Ah, summer: sun, warmth, longer days… and exams. Though the exam months of May and June seem like distant blips on the horizon, they’ll be here before you know it. Leaving revision to the last minute inevitably leads to underperformance, so it’s crucial for students to make the most of every school holiday before summer begins.
The February half-term is a great time to recharge batteries, catch up on any missed work, and go over all course materials studied thus far. That doesn’t mean missing out on all the fun: with the right strategy and approach, you can cover a lot of ground during this crucial week whilst enjoying your vacation to the fullest. Here are our top February half-term revision tips.
Half-Term Revision Tips: Do…
- Make a half-term revision plan. Have a look at your upcoming exams and what topics need to be covered – and then make a plan for how much time you need to spend revising for each course, and when. Even if you don’t do anything else during this vacation, having a plan for the week and months ahead will be extremely helpful. Highlight any important dates in your calendar: holidays; term dates; important coursework deadlines; and your exam dates timetable. Having an easy-to-refer-to timetable will make you feel more in control, and will also allow you to take ownership over the time you have left.
- Get organised. Whilst exam season may seem a long way away, it’s never too early to prepare. After all, who ever heard of a student saying ‘I wish I hadn’t started planning for my exams so early – I was way too prepared!’. The nearer exams get, the less time you’ll have – and you’ll want to devote that precious time to studying, not finding the right books or searching for pens. Check all the materials you have and ensure you have copies of everything that has been covered so far. Make a note of anything that may be missing and speak with your teacher as soon as you return to school. Start thinking about and stockpiling any additional revision materials (books, website links, etc.) you might need, as well as essential exam kit (e.g. transparent pencil cases, spare ink cartridges, and even things like spare calculators).
- Catch up. Now is the time to check through your notes and assignments and make sure you’re up to date – and, if you’re not, give yourself a chance to catch up. Speak with classmates and borrow notes if necessary; and, even if you don’t have time to complete any missed homework assignments, go through the work that was set and make sure you understand everything. If you don’t, add this to your list of things to consult teachers about when you return to school!
- Keep your brain active. That means eschewing the ‘easy’ option of simply reading your notes for an hour or two and then calling it a day. According to Ruth Sparkes, editor of teen magazine Future Mag, ‘the most ineffective way to revise is to read notes. Not much goes in, minds wander and too much time is spent “working” for very little learning.’ Effective half-term revision means challenging your brain: and one of the most powerful ways to do that is through testing yourself. Grab some past papers and practise under timed conditions. Even if you don’t know enough to get the answers completely right, forcing your brain to work in this way will improve retention, problem-solving, and help you strength existing connections. Make notes on any areas that proved tricky and go through this with your tutor at your next study session or with your teacher when the new term starts.
Half-Term Revision Tips: Don’t…
- Forget to take breaks. It’s tempting to work until you feel fit to drop – but this would be a mistake. Studies have shown that the brain needs rest at regular intervals in order to stay focused. If you build in some regular breaks – the Pomodoro method of taking a five minute break for every 25 minutes of revision has proved effective – your revision is more likely to have an impact, and giving your brain a chance to recover will improve cognitive function and recall.
- Rely on caffeine. Another temptation when revising is to have a big mug of coffee to hand: caffeine is a stimulant and can perk you up if you’re feeling tired. Don’t rely on this substance, though. Caffeine is a short-term solution: it stays in your body for two days and can cause you to become overstimulated, impacting on sleep quality as a result – thus making you more tired in the long run.
- Confuse your body clock. It’s the holidays! That means staying up late and binging your favourite boxset or partying with your mates, right? Wrong. Disrupting your normal sleep schedule with lots of late nights will not only leave you feeling exhausted – rather than refreshed – by the time the holiday is over, but also will make it much harder for you to get back into the school routine (which will ultimately affect your performance).
- Overdo it. Here at Mentor we applaud all students who wish to use the school holidays to get ahead with their revision. However, it’s really important that you also get a bit of time off and rejuvenate your mind and body for the more challenging months ahead. Get some fresh air, socialise with friends and family, and get plenty of sleep! And if a quick refresher lesson with a tutor will help you feel that you’ve used your time effectively – without putting undue stress on yourself to spend every hour revising – don’t hesitate to contact us. Our experienced team of teachers are here to help you make the most of your half-term holiday.