Study leave has started – or is about to start – for A level and GCSE students across the UK.
Study leave can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you’ve got time away from the classroom to really focus on revising but on the other hand you’re away from teachers and class mates which give structure to the day and help with motivation. With this in mind, we have some suggestions for how to structure your day to make the most of your study leave.
Is there a best approach?
While every student will have a slightly different approach to revision , it’s worth keeping in mind that the most successful students develop a structured, productive routine during study leave, balancing the requirements of revision with the need to rest both body and mind.
Preparing for exams is mentally and emotionally demanding, which makes a healthy lifestyle, good nutrition and sleep even more important than ever. Drinking plenty of water is also important as dehydration can affect memory and focus.
Your study environment can also make a massive difference – ideally you want a bright, airy, quiet space away from noise and distractions – so leave the phone in another room!
Start with a revision plan
A good revision timetable is key to helping students structure and focus their revision during study leave. Start by doing a list of exam dates & revision topics for each subject, making a note of any specific skills/areas that need greater work. Use this information to create a day-by-day plan – this can be as simple as a list of what needs to be done each day or can be hour-by-hour colour coded works of art. Don’t expect to stick 100% to the plan – things change and the plan will need to adapt. Its also a good idea to leave some” blank” time close to each exam in case you need to revisit anything.
Structure your day
One popular option for structuring your day is to split it into 3 blocks of 3 hours, with 2 being revision focused and the other being for relaxation. This gives you flexibility as to the time of day that you study, whilst still ensuring that you allocate sufficient time to revision. How you split your revision time up within these blocks varies significantly depending on personal preference. If you struggle to stay focused, then start with shorter sessions of around 30 minutes. Otherwise, we recommend doing fifty minutes work in every hour, with a mix of mini breaks (eg 5-10 min to get a snack) and longer breaks (eg an hour for lunch).
For the majority of students, their brains are likely to be at their sharpest in the morning and/or early evening so we recommend using this time for the toughest revision topics. As for spending long hours cramming, this is something to be avoided as your brain needs regular breaks and rest to absorb all the information you have been revising.
Sample Daily Timetable
Outlined below is our suggested timetable – we are not saying that this will work for everyone but it’s a good place to start! It’s intended for weekdays during study leave and is based on 6-7 hours of revision per day, interspersed with breaks and activities. Whilst you shouldn’t abandon revision over weekends, doing something different and having a good break is important to keep you energised and fresh when revising. Once the exams start, your daily timetable will be determined by the scheduling of your exams as well as how you react mentally/ physically to different exams
7.30am-9am Get up, maybe do some early-morning exercise, shower and eat breakfast. For many teenagers, this may seem really early and exercise may be the last thing they want to do. However, exercise and a shower will help wake you up and breakfast provides essential fuel to help revision.
9am – 11.00am: First revision session. Don’t try and work straight through – make sure you split this time into at least a couple of smaller topic focused sessions, with a mini breaks at appropriate points and/or if you feel your mind drifting.
11.00am – 11.30am: Time for a break. Don’t just flop around in the room where you’ve been studying – do something! Tidy up, go outside , have a snack.
11.30am – 12.30pm: Second revision session. Late morning, just before lunch, is one of the best times for doing really intense revision. Focus hard, and make plenty of notes.
12.30pm – 1.30pm Lunch. Again, give yourself a proper break. Have a decent lunch, but nothing too heavy that’s going to send you to sleep.
1.30pm – 2.30pm: Third revision session. After lunch is the toughest time to do focused revision. Maybe use this time for subjects which you find a bit easier and try to make your revision more active. For example, try using the time to list/test yourself on language verbs and vocab; do a maths quiz; work on your history timeline; print out past papers or try something creative like a topic focused poster. If you are really struggling to stay focused, then consider using the time to do other things – get outside, play with the dog, walk down to the shops – as you can catch up later in the day.
2.30pm – 3.00pm: Time for another break and a snack/drink
3.00pm – 5.00pm: Fourth revision session. Again, don’t work straight through – choose a couple of different topics/subjects to revise and have a mini break mid way. How you use this time will depend on whether you are planning to revise in the evening and also how productive you feel your earlier sessions have been. If you are starting to feel mentally exhausted, don’t start something new but use the time to finish off /do a bit extra on topics which you feel are weaker or just need more time.
7.00pm – 9.00pm: For students who like studying in the evening, this is the second period in the day when your brain is probably at its most active, so focus on the toughest bits of your revision.
9.00pm – 11.00pm Time to wind down. Watch TV, talk to friends, catch up with your social media. Try to turn everything off and go to bed around 11pm – even if you’re a night owl, your body and brain will benefit from a solid 7-8 hours sleep.
For parents looking to support their child in the run up to their exams, read our top tips here