How to Study During the Half Term Break | Kickstart Guide

So you have a week off from school and if you're anything like me, that can feel like a blessing and a curse. You've probably been working hard all year and the first thought is "Woo! I'm going to do everything I've missed!" to then slowly transition into the blinding panic of "AHHHHH, I am going to miss so much work!".

The best thing to do is take an hour or so the week before half-term to create a plan/schedule for how you are going to approach the half term week so that you keep on top of the work and are ready as we approach the crucial exam season.

Not sure where to start over half-term and want that extra support from a qualified teacher, Sherpa tutors are here to help.

If you want to check out the best ways to manage your time effectively both in and out of school then check out our time management blog here.

Alternatively, you may want to know what the best possible resources are to help you with your studies during the break. If so, have a meander over to our blog on the best online resources for study here.

But for now, let's set up a rough plan for half term. Now, remember, this is just a guideline template and you should change it to best suit you, but it will help you get up and running. Getting started is always the hardest part, which is why this blog is here and our tutors are available to kickstart your exam season. Let's get started.

What Are My Goals?

Is this a catch-up week or are you planning to do work every day of break?

If it's a catch-up week, how many hours can you study each day to have caught up by the time school starts again? i.e. 2/3 hours per day during this week would be 6 hours in total. If that doesn't fit into your plan then adjust your daily target accordingly! You may need to spread that throughout more days or re-prioritise your activities until you reach your goal of catching up with the work within the week. Don't forget though; if you miss out on some work it is better than missing out on ALL work!

If you plan to study every day then take an hour or two each evening and schedule that into your day. If there are any serious distractions (e.g. family gatherings, social events, friend meet-ups) then again, re-prioritise until you can fit in the necessary revision time. It is important to maintain that balance over half-term. Use it to recuperate and plan revision around events, not the other way around like regular term time.

How Will I Achieve Them?

One of the most important things to consider is where you are going to study. It needs to be somewhere quiet, away from distractions and completely dedicated to your studies. The problem with this during term time is that there isn't much space or privacy at home for you to do this. You may get an hour before someone comes barging in on you or demands your attention!

This week though, it's all yours. Make sure that wherever you choose will remain free until the evening when everyone else has gone out so you can continue revision without interruption! "But what if I'm too tired after school?", I hear you ask...

That's why planning ahead of time is so important! If you create some sort of schedule for the week, you can fit in some time to rest so that when night falls your brain is fresh and ready to get on with work. You may want to split your break into dedicated resting hours, revision hours, or a mix of both. It all depends on what suits you best!

Okay, so unlike most templates that give you a rigid plan and regiment your day out to the second and how many strokes of the toothbrush you do when cleaning your teeth, this will be less comprehensive so that you can add your flair to it! These are just guidelines that can help you boost your grades.

Take time for yourself. Have a day off - I dare you!

Completely disregard studying. Yep, that's right, for at least a day, if not 2, you should focus on nothing but yourself. Do what you want and enjoy it, whether that is a massive gaming session for 18 hours, learning the entirety of Die Fledermaus or just sitting in the garden doing absolutely nothing.

Half-term is the perfect opportunity to set time aside for yourself. Don't feel guilty, make the most of it because self-care is important and good for you.

Lecture over.


Okay, the lecture is not quite over just yet.

There is nothing better for the brain than exercise. Get the blood circulating and the body moving, whether from a run or a calming yoga session.

Catch-up Before Pushing On

This is a perfect time to catch up on the work you have missed over the past few weeks. Let your brain get used to doing some work before it starts getting really intense again!

By catching up, you will be less stressed going into your exams because there is no revision bomb waiting for you at home. You can go in completely prepared to tackle your exams and get the grades you deserve!

A good way to make sure you are all caught up is mentioned next in the list. Using a few hours to document what you have covered so far and what needs more work is worth it in the long run and you can keep updating it until the end of the year!

Make a Retrospective Revision Timetable

I know you might be thinking it's way too early to start a revision timetable. How can I look into the future and predict what topics I will need to study and when? Well...that's where the retrospective timetable method comes in clutch.

Half-term is the perfect time to organise all of your subject topics into a timetable that you can update as you move through the year. No more scribbled revision timetables that you have to redraw over and over again!

You can make it once - splitting each subject into a spreadsheet with each row covering a topic of the syllabus. I recommend doing it digitally so you can edit it and always have it with you. Each time you sit down to revise the topic, keep focused on the same topic and cover everything in it - then mark down the date you covered it in the next column.

As a bonus feature, create a link in the spreadsheet for each topic to its own Google Doc full of questions you came across while revising. That way you can practice active recall each time you come back to a topic to ensure you have remembered everything without looking at a textbook. You want all of the topics to be green in the traffic light system before the exam comes around. Hear more about it in the video below:

Revision Materials

This is where you need to get your hands on some revision materials. If you don't already have them then time to start making them! If your notes from class aren't comprehensive enough then the library or online is a great place to start.

Make sure that the material is relevant and that it covers everything that could come up in an exam paper. Don't waste time learning information that is unlikely to come up and stick to the basics.

Starting off with revision is great because it gets your mind back into doing work and focusing on subjects that you may have not done for a while. It feels like coming home, getting comfortable and working at your own pace (which has been impossible over school time due to timetables).

Fall in Love - with SWOT Analysis

Use SWOT analysis to help you target the correct areas for revision. Use SWOT analysis after each revision session as you work through your topics. It can be really helpful especially when used alongside the retrospective revision timetable mentioned above.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

For example:

Strengths: I understand particular concepts really well and have a good understanding of how they work together and how I can relate to them in exam scenarios.

Weaknesses: My revision timetable is somewhat sporadic which means that I forget the information I need to know and my retention of particular content isn't great.

Opportunities: I know that I need to revise certain topics more than others and so I can create a plan of action for when and how I will do this.

Threats: My friends want to go on a trip at some point during the week, but I will have less time free to study if we do so, can I compromise on this?

Understand the Science of Effective Revision

SWOT is an example of a revision technique that forces you to take note and analyse how effective each session has been. There is loads of science to back up the benefits of revision but be aware - not all revision is created equal! One of the worst things you can do when time is short is to fall into the habit of wasting time on work that feels like revision but is really not doing you any good.

I recommend reading through this blog too before you get too far into that mountain of notes or start binge-watching a YouTube revision channel. It covers the psychology and science behind effective revision and the techniques to use as well as avoid to stand the best chance of success. Click here to give it a read.

Combining all of this advice makes for a productive yet restorative week off school! You've really earned this break. Keep one eye on your studies and you can't go wrong. You are in charge of how the half-term week go and get it!

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James Gurnett

11th February

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