Step 1: Prepare yourself

The very beginning of study leave is the best time to accept that it’s not going to be fun. If you care about your grades, then until the end of your last exam, it’s going to be a little bit boring/stressful/difficult. I suggest accepting this fate early on. Once you’ve come to terms with this, compile all the resources you will need to study. This might include class notes, worksheets, textbooks, online resources, blank practice exams, blank flash cards, or anything else you believe will be beneficial.

Step 2: Set up a timetable

One way to ensure that you are productive is to use a detailed timetable. With a specific plan set out for the day, it’s a lot easier to motivate yourself to study than if you have only the vague intention of ‘studying today’.

  • First, make a list of everything you will need to do for each subject to know the material for the exam, based on the resources you compiled earlier. Consider how much time you have to study, how much material you need to cover, and the most efficient way to cover it.
  • Once you have a list of everything you need to do to prepare yourself for your exams, begin to put the tasks into your timetable. You could create a table with 4 columns: Date, Subject, Specific Task, and Time. Ensure you highlight the days your exams are on, so you don’t end up scheduling to write a Biology practice paper 2 days after the Biology exam. Put in specific times – I’m talking ‘Economics practice paper: 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm’ or ‘Statistics Workbook Pages 136/137: 9 am – 9:30 am’. When estimating how long these tasks will take you, give yourself a realistic amount of time to complete them. Continue until you fill up your study leave with work to complete.
  • As time progresses, you will inevitably have to adjust your timetable, whether you suddenly realise you forgot to insert some study material, you need to go back to school to ask your teacher for help, or you underestimate how long completing a set task will take. There will be re-shuffling, but the beauty of a timetable is that it lets you do so and still be organised. It’s your friend – it’s there to help you out and push you along when you lose momentum. As long as you fill it with useful work, keep updating it, and ensure you actually stick to it, you can succeed. 

Step 3: Keep sane while studying

Your work is now prepared, but there are some other aspects to organise, one being a way to keep sane. Some people can study in complete silence, while others can’t. If you are unable to concentrate, consider creating a playlist with concentration-inducing/motivational songs that will break the silence but not your focus. Having a long study playlist ready in advance is better than sitting searching for good music instead of doing your work.

Step 4: Remove distractions

If you’re serious about attaining good results, then you will need to make sacrifices. One of the most dangerous items you can have when studying is your phone. I suggest, as unbearable as it sounds, to put your beloved device into another room while you study. Or, if you’re not quite able to separate, perhaps temporarily delete its most distracting apps until your exams are over. I’m sure you know all too well how a day can disappear when it’s spent scrolling. Don’t let your phone be an option, because when it’s social media vs studying, the latter never wins.

Distraction can also be in people form. Maybe your productivity soars in group environments, but be aware that study sessions usually end up being gossip sessions. If you absolutely can’t work alone and need help or motivation from others, go ahead. However, if you’re someone that can’t concentrate on boring work when there are interesting people around, it’s probably better to study solo.

Another big distraction is your environment. If you’re at home and there are kids running around or construction going on at the neighbour’s, you won’t be able to concentrate. If your home isn’t sufficient, you can always go to the public library. You might even be able to go back to school and find an empty room for the day. Ensure you have a relatively quiet room.

Step 5: Actually do the studying

It’s the first day of study leave. You’re sitting at your desk. Your gently motivational playlist is ready to go. Your timetable sits in front of you, and it’s saying exactly what to do. You have your workbook open to the correct page. All you need to do is start. Yes, start studying. You know how to do that, you’ve done it before. Unfortunately, your mind is telling you not to. ‘Don’t do the work! It’ll be boring, you won’t get the answers right, and it’s the FIRST day of study leave – you have heaps of time!’

This voice is going to be the hardest part of study leave. It’ll pop up and make it difficult to stay on task. How might you shut it down? All you need to do is keep your eye on the prize, the prize being those sweet, sweet Excellence credits you’ll see in January when results are released. Or those sweet, sweet Achieved credits – whatever you’re aiming for. You must force yourself to begin your work because once it starts, it’s an easy flow from there. Don’t forget that you have your timetable too – you can’t let yourself procrastinate for 2 hours, because then your entire schedule will be messed up! If you don’t do the work set in your timetable, you’ll run out of time and kick yourself for it when you’re sitting in an exam. 

Step 6: Get through the real exams

Now, we move onto the really terrible part: the actual exams.

Don’t forget that piece of paper with your details on it. You know the one. Or an unnecessary amount of stationery in the CLEAR plastic bag. Or your water, because hydration is important. Try to be on time. Make sure you try your hardest. Attempt everything you can. Put in the most effort possible. Go get those Excellences. Remember: even if you fail absolutely everything – the worst possible outcome – at least you can say you tried.

For those sitting exams in school this year, I hope this is useful. Good luck!

Sarah is a Year 13 student who loves writing and the subject of English. She intends on one day becoming an Editor or a Technical Writer.


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