How to Prepare a Study Timetable

Student reading a notebook.
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Studying can be stressful. Having a plan to follow is one way in which you can help yourself to relax and to focus on what is most important. Ideally you should start your planning several weeks before the exams or other deadlines.

Calculate how many days you have between now and the exams or deadlines you are working toward. If you have several exams close together, think about how best to schedule your studying for each one in relation to the others.

Think about how much time you have available for study in each day or week. Set aside adequate time for work or family commitments, sleep, food, and social activities and recreation.

Schedule study time for when you are at your most alert. Do you work best first thing in the morning? If so, get up half an hour earlier to study. Does your evening meal wake you up or make you sleepy? Schedule study time before or after a meal as appropriate.

Plan ahead. If you've got several weeks or months until your deadlines, you can schedule small amounts of study on top of assigned homework – for example, to read through last week's notes and make sure that you still understand them. Gradually increase the amount of study time as the deadlines get closer. Start out with as little as 10 minutes a day and build up to two or three hours a day close to the deadline.

Break the studying down into manageable chunks. A quarter of an hour in which you focus well on what you're looking at is more use to you than two hours of staring at a piece of paper and being unable to concentrate on it. Giving yourself small incentives such as a cup of tea or five minutes of a favorite game after each chunk of work you complete may help you to focus.

Plan to look at two or more subjects each day. This prevents you from becoming bored with a subject and going around in circles. Assign more time overall to subjects that you find harder, but consider making individual slots for harder subjects shorter if appropriate as you'll need to concentrate more intensely. It may help to work on a subject you dislike first so that you can then relax and move on to one you like when you've finished.

Finish studying early on the evening before an exam so that you have time for relaxation and a good night's sleep.

Write down or draw up your study plan. You may prefer a grid like a timetable or a list of tasks for each day. Pin this plan on the wall or otherwise keep it accessible. Cross items off as you achieve them.

Don't panic if you have left studying until the last couple of days before an exam. Take a whole day to go through your notes or a study book in an organized manner, taking plenty of short breaks when your concentration begins to fade. Don't stay up all night; you need sleep to help you organize your thoughts after absorbing information.

Nicola Harrison is a technical librarian who has been writing since 1998. Her work has appeared in U.K. publications including "Library and Information Update," "Engineering Education," "Ariadne," "TACIT" and "Echoes From The Past." Harrison has a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Brunel University and a postgraduate diploma in information management from Queen Margaret's University College.