The joys of sixth form/college are numerous; there’s something undoubtedly refreshing about having the autonomy to choose what, how and (for the most part) when you study. But, with this increased independence comes responsibility and it’s important to utilise the time you have, especially if you haven’t started Y13. So, today we’re going to take a closer look at one of the biggest changes you’ll encounter while shifting from secondary to A-level education: free periods.
Are free periods really free?
Technically, they are (although it might depend on your school). Perhaps the real question is – should they be? It’s definitely beneficial to have breaks throughout the day especially while studying something academically challenging or gruelling. You’d be pretty burned out if you spent ALL of your spare time revising, reading or making notes so I’d strongly discourage anyone from being too strict with what they do during their frees.
While I don’t think it’s wise to work TOO hard, it’s certainly not advisable for you to do nothing. Essentially, make sure you’re in the library or study centre as frequently as possible. Perhaps try implementing the 80/20 rule – where you spend 80% of your time working and the other 20% is reserved for relaxation and giving yourself a much needed break from mental activity. The point I’m trying to make here is that before you even consider which topics to revise or homework you’d like to complete during your frees, you first need to think about how many frees you’d like to spend working and how many you’d like to have as actual “frees”. Having a plan is a good starting place, but once you get into the hang of things you probably won’t need one. You’ll be able to have more of a feel for how you study and work best. The above is simply a suggestion for anyone who needs a bit of guidance when it comes to getting started.
So, what should I be doing during my frees?
The first thing I’d like to cover is the more academic side of things. A-levels are a huge step up from GCSEs. The workload is much more intense, and the content is a lot more difficult. For many of us this process is arduous, tiresome and somewhat mystifying. So, you should probably be doing everything in your power to make this journey easier. I personally like to use my frees to get any extra homework I have out of the way, so that I can take some pressure of my evenings and have a bit more time to myself. I find that if I don’t tackle assignments straight away, they tend to build up which can lead to a massive pile of tasks dangerously close to toppling over and crushing me! To avoid such a disaster, I try and crack on with teacher set tasks at school before I do anything else.
Once this is done, if I have any assessments coming up (which seems to be the case more often than not) I use my frees to prepare for them. I try and keep my revision light while still at school so as not to overwork myself. I tend to print out some past papers or a couple of questions and make flashcards. I’d advise you to go somewhere quiet such as the library or study centre to ensure you can properly focus while doing this. If I’m having a more “chilled” session, I’ll study with friends but otherwise I require complete solitude and silence in order to actually get stuff done.
The final strategy I like to employ is visiting my teachers. I’m quite lucky in the sense that many of my teachers are available during my frees. This may not be the case for you but there is no harm in asking. I’ve found it incredibly helpful to ask extra questions or go over topics I’ve found difficult one to one. It’s can be a rare opportunity because everyone tends to have busy schedules so if you are able to organise this I’d urge you to do so.
Now that’s done, onto something a little more light hearted! Frees are frees. Breathe it in. You’ve earned it. If it’s a nice hot sunny day and you’re in the library and it’s stuffy and you find yourself thinking you’d rather be outside – go outside. If you’re having a great conversation with friends and don’t want to stop – don't stop. Discipline rarely works without rewards being involved. So, allowing yourself to indulge in the freedom of the free is essential for staying motivated and having a strong work ethic.
So, if there’s one thing you take away from this it should be that balance is key (whatever that may look like for you)!
Tiffany Igharoro is a sixth form student. One of her favourite pastimes is writing as it helps her organise her thoughts creatively and dynamically. She has won awards and prizes for poetry, academic and scientific writing and short stories. Recently, she won a nationwide historical essay competition that opened her eyes to the importance of how things are told, and the impact ordinary people have on the world. She studied art GCSE and believes there is something incredible about finding links between drama, art and maths.
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