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Developing a personalized study plan

Posted on October 20, 2020

Identify Study Times

stressed student studying

Start creating your study plan as soon as you get the syllabi for each of your courses. Build a weekly schedule: include recurring class meeting times, work, extracurricular activities, and family obligations and block out the length of each event. At the top of each day, write in ALL exams, quizzes, and assignments that occur on that day. FSU has a handout that explains how-to build your schedule and a blank template that you can use to create your own weekly schedule. Once you have your schedule, start identifying 1 to 2-hour blocks of time to study and do your homework. Remember that short breaks between classes are a good time to review notes and memorize things! As you approach mid-terms and finals, you can add additional study times to your normal schedule.


As you review your syllabi, set task deadlines and milestones based on due dates and exam dates. These may include, completing homework two days before the due date in case you need help on a particular problem or reading the textbook prior to lecture. Be as specific as possible so that you will know exactly what you need to complete during your study times. MIT has a detailed guide for drafting a study plan that has helpful ideas for how to prioritize what you study.

What and how will you study?

When you put exams on your calendar, make a note of what material will be covered and the type of exam (ask your professor about the format). For example, Exam 1: Chapters 1, 2, 4, and 6; 10 multiple choice, 10 short answer and 2 essay questions. For this particular exam, your professor has said that you will need to be able to recall basic concepts, explain ideas or concepts, and apply what you learned to a new situation. Knowing this information about the exam will help you prepare. Recall questions are memorization questions and often use words like define, duplicate, list, memorize, repeat and state. Explain questions ask you to explain what you learned and often use words like classify, describe, explain, report and discuss the covered concepts. Apply questions ask you to use information in new situations and use words like execute, implement, solve, use, demonstrate, interpret, operate, schedule, sketch.

Review the study guide and your (reading and lecture) notes. Your lecture notes will reflect what your professor emphasized in lecture, these are the things your professor thinks are important. If your professor provides a study guide, make sure you can address everything on the guide.

Divide your study session into sections: preparing questions, answering those questions and reviewing notes. At the end of your study session make a note of any material that is not clear. Go to office hours, or email your professor, a friend or the TA for clarification. Then revisit those topics in your next study session to make sure you have it.

Stick to your plan!

The only way for your plan to work, is for you to stick to it! Set reminders on your phone, plan some virtual study sessions with friends to get questions answered and keep up with readings and assignments. If you haven’t already clicked on the MIT article linked to above, check it out now for some ideas for how to stick to your plan!

Oh no! I’m running out of time!!!

If you HAVE to cram, Allen College suggests focusing on remembering what you already know. If you have just a bit more time (a week before your exam) they have a helpful guide for a 5-day study plan and how to structure each study session. If you have less than a week, Cengage Learning’s blog has 1-day, 3-day and 5-day study plans.


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