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Setting Study Goals

setting study goals imageIt is very important to set yourself goals in life as they help give you overall direction. Study goals are the focus of this piece and I’m about to share with you why this should be one of the first things you do with regards to studying. 

A goal points towards an achievement or ambition of some kind. As a student, it’s a good idea to have a long term goal that you are trying to reach. For many students this will be a certain career. If you have decided to study at college or university then you are making a significant investment, so there should be some point to it all at the end. Even if you aren’t sure exactly what you want to do in terms of work or career once your studies are over, you should still set study goals as your overall grades will have an impact on what you decide to do afterwards.

Now I’m sure you all know that goals are important and that you need to get “good grades” but have you defined what that actually means?

I’ve spoken to a number of students recently about their study goals and a surprising amount have said that they want “good grades” in their studies. When I ask what “good grades” are to them, very often, responses have included “anything above C” “anything above a 2:2”, “I’ll be happy with a B” and so on.

These responses are not specific enough and they seem to indicate that there is either no specific goal in place, no study plan, or even worse neither of the two. You need to know exactly what you are working towards to have the best chance of achieving something.

“Goals Determine what you’re going to be.” – Julius Erving

Imagine going to the airport and asking for ticket without telling the ticket agent where you want to go. That would be absolutely ridiculous wouldn’t it? They wouldn’t be able to give you prices and the information you need until you told them your desired destination. If they gave you any ticket then you would end up anywhere. One thing’s for sure though, you would be lost.

If however, you decide in advance that would like a business class return ticket from London to New York and you searched online; you would be given a number of different options. You would then be in a much better position to choose the dates, times and route that you require with ample time for preparation and planning.

How many students wait until an assignment is almost due, before making a start? Or how many students wait until a few weeks before the exams to really start preparing?

I know it happens, because I’ve done it before and I’ve seen people do the same in the past and even now. I didn’t achieve my best grades with that approach that’s for sure.

The overall goal determines the route. When you set your study goal you can then get to work on your study plan.

Many of you will be familiar with the SMART acronym where all goals must be:





Time Specific

If your goal doesn’t pass the “specific” test then it will likely fail on the remaining qualifiers.

Let’s say your study goal is to achieve a Distinction. That’s your specific goal. You know that you will need to average a certain percentage in your assessments so your study plan will need to include your chosen methods to help you reach and maintain that average.

You can measure that by assessing your grades throughout the course to know whether you are on track or not. You cannot measure “good grades” if you haven’t defined what they are.

Is that achievable? Yes it is! How easily you can do that will depend on where you are in your studies right now but everything is possible. We can all think of reasons and excuses why things aren’t possible but let’s focus on how it is possible. If I can go up from obtaining a lower class second BSc degree to achieving a first class MSc degree in one academic year then I’m sure you can achieve your goals too. Having a real desire to achieve it is more important than what some might call natural ability.

To find out if your goal is realistic, you need to look at your current schedule and resources. You may need to make some changes to the way you study to reach your goals. If so, go ahead and do it.

There is always a time element to your studies. Whether your course is one, two or three years you will have to plan each step to ensure success. If the task looks daunting after you have laid out your SMART goal, fear not. The next stage will be to break it down. You don’t complete it all at once you have one class at a time, one assignment at a time. Well you may have multiple assignments due but with proper planning and study methods you can reach your goals.

I hope you found this useful.

If you have any questions please ask.

Have you set yourself study goals?

Do you have a study plan?

Please feel free to leave your answers or comments below:


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