A few months ago, I lent a friend one of my favorite novels from college. On its inside covers, in the corners of its pages, in virtually any available blank space were notes that looked like this:
- 8:30-9:00 – Go to Starbucks
- 9:00-10:30 – Reread Chapter 12 and update notes
- 10:30-10:45 – Break / answer emails
- 10:45 – 12:15 – Finish study guide for Chem
- 12:15 – 1:00 – Review study guide with Isabelle
- 1:00-1:45 – Lunch
- (And on and on, until a full day of studying was scheduled)
“What are these schedules scribbled all over your book?” my friend asked. “That,” I said, “is how you ace your finals.”
Oh, dreaded finals. They are the bane of our existence. They are the source of stress, of sleep deprivation, of scores that send our overall grades plummeting.
But they don’t have to be.
The majority of that stress, sleep deprivation, and poor scores could be alleviated if students knew how to better plan their study time. From years of working with high schoolers, I know that it all boils down to two egregious errors: (1) students tend to grossly underestimate how much time true preparation requires; and (2) they don’t know how to maximize productivity.
Thankfully, these errors can be easily corrected. The method is so simple, grade-saving, and stress-reducing that it’s shocking that few teachers share it with their students. So, I’ll let you in on the secret. Here’s what you need to do:
- About two weeks before finals, write out everything you need to do to prepare for each test: the chapters you have to reread, the notes and old tests you have to review, the study guides you need to complete, the problems you should practice, etc..
- Estimate how much time each item requires, erring on the side of being too generous.
- Add up the total hours and, given the total number of days you have to prepare, determine how many hours you should be working each day.
- Then, at the beginning of each day, create a schedule like the one scribbled in my book. A few scheduling tips:
- Make each agenda item clear: By the end of your allotted time, you should be able to know whether or not you completed the task. “Reread Chapter Twelve” is sufficiently descriptive; “study” is not.
- Choose time increments no more than 90 minutes long: Beyond that, your efficiency decreases.
- Give yourself brief breaks: They’re necessary to keep your brain churning at optimal speed.
- Get rid of distractions: turn off email, cell phone, etc.: Anytime you shift your attention between tasks, you have to refocus. And getting in the zone takes time – time that you can’t afford to lose.
Using these steps, you will find your studying becoming much more efficient. Now, if mastering a subject’s material is your challenge, then you have another battle in front of you – one you don’t have to wage alone. Give us a ring. We have experts who can support you and help alleviate those finals woes.