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How to Make a Study Plan for Finals

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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.

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21 Comments

  • Reply Cole Nemeth March 23, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    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!

    • Reply Sara March 23, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      Thanks Cole! I hope it helps you! (:

  • Reply Jessica March 23, 2015 at 6:05 pm

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

    • Reply Sara March 23, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      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!

  • Reply Emily Jamison March 23, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    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.

    • Reply Sara March 23, 2015 at 7:02 pm

      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!

  • Reply Emilie Burke March 23, 2015 at 8:17 pm

    I do this same thing! Such a great idea!

    • Reply Sara March 23, 2015 at 9:15 pm

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

  • Reply Erika Ashley March 23, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    Stabilo pens are my favorite!

    • Reply Sara March 23, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      Me too, especially the colorful fine-tip ones!

  • Reply Monica March 23, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    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.

    • Reply Sara March 24, 2015 at 11:27 am

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

  • Reply Emily Hoschar March 23, 2015 at 10:01 pm

    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!

    • Reply Sara March 24, 2015 at 11:28 am

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

  • Reply Erin July 27, 2015 at 2:15 am

    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.

  • Reply Jennifer October 6, 2015 at 3:04 am

    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.

  • Reply Caprice Robinson December 16, 2015 at 7:18 pm

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

    • Reply anjali bhakta January 23, 2016 at 7:33 pm

      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!

  • Reply Grace Johnston November 13, 2016 at 11:00 am

    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!

  • Reply Alphonsine Sefu December 4, 2016 at 11:59 pm

    This is very helpful, thanks a lot!

    • Reply Sara Laughed December 5, 2016 at 1:15 pm

      Not a problem, I’m very happy to help!

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