how to make a study guide

How to make a study guide

Katie Azevedo study skills, study tips, time management

Study guides and schedules rock. If you’re lucky enough, you might already know how to make a study guide and this video/blog will just help you refine what you already know. If you’re incredibly lucky enough, your teacher might provide you with one before a test. If not, you can make your own. And even if your teacher does give you one, you might still find it helpful to make your own.

Study guides/schedules are crucial to productive, effective study sessions. If you just have a small quiz to study for, or a massive final AP exam, a study guide provides you an itinerary and a framework for studying and learning whatever material you have to get through.

Think of a study guide as a plan – a plan for what to study, when to study it, for how long, and how to go about it. Without a plan, without a study guide, you could waste valuable time studying the wrong material. Not good, friends.

Here’s how to make a study guide/schedule.

1.  Know what’s on the test. Your teacher will likely tell you what your test is on (I’d hope so!), but if not, then ask. You’ll either know specifics, like “Chapter 3, parts 5-7,” or something more general like “Chapters 1-3.”

2.  Figure out how much time you have to study. If it’s Monday, and your test is on Thursday, then you have three days to study before your test. But do you really? Unless you stay home from school and lock yourself in your room for three days, you don’t really have 72 free hours to study. So when I say to figure out how much time you have to study, I mean to figure out how many available hours you have after school, after sports and other activities, and after doing basic things like showering and eating. You might come up with two hours on Monday, one hour on Tuesday, and 2 hours on Wednesday. Five hours is a lot less than 72. Really do the calculations here.

3.  Gather your materials. Hopefully you have a system for keeping your notes and other materials organized. If not, read my post/watch my video about it here. Assuming your notes are complete, clean, and freaking amazing, collect all the books / handouts / notes that are relevant to what’s on your test. Put all other materials aside. Be sure to bring home any textbooks you might need the day you plan to begin studying.

4.  Schedule the material into your time pockets. Sit down with a calendar or a piece of paper (or one of my free templates: Study Guide Template 1Study Guide Template 2Study Guide Template 3) and write down everything that’s on your test. There could be one item, like “Chapter 9,” or several items, like “Parts of the brain, Common Psychological Disorders, Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalysis, and Josef Breuer.” Once you know what to study, you can figure out how much time you need to study it.

For example: If you have five free hours (either in one sitting or spread out over several days) and five topics, consider studying each topic for one hour. (Write this all down. Say, from 2-3pm on Monday you’ll study the parts of the brain; from 3-4pm on Tuesday you’ll study common psychological disorders; etc.) If you have three topics and seven hours, study each topic for two hours, and then spend the last hour reviewing it all. Be sure to allot more time for more complex material. However you divide the time, write it down.

5. Write down what materials you’ll need for each topic. Once you’ve written down how much free time you have and what you need to study, write down what materials you’ll need for each study session. Write “Psych Textbook” next to “Parts of the brain” on your schedule if that’s what you’ll need, or write “Notes” next to “Josef Breuer” if that’s what you’ll need to study that topic. You’ll appreciate this step once you begin studying.

6.  Plan time for review. If your study session is spread out over the several days, plan some time on the last day to review all the material – especially the material you studied early on. If too much time passes, you could forget what you learned. Schedule this review time into your study guide, when you’re writing everything down in step 4.

7.  Stick to the plan, but roll with the punches. Stick to your study guide as much as you can. Keeping your eyes on the clock is key to staying accountable and staying focused. Knowing you only have one hour to study Sigmund Freud will ideally keep you off Instagram – at least until your study session is over.

 But as much as you want to stay on schedule, you might have to make adjustments as you go. If you flew through learning the parts of the brain in less than the hour you planned on, then get started on the next item. Or, if studying the parts of the brain took longer than the hour you planned, try to make up for lost time over the course of studying the next items. Balancing is an art, not a science.

8. Study! If you’re looking for study tips, here you go.

Once you’ve made your first study guide, you can use it as a template for future study guides. It might take a few tries to make the perfect template that suits your style, but once you get it right, you’ll know. Save it in Word as a template (find out how) or draw it out by hand and make photocopies. Whatever works for you, well, works for you.

Or, of course, you can use one of the templates I made for you. I’ve made several different types that you can download and print. Free, of course, ‘cause I love school and you and all that.

Free Printable Study Guide Templates. Print out as many as you need!

how to make a study guide