Do you have 47320847203847 exams coming up? Are they stressing you out? Do you feel overwhelmed? Don’t worry: so are most of the students on campus! I have been in this situation many times before, and I think that the best way to combat exam stress is by making a study schedule.

For those of you who are new to this exam-prep technique, a study schedule is an organized plan that outlines times to study as well as learning goals. There’s a whole spectrum of study schedules to choose from, so there is bound to be one that works best for you. Here are some of the more common types of study schedules:

  • By-the-minute schedule: this schedule includes every activity in the day. Time is  blocked out for lunch, to walk to the store, to do laundry, learn some math, etc.
  • Block-of-time schedule: this type schedules blocks of time in the morning, afternoon and evening. Usually, it only includes activities that you might forget or put off, such as studying or going to the gym.
  • Virtual or by hand: While some students prefer the satisfaction of crossing off a task by hand, others prefer to see a task disappear from a virtual calendar.

Personally, I use the block-of-time schedule, which I think is best to start with if you are new to study schedules. It’s pretty flexible and not as intense as the by-the-minute schedule. I like it because although it gives me a good sense of when I need to get things done, it still allows for some freedom and I’m not super stressed if I fall a little behind. I discuss how to set up this type of schedule below.

Starting out

The first step to making an exam study schedule is to find out what topics will be tested on each exam. You can usually find this information in the course syllabus, but be sure to double check with the professor. Then, make a table with a column for each course and list everything you need to know. For example, for my biochemistry class, I wrote: chapter 1 – introduction, chapter 2 – acids and bases, etc. At the bottom of each column, you can include a “general review”. Generally, I like to list the chapters or major subjects and colour code them.

Planning time

The next step in creating a study schedule is to plan when you are going to learn or review all of these wonderful topics! Normally, it’s easier to write down the date and time of the exam and then work backwards to ensure that you cover everything. It’s also a really good idea to keep your personality type in mind when planning out your study schedule. Are you an early bird? A night owl? Do you have other commitments? Do you like to study the same subject all day or change it up a little? These are important factors to consider because doing so will make it easier for you to follow the schedule. For example, in my case, I am both a night owl and an early bird, but I tire quickly in the afternoon. So, I make sure not to plan too much important study during that time. Also, after writing an exam, I find that I’ve used up most of my brain power and I’m not too productive, so I generally don’t plan to study anything after an exam and use that time as a buffer in case I fall behind.

To summarize:

  1. Write down the date of the exams
  2. Write down all other commitments
  3. Now add when you’re going to study everything! Remember to plan breaks (you’ll thank yourself later) and keep your personality in mind. I usually plan to start studying early and finish studying relatively late. However, I schedule bigger breaks during the afternoon, and I try not to schedule study time on exam days.

More important tips

Here are a few more study tips to keep in mind. During the fall exam period, although biochemistry was my first final exam, I didn’t focus exclusively on that subject at the start of the  exam study period – I planned time to study other subjects as well. This is really important! You should plan your time so that you don’t put all your energy into one exam. During the winter exam season, I planned to study very little psych or bioethics during my first two weeks of studying because those exams were scheduled much later in the exam period and did not require my attention until later.

When you first create your study schedule, it may seem packed; I’m not going to lie, it definitely is! Being a university student is a full-time job that requires a strong work ethic – especially during exams. Over the next few weeks, be sure to give it your all because hard work definitely pays off! Keep it up! You’re almost done another year of university!