Retrospective Timetable: A study technique that you should implement! – OurWarwick

Retrospective Timetable: A study technique that you should implement!

With exams coming up soon, all of us are looking for a study plan. Some of us might have one already. The biggest barrier for my study is the planning phase. I usually end up in the ‘all-plan but none implemented’ situation. If this is the case with you too, I propose you make a ‘Retrospective Timetable’  for the upcoming exams. 

Why a Retrospective Timetable?

Why not a conventional timetable you ask? Here’s why. Unanticipated stuff comes up more often than not in our daily lives. So, it’s rare that we even stick to the timetable we make ourselves. Moreover, there’s the question of assigning time for each topic. 

So, as a way of tackling this problem, we can use the Retrospective timetable. In this, we divide the entire syllabus into a list of topics. Next, we use active recall exercises such as 

  • completing a past paper 
  • solving a problem sheet
  • making a mind map
  • to assign a rating to our understanding of a topic. 

If you’re interested, here’s a blog about active recall exercises and other study techniques I’ve written. 

Next, you note down the score you assign for each topic alongside the date you’ve revised the topic. I use a scale from 1 (little understanding of the topic) – 5 (great understanding of the topics). Based on the ratings you assign to your study session, you decide when next to revise the topic. If your rating is low, meaning you don’t have a good understanding of the topic, you revise it at the earliest date possible. 

There are a couple of advantages that come with this timetable. This makes your study more application-centric; meaning you will be more equipped to apply your knowledge in an exam. Moreover, this allows you to retain your understanding for a long term. 

How you can apply a Retrospective Timetable to fit your style

In practice, it is easy to implement a retrospective plan. You just need a list of topics in your syllabus. I recommend starting with the topics you are most uncomfortable with. This allows you to allocate more time for these topics. As I discuss in the above mentioned blog post, learning is most rewarding when it’s cognitively demanding. 

Also, it is important to avoid falling back into practices such as re-reading your notes or highlighting. While they provide you with a sense of learning, evidence shows that they are ineffective ways of learning a topic. 

I recommend making the change gradual. Experiment with which aspects of the timetable best fits you. However, it’s important to remember that the best approach might not always be the easiest. 

If you’d like to learn more about retrospective timetables, here are a few resources. 

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