Study leave is a period of time many schools and colleges give their students with the intention of them revising at home. This usually occurs in Years 11 and 13 just before GCSE, A level and BTEC exams. Study leave can be both positive and negative. On the one hand, your teen's got time away from the classroom to really focus on their studies, but on the other hand they've got less routine and potentially more distractions! With this in mind, here are 9 effective tips on how to help your teen make the most out of their study leave.
1: Create the perfect study environment
Help them find a calm space to study and revise. Things to consider are noise levels, lighting, ability to store their papers tidily, not being disturbed by other family members. Different people have different needs, for some, background music is helpful to studying, for others it’s a distraction. Different locations can help some children, so rather than always working in their bedroom, they might like to use the dining room, or living area from time to time. Give your child space to work out what works best for them
2. Create a revision schedule
Sit with your child and help them work out a revision timetable. Smaller, regular revisions sessions are usually much more productive than cramming so starting revision well in advance is a good strategy.
Part of the value in creating a revision timetable is to ensure all topics are covered in the lead up to exams, rather than your child getting side-tracked by one subject they either find very difficult or prefer doing. Sticking to the timetable is important and promotes self-discipline. However, sometimes things take longer than expected, so don’t get cross if your child deviates from the plan.
A good idea is to factor in some unassigned revision time "buffer time" to make flexibility easier.
3. Establish a routine
Routine is important, not only when it comes to creating a revision time-table, but also for homelife in general. Try to set breakfast, dinner, family time, family activities at similar times to create stability and familiarity. It can be difficult when everyone has their own schedule, but it is worth having some anchor points throughout the week when you all get together, such as breakfast at 7.15 am on weekdays.
Try to get your child to start their revision by 9am at the latest. This is likely to be when their morning exams happen, so by starting their revision at this time they are training their brain to be alert and fully engaged in the morning.
4. Factor in short breaks
When helping them create a study or revision timetable, ensure they factor in five or ten minute breaks within 30 or 60 minute study sessions. Short bursts of studying produce much better results than long stretches. Even if they have to study all day or all evening, they should not do more than an hour at a time without having a short rest.
5. Factor in long breaks
It’s important for them to take time out and do things they enjoy – such as watching a film, being part of their regular sports team, attending a concert, spending time with friends and family. Not only does this give the brain a chance to switch off, refocus and assimilate information, it will help them find an appropriate work-play balance to ensure a productive and happy life in the long term. Try and help them ensure their breaks include a variety of different activities (not just staying in their room watching a box set).
6. Help them refocus
From time to time, we all need to take a break. When things get tough, it can sometimes be helpful to step away from the problem and revisit it with a calm mind and renewed outlook rather than struggle on. If, on occasion, your child doesn’t stick rigidly to their revision timetable, don’t worry, they are probably doing enough to stay on track. If you don’t think they are, and the school agrees, it might be time to work out different rules to help them refocus.
7. Try a range of revision strategies
There are a lot of misconceptions about what good revision looks like. In fact, there has been a lot of psychological research into the field of revision, which has found that most people revise by re-reading their textbooks and making summary notes. Whilst these strategies do work, they are regarded as relatively inefficient ways of revising - meaning it will take a lot longer to memorise the material than other revision techniques.
Research has found that the most effective revision technique is Practice Recall. This can include strategies, such as teaching the material to others, completing past papers, creating mind-maps or 'brain dumps', using flash cards and making use of trigger words to help recall information.
8. Stay fit and healthy
Make sure they drink lots of water, keep a balanced diet, sleep 8-9 hours per night, exercise regularly and limit their caffeine intake.
9. Keep an eye on mental health
It’s good to be aware of the signs of anxiety and stress so you can watch out for them. A change in behaviour for a day or two might be nothing to worry about, but if you notice a regular change in your child, then it’s usually a sign that something is wrong. Provide an opportunity for your child to learn some proven techniques which help reduce anxiety. It’s a really good idea for them to practise some of these methods when they’re not anxious, so they can familiarise themselves with the approaches. Regularly practising relaxation techniques helps keep anxiety at bay too. Some good choices are, breathing exercises, mindfulness apps (Headspace, Calm), yoga, meditation, walking.
If you’d like to know more about what you can do at home to help your teen make the most out of their study leave we’ve got plenty of tips in The Parents’ Guide to Study and exam revision. There’s advice and information on:
Keeping them healthy (covering sleep, diet, exercise, hydration and caffeine)
Providing the right homelife (environment and routines)
Ways to help them revise
How to support them during exam time
How to help them with exam nerves
How to spot the signs of stress and where to get further support
Ways to help them build their mental resilience (focusing on mind and body)