Setting goals during exams

Setting goals during exams

“There’s so much to study, how will I be able to finish it.”

“Oh my god, just looking at the syllabus makes me want to curl up in bed.”

During exam season, many students either become anxious or are tempted to procrastinate when they look at the syllabus. Creating specific goals around the exam syllabus and dividing the course material into achievable goals can help reduce the anxiety surrounding exams.

Why do you need to set goals for exams?

Consider the task of climbing a mountain. Just looking at the mountain may overwhelm you and make you not want to climb it. But once you have decided to climb the mountain, you need to first plan or set goals towards climbing it, then equip yourself practically to take the necessary steps to climb the mountain, and then begin. Just visualize how happy and satisfied you would be after you have climbed the mountain. Setting goals for exams works in a similar manner. It may seem tough, but by taking one step at a time, you'll accomplish your goal with ease. 

Types of Goals

The task of preparing and appearing for an exam can be divided into goals based on when you want to achieve the outcome. 

Long term goals

Some of the long term goals could be:

  • Wanting to get into a college or university of your choice

  • Successfully completing your course by the end of following year

  • Appearing and writing an examination well

Short term goals

Short term goals are smaller stepping stones towards your long-term goals. For example:

  • Achieving the right cut-off marks for entering the preferred college or university 

  • Getting good grades or marks to complete the course

  • Preparing well for an exam or studying the entire syllabus

Mini goals

These are outcomes that one needs to complete say in a day, over a week or month. Completion of mini goals springs you into action for working towards your short term goals. Breaking larger tasks or goals into smaller ones will help provide you a sense of achievement. Some examples of mini goals are:

  • Dividing the subjects you need to study over a period of time

  • Outlining study tasks for each subject, for instance, studying few chapters of the syllabus every week

  • Outlining your daily study tasks 

How can you set goals?

Everyone is different in the way they learn and study. The syllabus which seems impossible to cover can be divided into smaller tasks. Setting and achieving goals while preparing for an exam depends on:

  • Time required for preparation

  • Study goals decided and planned based on the available time

  • Segregation of goals into specific, measurable, realistic and timely tasks

  • Motivation and confidence to achieve the set tasks and goals 

While setting goals, it is vital to include time for relaxation and social life. It is also preferable to keep your goals flexible to ensure that if, for some reason you miss a day of study, you can make up for it at a later date.

Study techniques

Study techniques help in planning and organizing your study schedule and enhance your performance. Here are a few study techniques you can use:


Cottrell, S. (1999), The Study Skills Handbook, Palgrave Macmillan.

Schunk, D. H. (2000). Learning theories: An educational perspective. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Zimmerman, B. J. (1998). Academic studying and the development of personal skill: A self-regulatory perspective. Educational Psychologist, 33, 73-86.

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