A self-paced course can be a perfect way to make sure you learn the material on your own timeline, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without its complications. Without an instructor to guide you through each week’s lesson and keep you on task, it’s easy to get caught up in other things and let your studies slip. Thankfully, there are several easy tips that can keep you on track and help you get the most from your self-paced course.

Set a Designated Time

At first glance, being able to study the material only when you feel like it is a major upside to a self-paced course. You might work through the first week’s lesson on a Sunday morning, the second week’s when you’ve got a free evening, the third during your lunch breaks over the course of a week, etc. It seems like a perfect way to squeeze long hours of studying into your busy schedule, but be careful. According to state-dependent memory, people best remember information while in the same physiological state as they were when they learned it. By working through your course at different times every day, chances are you will be at varying levels of rest, hunger, mood, and focus. If you set aside a specific portion of the day or week, you will be more likely to maintain a consistent study environment which will in turn help you better recall information for the exam.

Look at All the Sections and Plan Accordingly

Though most self-paced online courses are divided into multiple sections, there is no guarantee that these sections will all be the same length. It seems like a good idea on paper to plan to work through one course per sitting, but you don’t want to find yourself still reading at 3 a.m. on a weeknight because you inadvertently tried to tackle the longest section. Instead, quickly glance through all the material as soon as you enroll in a course. If a particular section looks as though it will take significantly longer than the others, plan to give yourself more time.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use All Your Resources

In a self-paced course, all of the learning responsibility falls to you. If there is a portion of the lesson that you don’t understand, it is up to you to find a way to learn it. If your study materials don’t explain it well enough, search the internet for articles or other guides that break down the subject matter. If that’s still not enough, see if you can find someone who already has experience in that field to help. Not only will you get a better grasp on the lesson, but you will also make a valuable contact for when it comes time to apply for jobs.

All in all, a self-paced course can be a fantastic resource as long as you use it properly. With a little bit of planning, you’ll soon have the perfect system for working through the material and acing the test.