At the end of May, students across the country complete their GCSE examinations. These examinations are hugely important, and therefore the process of both studying for and taking the tests can be extremely stressful. As a parent, you might be wondering about the best way to help your child succeed, and as a student you might be juggling your exams with a range of other issues. The impact of these exams can affect the rest of your life, so therefore it’s really important you do the best you can.
With this in mind, we’ve prepared a complete guide to GCSE Study Leave. This will include key dates, revision advice and organisation advice. With the help of our guide, you CAN make the most of your study leave, and achieve the best results possible!
Key Dates 2015
Under the current GCSE system, there are five main assessment bodies. These are:
Your school will choose the assessment body that it is using for any particular paper, but no school is tied to any one board. If you need specific details, it is a good idea to contact your child’s school to find out which exam board they will be using for a particular paper.
Each exam board will run a slightly different timetable for their exams, and so therefore it is a good idea firstly to check with your school which board they are using, and then check with the board’s website to ensure you have all of the information you’ll need about the exam dates.
With this in mind, below we’ve included some of the core dates for the core subjects, from each of the examination boards for 2015. Please be aware that some of the subjects are broken down over a series of dates/into a series of tests, and therefore it is imperative that you check with the relevant exam board’s timetable.
AQA GCSE 2015 KEY TESTING DATES
- English Language: 02/06/15. 2 hours and 15 minutes.
- English Literature: 18/06/15-22/06/15. 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- Mathematics: 21/05/2015-11/06/2015. 2 hours.
- AQA GCSE Testing Calendar
OCR GCSE 2015 KEY TESTING DATES
- English Language: 02/06/15. 2 hours.
- English Literature: 18/05/15-22/05/15. 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- Mathematics: 21/05/15-04/06/15. 2 hours.
- OCR GCSE Testing Calendar
EDEXCEL GCSE 2015 KEY TESTING DATES
- English Language: 02/06/15. 2 hours
- English Literature: 18/05/15. 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- Mathematics: 21/05/15-18/05/15. 2 hours.
- Edexcel GCSE Testing Calendar
WJEC GCSE 2015 KEY TESTING DATES
- English Language: 02/06/15. 1 hour.
- English Literature: 22/05/15. 2 hours.
- Mathematics: 21/05/15. 2 hours
- WJEC GCSE Testing Calendar
CCEA GCSE 2015 KEY TESTING DATES
- English Language: 02/06/15. 1 hour and 30 minutes
- English Literature: 18/05/15-22/05/15. 2 hours.
- Mathematics: 21/05/2015. 2 hours.
- CCEA GCSE Testing Calendar
Now that we’ve given you some of the key dates, and information on where to find them, let’s start preparing for the exams!
How to manage your study leave
Your study leave will depend upon the school that you attend. Your school will have a system in place where they decide upon the most suitable date, to best fit with your year group’s learning ability.
Study leave is a really important period. You need to make maximum use of your study leave, in order to enhance your exam results.
Below, we’ve created an in depth guide with tonnes of useful information on how to manage your study leave.
One of the most important things you can do to improve your learning, is to create a revision plan. This will help you to keep to an organised schedule, and not waste valuable time. Here are some tips on how to do this:
- Plan your revision early. This is fundamental. By the time you actually receive your study leave, you should have started revising anyway. Therefore, study leave should ideally be used as a means of ‘brushing up’ on information that you have already learned, rather than actually learning new information. This of course depends on when you are given your study leave. The majority of schools will give their students a few weeks maximum. With this in mind, you need to make sure that you have planned ahead of schedule, to ensure that you can go back over each and every single one of your subjects. If you are taking a wide range of GCSE’s, then you will need more time to do this.
- Order your subjects. When you create your revision plan, make sure you order your subjects strategically. Remember that the skills involved in some subjects tie in or link with other subjects, for example English and History both incorporate essay writing skills. Layering your subjects in a way that each revision session will help you with the next, will greatly aid you when it comes to the exams.
- Don’t divide equally. One of the biggest mistakes that many people make when it comes to creating a revision plan, is to divide all subjects equally. This is unnecessary; you need to divide your time according to your strengths and weaknesses, and the content itself. For example, if you are someone who struggles with memorising things, then it would be a good idea to place a heavier focus where the memorisation of details (such as foreign languages) than topics such as English, where the content is essay based.
- Colour code. This is a great and fun way to improve your revision schedule. If you colour code each subject according to importance, you can be sure that you’ll stay organised. This can even work as a memory enhancing tool. You might see a certain colour in the exam and recall something important that relates to the subject.
Hire A Tutor
This can be a pricey, but extremely worthwhile option. A tutor provides you with comprehensive and experienced 1 to 1 support. There are tutors for the majority of GCSE topics, all of whom can be found via the internet or even in the yellow pages. Most people will hire a tutor long before their child even receives their study leave, but it is never a bad idea if you just want someone to help you go over existing knowledge. Remember that most tutors will be extremely experienced and often, can be the difference between a B and an A.
Here are some things to look out for when you are hiring a tutor:
- Education and Experience. This goes without saying. Particularly if you are hiring a tutor for your child’s study leave, you are looking for someone who can bring their grade up in a short space of time. 4-5 weeks is not a huge amount of time, especially if they are only offering one 1 hour session per week. Therefore you need someone with proven experience in achieving immediate results.
- Teaching style. This is particularly something to look out for when reviewing self-placed advertisements from tutors. You need to think about how your child will respond to a certain style of teaching. It would be a huge mistake to hire someone who they won’t get along with, or respond to, so close to the exams. The tutor themselves needs to make your child feel reassured that they can get the best results possible.
- Price. While hiring a tutor can be a very effective option, if you are simply hiring someone for 4/5 weeks work then you need to consider the price. Don’t pay over the odds for someone just because you are hiring them short term. Lots of tutors will have a long term price plan in place, so ideally if you are interested in paying for a more expensive tutor, try to book them well ahead of the allocated study leave period.
- Background checks. Obviously, you’ll want to make sure that the tutor you are hiring is a safe and professional person, particularly if your child is visiting their home for their sessions.
If you are interviewing prospective tutors, here are some questions that you might ask:
- What kind of academic training do you have?
- What qualifications do you have?
- Do you have your own transport?
- How much do you charge per hour?
- How many sessions can you offer per week?
- Could you describe your style of teaching?
- What kind of results do your students normally have?
Another fantastic way to use your study leave, is to attend or even start up workshops. Workshops are a great learning tool, where groups of students who are learning similar material, gather together to help each other revise. Obviously, there are pitfalls. You need to be organised and make sure that everyone stays on topic. Here are some of the biggest advantages of using this method:
- Learning games. One of best things about a workshop is that it encourages learning in an interactive environment. Studies have shown that, provided they are conducted sensibly, these activities are hugely beneficial for a student’s memory. By making the revision topics more interesting, you are all more likely to engage in and learn the subject. For example, if you are learning history, take a number of relevant historical figures who are likely to come up in your exam, print a picture out and then distribute them around the group. Have the group ‘act out’ that character, their motivations and give examples of what that person did. Then have the rest of the class try to guess who that character is.
- Time management. This applies especially if you are running a workshop. It is crucial to have good time management when in charge of the activities, as you will need to organise each exercise efficiently and make sure everyone stays on track. This is good practice for your own exams, as you will need to ensure you use every moment effectively.
- Peer to peer interaction. Revision does not have to be depressing and dull. Remember that all of your peers are in the same position as you. Together, you can make revision fun! The more you enjoy the process, the easier it will be, and hopefully this will reflect in your results.
Here are some of the questions you need to ask yourself, before you enroll in or start up a series of study workshops:
- Is there enough interest?
- What subjects do I want to focus on?
- How many people would I like to attend? Remember that the more people who attend, the more difficult it will be to control the group.
- How can I keep the session fun and interesting?
- How can I make sure that the session gets the best out of everyone?
- Does the session I am interested in attending suit my own learning style? If you know you are not someone who works well interactively, then don’t waste your time.
- What level are the people attending at? It’s all well and good attending more advanced sessions, but you need to understand the content being discussed.
Top Tips for Study Leave
Hopefully the above examples should have given you a great idea of the type of things that you can do to enhance your learning experience whilst you are on study leave. Here is our comprehensive list of top tips, for what to do and what not to do during this period:
- Eat Healthy. This is really important. While you are studying, your body is using up energy, and therefore in order to ensure maximum results and focus on your work, you need to make sure you maintain a healthy diet. Your brain will work much better when kept healthy and nutritious.
- Take breaks. Studying can be really stressful, therefore it’s vital that you give yourself breaks and time to rest. The best way to do this is to adopt an ‘hour on-hour off’ approach to revision. During your hour off, take yourself away from the work. Get out of the house, go for a run, try to forget about your revision and exams. Studies have shown that structured gaps in revision can lead to improved results.
- Remove distractions. During your study time, it’s really important that you remove all non- study gadgets, such as TV, IPod or your phone. We all know how easy it is to become distracted. If you can’t remove them then take yourself away from them, or give them to a relative to look after until you are done. You need to devote 100% of yourself to learning the material.
- Exercise. Exercise is a proven and fantastic way to keep yourself both mentally and physically fit for the upcoming exams. It keeps your body relaxed, and invites oxygen to your brain, which in turn will help you to focus better.
- Practice papers. This is the NUMBER 1, absolute best tip on the list. The best way to revise is to take practice papers. They give you an idea of how the paper itself will be structured, help you to practice working under timed conditions and make you feel more confident. No revision plan is complete without sufficient use of practice papers. Practice makes perfect!
- Equip yourself. This is a very basic organisational tip, but one that could come in useful. Prior to your study leave, stock up on all of the basics you’ll need. Notepads, pens, stickers, whatever you will be using to help you revise. You don’t want to forgo an important revision method simply because you ran out of resources. Prepare yourself beforehand, and you will have all of the materials needed for success.
- Stay calm. This applies for both parents and students. Parents, remember that this is a hugely stressful time for your child. They need 100% of your love and support, and therefore it’s really important that you keep their home environment calm and stress free. Your child could be feeling on edge and under pressure, it’s vital that they know you are there to help them. Don’t nag them, and don’t put extra pressure on their shoulders. This will only lead to arguments, which won’t help under the circumstances. Try to show a real interest and willingness to help in any way that you can. For some parents, it can be difficult, particularly if you yourself don’t really understand the material they are learning. Always try to praise your child, even if they are struggling. Positivity will help both of you get through this period.
- Start immediately. Don’t make the mistake of putting off your study leave revision, simply because you have free time. This time is really really valuable, you need to make full use of it! The earlier you start, the better prepared you will be for the exams. This is where a detailed and structured revision plan will be the most useful.
- Prepare the night before. On the night before the exam, make sure that you are completely organised. There is nothing worse than rushing around on the morning of the exam because you don’t know the location, don’t have the right equipment or have forgotten something. Get things ready; so that you can get a good sleep, have a healthy breakfast and be ready to tackle any exam.
- Believe in yourself. Remember that no exam can determine your entire future. If you believe in yourself, and perform to the absolute best of your ability, then you can always be proud of what you have accomplished.