- Break large tasks into smaller steps: work backwards from due dates.
- Reduce the pressure on a busy week: do work in advance on a lighter week.
How to design your term calendar
- Use a full-page calendar for each month of the term.
- Enter information about assignments, tests, exams and labs, including
- Dates (due date, start date for studying or research) and
- Weight (% of final grade).
- Colour code by course, if helpful.
- Use this to help construct your weekly To Do list.
- For large assignments (e.g., essays, research papers), enter the start date as well as due date. Use the Assignment Calculator to help break large projects into smaller tasks with individual due dates.
How to design your To Do list
- How big a list? Do what works (e.g., a daily list, 2-day list, weekly list).
- Prioritize. First, what is most difficult (do “something” to chip away at it), followed by what is due next, what is worth most, what is fundamental, what is fun.
- Make connections to your Term Calendar (i.e., include items from To Do List).
- If To Do lists make you feel overwhelmed or guilty when you are unable to complete everything, try writing a Daily Accomplishments list at the end of each day.
Weekly schedule template
How to Create Your Weekly Schedule
Step 1: Fixed Commitments
Enter all your fixed commitments into the schedule –when you need to be in a certain place at a certain time. This can include classes, team practices, club meetings, your work schedule, family dinner, and other appointments.
Step 2: Health Habits
Next, enter your health habits into the schedule – when are you going to eat, sleep, and be physically active? Be realistic: you may take a shorter lunch, but need an hour at dinner to walk to the cafeteria, eat, chat, drink tea, and walk home. Also, block off 7-9 hours each night for sleep – getting enough sleep allows you to be a happy, functioning, efficient student!
Step 3: Estimate Hours of Homework
Estimate how many hours of homework you’ll need to stay on top of your courses and meet your goals. Write down all the things you need to do on a weekly basis for each of your courses. On average, for most courses, you will need to plan 8-10 hours per course per week, including time spent in class, labs, reading, homework assignments, group work, etc. In any particular week, you may find some courses will need more, and others less. School is a full-time job!
Step 4: Assign Homework to Blocks of Time
Input these hours of homework into your weekly schedule. Look for blocks of time (1, 2, or 3 hours) that are open in your schedule: these may be your homework times. Using a coloured marker, outline the blocks during which you can commit to doing homework, aiming for the hours you estimated in Step 3. Be specific: assign a specific task for a specific course to a certain block. For example, “on Tuesdays from 9-11 a.m., I do my weekly readings for PSYC 100.”
Step 5: The rest of the schedule
The schedule is flexible, so add in whatever elements you want:
- Add time on Sunday night to look ahead at the upcoming week and make a new To Do list and weekly schedule
- Some people like to identify more hours for study than they need, to give themselves flexibility to choose when they study. Others build in a 2-3 hour “reserve bank” of time that is only used if they don’t do homework during a scheduled time and need to “pay themselves back” for the missed time.
- Schedule other life activities: grocery shopping, laundry, hanging with friends, calling home.
Try this method of designing your weekly schedule. If you find that it’s not for you and are looking for alternative ways to manage your time, or if you would like to talk with someone to help refine your weekly schedule, you can book a 1:1 advising appointment with a Learning Strategist. You can also visit one of the weekly scheduled drop-ins with the Peer Learning Assistants (see the Workshop and Event schedule).
A study plan allows you to consider how much time you may need for different courses, distribute your review time, and ensure that all courses get some attention. A study plan reduces stress, helps you keep on track during the intense exam period, and prioritizes health and balancing activities.
Why should I start studying early? The human brain learns academic material faster and better if done in brief blocks of time spread over longer periods, rather than a few lengthy sessions. It’s better to distribute 15 hours of study over 5 days at 3 hours a day, rather than cramming during two 8-hour study days.
How to create your exam study schedule
Each day is divided into 3 x 3 hour study blocks (one each for morning, afternoon, and evening) – that’s 9 hours a day of studying! These study blocks must be separated by a 2 hour break, to allow for memory consolidation and down time. Studying for exams is a marathon, not a sprint! During that 2 hour break, grab some food, get some physical activity, hang out with friends, watch TV. For example:
Morning 9am-12noon: 3 hour study block
12-2pm: 2 hour break
Afternoon 2-5pm: 3 hour study block
5-7pm: 2 hour break
Evening 7-10pm: 3 hour study block
Write in when your exams are, in the appropriate time slot. For example, a 9 a.m. exam would go in the first third of the day. Include the value or percentage of each exam. Consider colour coding for easy identification.
Determine how many 3-hour study blocks you will need for each exam. This will depend on the value of the exam, your goals for the course, the difficulty of the material, and how up-to-date you are in the course. Divide the course material into workable chunks, e.g. a section of a textbook, a set of lecture notes, or a topic in the course; then add a single 3-hour study block at the end for review. On average, students spend between 4-7 study blocks per course (10-20 hours). Write the number of study blocks per course into the chart on the upper-right side of the template.
Starting with your hardest course, work backwards from the exam date and assign study chunks to individual 3-hour blocks in the schedule (use a pencil, because you may need to revise!). Try to assign study blocks that coincide with the time of each exam (for example, study for a 7 p.m. exam at 7 p.m.), so that your mind is able to function well under the future exam conditions. Schedule your peak learning times for your hardest studying.
Repeat step #3 for each course. There is no perfect plan: just try to spread your studying over a period of 5 days or more, and reach your targeted number of study blocks.
Within each 3-hour study block, it is important to review, study, and self-test. First, spend a few minutes reviewing the material you studied during the previous study block; then spend most of your time reviewing the current chunk of material; then spend some time testing yourself on that material.
Be efficient. Within each 3-hour study block, use the 50/10 rule: work for 50 minutes, then take a 10 minute break. Strategically focus on key content areas (e.g. the learning objectives for each course). Focus on the material you do not know. Make summary sheets of major concepts and their applications. Repeat and rehearse to move information into your long-term memory. Read our Exam Prep module on our website for more information: http://sass.queensu.ca/exam-prep/.