How to Create a Smart Study Schedule

study schedule

As another exam season approaches, many students find themselves posed with the seemingly impossible task of creating a study schedule. We can all relate to the experience of carefully creating a study schedule at the beginning of exam week, only to find that our adherence to the plan wanes by the first or second day. So how can you create a study schedule that is both balanced and feasible? 

The dangers of cramming

None of us are above cramming. We have all done it, and, most of us, have regretted it. The problem with learning most of the math curriculum from the semester in one evening is that it likely won’t stick. Even if it does, you are doing yourself a disservice by depriving yourself of sleep the night immediately prior to your exam. Even you somehow manage to learn the methodology, you risk making careless errors out of exhaustion. 

The same dilemmas apply to written assignments. When you’ve put countless hours toiling over the research and angle of your history thesis, why sacrifice your deserved grade for a few grammatical errors? Avoiding cramming is easier said than done; still, I hope that these golden rules can help structure your study schedule and alleviate the stress surrounding finals preparations! 

1. Know what you don’t know

This rule is crucial to investigate, when it comes to studying, and when it comes to life in general. You don’t want to waste any of the valuable time that you have, especially when you are in crunch mode towards the end of the scholastic term. When studying, it can be tempting to focus on reviewing the material that you already know. Although this approach might boost confidence in the short term, it won’t do you any favors in the long term. Take a page and separate it into three columns: one for material you know very well, one for material that you know kind of well, and one for material that you don’t know well at all. 

2. Look at the syllabus

Remember that piece of paper that your professor mentioned at the beginning of the semester? That document is your best friend, when it comes to constructing a comprehensive study schedule. The syllabus should list all of the topics and subtopics that the professor deemed important enough to organize the trajectory of the course. Re-approaching the syllabus can also be useful for understanding the themes and big picture takeaways. You can sort the topics into your three columns. 

3. The rule of differentiation

The best way to stay alert is to organize your studying around differentiated, manageable tasks. I recommend spending a maximum of one hour at a time on any given subject. By switching between different subjects, you can keep up the momentum and hold yourself accountable. Give yourself achievable goals. For instance, in one hour of studying history, you might review one subtopic you know very well, two subtopics you know kind of well, and three subtopics that you don’t know well at all. As you progress through your schedule, make sure to devote an increasing percentage of your time to the subtopics that you don’t know well at all. 

When it comes to writing, try approaching take-home essays as you would in-class ones. Time yourself and don’t write for more than twenty five minutes at a time. Figure out how long it typically takes for you to write a standard two hundred and fifty word paragraph and plan accordingly. 

As it turns out, some of the best study advice is the simplest: get some rest and don’t self-sabotage through over-studying or over-stressing! The key to a successful study schedule is to study smart! The night before the exam should be reserved for review only. When it comes to writing, the night before a paper is due, should be reserved solely for editing. By starting to organize your study schedule a few weeks earlier than feels necessary, you can make your finals experience far more enjoyable and successful. 

About the Author

A. T.

A. T.

A.T. is an experienced tutor at Gooroo, a tutoring membership that matches students to tutors perfect for them based on their unique learning needs. Gooroo offers math, English, ESL, Spanish tutoring, and more.