By Heather Nichol, PLA team leader
When the end of November came around in my first year, all I could think of was, “I have no idea how to prepare myself for this”. Sure I’d written exams in high school, but the amount of material on those exams was nothing compared to the exams I was about to write. How was I going to make sure I had time to study everything? What if I got so wrapped up in my first exams, that I didn’t have time to study for my last ones? Would I ever have time to relax?
Then I discovered the study schedule that would save me: a study calendar based on chunking. It divided each day into three blocks: morning, afternoon and evening. All I had to do was decide what needed to be done in each block. So simple. But it helped me do 4 crucial things: divide my time efficiently, chop up my goals, feel in control, and find balance.
Divide time efficiently: By laying out the entire exam period in front of me, the calendar let me see just how much time, or how many blocks, I had. I was able to decide which courses got more blocks based on how much the exam was worth, how difficult the subject was for me and how much catching up I had left to do. I could also plan to study a different subject in each block to keep things interesting.
Chop up my goals: Studying 12 weeks of material seemed like a daunting task, but by dividing my studying into blocks, I was able to set more reasonable goals for each chunk of time. Not only did this make studying seem more manageable, it was a lot more rewarding as I accomplished each small goal instead of grasping at the intangible goal of “study biology”.
Feel in control: With my study blocks laid out for me, I knew what I needed to do and when I was going to it. It was possible to allot time for everything. I wouldn’t neglect my later exams and I would do my best with the time I had.
Find balance: One of the best parts of this study schedule was the time it allowed for BREAKS! Within the study blocks, every hour I studied for 50 minutes then took a 10 minute break to refresh my mind. Between each study block was an hour off so I had enough to have a good meal and give my brain a break. Even better, every block was not for studying. Once and a while, I’d left a block free to go to the gym, watch a movie, or just hang out with friends. By scheduling in time for breaks, I actually made my studying more effective because I didn’t burn myself out.
That’s how a simple study calendar saved my sanity. It can save yours too. Try it out: December Exam Schedule.