Study Plans

Create a Study Plan for each Class

Your Study Plan is based on your goals for the year or term. If you haven’t written goals see  Setting Goals.  Study Plans can be considered the first step toward reaching your goals. Some students write a preliminary study plan before attending the first class. Others wait until after the first class so they can use the syllabus  for information.

Study Plans for different subjectsTwo young women use fingers to form a square as if to frame a scene

Ninita and Luzviminda are talking about the classes they will be taking. Ninita uses her hands to form a rectangle to pretend she is taking a picture.

What they will really need to do is get a mental picture of each of their classes so they can make initial study plans. They want to know how much time each class will take, what kind of assignments they might have, and what the tests will be like.

Ninita suggests they start with 2-3 hours a week for each hour of class, but she knows her  Calculus class will need more time than other classes.

Learning Math, Science, Literature, and Foreign Languages and many other classes involve different learning strategies. One history class may even require a different strategy than another history class.

You might recognize this before you even sign up for the class. You might not recognize this until half-way through the semester.

You know that a math class will involve regular homework solving problems. You might decide to work with a friend (or study buddy), doing the homework at the same time so you can help each other if you get stuck.

You know that a foreign language will involve learning a huge number of new vocabulary words. Flashcards should be helpful. You might also listen to tapes or CDs to practice pronunciation.

What does a Study Plan look like?

I will describe a study plan that I would use. You may develop a plan that is more helpful for you. I always list four things. (I always use only one page.)

1. The name of the class, date, Professor,  Textbook, and Author

2. My goals: the grade I plan to make and what I want to learn and remember

3. Basic Strategies I plan to use

4. Schedule: When, where and how long I will study

Sample Study Plan

Invertebrate Zoology: Spring 1984   Professor Wall ,   Invertebrate Zoology, 4th ed.  by Robert D. Barnes
and, in case you are wondering, I’m not making this up. The only thing I’m not sure of is the date.

1.  I will make an A. I’d really like to get the top grade in the class.
2.  I want to know and remember the basic information I would use to teach biology.
3.  For the animals I am likely to be able to find here in this area, I want even more information.
4. To hold student attention in classes I teach – and because it’s fun – I want to learn and remember the most interesting ways they have sex – especially the stories that are really weird.

1. Diagrams to show different body systems
2. Compare and Contrast Charts
3. Concept map for each chapter to show structure and outlines for detailed information
4. Write potential test questions, especially essay questions and practice writing answers

1. Study the table of contents and decide if an outline or concept map is most useful.
2. Read the introduction and look at chapter headings for the first 3 chapters. Decide what strategies make sense.
3. Read Chapter 1 before the first class and then compare chapter and lectures to see if same material or different. Decide if it makes better sense to read chapter before or after lecture.
4. Make a list of questions about invertebrate anatomy that I expect or hope to find answers for.

Let’s start with these Questions:

Except for not having a backbone, are there other major differences between invertebrates and vertebrates?
Which invertebrates are most intelligent?
What are the most common methods of reproduction?

As the class continues, add to the Study Plan

When you get the syllabus, you will know if assignments include short papers, longer papers, presentations, or what. The due dates will be listed.

1. Write the dates on the calendar for selecting topics,  doing research, writing an outline, first draft, second draft, revision, polishing, etc. Leave plenty of time for major papers. They often make up a large part of your grade.  Try to find a topic you really are interested in.

2.  Start brainstorming early for several good topics.

3.  Add to the list of questions regularly and see if any would make good research questions.

4.. Try using several strategies and choose the ones that are most helpful.

Add to this plan as the term continues… adding questions, topics for paper, answering questions, reflecting on what is most interesting, hardest to learn, most useful.


When I actually took Invertebrate Zoology, It was after about the third chapter that I realized that nearly every chapter covered the basic systems:

1. External Anatomy,
2. Structure or skeletal system,
3. Nutrition/Digestive system,
4. Locomotion,
5. Gas Exchange or Respiratory System,
6.  Excretion/Excretory System,
7. Nervous System,8. Sense Organs,
9. Reproductive System and Development.

The book is over 1100 pages long. It covers 37 Phyla, most subdivided into subphyla, classes, and orders, giving me 101 categories of invertebrates to study. I anticipated questions like comparing the respiratory systems of the sponges and the corals, or comparing the excretory systems of the five classes of Echinoderms. This was enough to scare most students away.

I was clear that I could sit down, reading 50 pages a day, read the book from cover to cover BUT, I wouldn’t remember much of anything.  Remembering how the Echinoidea and Holothuroidea were different would be impossible. I wouldn’t even remember the names.

I designed a huge chart that was really a matrix chart that I used as a complex compare and contrast chart. The nine systems were listed down the left side with space to include diagrams. The 101 groups were listed along the top, wide enough to write details in the spaces.

The chart covered a good section of one wall.  As I read about each type of invertebrate – like sponges, jellyfish, corals, mollusks, etc. I filled in the details for each system on the chart.  I then compared the organism in the current chapter to those we had studied earlier. At the end of the term, I made notes comparing each of the systems.If ten or fifteen groups used the same sort of digestive system, I circles them with a highlighter. Systems that were different were marked in red.

I could describe the changes in the nervous system, for example, as the animals became more complex. I prepared for essay questions like “Compare the  digestive systems of the jellyfish, octopus and insects.

I not only made my A,  I really did get the highest grade in the class. It wasn’t because I was the smartest student in the class. It was because I had a strategy, a good study plan.

This method doesn’t work for  very many classes. You need to find the strategy that works for each particular class and textbook.

Do I Really NEED to write a Study  Plan?

Yes: The reason to write your goals is to focus your thinking about goals. Some people don’t even think about their goals unless they need to write them. And they still might not treat these goals seriously if they don’t see them and reflect on them from time to time..

The people who don’t want to write their goals and plans usually don’t want to think about them. They’d prefer to walk down the road of life without planning to end up anywhere particular. And that’s what happens. They don’t get anywhere.

You can take the notebook you plan to use for a class and quickly write out some goals and plan on the inside over. But I have discovered that the more carefully you plan, the better your chances are of success.

                All great achievements take time. —-  Maya Angelou

Other pages in this area:      setting goals       educational goals      personal goals         

short-tem goals

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