HBO study: steps for studying, planning and passing courses

Are you already a student or will you start a (higher professional) study next year? Do you have no idea where you should start? Can you no longer see the forest for the trees? Many students look at their subjects and then often become uncertain. They have no overview which causes a lot of stress. Well-organized planning is essential to prevent backlogs. For someone who has absolutely no knowledge of studying, or a higher professional education in general, but who is about to start or perhaps is already studying, it is useful to start as early as possible.

House rules for studying

To avoid confusion, a number of concepts and aspects are first described clearly.
  • Figures under 20 are not written as words. This provides clarification: 4 ECTS instead of four ECTS
  • The words field and module have the same meaning.
  • With the word study becomes primarily one hbostudy meant. The steps are not exclusively for a higher professional education.
  • Study points are the same as ECTS. This is a guideline of the number of hours you try to spend in a course and how much the course is worth (in ECTS). For example, if a course is worth 4 credits, you should (probably) spend more time on it than a course worth 2 credits. In general, 1 ECTS equals 28 hours.
  • A module manual is the same as one study guide. It contains everything you need to know about the subject, including what the subject is about, which competencies you are tested on, what material is treated per week, who the module holder is, what literature is required etc.
  • All sentences with a hyphen are actions. Try to execute the underlined operation first and then go to the next step.

Brief overview of the steps

A simple step-by-step plan has been drawn up here to get a clear overview of how to approach a higher professional education. If you get stuck, first check if you have forgotten something in the previous steps. First try to perform step 1 and only then start step 2 and so on:

Step 1: Find out which courses you must pass for your HBO study

In particular, a period of 1 year for a higher professional education study looks like this: 4 quarters consisting of approximately 10 weeks per quarter. Look in the college guide of your college / university and look for your study program. Here you will find the curriculum or curriculum that must pass per period and per year.
Look carefully at which courses you must complete in a certain period (quarter) and write these courses down! For example, there are 8 courses with the following course codes: VAK01, VAK02, etc. etc. These courses must be passed in period (quarter) 1. When it is clear which courses must be passed in the current or upcoming period, you can go to step 2.

Step 2: Read the study guides for the current / upcoming period

In order to get a clear picture of what you should do, it is important that you first read all the study guides for the current / upcoming period. Most study guides can be found on the school network of your institution. If this is not the case, you can always request it from the teacher or module holder of that course. If for some reason the module holder or teacher is unable to answer questions, ask your SLC teacher (study career coach) or dean. You can also ask around the class if someone knows what the situation is.
Each study guide shows exactly what is expected of you in that period. In many cases it even says what the teacher is planning, for example: week 1 chapter 5, week 2 chapter 6 & 7. This is very useful because this planning can be taken over in your personal planning. When it is clear what information there is in the study guides for all courses of the current / upcoming period, you can start with step 3 for making a plan.

Step 3: Make a good planning

Now that you know which subjects you will be tested on and which chapters you need to learn (or reports that you must write), you can start making the planning. Making a plan in Excel is advisable, but of course it can be done in any way, as long as it is effective for you. Weekly schedules are often very well-arranged, partly because most teachers within a higher professional education study also plan that way. See the example schedule below:

Week 1

BOX01Learning chapters 1.1 to 1.7V
BOX02Make assignments 20 to 25 and learn chapter 1V
BOX03Read through 'company X' case-
BOX04Prepare presentation-

This is just a simple example of only 4 courses. In reality, you may have 10 subjects per week, but that often depends entirely on the type of higher professional education and the period in which you are enrolled.

Step 4: Stick to the planning

Now perhaps the most difficult step of all steps is coming, at least for most students: stick to the planning. There is only 1 person who can always fool you and that is you. You can still think so pro-actively that you can take 7 courses in 1 afternoon, but once you are busy, it often turns out to be more difficult and longer than you originally thought. You start postponing and suddenly you have to catch up a lot. To prevent this beforehand, here's a simple tip.
Make agreements with others to be able to check yourself. Make sure you can reach someone (preferably in your area) who you can trust, for example your mother / roommate / colleague, who checks you for your work. This person does not have to have any knowledge in the field or the study, he / she only needs to know if you have met your deadlines. When you check yourself and you have not kept to the planning, there are no consequences. However, if you tell this to someone else, shame can make you finish on time next time. In this way you create a safety net for when things really go wrong.


When all steps have been completed, there is a clear overview of what you should do each week. This way you easily know if you are on schedule and what you can do to work ahead. You have even arranged a safety net for when things go wrong. Keep track of the planning, because good planning at the beginning is half the battle.


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