Exam Prep Day 6: When will you study?

xkcd time management comic

Image "Time Management" courtesy of xkcd, licensed under CC Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License. Ah... the irony :D.

Having spent over 12 years in school, I’m sure you’ve heard over and over about how important time management is. Thus let’s jump right into a simple method for doing that.

First of all, make sure you know when and where your exams are. Write those times and locations down. Triple check. There is no point to studying your ass off only to miss your exam. Now highlight which exams are your top priorities and estimate how much more time you’ll have to spend on it compared to your other courses. It’s ok to think relatively for now.

Grab a calendar (see below for some options) and look for any major milestones in your studying “journey” for each course. Is there a specific time you need to write your practice final? How about a date by which you want to finish all of your problem sets? Mark those dates down. Also note the times you are obligated to do other things. This includes sleeping, eating, exercising, hanging out with friends and family, attending study groups/review sessions, and downtime to relax. There isn’t a whole lot of time left is there?

Now figure out how you’ll study in the time that you do have. If you’re organized and likes to know exactly what you’ll be doing and when, assign a specific time for each task. I find that a little cumbersome and prefer a more flexible approach. Instead of budget time for each task, I budget blocks of time (1 to 4 hours) for each subject. Then at the start of each block, I look at my to-do list and try to accomplish the most important tasks first. This has the added bonus of allowing me to assign more time for courses that are of higher priority.

Although breaks are important, it is easy to let them run overtime. If this is an issue, try using a timer. A good study to break ratio is 6:1 (e.g. study for 60 minutes, take a 10 minute break).

If you’re looking for a good scheduling system, here are some options:

1. Google Calendar for the electronically inclined.
2. Mozilla Sunbird for those who prefer a desktop program.
3. Gantt Chart for those with lots of things going on (I’ve never used on for studying, but you could give this one a whirl).
4. Old School Pencil-‘n-Paper Calendar/. I use the Dynamic Template from diyplanner.com to create customized ones. The program is free, extremely easy to use, and definitely worth a try. This is my favourite method because it’s easy to use and incredibly portable.
5. Smartphone calendar apps.

Phew! We’re almost done. Only 2 more posts left in this series. The next post? Awesome study techniques.

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