Noel, no hell: yes, you can combine studying with fun at Christmas

family christmas scene

Noel, no hell: yes, you can combine studying with fun at Christmas


If you’re in a crucial exam year, regrettably, the arrival of the festive vacation doesn’t mean you can switch off entirely for the duration.

But with a little clever organisation, you can get some work done and make the most of the holiday so that you get a break while also spending quality time with family and friends, having fun and enjoying each other’s company. After all, it’s what Christmas is all about.

And we all deserve a bit of cheer and enjoyment after what has been another very difficult year. Last year’s curtailed celebrations have not been forgotten, and (at the time of writing) the Scottish Government is once again advising people to moderate their plans for seasonal gatherings this year. However, although many families will, understandably, be celebrating more cautiously and modestly than usual, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this special time of year. The long winter evenings are ideal for hotly contested board games or family charade shenanigans – neatly dovetailed in-between revision sessions of course …

As ever, striking the right balance is key, so that you return to your desk next term feeling well prepared for your prelims (or mocks, if you’re outside Scotland) yet still fully re-energised and ready for the hard work ahead throughout the remainder of the academic year.

So here are our top tips for doing just that:

  • Plan ahead: As well as having your revision timetable worked out and talking frankly with family and friends about how much time you need to spend revising (so they know not to disturb you and break your concentration!), get your house in order before term ends. Be sure you have all the books and any other materials you need before the holiday. Work out how you will access any online resources you may need, for example from the school or college’s electronic library. Do you need to download anything in advance? Do you need to pay for more data on your phone to use over the holiday? Talk to teachers or tutors and be clear on priorities, assignments, most important reading and anything else you need to know.
  • Start early: If you slip too far from your daily routine, it will be harder to return to the term-time regime. Try to get in a decent night’s sleep at a reasonable hour if you can – you’ll feel the benefit and will almost certainly need it after the long autumn term. Then if you can get your studying in as early in the day as possible, you’ll have more time for the fun stuff later. Equally, the longer you put off getting down to work each day, the easier it becomes to keep putting it off.
  • Buddy up: Don’t lose touch with class or course mates over the break. Encourage each other by setting up a Facebook or WhatsApp group, and trade study tips to keep one another going. You may even want to meet up with one or two others (safely and sensibly of course – Covid permitting) to go over work together. You could test each other and discuss particular points or topics you’re not clear on.
  • Benefit from the change of scene: During the Christmas holidays, you’ll be spending more time at home (or in the library or coffee shops!) than usual, if only temporarily, without the usual classes or lectures. Use the freed-up time and different settings to reflect on what went well last term, and what you can put right in 2022. It could also be an ideal opportunity to try out some new study methods – or to think about whether you learn best by reading, highlighting, taking notes, testing yourself or listening. You could also use the holidays to get on with some background reading you wouldn’t normally have time for. Read early in the morning or when everyone else is watching something you’re not interested in on TV – you’ll be surprised at how much you get through.


Finally, stay positive. We know it’s not fair that you have to study over the holiday, but a good frame of mind will make tackling the trickier tasks easier. Adopt a positive mindset by, for example, reminding yourself how much easier it is to revise when you don’t have class or homework to complete or lessons or lectures to attend. Take the time you need to get your head around a topic, and don’t beat yourself up if your study schedule has to change at short notice because of family or friends’ plans. Try to include some ‘slippage time’ in your holiday revision timetable to allow for such contingencies. Then if your schedule does slip ever so slightly, there’s no need to worry – just pick up again the next day and focus all the harder.

Most importantly, don’t forget to fit in some fun and relaxation this holiday season. Happy Christmas!

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