If you are reading this then I presume that you are going into a next academic year in the next few weeks, so I thought that this would be a useful post. I know that I have had a few DM’s with people wanting to know ‘how I manage it all’ and ‘how I got the grades I did’ and I ultimately think its down to consistently trying to go the extra mile when I was studying or when I was in college. It may feel like you are doing extra but I would rather go a little bit further the whole year, and then when it came to exam season not have the crazy cramming panic that everyone else seems to experience!
A lot of people will go into this year trying to make this year ‘your year’ and this especially applies if you are in year 11,12 and 13… time is precious and you are running out of time to get the grades that you deserve! You honestly don’t need to make a huge change and there are many little things that are going to make a huge difference to your grades this year, just small changes here and there will help you go further in the long run. Its all about focusing and disciplining yourself to study even when there isn’t compulsory work to do.
- Do your compulsory homework and then extra
This is probably one of my biggest tips, as although it seems like such a pointless exercise at the time it was so useful in the long run. All of your subjects will give you homework which is the priority, but once you have done that then also do extra to back it up. For example, in my business lessons we used to have to complete a few questions in the textbook but I would aim to do the whole page. When you were doing it, it seemed like wasted time but it was actually really helpful because you always felt a little step ahead of the others, and you definitely did expand your knowledge quicker. Once you have planned it into your weekly timetable then you get used to doing more work and it just all slots into place. Don’t get me wrong, it is 100% more time consuming but definitely worth it! Other things you could do as ‘extra’ would be an essay to hand into your teacher (I did 3 a week for sociology), writing up some class notes, doing some further reading around the subject or even asking your teacher for advice on what to do!
- Get up earlier
I know I know, we are all teenagers and we all like having a lie in… its normal! I am by no means saying that I am perfect at this, I love sleep and I did sleep in a fair amount during my A levels but it definitely did make me more productive when I woke up earlier. I started studying at half 6 and it meant that I gained so many more hours in the day, plus I loved the time of morning when everyone else was asleep and it was the perfect quiet time for focused study without distraction both in person (from my family) or my phone (because nobody else was awake). From about March I aimed to get up early 6 days a week and have one lie in on a Sunday and then when exam season hit I woke up early everyday. I know that some people are night owls though (I’m luckily quite a morning person) but do try to get up an hour earlier, it may be painful at first but you get used to it. I have certainty lost my routine over summer but I am definitely going to try and get back into it when I move to university, it will give me so much more time as I will have a lot more on my plate when I’m doing my degree.
- Establish a routine with frees- cut any wasted time!
Ill be honest, I spent my first year at sixth form not utilising my frees in the slightest and I do regret it now because I think back to all of the time I did nothing for, just lounging around our common room and drinking coffee… not productive! It may seem fun to spend time with friends (especially if none of them have an desire to study either) but cut that wasted time and get working. I couldn’t work in the library (as people at my sixth form didn’t seem to understand the meaning of a library being quiet) so I found a quiet classroom and basically took it over. I had a huge whiteboard in there that I LOVED using and I just made the classroom my own little hub to work in. once I got into a routine I used to love working at college and some days I started going in a 7:30am to get 90 minutes of studying done before college formally started.
- Get an organisation system and stick to it
Organisation is something so personal and everyone has a different system that works for them, but all I will say is find one and stick to it. It makes your life so much easier when you know where everything is and don’t have sheets stuck at the bottom of your bag never to be seen again… teachers give you handouts for a reason! I had a ‘day folder’ per subject which stayed in my bag and then once a week I transferred the notes to a ring binder that I had for each subject. This saved me carrying round 4 ringbinders and breaking my back on a daily basis, because I only had to carry a maximum of one weeks notes at a time. This system worked really well for me and I never forgot any sheets because I always had the last few lessons with me to refer back to, which was useful.
- Get to know your teachers and ATTEND EVERYTHING
If you are going to listen to one tip from this blog post then make it this one, as it is seriously the factor that got my grades to the standard that they were. The teachers are your most valuable resource, they have taught the subject for many years and although you might not think they know best… they do! Respect them (and just generally take interest) and it will certainly help you in the long run as it makes the teachers more willing to go out of their way to help you over exam season. The amount of times I panic emailed my teacher at 10pm was ridiculous (but they always replied!). This leads me onto my next point of attending everything. Most of my teachers (although specifically my economics teacher) put on Saturday sessions for us, and it made me so sad when they went the extra mile to help us and only 2 or 3 students attended. It might feel painful going into sixth form at 9am to do 7 hours of geography in the holidays but it is so valuable to have that extra time and it definitely helped improved my grades. Inevitably there will be many people that don’t turn up and its a perfect time to learn with a smaller group, having structured time to ask questions and get any extra help needed.
I really hope that these 5 tips were useful, they might seem like simple tasks but 90% of students don’t do it and it really does set you apart from other people. It may seem daunting going into a new year but start as you mean to go on and I’m sure that you will be absolutely great… even just reading this post shows that you want to go the extra mile this year!