With Halloween on its way and an autumnal chill beginning to set in, we’re already well into the new academic year and studies are gathering pace. As tests, tasks and coursework begin to add up it’s easy to feel a little overwhelmed after a long summer. You may even feel like you’re falling behind at school. But never fear – we’re here to help you pull it back and smash it before the Christmas holidays!
Organise and prioritise
Half term is the perfect time to get back on track with your studies; so you really should try and make the most of it. Having a mental break from school is important, but you don’t want to waste this chance to get things in order before classes start again.
One key way of getting back on track is going through your notes and organising them. Don’t wait until your exams to go through your folder in a panic and realise there are missing gaps. Spend the time gathering all your resources together and filling in the blanks where you didn’t have enough time to complete a task or perhaps missed a lesson. Do some of that suggested extra reading and make some mind maps or revision sheets summarising all the information you’ve learned so far. This means you’ll be laughing when it comes to reviewing everything for mocks as well as the real thing.
When going through your notes, it’s also helpful to flag up any areas that you find especially difficult or that are a recurring challenge. Keep getting stuck on the same type of algebra equation? Make a note and dedicate extra time to getting to the bottom of things, whether that’s doing more example questions or asking a teacher for a hand. That way, you won’t be fazed when it comes to the real exam.
Manage your time
What’s the number one way of improving in your studies? Improving your time management. It’s not just putting in more hours that will help you keep up and stop you from feeling overwhelmed!
Make lists of targets for yourself, identifying the key tasks you need to complete in order of priority. Writing everything down helps you focus on what’s in hand and shows you that it is manageable. And there’s nothing like the satisfaction that comes from crossing something off!
Once you’ve written down what you need to achieve, plan out your time for the day. It can help to physically sketch out a time table and draw in blocks of time you’ll spend on each subject and task, to make sure nothing gets ignored. Schedule in the tasks you find hardest and least enjoyable first as you want to tackle them when your brain is freshest and raring to go.
Making your time work for you also involves building in scheduled breaks. Going for a walk or meeting a friend for a quick lunch is great in keeping your brain refreshed in between tasks. Giving yourself mini time deadlines (e.g. ‘I’ll spend one and a half hours making notes on atomic structures and then get coffee with Rachel’) will force you to work with more efficiency when you are studying, in order to get everything done.
And cut down on distractions. Leaving your phone in another room is a simple but effective way of increasing your concentration.
Ask for help
There’s this myth that asking for help is a sign of weakness, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Seeking outside assistance in areas you find more difficult is the smartest decision you can make. Take the time to zoom in on the particular skill or topic which is giving you grief – asking for help in ‘everything’ won’t be productive or useful – and reach out. Your teachers are the obvious ones to turn to as they know your strengths and weaknesses and have seen countless students through exams, but tutors can also be a fantastic resource. [+ link] And don’t forget your friends! Everyone has different skills and they may be able to explain something clearly which will help it all make sense – and even ask for your help in return.
Fall back in love with your subject
Half term is also the perfect time to fall back in love with your subjects and remember why you’re studying them in the first place. Writing essays and taking tests makes it easy to forget your interest in a discipline but there’s a reason you elected to take it. Listen to a podcast on a fascinating scientific breakthrough, go to a museum, read a book not on your reading list or go to a concert to remember there’s more to music than Mozart. And if you don’t have a particular passion for a topic that’s ok too – seeking its application outside the classroom will help contextualise it and make the facts you’re studying come alive. And all this thinking around your subject can have a direct impact on your studies beyond increased motivation, giving you a greater depth of understanding, more creative ideas and even helping with your personal statement.