Creating a Study Guide

With final exams a little more than a month away, now is a good time to begin making your study guide.  I get it, you may not think you need your study guide until the week of finals, but trust me, the earlier you begin making it the better.  Making one now will help you review what you’ve already studied, prepare for what’s coming up, and expose any gaps in your understanding.  Sometimes your instructor will provide one, but that won’t be until closer to finals.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt to go through the process of making one that you can compare to whatever is provided for you.  Creating it is very simple, so let’s get started now.



  1. Begin with your syllabus. If your professor didn’t provide a hard copy, check for it online, copy a friend’s, something.

  2. Go through each section of your syllabus, lesson by lesson (day by day). Map each topic to the appropriate chapter/section/pages of your text or course pack.

  3. For each topic, write down any definitions, concepts, or formulas that you need for that lesson/topic.

  4. Write down examples and/or notes about anything you do not understand.

Your study guide doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but it does need to be legible and have a logical order that’s based on the syllabus.  This is also a good way to make sure you have notes for each topic in the syllabus.  I recognize that some teachers have power point presentations that you can be printed and hope that you download them and take notes.  Your instructor will sometimes share gems in class that aren’t written in the notes or found in the text.  Everything in your assigned reading, that’s written on the board, or that comes out of your instructor’s mouth is fair game for an exam.  Taking notes will help you capture as much as possible.

As you go through the process of creating your study guide, flip through your notes and confirm that you have notes from each class meeting/topic that listed.  If not, work with a classmate to fill in the gaps so that you have a complete set of notes to use as you study.  Depending on the type of class, you may also be able to create flash cards that will help with the definitions and formulas you have to learn.  Study guides combined with syllabi and class notes are a powerful tool.  So there you are.  Go forth and conquer!

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