Create a Study Plan for Your Schedule

June 07, 2019 0 Comments

You have a test coming up.

You have a book of material you need to read, a pile of notes to write, and information to memorize. Meanwhile, you have a job to work, a dog that needs walking, and dinner is burning on the stove. You need to pass your test, but with a million things to do all at once, it seems as though the only thing you can concentrate on is how quickly your test date is approaching.

A study schedule can be a powerful tool to solve the number of problems at hand and the associated feelings of being overwhelmed. A schedule can keep your goals, both short term and long term, in check and on track for your exam.

Sort out your priorities and responsibilities.

While you may have a limited amount of time until your exam, every test taker should have a reasonable amount of time available to dedicate towards acing their test. Studying should be a priority for your spare time. If you compile a list of your daily and weekly responsibilities only to realize that you barely have spare time, you are going to need to prioritize your activities.

It is important that you recognize what responsibilities you have that cannot be changed. Even when something so important such as an upcoming exam needs to take precedence, certain factors of your living should not change to accommodate your study routine. No test taker should be sacrificing their health by losing sleep, skipping the gym, missing meals, or consistently drinking caffeine to provide time for studying. Similarly, no study-goer should be neglecting other important tasks by quitting their job or ignoring family obligations. Evaluating your list of responsibilities and prioritizing certain tasks is going to require serious considerations and potential sacrifices, but keeping the end goal in mind will help manage the stress.

Remember, you don’t need to sacrifice health for studying. Instead, consider your options for balancing a healthy lifestyle with your obligations and study habits. Do not lose sleep or drink copious amounts of coffee, but think about waking up an hour or two earlier than normal to get in quality study time. Drink a cold glass of water to kick things into gear early in the morning. While no one is awake in your house you can sit down at your study to make the most out of the time that is available to you.

Similarly, don’t kick your active lifestyle for the books. Research shows that physical activity is a proven method to increase your mood and concentration levels. Consider mixing in alternative forms of activity to help accommodate a stretched schedule. Instead of working out five days a week as usual, perhaps cut it down to four. In lieu of your workout, take a yoga break on your fifth day during your study session to provide time and promote concentration.

Taking a moment to meal prep is another alternative to keep a quality lifestyle. It may seem as though meal prepping has the opposite effect on your tight schedule, but a moment in the kitchen to prepare a few salads is a valuable option in comparison to cooking every meal or worse, fast food. Keep in mind that healthy, vitamin-rich foods promote long-term satisfaction which help your focus, too. These options help promote the retention of your material without sacrificing your health, and instead, support it.

And following through with this course of action may seem difficult, especially when it comes time to evaluate factors such as your work or family life. We understand that work and contributing towards your family probably take up a large majority of your time. So these circumstances may need longer times to reflect on. However, it is possible to be flexible. Keeping in mind your financial flexibility, you may be able to ask your part-time job to give you one less shift for a few weeks. Familial duties could be passed on to other family members until your exam date. Asking for help along with a combination of schedule adaptations could be a key difference in accommodating a study schedule.

Look ahead to your exam date.

You’ve reasoned with your current schedule and have concluded that you can commit your time to preparing for your exam. The next step is to create a schedule that consistently paces progress up until your exam date. If you haven’t started studying, you should be looking at dates at least four weeks or approximately one month away. Depending on your exam, there is a likely chance that there is a large amount of material to review and you’ll need a test date further out than just four weeks. If your exam is sooner than that, you may need to reassess how practical it seems to take the test. Even if your schedule can accommodate a large amount of cramming, the mental overload is likely to be too much. An essential portion of studying is reviewing your content and giving yourself time to truly retain the information. Completing that task at an accelerated rate may seem doable, but the intensity of cramming sets students up for failure. Your goal is to achieve a high score on the first, and potentially your only attempt, on the exam. You want to avoid situations of mental burn out before you even sit for it.

Don’t have an exam date, yet?

Look at when potential exam dates are and approximate when you would want to take it. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to cover each subject area of your test, complete practice exams, as well as comprehensive review. If your exam is covering four subject areas, approximate that you can study each subject for a week and add another week to insert your review days. This would give you an exam date about five weeks away. However, if your daily schedule cannot accommodate long or daily study sessions during the week, consider pushing the exam date if you can only truly study on weekends. And don’t forget to consider when you need your scores by. Is an employer waiting on these results or is a program application dependent on your scores? How long does it take to get the results back? If you don’t achieve your minimum score, will you have enough time for a retake?

Simultaneously, you can assess the amount of material you need to review. This is going to take a little more effort, as you need to be familiar with the content that will be on the test. Smart Edition recommends taking a diagnostic test to help you sort out what you know and do not know. This will also help you prioritize what material you should be studying first and dedicating the majority of your time towards improving. And even if you feel 100% confident in one subject over another, you should still set aside some time to review and familiarize yourself with the question styles of the subject. The diagnostic test will just be demonstration of how you should divide your time.

If you are following a trend of dedicating approximately one week towards studying one subject, consider what your diagnostic test scores revealed. If you scored well in one subject area, perhaps take away a few days of that week to apply the time towards a subject area you have initially scored poorly on. The amount of time you have dedicated to studying is the same, but the exchange of subject dividing will be more beneficial.

When you create a schedule, make it visible.

If you’ve read our article on learning styles, you know the value of having visual components to enhance your studying. In similar fashion, having a visual representation of your goals will serve as a reminder to help pace yourself appropriately. It can serve multiple purposes because it will remind you both of what you must do, but also the progress you make along the way. If you get satisfaction from checking items off of your To-Do list, make it a point to do so on your calendar. Or convert your calendar into your very own check list. The key factor is that you write it down and hang it up somewhere for consistent accountability.

To help divide your schedule and keep a consistent pace, Smart Edition recommends creating a calendar that stays consistent with a studying pattern. You’ve already taken a diagnostic test and have prioritized the subject order you need to study. Looking at the days that you’ve marked on a calendar or longer study sessions and recognizing how you will complete your more active/daily studying, stick to a guidebook to know how you will tackle each area.

Complete one chapter of material by reading it, taking notes, and answering a practice quiz to ensure your retention of the it. If you need to find additional resources such as diagrams or videos to emphasize a topic, do so and have those for quick reference on your review days. Continue this process chapter by chapter and when you have finished a subject, insert a review day to comprehensively digest the material. As a final step, complete the subject section of a full-length exam to test your knowledge. Review your answers to make notes of any potential areas for review and to truly understand the material. Carry on with this pattern of studying and adjust it as needed. Use flashcards for on-the-go studying to keep up a consistent retention of the lessons. After you’ve completed the process for each subject, take time to review all of your notes. When you’re ready, simulate a full-length test. This can help reduce anxious feelings when it comes time to test. The key is to keep a consistent pace, and let your practice questions be the foundation for guiding your studying.

Read next

Preparing for Your Test

How to Study Effectively

Focus Strategies