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Archive for May, 2010

GCSE and A-level students: get reading this summer!

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

If you (or your kids) are just finishing Y10, Y11 or Y12, you might be looking forward to a relaxing and enjoyable summer. And why not? Exams are about to start, and after the slog of revising for and sitting them you’ll be ready for a well-earned break.

However, it’s not a good idea to let your studies ride completely over the summer. You’ll be getting around six weeks’ break (maybe more, if you’re at an independent school). That’s a pretty long time – easily long enough to get out of some of the good academic habits you’ve learned. So it’s a good idea to stay on top of your subjects if you can.

That’s not to say you should spend the entire break revising for the next round of exams! But what can you do to keep your brain in tip-top condition for the start of the next academic year.

Reading around your subjects is probably the single best thing you can do with your spare time. Venture off the curriculum and check out books, magazines and newspaper articles that cover the broad topic areas you’re studying. This is useful because it can help you see the ‘big picture’ of each subject. The detailed areas that you’re studying for your modules will be put in context and (hopefully) become much clearer.

Reading doesn’t have to be dull, and you don’t have to sit at your desk to do it – you can read in the bath, in the garden, in bed, or anywhere you can get comfortable.

Of course, reading around your subjects – though a big help – isn’t all you can do to stay sharp or catch up in the holidays. Personal tuition can also make a big difference – get in touch with 121 to discuss how we can help!

Making the most of study leave

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Study leave has started – or is about to start – for thousands of A level and GCSE students across the UK.

Study leave presents a big opportunity, and a big risk. For many students, after the rigours of a critical academic year, going off on leave can feel like a holiday, especially if the first exam isn’t for two or three weeks. However, it’s all too easy to slip into the holiday mentality during study leave and fail to make the most of the time to guarantee the best possible results in the coming exams.

As a student, the secret of managing your study leave successfully is to plan the available time with care. In our last post, which dealt with managing exam stress, we discussed the importance of planning and scheduling as tools to build your confidence as you approached exams. Spending your study leave working flat out, putting in sixteen or eighteen hours until your body and brain are ready to collapse, is probably as damaging to your chances as underworking yourself. 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.

On that basis, we’ve put together a suggested timetable for your days during study leave. This is meant for exam-free weekdays only – you shouldn’t abandon revision over weekends, but it might be a good idea to take things a bit easier then. On exam days, your timetable will be guided by the timing of each examination.

7.00am – 7.30am Get up, maybe take some early-morning exercise (even if it’s just a walk to the newsagent), shower and eat breakfast. This might seem really, really early in the morning, but your brain is going to be at its sharpest before lunch, so it’s a good idea to have a long morning. A bit of exercise first thing will wake you up (as will a shower), and a good breakfast is essential. A huge fry-up every day probably isn’t a good plan (you’ll go straight back to sleep…), but a large bowl of cereal, some toast, tea and juice will give your body and brain enough fuel for the morning’s work.

8.30am – 10.30am First revision session. It’s not a good idea to “blitz” this straight through. Instead, do fifty minutes work in every hour. Work for twenty-five minutes, have a five-minute break for a cup of tea and wander around, work for another twenty-five minutes and so on. After two hours it’ll be…

10.30am – 11.00am Time for a break. Don’t just flop around in the room where you’ve been studying – get out and do something. Tidy up, go for a quick walk, have a snack.

11.00am – 1.00pm 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.

1.00pm – 2pm Lunch. Again, give yourself a proper break. Have a decent lunch, but nothing too heavy that’s going to send you to sleep.

Afternoon/early evening In general, this is a good time to do less intense revision, such as reading around a subject. However, be careful about lying down on your bed or sofa to read a book – it’s very easy to fall asleep! Unless the pressure is really on, consider using the time to do other things. Get outside, go into town, go for a ride on your bike, have a walk or a run.

7.00pm – 10pm This is the second period in the day when your brain is probably at its most active. Make the most of this, and focus on the toughest bits of your revision.

10pm – 11pm Time to wind down. Watch TV, talk to friends, catch up with your email and Facebook. Better still, read a book.

11pm BED! It’s not a good idea to go out during weekdays on study leave, so get yourself to bed early. Even if you’re a night owl, your body and brain will benefit from a solid 8-9 hours sleep. And remember what your granny said – that hour before midnight is worth two after!

We’re not suggesting that you should stick to this as a rigid timetable. However, it’s a good indication of how you should be managing your days. You’ll notice that it doesn’t include hours and hours of work. We’ve factored in about seven to eight hours of revision per day, interspersed with good breaks and alternative activities. When you’re revising, it’s tempting to work like mad for the sake of it, and convince yourself that by working every spare hour of the day and night you somehow “deserve” to do well. In fact, it’s far better to do seven or eight hours of steady, good quality revision every day rather than flog yourself to half to death. Get plenty of exercise and rest, eat properly and sleep properly. Managing your study leave well isn’t just about hard work – it’s a question of balance.

If you want a bit of extra help during your study leave and you live in the Greater Manchester area, get in touch with 121 Home Tutors. We offer tuition in a range of subject areas, and might just be able to give you that bit of extra help that gets you the grades you need!