As we approach the Christmas break, many Year 11 students begin to realise they’re now halfway through the year and that they have an important few months coming up. This can worry many students, especially since many are already struggling to balance the multitude of subjects they have to study (a number I’ve seen reach 13 subjects before!).
I wanted to write this article to give some advice to those students finding it difficult to juggle their range of subjects, and hopefully help them to feel more on top of things over the coming months in the run-up to their exams. I have focused on GCSE’s, but this advice is very relevant to anybody studying at any level and is based on techniques I’ve used myself to help with my preparation.
Use the holidays wisely
The first tip I would give is to use the Christmas holidays wisely. Most schools have three weeks of holiday before the new term starts in January. It’s a lovely time of the year, and everybody should celebrate and relax for a while. However, once the festivities are over, it’s important to get some work done to make sure you’re suitably prepared for the new term.
Especially after New Years’ Eve, try to go back through all of the content you’ve covered over this past term. For each subject, make a note of topics you have struggled with because these are the ones you are going to need to prioritise when it comes to revising the content. The reason for doing this over the holidays rather than waiting until schools starts up again is that once the term starts, you’ll be learning lots of new content and have a lot of other things to do, so it will become much harder to find the time to do this.
Something that I believe is key to success at any stage in life is organisation. At school, it’s so important to make sure that you’ve organised all your books and folders for every subject. Make sure that everything for the same subject is together so that you can find things easily. Nothing makes revising harder than having to look through piles of paper to find that one sheet you remember your Physics teacher giving you back in September. Get everything organised and label all of your stuff to make your life a lot easier. Just doing something as simple as this will reduce stress so much and allow you to get ahead.
Focus on a small group of subjects at a time
A mistake a lot of students make is thinking that because they study many subjects, each time they revise they must do a small bit for every one of those classes. So, every weekend that they’re revising, they then squeeze a small period of time in for each subject so they can feel they’re keeping everything balanced across the board.
This is a very counterproductive way of working. Because you’re spending so little time on each subject, you end up only scratching the surface and not going in-depth, meaning you get limited gains. It is much better instead to concentrate on just two or three subjects each weekend and cover them in greater detail. In this way, you’ll immerse yourself much more in the subject, and your learning will be enhanced.
Of course, over time you need to make sure you are covering all subjects. However, it doesn’t have to be every time you sit down to work that you do this. Focus first on spending time on the subjects that you know require most work (this will be made clear from going through the content, going back to my first point), then go from there.
Do little bits every day
To prevent the feeling of a need to cover every subject every weekend, I want to share a technique I used during my A-Levels that really helped with revision. Every day after school, I would go through the content I had covered that day in each lesson and make notes on the content. I would spend a period of time for each of these subjects looking back over anything I had written down during that lesson, the pages from the textbook we might have covered and any handouts we had received, then make notes bringing it all together. If there were things which I still didn’t understand I would look on the Internet and research until I had an understanding, and then add these parts to my notes.
This is a fantastic habit to get into. By doing something small like this every day (it really won’t take very long: the classes will still be fresh in your mind), you will save yourself a lot of time later in the year when you have to go back over things. Instead of having to make notes from scratch, you’ll be able to take these already made notes and go through things a lot quicker. Also, the simple act of going back over things later in the same day will make it a lot easier to recall the information, instead of just seeing it once in class (where a lot of students struggle to concentrate anyway) and not seeing it ever again until it comes to study leave.
Ask for help
Sometimes it’s better to seek help from others when struggling to understand content. I think you should always try to work out a problem by yourself first, but if this doesn’t work out there are three places you can go to for help.
First of all, you can ask your teacher for help if you are struggling with a certain topic. Often they will be happy to help you in their own time, as they will appreciate that you are willing to give up your own time to try to get your head around the topic. Ask them if they are available at times when you have free periods, during lunch/break times or even before school, and see what they say. Just make sure that if you do ask them to do this you are on time and have made clear exactly the things you wanted to go through so you are not wasting their time.
Another great place to go for help is the Internet, as I mentioned earlier. There are so many resources online for every topic, so type what you need help with into Google and see what comes up. Whether you prefer audio, video or written content, there will be resources out there for you, and most of the time you will be able to find something for free. For example, at ESpeak we have our podcast, the ESpeak Spanish Podcast, aimed at GCSE and A-Level students to help them practice their Spanish. But we also have several written and video resources on our website, including worksheets for practising certain topics (which we’ll be releasing more of over the coming weeks – visit https://espeak.online/content to see what we’ve created so far!). All you have to be is committed to taking the time to find what you need.
I would also recommend getting a tutor if you can. Tutors have been through what you are going through right now, and this is always the best type of person to get advice from and to learn from. They will challenge what you’ve learned and make sure that you are covering the areas which you are weaker in to improve.
ESpeak have 50-minute online lessons in Spanish in which we guarantee that you will grow in confidence speaking Spanish and also excel in your exams. Your first lesson with us is always free, so you can get started with your learning without having to pay anything. You can find out more about us on our website: https://espeak.online. We understand that tutoring can be an expensive option for people so if you would like our help but can’t afford the prices, please get in contact and we will do what we can to help.
When it comes down to it, a lot of the process of juggling your different subjects or modules comes down to organisation. As the famous quote goes, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Try to do the work now to ease your mind and make sure that you are in a good place for the coming months. Then, follow the advice in this article, and dedicate the time to your studies, and I’m sure everything will go to plan.
And ultimately, keep in mind that these exams are not the end of the world. They are very important, but your life will not be determined by how you do in them. So make sure to enjoy yourself at the same time.