How to make a study schedule with your teenager

Mum casually resting her hands on her teenage son's arm as he sits at the kitchen counter.

There’s a lot to juggle when studying for exams. It can start to feel pretty overwhelming for teens – especially if it’s their first time balancing multiple priorities and pressures. 

A great way to help them feel more organised and in control of their time is to create a study schedule. Let’s look at how to make a study schedule that will work for them. 

Working with your teen

Your teen will know what study style suits them the best, so they'll likely get the most use out of a study schedule they have set up themselves. But they might appreciate some guidance from you, or may want to share some ideas with you, as it might take them some trial and error to get it right.

As a starting point, it’s a good idea for you and your teen to do a time audit. This will give you both an overview of how they’re currently managing their time, how busy they are juggling school, casual work and extracurricular activities, and how much time they have available for studying during the week. 

Download a copy of our time audit template to get started. This is a great tool for helping your teen to log their activities during the week, figure out what times they’re most productive, and decide whether they’re more focused studying with friends or on their own.

You might feel you could save your teen a lot of time by putting together a schedule for them, but this is a good opportunity for them to practise important problem-solving skills that they’ll need as they get older. These skills will help them to be more independent and resilient. They’ll also be more motivated to use the schedule if they make their own decisions but know they have you there to guide and support them and to validate their perspective.

Making the study schedule realistic

Now that you have a clear idea of how your teen is currently managing their time, they can take ownership of setting up their study schedule. 

Download a copy of our study schedule template to get started. Using this template, your teen can set aside times for studying based on the strengths they identified in their time audit. Keep in mind that they might be tempted to fill up every spare moment in their schedule with study time. Encourage them to schedule enough time for relaxing, socialising, family time, hobbies and sleep.  

Making time for life outside of studying is an important part of your teen’s study schedule, because study–life balance helps to prevent burnout. Burnout is when they lose the energy to keep studying or to care about what’s important to them. Along with your teen, read more about the signs of burnout here.

For the study schedule to be effective, it needs to be realistic, as what seems achievable on paper may not be achievable in practice. 

You could even lead by example and create your own balanced schedule, if you don’t have one already. Sharing your own schedule with your teen and following it for the same time period that they need one could be motivating for them.

Screenshot of the first page of the study schedule template.

How to schedule study time

An important aspect of learning how to make a study schedule is knowing how to schedule study time effectively. Encourage your teen to divide their overall study session into smaller blocks of time and to assign an allocated task to each block. Having multiple small goals that are clearly identified makes studying not only more achievable but also motivating, as your teen can tick off tasks as they complete them. It also means they start each study session with a clear idea of what to do.

For example, if they set aside a three-hour window to study, they could break this down into three one-hour time slots:

  • First hour: re-read two textbook chapters.

  • Second hour: read two additional chapters.

  • Third hour: complete five practice exam questions.

There’s no right or wrong way to break down the overall time spent studying and your teen might try different approaches until they find what works for them. One popular approach you could suggest is the Pomodoro Technique, which involves: 

  • studying for 25 minutes

  • taking a five-minute break 

  • repeating this process a couple of times before taking a longer break of 15–30 minutes.

Some students might find it easier to focus for a longer 50-minute block before taking a 10-minute break. If your teen needs some more ideas on how to get the most out of their study sessions, share this time management guide with them.

Be flexible and adaptable

Although your teen might plan every hour of their week around a daily study routine, life doesn’t always happen according to plan. Some days, your teen may not be able to focus, or they might receive some practice results and realise they need to spend extra time studying one particular subject. Having their study schedule disrupted can feel frustrating, but encouraging your teen to take a flexible approach to their routine can help lighten the pressure.

Be open to your teen adjusting their study schedule based on how they’re feeling and how their priorities change. Even if they don’t stick strictly to their study schedule, it’s still helpful as a guideline for how they can manage their time. 

If they worry about falling behind, it can be reassuring to use a schedule as a visual tool to see how certain tasks can be swapped around. One benefit of a digital schedule over a paper one is that it’s much easier to edit and move items around as priorities change.

You could even suggest that your teen re-evaluates their schedule or redoes their time audit exercise every now and then, to see what’s working and what tweaks they could make to improve their productivity and wellbeing.

Check in and monitor progress

Since your teen may keep to themselves a lot of the time while studying, it’s a good idea to check in with them regularly to see how they are going. Ask them how often they’d like you to do this, so they know you’re respecting their space and privacy but also that you’re there to support them.

Here are some ways to show your support while monitoring their progress:

Everyone’s study schedule will look different. The most important thing when making a study schedule with your teenager is that it works for them. Even if it takes them a few goes to get it right, getting used to managing time in this way will be handy for managing stress and their busy lifestyle in the future.

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