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How to Make a Study Plan for Finals

Finals season is fast approaching, and while I’m lucky not to have exams this year, I’ve had to go through it a couple of times – so I have several tips to share with you! In particular, one of the things that I’ve struggled with the most over the years is time management. When you have more than one exam, plus a final paper or two, how do you best manage your time? To do just that, I come up with a study plan, which has saved me a lot of stress over the years. In this post, I’ll show you how I make it.

All you need to make a study plan is a few sheets of paper and some writing tools. I love to color code things, so I’m currently really into these colored pens, which I bought at a local office store but you can also get on Amazon. I like that they are colorful, long-lasting, and don’t bleed through paper, which makes them great for color-coding.

How to Make a Study Schedule for Finals - Sara Laughed

Other supplies you may want are a notebook and a calendar or planner. My favorite notebook is by Miquelrius – it has color-coded edges! I also currently use one of these BlueSky planners to help keep track of my assignments. However, as you can see below, you can also print out your own calendar to keep costs down. Now, without further ado, here’s how I make a study plan for finals!

1. Write out your upcoming exams

How to Make a Study Plan for Finals | Sara Laughed

How to make a study plan – write it out

On a piece of paper, write out which exams you have to take, leaving a few lines between each exam. I like to use different colored pens for each exam for the sake of clarity later. I also numbered them according to difficulty, with Neuroscience the most difficult and Spanish the least in this example.

2. Divide each exam into study units

How to Make a Study Plan for Finals | Sara Laughed

How to make a study plan – divide and conquer

In many cases, your study units will define themselves; for example, if you’ve gone over five chapters in your Spanish class, then each of those chapters is a study unit. For other classes, however, the units may be less clear. If that’s the case for one of your exams, try dividing the material by topic, historical period, book, or article. In the example above, you can see that the World History exam is divided by readings.

Write these study units down below your exam titles. Then assign each one a number according to difficulty, with 10 being the most difficult. These rankings will come in handy when you are devising your study plan.

3. Divide your units by days

How to Make a Study Plan for Finals | Sara Laughed

How to make a study plan – divide the units

Next, on a new sheet of paper (or the back of the old one), write down how many days you have for each upcoming exam. Now divide the units you have per days. For example, in the picture above, there are six days until my Spanish exam, and five units for my Spanish class. This leaves me one day for each unit, plus an extra day for overall review.

4. Order your units

In the above picture, you can see that I’ve written “in order” under each exam. After that, I’ve used the difficulty ratings we wrote out to put the most difficult units first. By studying harder material earlier on, you allow more time to get comfortable with the material, contact your professor with any questions, and let the information sink in.

5. Chart your study plan on a calendar

How to Make a Study Plan for Finals | Sara Laughed

How to make a study plan – chart it on a calendar

Now it’s time to write down your study plan in a planner or calendar. Use your different colors to write down the date of each of your exams (optionally, you can circle or highlight them with another color so they catch your eye). Now work backwards from those dates, writing down the material that you’ll be studying each day. Leave a little wiggle room to balance your schedule, so that you’re not doing all of the hardest material on the first day; you can see in the below picture that I didn’t study history ever day, so that I had more time to work on my more challenging Neuroscience exam.

How to Make a Study Plan for Finals | Sara Laughed

How to make a study plan – the final stage!

And voila! That’s how I plan and make my finals study plans. If you like posts like this, check out my college site, College Compass. You can also see more posts, including my recommendations for college school supplies, here.

Sara Laughed

Hey hey! I'm Sara, an American writer living in the Netherlands and working as a product manager.

  1. Cole Nemeth says:

    Great advice! I only have one exam this term but I’m drowning in projects. A colour coded plan of action is bound to help me stay on track and get things in on time. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Sara says:

      Thanks so much, Jessica! I’m glad you think it has more than one application – I find that organization helps in most areas of life!

    1. Sara says:

      I’m glad you liked it! I find that switching from one subject to another gives me a mental “breather,” so to speak – and it’s helpful if your exams are scheduled close together!

  2. Monica says:

    Great ideas! I love color coding and organizing everything, but then when it comes to the actual “studying” and “writing the paper” part I’m a bit of a slacker.

  3. Erin says:

    I haven’t read the content yet because I’m very tired but I needed to comment that when I was in fourth grade my teacher gave me a set of those pens as a reward for something…in a carrying case that looked like a giant Stabilo pen. It was absolutely adorable.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I have all my exams this term! 🙁 Absolutely horrible. I keep feeling like I don’t have enough time though. Thanks for all your tips.

    1. anjali bhakta says:

      Hi Caprice, something I usually do is go over my class schedule if given which tells me what chapters we will be covering on what days and organize my own outlines and set up my reading plan according to so. Usually I take my outlines and compare them to the notes that I am taking in class while working on any study guides or handouts and homework as well. this article is another great way to set up a study schedule if you have your own reading schedule planned out according to your lectures. Hope I helped!

  5. Grace Johnston says:

    I have read this post twice- this is such a great way to divide and conquer! As a freshman in college this has become a great staple and reference when it comes to exams. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Agustín says:

    Given you had a spanish class: Muchas gracias por este plan de estudio; Es muy bueno para organizar mis tareas y llegar bien preparado para los parciales/finales. Saludos genia!

  7. Melanie says:

    Dear Sara,
    I just found your blog and it is amazing! I liked this post a lot, because I found so many parralels to how I study myself.
    Your blog has a very unique style and it’s nice finding someone who also enjoys writing about studying.
    I’m a student, moving abroad to the Netherlands in a few months to study my Bachelors. I would really love to get in touch with you!
    If you would come over to my blog to say Hi, I would appreciate that a lot!!!
    Hope to hear from you soon 🙂

  8. I’ve been struggling for 3 years now in grade 10 with mathematics,physical scieces and electrical technology and now im about to write my final exams .Please advice me on how to pass this year?

  9. Stephanie Prescott says:

    This is great! I am going through finals right now, and I couldn’t find anything that was helpful and realistic. Thank you!!!!

  10. Brianna Demmi says:

    Since last year, my friend and I started studying for finals together. It helped a lot, but we were super unorganized. So this year we looked up tips fro organization for finals, and we came across your website. It has helped a bunch so thanks! Also, we picked up some of those pens you had in the pictures and really like those too! Again, Thank you so much!

  11. Shailaja says:

    Great .. I do follow next … I want some tips to making charts and models to teach maths.. at secondary level..I am from India.

  12. Samyah kassim says:

    I really liked ur planning arrangement i would like to follow nd see whether i can also do the same work as u did thank you so much for showing mw the way i really appreciate i will give the feedback If i succeeded or not in my finals

  13. FERES says:

    vraiment merci beaucoup pour cette article !!
    il m’aide beaucoup a mon éducation

  14. sarah stockman says:

    Thanks for sharing! Used this the previous exam period and it helped me a lot. I came back to take a look to refresh the strategy. Thanks!

  15. Robert S. says:

    It’s amazing what a little bit of organization can do when it comes to creating a study plan. When I was in school, I didn’t really think about organizing exams like this; I would just study and try to remember everything the day of. Great tips for those in school, though!

  16. Hiba Moussali says:

    can you tell me how to make a plan for a 5 subjects which are English, math, physics, chemistry and biology. I really don’t no what to do because this year am having an exam for the hole book and its something scary cause this is the first time am going to do an exam like this.

  17. Quratulain Younas says:

    Amazing advise and techniques, my final exams are just a few days ahead. I am thankful to you for this blog. 😍

  18. javeria says:

    I think I’ve found a secret to ace my exam because the main reason why I didn’t ace my exams before is poor time management. Let’s try this and ACE IT! Thank you jessica x

  19. sineji says:

    im not really doing my finals and my exam is months away but this helped to sort out what to study and when easily, cause ussually i do random topics random days and im not really consisntent with how much work i do per study session. so this helped, thx!

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