How to Plan Effectively for Exams

In this article, you will not only learn how to plan for exams but you will also learn general rules that you will help you in day-to-day life.


When starting the year (or whenever you first read this article), you should ensure that you have two sets of plans, a long term plan, and short term plan.

Let’s start with the long term plan.

Long term plan

The long term plan is a general plan that includes what you want to achieve before the exam. An example would look like this:

My plan for the next 3 months

  • Be on top of all homework
  • Complete all chemistry past papers from 2014-2018
  • Review all my flashcards from the first term

Short term plan

The short term plan includes what you want to do in the next few days. An exact schedule including timings is not completely necessary but may be useful to some people. This should be done every night. An example would look like this:

My plan for tomorrow

  • Review the first 20 organic chemistry flashcards
  • Complete the AQA Chemistry 2015 Paper 1 past paper
  • Mark the paper
  • Complete the maths homework due in for Tuesday

Now to be clear, you don’t have to separate these two things in your mind. You can always have things in the middle that you are planning in a few weeks or months. There are no hard and fast rules. The main rule is that you are not too ambitious and that you stick to the plan.

Making a plan is a great idea, but make sure hours and hours are not spent wasting time on a beautiful looking timetable.

Now it has to be said, we are all guilty of mistakes. I have to admit that in high school I would never stick to my timetable. I would procrastinate to the point where I didn’t do half the stuff that was planned. The main reason for this was being too ambitious.

Don’t be too ambitious

Always add 50% to the time you think it will take to do something unless you are very sure about how long something will take (e.g. doing a 1-hour past paper in exam conditions, although even here 10 mins either side will be useful so setting up and the other admin that might be involved)

Being too ambitious is one of the main sins that everyone makes.

You think you can do all your homework in half an hour? Well, you’re wrong.

It’s gonna take over an hour and a half.

Ambition is good however you cannot be unrealistic. There are only 24 hours in a day.

Look back at last week and think about how much work you did. That is most likely how much work you’ll do next week. That means if you didn’t do anything last week, the same thing is going to happen again if you don’t do anything about it!

Nothing will happen if you don’t take action.

Time to take action

  1. Have a plan for tomorrow
  2. Have a plan for next week/month
  3. Don’t think you can do everything
  4. Don’t spend too much time planning – start doing!

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