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The decorations are down, leftovers eaten and all signs of Christmas are getting packed away. It’s back to work with a vengeance, or if you’re a student back to school or college. Whether you were organised before the holidays or not, it is now essential to get good study habits in place. It may seem that GCSE and A level exams are way off but trust us, they will be here before you know it!
Here’s how to get ready …
1.Get back into routine
Remind yourself what day it is, get out the new calendar and plan to use each day more effectively. This may mean setting the alarm clock again to get up early but also means listing priorities and scheduling study periods that make the most of free time.
Although it’s important to balance study with extra-curricular activities such as hobbies or exercise, students also need to plan in sufficient time for studying. This should include time spent on specific homework activities as well as extra time for getting organised, reading around the subject and seeking help where necessary.
2. Get more sleep
Late nights and lie-ins beyond noon may be fine for the holidays, but getting sufficient sleep is vital for healthy brain functioning and effective study – learning when sleepy is ineffective and likely to lead to frustration.
3. Clear the desk or study area
Designate a study area which is free from distractions and temptations. It may be worth prompting parents to provide a quiet, well-lit study space away from interruptions and clutter. Make sure all the necessary items are to hand and the space is clear for you to spread relevant work out. Good lighting helps to avoid eye strain and fatigue and should help to focus on the task in hand.
It’s not a bad idea for parents to take the extra step of encouraging a ‘communication black-out’ which means the temporary removal of mobile phones and other gadgets so that students are not constantly interrupted by social media. Not only does this help to manage study time effectively, but students will get work completed quicker and it’s good preparation for the work place.
4. Get organised
Accessible shelves or drawers are required to store work neatly. Investing in folders, dividers, plastic pockets and a good quality hole punch and stapler is also a must to keep work organised. There’s nothing more likely to add stress to a household than a tired student hollering ‘who’s spilt coffee on my RS homework?’ or ‘why is my Geography leaflet in the dog basket?’. Getting organised doesn’t mean this will never happen but it reduces stress generally as work is accessed more easily and makes much better use of time.
5. Do a stock take on books and equipment
This was probably done at the beginning of the summer term, but it is worth doing another quick check. As well as PE kits, students need to carry the correct pens, ink, pencils, ruler, protractor, scientific calculator and a whole list of other items such as dictionaries and specific course materials. It’s also worth checking if you have the relevant course textbook and revision guides. If these aren’t provided by school or college then you can ask teachers for advice on the best books to buy. They don’t have to be expensive and you can often buy good quality second hand revision guides, assuming that you are not studying one of the numerous new exam courses.
6. Review notes after each lesson
This may sound obvious but you would be amazed at how many students don’t do this. Students should check their own notes from each lesson, fill in any gaps and most importantly check they understand it. If not, they should read around the subject further and get help where necessary – this may initially be from supportive friends but more likely from teachers.
Notes should be summarised by students using bullet points, flow charts or diagrams, whilst also highlighting key terms and concepts. Mapping out key ideas to show links and actively reading will also help. The danger of students not reviewing as they go through the course is that they come to topic tests, or even worse GCSE and A level revision, and find that there are huge gaps in knowledge and understanding, which can then make revision seem overwhelming.
7. Know expectations
Students taking GCSE or A level exams this year should make sure that they know which exam board they are taking for each subject. They will also need a course summary or specifications to give an overview of what’s involved. If this hasn’t come from school then students may benefit from buying course specific revision books or printing specifications from the exam board website (see Education websites).
It is also useful for students to make a note of any coursework deadlines so they can factor this in to their time planning – and avoid the horror of missing deadlines altogether!
8. Get in the study habit
If you are planning to continue your studies at school, college or university then no doubt you may have a few years studying ahead of you. Getting into good habits now will pay dividends; not only will you feel les stressed but students can use their time more effectively, enjoy their study more and hopefully get better grades in the process.
9. Think positively
Approaching homework in a positive manner and studying with the right attitude will make study time more productive and less frustrating.
10. Set up small study groups
Getting a small group of like-minded students together to study can reap rewards. Testing language vocab, conversing in a foreign language, asking questions and clarifying difficult topics can be made more fun by working as a group. A maximum of 6 per group would be recommended, so this doesn’t become just a social gathering, and choose students who are at least as dedicated to improving their grades as you are – otherwise this may be counter –productive!
11. Develop active listening skills
By the time students are studying for GCSEs they should be improving their concentration and avoiding distractions in class – this means ‘actively listening’ to the teacher. It may sound obvious but students should not be talking or thinking about their own problems or what they’re going to have for tea whilst the teacher is talking. It helps if students can spot key command phrases such as ‘this is important’, ‘check the spelling’ and ‘listen up’ ….
12. Improve note-taking techniques
Good notes can make life easier for students when it comes to revision. The act of taking notes helps you to study and retain essential information. Quality of notes is more important than quantity– it really isn’t beneficial to copy out ‘everything’ from a textbook! Good students may develop the following techniques to write good summary notes:-
- shorthand techniques
- highlight key words and phrases
- use bullet points to condense notes
- use flow charts to show the sequence of events
- draw annotated diagrams to summarise
- mind maps to link ideas and summarise topics.
If students struggle with any of the above then they should ask parents for support as well as seeking help and advice from individual teachers. If all else fails then get in touch with One Stop Tutors for advice, individual tuition or information about our group courses at One Stop Tutors