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Tips to create a study plan

Advice from LLM student Toby Boyd and a selection of useful planning schedule apps to plot your year ahead.

Written by Lucy Bodenham |

Two post graduate students working together on a study schedule
Work backwards from your exam dates to create a basic work plan.

Work out how many items you need to read per week to cover a module

Before you embark on the road of learning, being prepared for the journey ahead is a good starting point. A study plan isn’t just for exams, it is particularly useful for distance learning students to manage the year ahead with focus on both outputs and goals.

We look at planning ahead with some advice from Toby Boyd and highlight some helpful apps. Toby is studying Master of Laws and in the video below he discusses his approach in setting up his plan.

Where to start

Your study guides will point you in the right direction to essential things like reading lists, important websites for your subject area, the Online Library, exam papers on the VLE student portal and online discussion forums where you engage with your fellow students.

Toby starts off by going through each study guide and working out how many items he has to cover. He considers the reading list for each module, both hard copy books and online reading material.

You should look up the readings online to determine how detailed and extensive they are. Next, work out what you are expected to do for your exams. Then work backwards from the exam dates to create a basic work plan.

Once you have a basic work plan, plot your available periods of study and revision time before exams. Next work out how many items you need to read per week to cover a module. You may also need to factor in additional reading like case studies and related journals.

As you progress through your reading, summarise this in your own notes. A useful reference, your notes will support any learning activities you are expected to do, not only when it comes to revising for exams.

When you revise, review your notes again and consider simplifying them further. This will reinforce your grasp in understanding concepts and aid memory retention.

The student portal contains prior exam papers and there are also sample exam questions in your study guides. Have a go at doing these before you look at the answers. Revising with questions will help you prepare for the actual exam itself and give you a sense of how to pace yourself against the clock.

Manage your time

Work out how much time you can study each day. Create a weekly diary to spread chunks of time around the day. If you can stick to your plan, studying will be more productive. At the end of the week self-evaluate to see if you are meeting your goals and expectations.

Make adjustments for things you need to concentrate on further by setting more time aside on days you have fewer social commitments. If mornings are your best time of the day then factor in the more demanding tasks when you need optimum concentration.

Useful apps to create a study schedule

A regular routine will help get you into study mode and some of these apps will support you.

OmniFocus is a helpful app to create a structured time frame to get through your readings and setting your reminders to look up words you might not be familiar with. Categorise your tasks with contexts and group multiple tasks into projects, say for each module. You can also set your mobile up to notify you of an upcoming task to finish.

Paid apps get you more for your money. Jorte Calendar, with 25 million users, is a highly customisable calendar and organiser which you can synchronise with events in your other email and Facebook accounts. Use it to track the modules you want to study, create check points for material and keep a record of questions so you have some context when you ask your tutor.

There are also free planner apps like My Study Plan available on iTunes to organise your exam revision. You can import your exam schedules and use that to generate your own study plan. This app is particularly useful to keep you focused on the amount of time you want to study.

For reading on the go there is PDF Expert, a modest priced app. It allows you to highlight and annotate documents you read. You can organise reading material into folders and colour code them, search documents and even merge documents. The built in dictionary is handy too.

If you follow blogs, publications or videos, Feedly will keep you up to date on your topics and save much time scanning websites for subject matter. It pulls in all the feeds together in one simple, handy place and you can set up notification alerts.

When it comes to revision, flash cards are a useful learning aid. With Studyblue create your own study cards which you can share with your fellow students around the world. You can also add text, images and audio to your study stacks.

A last tip is to create balance between work, study, exercise and social life. So do tailor your schedule to fit your study style. You will be more productive and happier this way. Some students are most productive with 30 minute slots and other people can sustain focus for four hours. If you like to study in shorter bursts use empty time to listen to an audio recording of a lecture while you are in the gym.

See the Student Blog for more tips and study experiences, this post about studying while working talks about Dhiren's daily schedule.

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LLM student Toby Boyd offers advice on how to plan your study on the Postgraduate Laws Programme.