Manage your time during exams

Manage your time during exams

It is a common opinion among students during exams that there is too much to study and there is very little time. This makes time management one of the most important components which directly influence exam stress. Many students misuse the time available during exams, either to avoid studying or by underestimating the effort and time needed in tackling exams. Planning your time helps you think about it strategically and, even if you have to alter your study plans, you will benefit more from having previously defined your tasks and activities.

Often, students overestimate or underestimate the amount of time that any given task may take. It is a good idea to consider how much time you take for your routine tasks. To begin with, many students like to keep a diary for a week and note down an hourly description of how they have spent that day.

ABC categorization

As a student, if you categorically divide your syllabus or exam-related work, you will make optimum use of your time and enhance your effectiveness. Ask yourself, what is really important for you, which are the tasks that can possibly wait, what can be left until the next day or the weekend? This approach is useful in not just using your time efficiently but in systematic prioritization of all your tasks.

Categorize commitments according to the following groups:

  • Absolutely urgent (high importance)

  • Better do it soon (medium importance)

  • Can wait (low importance)

Constructing a time management plan

Normally, a time management plan includes all the activities that a person performs in a day, such as:

  • Commitments: Classes, work, family time, sports, gym, committees (including travel time)

  • Personal time: Grooming/hygiene, relaxing, watching TV, listening to music, shopping, socializing, emailing, phone calls, and so on

  • Essential time: Eating, sleeping

  • Housework: Meal preparation, house cleaning, washing dishes, doing laundry, and so on

Similarly, while studying, plan beforehand your daily list of subjects or chapters that you will take up. One way to do this is to write a ‘to-do’ list. On your list, prioritize your subjects or chapters according to the ABC approach, indicating the priority by assigning the letters A, B and C for each task. This helps you to work out what should be done first. Breaking up large tasks into smaller ones makes it easier to finish, as does being specific in your task details.


We all have been in a situation where we put off our studies for the last minute. Why do we do it? Why do we find an excuse or allow ourselves to be distracted? Generally, all the thinking we do about the difficulty in starting or continuing a task is worse than the task itself. For a student, it is particularly difficult to look at a large syllabus in front of them. They tend to get lazy and not start studying until the last minute. Often, getting started is the hardest part. So the best way to counter procrastination is to take the first step, however small it is.

Tips to beat procrastination:

  • Identify why you may be procrastinating. Getting a clarity on these thoughts allows you to find solutions to meet your study goals. For example, if you fear failure, focus on goal-setting and reframe thoughts more positively. If you have anxiety about taking up a particular task, break the task or goal into mini goals.

  • In case the problem is to do with your inability to concentrate, then you could take steps to ensure that your study space is distraction-free and it may help to break down the task into smaller, achievable units so that the task is more achieavble and does not challange your level of attention.

  • Remember, you are able to complete the more difficult tasks when you are most alert. So, start studying or revision with difficult chapters and move on to the easier syllabus.


  • Chong, J. (2007). Time management. Sydney, Australia: University of New South Wales.

  • Cottrell, S. (2008). The study skills handbook (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Morgenstern, J. (2004). Time Management from the Inside Out. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

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