Study skills for 2020: how to work in the New Year

For this blog aimed at older students (from 13+ through to A-Level), our fantastic schools consultant Jeremy Edwards talked us through some ways to improve your studying in 2020. As a former English teacher, Deputy Head at a London senior school and Headmaster of two London prep schools, Jeremy is ideally placed to help students organise their thinking.

Study skills are all about how to study. As the what gets more and more overwhelming - with students expected to keep on top of ten GCSE subjects, for example - being canny about how you study rises in importance. Indeed, good study skills are crucial for students realising their potential, especially those who struggle to direct their talents.

Many schools now provide specialist support on this as standard, holding lessons on study and revision skills for students. Developing these skills should extend outside the classroom, however. Good news, though: as Jeremy Edwards explained to us, there are some simple ways you can get on top of things and study like a boss in 2020!

Organise and file your work

First things first, to study efficiently you need to know where all your stuff is, and be able to access it easily. There’s not much use in sitting down to do some homework or revision but then having to spend twenty minutes rummaging to find your notes.

You need to get organised. Put your notes and essays into files and folders organised first by subject and then topics within the subject. Develop your own system and stick to it. In thinking about this yourself, you will be able to quickly and automatically find things.

Whether these files are physical or digital (or a combination of the two) is your choice, the important thing is that they are organised. However, you may find that when it comes to revision, physical notes and essays make more sense. They’re easier to annotate and highlight, as well as easier on your eyes!

Manage your time

Along with organising your notes, you need to organise your time. You want to get clear on how long things take you on a day-to-day basis. How long do you need to finish your homework and finish it well? Time yourself doing this one day, then leave that much time aside regularly. Such time management assumes extra importance as exams approach: working out an appropriate revision timetable is really half the battle of revision.

Although it isn’t time actually working, spending a few hours planning out your time is hugely productive in the long run. It enables you to think clearly about individual tasks and not be overwhelmed by everything.

Crucially, good time management doesn’t mean cutting back on the things you enjoy or find rewarding. As deadlines and exams loom, the temptation is to pull out of that team, or not go for that drama role. Resist that temptation! With good time management, you will find the time to do all the things you love and that make you a more rounded individual. Sticking with your extracurricular activities will help you study, too. If you are happy and doing the things that make you happy, studying will feel easier and you will keep up your academic performance.

Be healthy and get enough sleep

Keeping up with your extracurricular passions is just one way you can think holistically about studying (having all the elements of your life contributing to your academic growth). One of the most important benefits of learning how to study is to avoid panic and anxiety, and there are a few simple considerations that might help you with this.

The most important concerns something you do every day: sleep. Admittedly, it can be hard to get up in the morning as a teenager. So much so that some schools have taken drastic measures: Hampton Court House, for example, has introduced later start times for sixth form students. Most of you likely won’t have that luxury, so will have to incorporate some proper sleep into your time management.

You might also need to make some seemingly tough but ultimately worthwhile decisions. In important school years, during the week, is it really advisable to stay up beyond midnight playing video games? You know the honest answer to that question and you might want to make a few lifestyle choices to give yourself the best chance of feeling restful. Diet is another consideration: although energy drinks might seem like a good option, most of the time you’re better off with more nutritional sources of energy.

Revise in an active way

Finally, cultivating good habits when it comes to revision will help you at the crunch moments nearer the end of the school year. Again, it’s all about how you revise. The trick is to be active, rather than passive. You’re not a sponge, soaking up knowledge without having to actually do anything. Rather, you have to make your revision engaging and ensure it is a constructive process.

For example, rather than just reading straight from your class notes in History or English, take time to condense those notes into manageable, practical revision notes. Then, highlight the key facts and evidence on those sheets. If you are revising a subject with more facts to learn, such as Biology, then perhaps make your own flashcards and test yourself with them.

If all of this seems quite obvious and straightforward, then good! Becoming skilled at studying is not like building a supercomputer. It’s just simple steps, taken in a thoughtful way. Remember, if you feel like any of these processes are too tough or you need help balancing commitments, then a little bit of guidance from your teacher will go a long way. Otherwise, happy studying in 2020!

If you’d like to talk with one of our expert tutors or consultants about developing your study skills, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with Ivy Education today!