By PLA Team Leader Ramona
Four months – the only period of time that students are given in a semester to master the content of 5 or more courses. How should we pace ourselves to be highly effective and efficient? Let’s learn from people who train for marathons. Training for a marathon takes discipline, motivation, and hard work. Their strategy? Each month has its own focus in training:
January – Base Mileage / Background and Practice
This is when you have to put in the time to do all the background reading and to brush up on skills that you know you will need for the rest of the semester. This is when runners start logging more and more miles, starting out slow and steady, and increasing their mileage each week. This phase of training is the most important, as it gets the gears going again after the relaxing winter vacation. Staying on top of the material during January will prepare you for the next phase…Midterms!
February – Midterms
This is when runners start doing their interval training. Interval training consists of shorter, more frequent, intense workouts rather than the long, steady runs during the Base Mileage phase. The intense workouts are analogous to midterms. Students who stay on top of their material in January will have a less stressful and even enjoyable time during midterm season. Recovery time between midterms is also very important in February – so try to do something relaxing like meeting up with friends after a midterm to wind down. (For runners, they would usually have a hot, relaxing bath and a nice meal after their interval workouts – perfectly valid for after midterms as well!).
March – Hard work
During this time, runners try to mimic the racing atmosphere they know they’ll have to face in one month. This is called threshold training – running similar workout distances at the pace they would be racing. When it comes to studying, this translates to doing more practice problems or essays with a time restraint (as would be encountered in exams), practicing being strategic and efficient while completing homework and assignments, and keeping a momentum and motivation every day. Most of the learning should happen during this stage. The big exam days are fast approaching!
April – Maintain, Review, and Nourish
During the weeks leading up to the marathon, runners don’t cram in as many workouts as they possibly can. On the contrary, they taper. This means that they maintain their fitness and mobility by jogging lightly every day, while eating carbohydrates to let their muscles build up as many energy reserves as possible for the big day. So, since most of the learning should have happened in March, April is the time to review and consolidate material. Avoiding cramming is one of the best things to do during exam season, and will lead to more confidence when it’s time to pace yourself through exams.
Off to the races we go! Good luck on your training, midterms, and finals!