Structuring your time before exams
May 23, 2011 10:58 PM   Subscribe

I'd like some diverse ideas on how to "design" a study plan for final examinations. What works for you? What are your theories on the best way to study? (*example scenario inside)

INFO:
**I have 2 exams, one day after the other, and 12 days beforehand to study for them.
**Exam 1 seems more difficult to me, only because it's an exam format I'm not used to -- 4 short essays. I'm in psychology so it's usually multiple choice and short answer questions.

How would you structure the study timetable?

My natural decision is:
(1) Spend 6 days studying for Exam 2 to get it out of the way, so that I can;
(2) Concentrate on Exam 1 all the way up to the exam, then;
(3) Review for Exam 2 overnight.

I can see upsides and downsides to this approach though. For example, "reviewing" stuff I studied for 6 days prior might not prime me well enough.

But, there is something to be said for having a break from material and coming back to it with a fresh mind.
Would it be better to do this in 3 day blocks though? 2 day blocks? Or alternate days?

Is a better approach to let it happen organically?

Really interested to know what other people do. Either what is your "habit", or what is your well-thought out action plan.
posted by KLF to Education (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think it depends on what you mean by a "day" of studying. Do you mean 20 hours, or 2 hours?
posted by acidic at 12:59 AM on May 24, 2011


Hehe, ideally 20 but realistically ~8? Basically, I'll have entire days free to study. I think I'll have to go to work on 3 of those days.
posted by KLF at 1:00 AM on May 24, 2011


If you have to memorise things, there is a lot to be said for spaced repetition. So alternate days would probably be better than doing one subject in one big block. Of course you can space out material within a subject too, so that would solve that problem.

I actually think your "review for six days then return to it for one" plan would work really well, and it's the material for exam 1, where you don't have that break, that I'd be more worried about.

My own habit for studying for exams was always to do a little bit of each subject every day, but that was because I get bored easily...
posted by lollusc at 1:24 AM on May 24, 2011


Take a look at Cal Newport's Study Hacks. He goes into considerable detail on precisely this subject and his advice is solid gold.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 1:32 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Take a look at this article in the NY Times about study habits. It recommends giving yourself some variety in the locations of where you study.
posted by bove at 1:55 AM on May 24, 2011


Every subject, every day. Most of the problems I see people having are when the section they thought would be easy turns out to be hard, or when they focused so much on one thing that they ran out of time for everything else.

Day 1: Overview of both subjects, make a list of topics/chapter headings.

Days 2-7: Half of the day on subject 1, half of the day on subject 2. Go through the material at a steady pace so that you cover it all (refer back to the list). If you're getting hung up on something, make a note and move on.

Day 8: Special review of anything your teachers seem to really like, anything that shows up repeatedly on old tests, that kind of thing.

Days 9-11: Go back to the stuff which was difficult and figure it out. Try not to get crazy focused on tiny things, but take the time you need. If you can somewhat sort by priority (big stuff which is guaranteed to be on the test vs. little stuff which may or may not be) that's good, too.

Day 12: Go down your list for subject 1 and just glance at each topic to make sure it's fresh in your mind. After test 1, do the same for subject 2.

Spaced repetition is really good, too. You can make easy flash cards (using Anki or SuperMemo or similar) on day 1, such as vocab if you have a list of words already, and then make more complicated ones as you go through the material on days 2-7.

Also, obviously, adjust. If a ton of material is going on the difficult list, speed up your general reading and spend extra days on the difficult stuff.
posted by anaelith at 1:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


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