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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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9.2 Plan your time – look ahead, find out what you need to do and when

Make sure you are very familiar with your course and its requirements. Take a look at the study guide, study calendar, planner and assessment schedule for your course. Ask yourself what you need to do to pass the course, and by when. What are the learning outcomes? How much time do you need to allocate to your studies? When are the assignment deadlines (or ‘cut-off dates’)? Are there any particular demands or time-constraints that you need to be aware of (a particular tutorial, activity or assignment that is time-bound – running over a defined period, and requires you to actively participate). Identify these well ahead and block out your time!

Most undergraduate level study includes fairly long breaks between terms, usually about a third of the year, but Master’s level study may require you to work throughout the year, so you need to account for this when planning your holidays. Plan ahead by creating a schedule that includes your major commitments (relating to study, work, and personal or social life) for the duration of your course. You could use a study calendar for this, adding your other commitments to it. Make sure that you plan for contingencies (in case you fall behind and need to catch up), consider emergencies and don’t forget your holidays. The recommended study time is around 100 hours for each 10 points of a course. So work out how much study time you need to put aside and review this regularly as you go through your studies. Do the most difficult work when your concentration is strongest (the time of day is important, so if you are not a ‘morning person’, it’s probably best to avoid studying then, and leave this to later on in the day!) Take regular breaks, perhaps every hour. Be flexible – reflect on whether your study pattern is successful, and if you do need to change your schedule, then give this a go, and try something different, perhaps by studying at a different time of day.