Step 1 - Plan
The most important skill you will learn through studying is the ability to plan. Planning lays the foundation for your studies. A good plan will ensure that you have enough time to do assignments, study, prepare for exams and still enjoy some personal time. Your plan must be:
- specific and detailed
The steps below show you all the things you will need to do in this planning stage. In this section, you will find all the information you need to do the first draft of your plan.
- Open and organise your study pack
If you have not yet received all your study material, you can download it from myUnisa or from a “toaster” at a Unisa regional centre.
Only your initial study pack will be sent to you via courier (if you selected this option). All additional tutorial letters, including "out of stock" items, will be posted to you. Please ensure that the university has your correct postal address.
- Read the inventory letter which is on the top of your pack. This letter will provide you with information on the modules for which you have registered, the study material that should have been included in your study pack and any study material that is outstanding.
- Check that the module codes on the inventory letter match the modules for which you registered.
- Make sure that the letter matches the items received in your study pack.
- Make a note of which items are still outstanding.
- For any enquiries relating to outstanding study material, please send an e-mail to
email@example.com or an SMS to 43579
- You will receive your student card with your inventory letter which you must use throughout the academic year. This student card will allow you access to your examination venue. Click here for more information on Unisa’s exam rules. If you lose this card, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or an SMS to 43579 to request a new card.
- Check that you have received your personal barcodes and put them in a safe place (such as your admin file, see below), as you will need these for every assignment that you submit to Unisa via the post or assignment box. You may also request additional barcodes from Despatch.
- Create a “my Studies Admin file” and file this inventory letter. It is important to keep all documents that you receive from Unisa in case you need to refer to them in the future.
- Find all your Tutorial letters 101 and match them to the module study guides. Create a file for each one of your modules and file your study material.
- Register on myUnisa
myUnisa is a student website that allows you to connect with your lecturers and fellow students, download your study material, submit assignments, update your personal information online and access library resources.
To join myUnisa click on the link “How to join myUnisa” for a tutorial explaining how to join. Follow the steps in the tutorial to claim your myLife e-mail account and register on myUnisa.
Now you are also connected to Unisa electronically and you will be able to use the assignment and exam schedules on myUnisa to plan. You can also use the schedule on myUnisa to create an electronic schedule.
We’ll tell you more about myUnisa and what you can do on myUnisa in section 2 – Connect.
- Schedule assignment due dates, examinations and discussion classes
Use a year planner, an online calendar or your calendar on myUnisa to schedule all your assignments.
Read your Tutorial letters 101 and write down all the assignment due dates, exam dates and discussion classes in your year planner or calendar.
If you decide to capture everything electronically, we suggest that you also print it out and stick it on a wall in clear view of your study area – this acts as a visual reminder of your study plan.
Use a pencil so that you can adjust any entries should the assignment or exam schedule change.
- Scan through your study guides and schedule study time
It is important to include time every day to study, revise and complete assignments. Each semester module will require between 6 and 8 hours every week, and year modules between 4 and 6 hours every week.
Your study guides are exactly that – a guide to working through all the prescribed material so that you are prepared for your assignments and exams.
Spend about two hours working through each study guide. After you have scanned each study guide, do the following:
- Calculate the number of weeks left until the exams.
- Deduct two weeks from the calculated time as you will need this time for final exam preparation.
- Divide the volume of work in each study guide into “chunks” of material.
- Now schedule these "chunks" into each of the weeks – giving more time to more difficult sections of work.
- Include two hours at the end of every week to evaluate your progress.
Doing this will give you a sense of how much reading and studying will be required for each of your modules, and will also make your plan more specific.
In the Study section (step 3), we will look at how each of the study times can be further split up.
Remember, this is only a plan and it may change. By doing this, though, you will see how much time you need to dedicate to your studies. Don’t become demoralised if everything does not work exactly as per the schedule. Take the time to understand why it didn’t and what adjustments you need to make.
- List and buy your prescribed books
- Find the list of prescribed books and recommended reading in each Tutorial letter 101.
- Make a list of all the prescribed books you need to purchase. Include the name of the book, as well as the ISBN code and edition. This is very important to ensure that you buy the correct books.
- Make a list of all the recommended reading. This will be available from the library. For more information on the library, click here.
- For a list of Unisa’s official booksellers, click here.
- Schedule personal and work commitments
There will be personal events and responsibilities that you will need to commit to in the year. These could be birthdays, important family events, your children’s school functions, etc. Take the time now to emphasise to your family the sacrifices that you and they will need to make in order for your studies to be successful. Explain to them why it is important for you to study and ask for their help – this could be as simple as respecting your quiet time when you need to study, not interrupting you during your studies or even just knowing when to bring you a cup of tea. In this way you include your family in your studies and everyone feels that they are contributing in some way.
There will also be work commitments that are unavoidable. Attempt to include as many of these as possible in your year planner. If you have not yet spoken to your employer about your studies, add this to your task list.
- Make time to look after yourself
A healthy body means a healthy mind and a healthy mind is better equipped to keep pace with the demands of studying.
- Make time to exercise at least three times a week, for at least 20 minutes. Schedule this on your weekly planner.
- Eat properly. Make sure that you have healthy food in the house, such as fruit and vegetables. Each week plan your meals, write a shopping list and schedule time for shopping.
- Get enough sleep. It may be tempting to study through the night, but it takes your body days, if not weeks to recover from this. Sleep for at least 6 hours each night and try and stick to a routine.
- Schedule time for some fun. Do something that you enjoy and that relaxes you; it could be reading, painting, playing with your children or joining some friends for a game of soccer – as long as it is something that you enjoy. This will keep you motivated and stop you from feeling like you are missing out.
All this will help alleviate stress before and during difficult work and study times.
If you are suddenly struggling to keep up with your studies, please read the section on stress management in step 3 (Study), under Writing examinations. These symptoms may be emotional, intellectual or behavioural and could mean that you are suffering from anxiety, stress or tension.
If you have any concerns about your health and how it may affect your studies, click here to find out what services Unisa offers and how they can assist you.