Navigating Study Leave

April 5, 2022
Exams

And just like that exam season is back again. After two years of frenzied strangeness in the form of a pandemic that tried its very best to beat our education system to a pulp, exams have risen again. So, at the mention of the words ‘study leave’ you might, understandably, be feeling a little lost. 

On paper, study leave sounds a lot like it came about when a teacher lost a bet with a student. No school, no teachers, just solo revision days at home - more than likely in a sunlit garden with a cooling glass of lemonade next to you. Sounds perfect, right? Not so fast. This will likely be the first time you’ve had to navigate independent study and there are a few pitfalls you need to be aware of to make sure you don’t fall into them.

What is study leave?

Study leave is reserved for students sitting GCSE or A-level exams. It generally begins around the time that the curriculum has been covered and all that remains to be done before exams is revision. During the study leave period, students can opt to stay at home to complete their revision and are obliged to come into school for exams only. Not all schools choose to offer students study leave but many feel it’s a great opportunity for them to delve deeper into the material they have to cover in the run-up to summer exams. 

Why is study leave important?

Once teachers taught everything on the syllabus, it’s over to the students. Teachers are, of course, still on hand to help but you’re in the driver’s seat. This can seem a little daunting at first but self-directed revision, when done properly, is the most effective way of ensuring you get the grades you want. This is because every student learns differently and has their own individual learning style so during the final push before exams, your study time needs to be tailored to you and you alone. 

Plus, study leave is a great way to prepare for independent study later in life. If you’re considering going to university, you’ll need to know how to work autonomously right from day one. So, when it comes to preparing for the realities of work at university, there really is no better dry run than study leave.

How can I make the most of study leave?

1. Create structure in your day

The first day of study leave might seem like the perfect opportunity to have the most satisfying lie-in of your life. On a sanctioned day off school, bed is surely the most logical place to be…? Well, no - try again. 

This part can be tough to swallow but it’s non-negotiable so let’s get it over with quickly: during study leave, days at home must be structurally treated like school days. Get up when you would normally get up for school, break for food when the lunch bell would normally be going and maybe have an afternoon snack around the time you’d be returning home. It’s not as bad as you think; you’ve been going to school for over half your life at this point - your body clock knows what to do!

2. Create a timetable

Since the day you started secondary school, your days have been held in place by that beautiful demon we all know and love: the timetable. But now study leave has begun and you’ve found yourself untimetabled, rudderless and pretty confused. You can probably guess what we’re going to say at this point. In the timetable-less planes of study leave, there’s really only one solution: make your own! 

It might not sound like the most appealing suggestion but creating your own study structure is rule no.1 of tackling the sense of “what’s next” brought on by the absence of formal teaching. Individual student timetables work in the same way as a school timetable; set aside an hour per day for each subject and spread your workload across this structure. And whatever you do, make sure you stick to it!

3. Get focused

In 2020 we watched adults across the world fight a valiant battle against a thousand out-of-office distractions in the struggle to master the art of effective home working. Maintaining deep concentration never stops being a challenge. However, learning effective focus techniques at a young age is guaranteed to help you throughout your life - trust us.  

Distancing yourself from distractions while working from home might sound easier said than done but there are ways. For example, downloading focus apps (which work by blocking your access to the internet up until a preset time) or making study pacts with your friends (where you agree not to contact each other during study hours). See our blog on focus tips for more on how to knuckle down and get work done.

4. Vary up your study

Studying at home has plenty to be said for it but, as you will no doubt remember from the not so distant homeschooling days of the pandemic, it can get a little monotonous. Make sure you’re introducing variety into your study patterns to a. avoid boredom and b. improve the quality of your revision. 

It is well known that using different types of techniques increases students’ ability to retain information. So, one day you might be rewriting notes; another you may be doing a past paper. It all helps keep your brain active and allows you to thoroughly process what you’re learning. See our memorisation blog for some tips on how to jazz up those revision hours.

5. Ask teachers for help

As much as they would probably appreciate an early summer holiday, teachers don’t disappear the moment study leave begins. They might have finished up with the curriculum but that doesn’t mean they’re not on hand to help you out until exams begin. 

Before you go on study leave, it’s a good idea to make sure you have your teachers’ school email addresses so you can contact them with any questions you have, whether about the material, study techniques or whatever else you might need help with. If you’ve just completed a practice essay, for example, send it over for them to mark. Or if you’re having trouble structuring your day, they will be more than happy to help you formulate a study plan.

Wait…what if study leave isn’t for me?

For many students study leave is a golden opportunity to turn it all around and guarantee the grades they’re hoping for. However, an important thing to remember is that if studying from home isn’t working for you, don’t force it. Everyone needs different conditions in order to be their most productive and the best solution for you might well be going into school and using the resources there. Recognising your own individual requirements is a very important part of independent study and if studying at home is not aiding your productivity, change it up.

Not sure how to use study leave productively?

For help creating a bespoke study plan, get in touch with our GCSE or A-level tutors

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Ella Burgess

Ella is a content writer at Tutor House and explores a range of education centred topics, having previously spent time teaching English while living abroad. A foreign language enthusiast and lover of text art, she is devoted to words in all their forms. She'll happily immerse herself in anything wordy from conceptual art to vintage murder mysteries.

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