I’m going to be honest with you, the first thing I did after seeing the exam schedule for this semester was panic – I have 3 exams within 2 days. If I want to do my best on all my exams, cramming isn’t an option. Therefore, it’s time to start scheduling my time wisely.
When it comes to exam prep, scheduling is extremely helpful and the earlier you do it, the more effective it will be. Scheduling is helpful because it ensures you understand what tasks and sub-tasks you need to complete to be prepared for your exams. This provides you with concrete daily goals and provides direction to your learning. Furthermore, scheduling helps you allocate enough time for each task.
Along with helping you pace out your tasks, scheduling promotes a balanced lifestyle if done correctly. When scheduling your day, it is important to set aside enough time for self-care. Self-care involves the things you do to take care of your physical and mental health, such as getting enough sleep, practicing good personal hygeine, eating healthy and nutritious foods, getting the recommended amount of daily physical acvitiy, spending time with your friends and family, and much more. In order to ensure that you are at your peak performance when studying for and writing your exams, you must simultaneously practice self-care and effective studying. Here are some daily/weekly reccomended activities:
- 8-9 hours of sleep a day
- About 1 hour daily to brush teeth, shower, wash face, etc
- About 1-2 hours to cook and/or eat healthy and nutritious meals and snacks
- 30 minutes of physical activity a day
- About 1-2 hours to socialize with friends and family
- Set aside a few hours on weekends for laundary, grocery shopping, meal prepping, hanging out with friends
To start scheduling, you will need a tool that works for you. I prefer using a digital calendar. Other tools include:
- Scheduling app
- Hard-copy weekly or monthly calendars
- Cork board display with to-do lists for each day of week
How to schedule for exams:
- Jot down the exam dates
- Identify all the tasks and subtasks you need to complete to prepare for each of your exams. There are 4 main stages of exam prep:
1. Diagnosis – Self-assess how much you know, and what you will need to know for your exam
2. Assistance – If necessary, seek academic help from professors, teaching assistants, peers, or your tutor
3. Consolidation/Memorization – Review and memorize the required course content
4. Self-Testing – Practice your learning through completion of homework problems, past tests, or mock essays
(For more information, read one of my previous blog posts where I expand on what each of the exam prep stage entails)
- Identify how much time you will need for daily and weekly study and self-care activities
- Realistically allocate enough time to complete each task. For example, if you have 100 pages of readings, and you can read a page per minute, allocate about 130 minutes for the task (including time for breaks).
- Always allocate a “catch up day” every two weeks, or a few hours every week to accommodate miscellaneous setbacks. Due to the uncertainty of reality, things may not go exactly as planned. It’s essential that you allocate time where you can complete unfinished tasks so that your overall progress isn’t hindered. Furthermore, if you manage to stay on schedule for those two weeks, these “catch up times” can simultaneously act as a reward, because staying on task means that you get time off!
- Create a rewarding system – creating a schedule is simple, but sticking to that schedule requires dedication. To stay motivated, make sure you reward yourself for following your schedule. Rewards should be something meaningful to you, such as an edibile treat, an epsiode of your favourite show, dinner at your favourite restaurant, phone call with friends, etc.
If you are unfamiliar with scheduling (or even if you are familiar!), I highly recommend you meet with a learning strategist. A learning strategist is a trained professional who provides individualized academic support by guiding you towards the appropriate strategies to maximize your learning efficiency. Learning strategists can help you schedule your time wisely to set you on the path to success. Visit the Academic Success Center website to learn more about how you can meet with a learning strategist.