of the material is digestible. You can cut up long topics based on categories (.e.g. Families in taxonomy), based on chronological order (e.g. time periods in history), and so on.

Find the Venues

“Venues” here is plural for a reason. By going to different (but conducive) study areas, you will be able to engage your senses more and therefore, be able to remember more effectively. You can switch up your study venues in places like the library, the coffee shop/s, the park, and even different parts of the house.

The only thing you need to make sure of is that each of the places you choose is quiet, relaxed, and is free of distractions. If you plan to move around different study venues, make sure to pack everything you need. To avoid analysis paralysis for each day that you will study, you can include these chosen venues in your study plan as well.

Get Creative

The more you can engage your senses in the material that you are studying, the more likely you will be able to remember the information. Though each of us has learning styles (e.g. visual learners, aural learners, verbal learners, kinesthetic learners), no one is truly 100% just one of these styles.

Therefore, be creative with your study approach. Use coloured markers, say the information out loud, use gestures, create drawings, make mind maps, use flashcards, and so on. For long strings of information, you can even use visualizations, acronyms, and mnemonic devices. In a nutshell, make it memorable, engaging, and fun for yourself.

Student going to the library in preparation for an exam

Plan Rewards

Along with the breaks, it’s important that you reward yourself every now and then.

Set up rewards for milestones that you were able to accomplish like when you get through half of a long topic outline or when you finish studying for one difficult subject. The human mind has natural reward systems in place (i.e. a feeling of accomplishment) whenever a task is completed but having these rewards will add to this and will give you something a little extra to look forward to.

Plan the Second Waves

Reviewing your materials once is often not enough to have maximum retention. Once you are done with a topic or subject, make sure to go over everything at least once more just to cement everything in your memory.

But here’s the caveat, you need to do this a day or more after you’ve finished studying the material the first time. Having a long break between reviewing a material initially and then going over it again increases the retention of the information. So when you create your study plan, make sure to schedule these second-wave (or even third-wave or fourth-wave) reviews as well.

Get Studying!

We hope that you found these tips on how to create an effective study plan for exam season helpful!

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