English in the Real World
Plan for Success: How to Create a Study Program
Learning a new language can be hard work. As well as vocabulary building, grammar and comprehension skills to get to grips with, there’s written and oral work too. So before you get stuck into a new language English course it can be really helpful to create a study program to help you stick to your targets and effectively manage your time.
What is a study program?
It’s simple. A study program is a straightforward schedule that outlines your study times and learning goals, day by day, week by week. For those studying online, it’s a valuable study tool that can help you organise your time around your existing work schedule and personal lifestyle.
What are the benefits?
Whether you’re studying online or in the classroom, setting up a study program for the study you undertake in your own time is hugely beneficial. Having a study program to stick to can help you concentrate, set sensible learning goals and track your progress as you achieve them.
Setting your own study schedule will help you to become more organised and by planning out your studies into manageable chunks, it can help you to retain your course material better, as well as helping you stay motivated.
Creating your study program
**Step 1 – Think ahead
**If you want to maximise the effectiveness of your scheduled study times, you need to think about why you are studying. Identify exactly what your learning goals are for each study session, or for each block of study sessions. Once you know what your goals are, you can go about creating a plan that will help you achieve those goals. You should also remember to take into account any upcoming tests that you may have, as well as any projects that you think will take up more time than standard study periods.
**Step 2 – Be realistic
**There’s no point setting yourself up with a plan that is excessive. If you block off six straight hours of study time with no breaks, you’re soon going to fail in your goals. And take a look at things you have going on outside the classroom. Are you really going to feel like putting in four hours of study straight after a late shift at work, or after a long session at the gym? Fit your studies into your existing schedule in a realistic way.
**Step 3 – Look at your current activities
**Develop a time chart that details all of your current activities. This will reveal how you spend your time day to day. Figure out how long it takes you to get from school to home, or from work to home. Also take note of when you typically eat and sleep. Do this for a week and you’ll be better placed to see exactly when you have gaps for study and where you can cut out unnecessary activities or juggle your existing schedule around to make study time easier.
**Step 4 – Your study schedule
**Now that your time chart shows your free period, it’s time to use detailed notes to block out times on your calendar for specific study tasks, for example, comprehension one day, oral work the next. Make sure you have all subjects covered. Keeping your study schedule varied will help to keep things interesting, and being organised like this will ensure that you are keeping on top of all aspects of your coursework.
**Step 5 – Take a break
**Studying for hours at a time isn’t a very effective way to study. We actually retain information better at the start of study session and at the end. So it pays to keep your study block short. Try 20 to 40 minute study periods, with small breaks in between. This will give you time to think about what you’ve just learned as you stretch your legs, grab a snack, stay hydrated by getting a glass of water, or relaxing a little by listening to music or chatting with family and friends.
**Step 6 – Plan for tests
**At some points along your course you’re going to need to vary your study program to take account of tests or projects. So don’t be afraid to stay one step ahead and alter your study program accordingly. This might mean alter your plans a couple of weeks prior to a test to incorporate review of old tests and notes in your sessions. You might want to concentrate on one aspect of your studies over others in the lead up to certain exams or written assignments.
**Step 7 – There’s an app for that
**Written study programs created with pen and paper are great. But in today’s world of apps, smartphones and tablets you’ll also find extra study tools that can help you create excellent study programs. Apps like My Study Planner, MyStudyLife and iStudiez can all help you sync up your coursework, create personalised study plans, track your progress and more while you’re on the go. Give them a go and see what works best for you.
Do you have any study program tips that have helped your language learning? Share them with us in the comments.
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