This page gives you specific advice on how to develop an overall study plan, including drawing up your own personal study plan. We also give guidance on the study sessions themselves, how to order your studies, and techniques that will help you to study actively.
Develop a realistic study plan, build in time for relaxation and allow some time for contingencies. Once you have set your plan, be determined to stick to it. (You don't have to be too prescriptive at this stage about what precisely you do on each study day. The main thing is to be clear that you will cover all the important activities in an appropriate manner.)
Manage your study to allow plenty of time for the concepts you meet in the course to "bed down" in your mind. Most successful students will leave at least a month for revision. You should aim to complete the course by the end of July if you are studying for the September exams and by the end of February for the April exams. By finishing the course as quickly as possible, you will have a much clearer view of the big picture. It will also allow you to structure your revision so that you can concentrate on the important and difficult areas of the course. How often do you think "I'm just getting the hang of this, I wish the exam was two weeks later"?
Only do activities that will increase your chance of passing. Don't include activities for the sake of it and don't spend time reviewing material that you already understand. You will only improve your chances of passing the exam by getting on top of the material that you currently find difficult.
Each study session should have a specific purpose and be based on a specific task, eg "Finish reading Chapter 3 and attempt Questions 3.1 to 3.4 from the Practice Questions" not a specific amount of time, eg "Three hours studying the material in Chapter 3".
Study somewhere quiet and free from distractions (eg a library or a desk at home dedicated to study). Find out when you operate at your peak, and endeavour to study at those times of the day. This might be between 8am and 10am or could be in the evening. Take short breaks during your study to remain focused - it's definitely time for a short break if you find that your brain is tired and that your concentration has started to drift from the information in front of you.
You should work through each of the chapters in turn. To get the maximum benefit from each chapter you should proceed in the following order:
Attempt some of the Practice Questions when you have completed a chapter. It’s a good idea to annotate the questions with details of when you attempted each one. This makes it easier to ensure that you try all of the questions as part of your revision without repeating any that you got right first time.
Once you’ve read the relevant part of the Notes and tried a selection of Practice Questions, you should attempt the corresponding assignment. If you submit your assignment for marking, spend some time looking through it carefully when it is returned. It can seem a bit depressing to analyse the errors you made, but you can increase your chances of passing the exam by learning from your mistakes. The markers will try their best to provide practical comments to help you to improve.
It’s a fact that people are more likely to remember something if they review it from time to time. So, do look over the chapters you have studied so far from time to time. It is useful to re-read the chapter summaries or to try the self-assessment questions again a few days after reading the chapter itself.
To be really prepared for the exam, you should not only know and understand the Core Reading but also be aware of what the examiners will expect. Your revision programme should include plenty of question practice so that you are aware of the typical style, content and marking structure of exam questions. You should attempt as many questions as you can from the Practice Questions at the end of each chapter and past exam papers.
Here are some techniques that will help you to study actively: