Creating a study plan can help set you up for success by spacing out your study sessions to maximize your learning and perform your best on exams. Research shows that spending the same number of hours in shorter study sessions over multiple days or weeks is more effective for remembering and mastering your content than cramming those same study hours into one or two days.
Check out our visual resource for "Designing Your Exam Study Plan" below!
Keys to Study Planning
- Prepare - figure out what you need to know
- Review- make sure you know the material
- Switch up your study strategies
1. Preparing study materials is an active process where you can identify, organize and consolidate your material.
- When preparing each chunk of material, don’t passively re-write your lecture notes or re-read and highlight your textbook - take the content and create your own study aid that you can use to review or practice the following day, like a study guide, flashcards, concept map, or practice exam questions.
- Try using the SQ4R method to make your reading time double up as a study guide creating time. Twice the outcome in half the time!
2. Reviewing your material is also an active process in which you can figure out how much you actually know and what you may need to continue to work on.
- For the review stage, try testing yourself using any study materials you’ve created like flash cards or practice questions.
- Study with a partner or a group and quiz each other.
3. Switch up your study strategies. Using different preparation and review strategies during shorter study sessions spread over more extended periods can help you effectively retain the information and perform better on exams.
Check out the following list of strategies for some ideas that you can mix and match in your study sessions:
Identify, organize, and consolidate course material
Self-test and evaluate your learning
Explain concepts from your study guide aloud or to others (without looking at your materials!)
Make flashcards (paper or online, e.g. Quizlet)
Use flashcards to test your knowledge
Work problem sets or examples (no looking at answer keys!)
Develop concept maps or charts
Replicate your concept map from memory
Take self-tests (try to mimic test conditions if you can)
Make a list of 20 topics that could be on the exam. Be able to explain why you think they might be on the test.
Recite from memory (better yet, tell your pet or roommate) your list of 20 topics that could be on the exam.
List the steps in a complex process or develop a flow chart
Outline answers to expected essay or long answer questions from memory
Write a full sample essay
Answer questions at the end of the chapter (that weren’t assigned as homework)
Work the problems that you missed on quizzes, homework, or questions at the end of the textbook chapter
Prepare material for a study group
Explain material to group members or study partners
Create your Five-Day Study Plan
A five-day study plan can help you plan ahead to prepare for exams in multiple courses; however, five days would be the recommended minimum, and ideally, you would extend this plan over more days if possible.
When creating a plan, consider the number of days you have left until the exam date, how many exams you have, how much material you need to cover, and how much time you have devoted to each course so far in the semester.
1. Divide your course material into workable sections. Decide what sections make sense for how your course is laid out - for example, break down content by chapter, module, topic, or set of lecture notes. For a five-day study plan, divide your content into four manageable sections, e.g. Chunks A, B, C, and D. If there are course sections that are long or complex, break those into two sections.
- Prioritize older or more complex content in earlier sections of material to give yourself more time to prepare and review over multiple study sessions.
- If you have more time available to extend your plan beyond five days, aim for one more day than the number of content sections you’ve created - e.g. if you have 8 days, create 7 sections of content.
2. Allow for 3-hour blocks of studying on each of the days of your plan. If you have days where you cannot schedule a study session, skip that day on your calendar but extend your plan to include an additional day to make up the five (or more) days of your plan.
3. Work with the material in the two ways described above: preparation and review. Start each day by reviewing the previous day’s material, focusing on what you did not know on the self-test, and then prepare the next section of material. End each day with a self-test.
4. Decide what preparation and review strategies will work best for you, and include those on your five-day study plan chart.
- Try to include different preparation and review strategies to help you better understand the content and keep your plan varied.
5. Remember to stay flexible and take breaks, modifying your plan as necessary. Each block of the Five-Day Plan is a three-hour session that allows for short breaks to help you process what you’re learning.
Designing Your Exam Study Plan [Visual Resource]
Finals don’t have to be only coffee-fueled late nights, highlighter-stained hands, and frustration. Review the ASC's WebEx Wednesday session with host Melissa where we looked at creating a crunch time study schedule, the most efficient/effective study strategies, and the vital 24-hour window.
Looking for more strategies and tips?
Check out MUN's Academic Success Centre online!
Adapted from Cornell University's The Learning Strategies Centre Five-Day Study Plan