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Now that summer is but a distant memory, I thought this would be a good time to share some of my tips on how best to approach your studies as you get back into your ‘back to school’ routines.
We all had a few interruptions to our studies over the summer, including the hot weather and other events, such as the World Cup and Wimbledon (my personal favourite distraction – it would always fall two or three weeks after I had finished my exams so taking time off work to relax with this was my reward). Some of you might also have been away on holiday 😊
Those of you who’ve already purchased our revision packs will be aware of some of the study tips that we recommend here; this article goes a step further by expanding on them in more detail.
That said, before we go any further, we would like to stress that there is no right or wrong way to study and you must find a method that best suits you and your needs. These are some generic tips and guidelines that you can try, based on my personal experiences.
Turn off your phone and emails! We can’t emphasise this enough
Texts and emails are a very common and easy distraction I think we’d all agree? However, I do recommend that you switch off your devices while you’re studying so as not to be disturbed by the pings – you’ll be surprised what a difference it makes to your concentration to have unbroken silence for an hour or so.
I, personally, need silence while I’m studying (and working) to be able to fully concentrate but I have friends who like that bit of background noise – each to their own.
Put together a study timetable. And stick to it!
This study tip is my personal favourite! If you’re studying via classroom-based learning, you’re halfway there with this tip; you’ll have a college timetable and structure in place already, all you need to do now is simply factor in homework and exam revision time. However, for the distance learner, there is no structure and it’s up to you to create one.
For the distance learner, an element of self-discipline is required here. I know that a lot of you like the flexibility that distance learning provides, along with being able to choose your exam dates, and that is what distance learning was made for, although this can come at a cost for some students. It’s so easy to let the studies slip for a few days and, before you know it, those days have turned into weeks and sometimes months. When you do pick up your textbooks again, you find yourself going over the chapters you did last time, rather than moving forward.
Therefore, put together a study timetable at the start of each module and stick to it. If you know you have an event coming up, perhaps a friend’s birthday or a family wedding, factor that in to take the pressure off. Only you know how much time you have each week to commit to your studies, so no-one else can put together this timetable for you but please be realistic. As a general rule, 6-8 hours a week is a recommended guideline.
Use your preferred exam date as your starting point, and work backwards from there. A lot of students base their exam dates around going on holiday – they want to get it out of the way before they go!
No snapping, or chatting. What is Snapchat anyway? Stay off social media, for as long as you can manage…!
As I say here, I will openly admit that I don’t know what Snapchat is. I’ve had it explained to me and I still don’t get it – it must be my age! I don’t understand many of the social media sites either, if I’m completely honest, but I do know that they are a distraction for many of you 😊. As with texts and emails, I would encourage you to turn off any notifications while you’re studying to help with your concentration. Your studies will be a relatively short-term commitment with only a few hours at a time. You can look to see what your friends are doing after your study sessions and share your success with them after each exam.
Factor in time for family & friends
When you put together your study timetable, please ensure that you include some downtime, and time to spend with family and friends. This can be difficult if we’re working full-time as well but it is important. It has taken me a long time to get to grips with this study tip and sometimes it can feel like a double-edged sword. We need the break to rest our minds but then we end up feeling stressed and guilty because we’re not studying!
I would also recommend timetabling in some gaps to allow for ‘other things that might crop up’. You can always work through these gaps if you don’t have anything on when the time comes. Which leads us nicely onto our next tip…
Accept that life will sometimes get in the way - and that’s okay.
This is easier said than done, I know. Large or small, good or bad, there will always be something that interrupts our studies along the way. I’m not talking about when your friend calls you up to go out for a drink but more the circumstances-beyond-our-control. Maybe you’re poorly and miss a week of studies, or perhaps your child / parent is poorly and you have put your studies on hold to look after them.
This is okay, put your books to one side so they’re not sat there staring at you and get back to them when you’re ready. What’s the worse thing that can happen? You might forget some of the detail and have to do some revision to catch up. Or maybe sit your exam a few weeks’ later. It’s nothing serious, although it may well cause us some stress and anxiety at the time.
Save that box set binge to celebrate passing your exam!
And finally, you’ve put in all the hard work and now it’s congratulations, you’ve passed your exam!! What are you going to do to celebrate? You’ve got so much free time on your hands now you don’t know what to do with yourself. One of the ways I like to unwind is with a box set – it always helps me unwind after a long study / work session. Others of you will like to celebrate with your friends and get out and about in the fresh air. Whatever you do, enjoy yourself and have fun. You can relax now (until the next time?!)…