Studying Insane Amounts… But Maintaining Sanity

In order to maintain my sanity while in the throes of parenting, studying as a full-time student in hard sciences, and trying to keep my family fed, clean, and somewhat intact… I have to seriously organize my time.

So if you are a parent, a really busy professional, or just really bad at organizing how to study, this is probably going to be helpful.

Just as a precursor: This is going to seem super in-depth. LET ME TELL YOU: You will benefit from it. All you need to do is take the time to organize in the beginning and make sure you stick to your schedule. 

I also want to give credit to helpful YouTube videos and for studying tips and ideas, from which I have pulled some of my inspiration for an effective method of studying. 

You first will need a few things as prerequisites for success:

– The ability to truly LOCK DOWN on what you’re studying for intervals of time.

– The ability to NOT FALL BEHIND on your scheduled studying.

– The ability to do immense amounts of HAND-WRITTEN NOTES.

Ok, got those abilities? Let’s go then.



Small, three-ring binder

– Highlighters, several colors

– Three-ring hole puncher that goes in a binder

– Many, many packs of notecards

– Tape

– Two or three LARGE notebooks

– One nicely-bound notebook for each subject

**Note** You want to do all of this the first week of classes, otherwise you’re much more likely to drown.


STEP ONE: DETERMINE COURSE LOAD (I will use my Fall semester as an example.)

1. Pathophysiology (A 400-level Biology course)

2. Microbiology (A 300-level Biology course)

3. Anatomy and Physiology I (A 100-level Biology course, and I’m taking it for a second time because I want to KNOW the material, not just pass exams. Call me crazy, I know I am.)

4. Holistic Health (A 300-level College of Nursing Class)



– Which class is going to take the most studying time?

– Which class is the easiest for me?

– Which class is the hardest for me?

– How many quizzes, exams, and homeworks are involved in each class?

– When do I have time to study?



1. Buy a small, durable three-ring binder.

2. Buy a three-ring hole punch that fits right in the binder. They cost about $4 and are worth your while.

3. Print out all of your syllabi.

– With a highlighter, highlight in one color, each exam on each syllabus

– With another color highlighter, highlight each piece of work you have to physically hand in to a teacher

– With yet another highlighter, highlight each quiz you have to take

4. For each class, you need one notecard. You will write in chronological order each thing you have highlighted on your syllabus, on a notecard, in this format:


Tuesdays, 1-3.30

10/22 – EXAM 1

12/17 – EXAM 2

5. Tape each notecard on the inside, front flap of your three-ring binder. This way, when you open that binder, you can check if you have anything due coming up VERY EASILY.

6. Three-hole-punch your syllabi, and put them in the folder.

7. For every single quiz, exam, and homework you get graded and handed back to you, you want to put them in your master folder, right behind the syllabus, in chronological order. The three-ring binder will become pretty thick depending on how your classes are set up.

Hint: It helps to put tabs on each syllabus, because as the semester goes on, you might lose track of where each one is located within all your A+ graded papers.



1. Each textbook will have a notecard taped on the inside, front cover of it. (Same style as your master folder.)

2. You will go through your syllabus for each class, and write which pages are due to be read, and when, on the notecard.

3. You will then tape that notecard on the inside of your book, and as you read, you will cross it off.

4. I find it helpful to cross it off on the syllabus as well as the text book, that way I don’t forget something important.



This is like… CRUCIAL. You literally need to have a schedule prepared. I write a new schedule each week stating what day of the week and what time I will study, for each subject. I will also write what I have to actually complete (like a homework assignment, or notecards,) on this schedule.

STICK TO IT. If you don’t stick to it, you will lose the time and you will not study. STICK TO IT. BE DILIGENT.



Here is how I study.  Please take note, this process takes place over the course of a couple of days so that my brain doesn’t explode.

1. In the first of my large, blank notebooks, I write all of my lecture notes. For every class. Messy, scribbles, diagrams, etc. I also make notes of things to look up later.

2. After my lecture, I take that big notebook with messy notes, and I transcribe the notes neatly, and organized, into the individual notebook for the class. I also read my textbook, each paragraph of each chapter, and transcribe the notes into that neat, individual notebook. This is time-consuming.

Ok. Here is the DIG. I set a timer for an hour on my computer. I do not stop doing notes and reading during that entire hour.  Then, I take a fifteen minute break. I then go back to studying for an hour. I repeat until my time is up. Without this, studying for me, does not work. I am not allowed to check my phone, Facebook, email, anything.

2A.  If I don’t understand a concept, THIS IS THE TIME TO LOOK IT UP. Or ask your professor. But if you don’t get something in your notes, and you marked it for research or with a big “WTF?” … you need to look it up now. Make sure it makes sense before you move on.

3. As I write these notes, I write all phrases I deem important, noteworthy, confusing, or that I don’t understand, onto ONE side of a notecard.

4. In my large, messy notebook, I mark with a check in the top corner (with an orange highlighter because I’m OCD) that I have transcribed the notes.

5.  I then go over the one-sided notecards, and look the definitions either online or in my textbook. (Please use trustworthy sources online)

6. Every night, I go over the notecards for each class. Some nights I spend fifteen minutes, some nights I spend an hour. My goal is to constantly be thinking and linking. Thinking and linking.

7. Repeat. Every single week, for every single class.

8. Make sure you read any extra material a professor puts out, and do all practice exercises, even if you aren’t required to turn them in. Believe me, you will kick yourself if you don’t.



If you are following these steps, exams will NOT be hard. They really won’t be! You know why? Because you’ve been studying ALL along the semester! But to study for an exam, here is what I do.

1. I continue with my normal routine.

2. I go over my “clean” notebook for each class. I re-read it, and sometimes re-write it.

3. I make people quiz me on my notecards. I make people ask me to explain concepts. This is SUPER helpful.

4. I go over all of my past quizzes and homeworks.

5. If your professor uses multiple choice quizzes, and there is an answer-option that you don’t know what it means, LOOK IT UP. Multiple choice quizzes are vocabulary lists. Chances are, if your professor has listed four possible answers for a question, that professor wants you to be able to eliminate each one, which means you have to know what it means.

6. Use past quizzes and homeworks to make up new cards. Add them to your pile.

7. Review the morning before the exam, but only quickly to remind yourself of what you will be testing on. A test should feel like a review, not a challenge.

8. Accumulative studying is the most effective way to truly retain material, in my opinion. I crammed for my entire undergraduate career, and now that I’m doing post-bachelors degree work, I really want the material to sink in. This method works. I swear.

Now, this won’t guarantee you an A. But if you follow these steps, and along the way you keep in touch with your professor, and SELF RESEARCH WHEN NECESSARY, you WILL succeed. You will!!

Hooray for insane studying!!!


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