Plan for success

Writers Alyssa Jagan and Jasmine Shao teach your teen how to prepare for tests or exams

In just a couple of months, exam time will be upon us. Making a study plan for a huge test or final exam can be an over­whelming prospect, as there’s just so much material to review. But by simplifying large amounts of information into smaller steps and creating a detailed schedule, you’ll be sure to thoroughly cover everything without too much stress. Here are the steps for creat­ing a study schedule.

Count your sections

There are a few different resources you can use to determine how to divide up the material you need to study—the sections of your textbook, a review book, or your notes, to name a few. You could call your divisions chapters, sections, units, or something else entirely. Generally, each should be an amount of information that would be covered in one lecture.


Create a list of all the sections you will need to know for the test and then count the number of sections. To do this more quickly, type them into a numbered list in a word-processing pro­gram so you don’t need to manually count the number of list items.

Count your days

How many days are there before the exam? Or, if you’re planning far in advance, how many days will you spend studying? The more days in the schedule, the less you need to study on each day. Don’t cram everything into the last few days before a big exam, especially because you should spend those days resting. On the other end of the spectrum, spreading everything over a longer period than six weeks is not optimal either, as you risk forgetting the information you studied at the beginning of your preparation period. Personally, I prefer a period of three to four weeks to review for a final exam and one to two weeks for a large test.

Divide them up

Next, assign certain sections to each day. Write the specific title or number of the section as a task bullet on its corresponding day. The amount of work you assign to each day can vary depend­ing on how busy you are—some days you’ll have more time to study, while other days you’ll have a lot of other things going on.


Chances are the number of sections will not divide perfectly into the number of days. When this happens, assign more rather than fewer sections to each day. It’s better to front-load your study period and end up with almost nothing on the days leading up to the exam. On these buffer days, you can review the material you struggled more with or do a practice test that covers all the material.

Make your game plan

Now that you know what information you’ll review each day, figure out exactly how you’ll tackle it. Don’t just write “study section 2.1” as your task bullet—for each section, specify exactly what type of studying you’ll be doing and how long you’ll be doing it. Some good examples would be “Do 30 multiple choice questions from section 2.1” or “Practice chapter 3 short answer questions for 20 minutes.” Don’t fret if you’re not sure about which study methods to use yet; throughout this chapter, we’ll give tips and tricks specific to each subject.

Follow through

Planning is one of the hardest steps in study­ing. The next hardest is, well, actually studying! Creating your study plan helps you feel less overwhelmed and gives you clear direction, thus preventing procrastination.


Reflect and correct

It’s natural to miss a study session every once in a while. Student life is hectic, and unexpected circumstances are all too common. If you don’t finish a task, simply reschedule it to another day.


Additionally, if you found a section particu­larly difficult, be sure to note this on your study plan by drawing a star or highlighting it. This way, during the final days before the exam, you can easily see what you need to go back and review again.