Cartoon brain looking at planning
Brain-friendly planning

The five most common problems and solutions

In this step, we discuss five of the most common problems when making a long-term plan and give possible solutions.


PROBLEM 1

I don’t know how to plan in revision.

By far the most important thing is that you actually plan in time for revision – many students forget about this.

Ideally, you should spread out your revision as much as possible, so you are revising the material more often at the start rather than at the end.

Example:

Example plan with revision built on over the weeks, for instance in week 3 of your studies you study that week and revise weeks 1 and 2

As you can see, the plan includes more revision in the later weeks than in the first few weeks. To spread out the workload evenly, you can plan in some more reading or other assignments in the first weeks, which gives you a little more time for revision at the end.

Note: In Week 3 of this course, you will learn that it is also useful to go over the materials you learned the previous day. You should do this every day. But you don’t have to write that down in your long-term plan.


PROBLEM 2

I’m already behind. What should I do?

If you’re already too far behind, it’s sometimes impossible to get everything done.

Sometimes you can still pass your exams if you spend more time studying. This does mean that you’ll have less time for other things in the coming period, such as free time. Are you prepared to do that? And more importantly, is it realistic? If the answer to both questions is yes, make a solid plan and test during the following week whether it’s actually feasible.

Another option is to perform your tasks less perfectly than you normally should do. Are some chapters less important? It’s a question of setting priorities and making choices. If you use this approach, it’s a good idea to test after a week whether you have learnt the material well enough. Sometimes ok is also good enough.

A third option is to postpone examinations or drop courses, if that’s at all possible. If it’s really not going to work, that could be the best decision.

It’s a hard choice, but it’s good to determine that your plan isn’t realistic early on, so that you can adapt it and get back to working efficiently.


PROBLEM 3

I don’t know if my plan is realistic.

This is often difficult to judge. The best thing is to give yourself a week to test it out. Keep track of how much time you spend studying, and check things off your list as you do them. If you do between 80% and 120% of the things you have planned, you’re on the right track. If you get less than 80% done in the first week, it’s probably too much.


PROBLEM 4

We only find out what the assignments are during the actual week we need to hand it in.

This isn’t ideal for creating a plan, but it’s not a deal-breaker. If you know that there will be assignments each week, you can include them in your long-term plan. Once you have done the first assignment, you can estimate how much time you will need to complete the rest. You just have to be sure that the assignments will be evenly spread over the weeks. You can still plan in other activities, such as reading, going to lectures and revision. It’s great if you can get some of the tasks done in advance, so you have some time left if the assignments take longer than expected.


PROBLEM 5

I have to do a written assignment. How should I plan that in?

Written assignments are always difficult to plan. Usually, it’s best to work backwards. When do you have to submit the final assignment? When do you have to submit the first version? And the conclusion or discussion? The other chapters? The first draft? And so you plan your schedule by working backwards.

No idea how much time you will need? Use the number of credits for the assignment as a starting point. Calculate the corresponding number of study hours and divide this by the number of weeks you have for the assignment. Then you have an idea of how many hours per week you will probably need. You can also ask fellow students or your lecturer to share their estimates and experiences.


EXERCISE

  1. Based on the Frequently Asked Questions and the experiences of our three students, would you further adjust or improve your plan? If so, how?
  2. If you encountered a problem with your plan that is not listed in the article, please share it with your fellow learners.
  3. React to one or more other posted problems. It doesn’t matter if this problem already has one or more reactions to it.

Share this article:

This article is from the free online course:

Improving Your Study Techniques

University of Groningen

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: