The amount of material you need to know for exams can often be overwhelming. Trying to figure out what to study, and when, especially when you have multiple exams to write is stressful. Having a study schedule can keep you organized and help you feel more prepared. However, even making a study schedule can sometimes be overwhelming in itself. These are my steps to making an exam study schedule.
This post is all about how to make your own exam study schedule.
I usually start with a schedule like this about a month out from exams.
1. Make a list of what you need to study
Start by making a list of what topics you need to know for your exam(s).
If you are taking multiple classes identify what the main topics are for each class. If you know how much a topic will be worth on your exam, make a note of that. Otherwise judge how much time you need for each topic based on how much content there is or how well you think you know the material.
For my med school we are given learning outcomes for all the material we cover. Then everything we are taught is covered on two written exams and two practicals, rather than separate exams for each class. The number of learning outcomes for a given topic roughly equal the percentage of the exam that will be on that topic. I use these percentages to determine how much time I need to dedicate to each topic.
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2. Make an overview schedule
You can download my study schedule template which includes both a monthly and weekly view. Use the monthly view to make and overview schedule leading all the way up to your exams. The calendar is blank so fill in the dates that you need. Then fill out the exam breakdown with your key topics
Add in key dates
Next add in your exam dates, and times. Also add in any times where you won’t be able to study – work, classes you still have, and extra-circulars.
Divide up your time
Next I use my list of topics to guide how I will divide up my time. for my monthly schedule I work in half day blocks. As a general rule I don’t spend more than half a day at a time on a single topic. This helps keep me from getting bogged down on one topic as well as helps me spread my time evenly between different topics/classes.
Figure out how many half days you have until each exam and then divide them amongst the topics using your exam breakdown to guide you. So if you have 40 half days until your exam and you want to spend 10% of you time one one topic, then you schedule in 4 half days for that topic.
If you have multiple classes either divide up your time between them evenly or base it on how much the exam is worth out of you final grade. For example if you have one class where your exam is worth 70% of your grade and one where its worth 40% of your grade you may want to give more time to the exam thats worth more.
Once you’ve determined how many days you are giving to each topic/class you can start scheduling in your blocks for each day. This schedule will act as an overview so you can see everything you need to do all the way up to your exams. I also make sure that I mix up the order in which I study each topic. ( In my undergraduate I would do this part just focusing on dividing my time between classes and then figure out the individual topics to cover within each block.
I literally just use a highlighter to colour in the blocks. You can print your template and fill it in that way or fill it in digitally.
Tip: Prioritize high yield topics
If you know something is more likely to be tested (key concept or was emphasized a lot in class) make it a priority.
I know this schedule looks overwhelming but its just to block out what the focus is for each day (Also I’m studying for 8 exams right now) . I have Sundays crossed out because that is my day off.
3. Make a weekly schedule
Now that you have an overview you can use it to make a weekly schedule each week as you go. The weekly schedule should be specific and have exactly what you want to do each day. Make sure that you are also scheduling in breaks each day. Try and take one full day off each week where you don’t do any studying.
If I have the whole day free then I schedule in about 8 hours (including breaks). If you have other things to do during the day then schedule your studying around that. The template goes from 8am to 7pm to be flexible for different people, please don’t schedule 11 hours of studying in a day.
Be flexible with your schedule, you might not end up sticking to it exactly but having a plan will help you from wasting half your time trying to decide what to do each day.
4. Get Studying!
That’s it now that you have your schedule its time to get studying. Good luck on your exams, you’ve got this!