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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

(Just a head’s up: these are affiliate links, meaning that I get a few cents of the proceeds if you buy through me! I bought the pens myself and the company, Stabilo, has no idea who I am.)

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 college posts or you’d like a more in-depth look at my college process, check out my new eBook, How to Succeed in College!

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  • 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!

    • Thanks Cole! I hope it helps you! (:

  • This is great advice, would even be good for those in the workplace juggling big projects!

    • 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!

  • This is a great idea! I tend to study for one class at once, but I can see how breaking it up would be useful.

    • 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!

  • Emilie Burke

    I do this same thing! Such a great idea!

    • Thanks so much! I’m glad you like it!

  • Stabilo pens are my favorite!

    • Me too, especially the colorful fine-tip ones!

  • 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.

    • Thanks so much! I totally feel you. Motivation can be so hard to maintain! (:

  • I can’t even think about finals- we’re just at mid terms! But these are GREAT tips. Love the color coding and the pictures are great!

    • I’m glad your finals are a way away! Thank you so much!!

  • Erin

    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.

  • Jennifer

    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.

  • Caprice Robinson

    So how do you organize your notes for school? How do you set up a reading plan?

    • anjali bhakta

      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!