It’s that time of year again. Across the UK, young people (and adults) are spending time going back through what they’ve learned this year in preparation for exams.
You’ve probably been told to take breaks from revision and practice papers. It’s important – but taking a successful break isn’t always easy.
Why revision breaks are important
Firstly, revision breaks will make your revision more effective. Your brain needs time to process information and skills. If you try to cram too much into your brain at once, you’re more likely to end up confused. Short, repeated sessions with breaks between boost concentration and make it easier for you to remember things.
Breaks can also boost your energy and motivation, helping you to get stuck in and get work done.
However, breaks are also important for our wellbeing. They help us relax and destress, and give us the chance to do activities that boost our mood or help us manage feelings.
The pomodoro technique
The first step to building a successful break is to find out how often you need to take breaks, and how long you need those breaks to be. While this can vary between people, the pomodoro technique might be a helpful place to start.
The pomodoro technique involves splitting your time into 25 minute chunks of work, separated by breaks between 5 and 10 minutes long. After the fourth 25 minute work session, you take a longer break of between 20 and 30 minutes.
If you want to give it a go, our list of apps for productivity has some options for keeping track of your time.
Even if the pomodoro technique doesn’t sound right for you, it’s a good idea to try to keep your breaks short and regular. Breaks that last too long can disrupt your flow and make it harder to get back into the swing of revision.
Before your break
Before you head into a break, one top tip is to make a note of where you’re up to – and what you want to do when you come back to revision after your break. This will make it easier to focus when you return; it’ll also help you let go of thoughts about revision during your break.
It’s also worth thinking about where you spend your break, as it’ll be harder to switch off from revision if you stay sitting at your desk (or on your bed – no judgement here).
Take a successful revision break
And when it comes to how you spend your break? It’s up to you to experiment with options and find what works best! Remember that you can do different things during each break too. A balance of activities throughout the day might give you the boost you need.
Alternatively, you might want to give yourself the chance to move around after sitting still at a desk. You don’t need to do intense exercise – a short walk outside, following a yoga video on your bedroom floor, or a dance break might be all it takes.
Another option is to do something unrelated that you enjoy, like adding something to a craft project, watching some of your favourite TV show, or even scrolling through Twitter. The important thing is that you get the chance to do something you enjoy that leaves you feeling restored.
If you’re an extrovert (or an ambivert), you might want to use your revision break to connect with others. You could arrange to call or video chat with a friend during a mutual break, for example, or catch up with someone who lives with you.
Breaks are also a great chance to check in with your body and find out what you need. Do you want a refreshing cool drink or a calming cup of tea? Do you need a snack before you launch back into work? Making time to respond to your basic needs is essential for successful revision! You can also use it as an opportunity to practise some mindfulness and connect to your senses.
Revision breaks are important both because they’ll help you revise and because they’re important for your wellbeing. During exam season, it can be especially challenging to make time and space for the things that help your mental health – so it’s crucial that you put time aside to look after yourself.
For most students, exams and grades are important. Exams give you a chance to show your abilities, skills, and knowledge – and results can affect your options for future education and employment.
But exams only measure a snapshot of some of your skills, abilities, and knowledge on a given day. They don’t define people, and they are not indicators of worth or potential.
Do what you can to set yourself up for success, while reminding yourself that failure isn’t the end of the world. Whatever the outcome, the things you learn in the process are valuable building blocks that will support you, whether you take an exam again or move onto something else.