Do you evaluate your study plan and progress through out the year? This is the time when I like to re-assess my study plan. I study all year because reading is so much fun; in September my study process begins in earnest. It is very helpful for me to evaluate my progress every few months, and adjust my process accordingly. For me, November and February are excellent benchmark months because they are right before e-seminars and term break in the autumn, and essay submissions in February.
E-seminars, term break, and essay submissions are great milestones for me. I do a lot of benchmarking and quantifying in my job, so it seems like a natural extension to include this kind of process in my study plan. And for me, it is fun! Like in my profession, studying in a self-directed English and Comparative Literature degree program involves managing a lot of interdisciplinary information; I also enjoy learning how my colleagues manage challenges, tasks and outcomes.
Outcomes are different from output. It does not matter how much I study, if I do not get the results I want just like it does not matter how hard I work at my job if I do not achieve the desired goals. My job involves analyzing campaign and appeal responses to maximize results and reach our goals. That is also what I do a few times during the study year; I have different goals and expectations at different times of the academic year.
At this point of the term my concern is how much of the primary text syllabus I have read and in what detail. I also expect that by now, I can produce a reasonably detailed essay plan on a wide selection of exam questions. If I have read sufficiently and can write my essay plans I will begin to concentrate on specific details and arguments that interest me. I will also note points that are unclear and issues I cannot articulate satisfactorily.
Articulating an answer based on knowledge of primary texts such as plot, character, genre and conventions is an excellent November Benchmark. Noting terms or concepts I cannot articulate accurately or in detail gives me a mini-revision plan for the next three weeks. In December and January I will begin writing essays and testing my grasp of current scholarship and critical arguments around the texts I am studying. This term some of these scholars have been particular inspirations. I have been reading Greenblatt, Belsey, and Butler for a few years now and am just beginning to feel confident of forming a reasonable, independent discussion of texts with their arguments in mind as I work to form independent, original arguments of my own.
Original arguments and well articulated ideas are both inspirations and aspirations; but February will be here soon – quicker than you can say ‘timed essay.’ I have found that revising for exams is much easier if I ‘revise’ a bit during the term and test myself throughout the year. It makes my study time much more enjoyable, and is the best way to achieve the outcomes I aspire to in exams, practice essays and e-seminars. For me, that is very inspirational and a great learning motivator before e-seminars begin later this month. Happy studies!