Written by Dotty Winters


Revision, Revision, Revision

With many of the nation’s high school pupils currently on study leave, top swot Dotty Winters offers a thoroughly modern guide to this most vital of scholastic breaks. Warning: contains Sun-In.

A teenager's bedroom

Illustration by Claire Jones.

You may have noticed a mysterious void on the back seat of the bus, or an eerie quiet outside the Spar at night. Fear not, it’s not (just) alien abductions; high school pupils across the land are on study leave.

When I was at school, ‘study leave’ was a phrase only ever heard whispered in hushed excitement in the corridors. We all knew that at some point we’d get to experience this mythical rite of passage, but no one really knew what was involved.

I’d hate today’s youth to be similarly misinformed, so here’s a handy guide as to what you should do during study leave (or as it’s called these days, #studyleave).

Warning: Some of this advice may need to be adapted for modern times.


You are going to need a study timetable. You will need one as you may need to keep track of up to eight subjects, and you only have 10 fingers… No wait, that’s not it. You’ll need it because there are fewer than eight hours in the average day… Nope, not that either. You’ll need it because of ox-bow lakes. Yep, that sounds right.

You’ll also need scented gel pens, preferably glittery ones. If you don’t have gel pens, don’t start any learning until you have acquired some.

Great! You’re almost ready to get started. Well done. Have a break.

It’s vital that you tidy your workspace. This should include any space where you may potentially wish to work in future, and any adjacent spaces, and maybe your sock drawer. Allow two to four days for tidying. Be sure to stow all Trolls, Gonks and Forever Friends teddies in the overhead lockers.


Before you get started on the actual studying, you might wish to know a little about the psychology of learning; this will allow you to maximise your learning. There are four main ideologies on how humans learn. These are:

1. Writing things on bits of paper and sticking them on toilet doors/bedroom walls/any available surface in the hope that the information thereon will become deeply embedded in your subconscious, and you’ll only have to clench your bum cheeks in the exam room to recall all those bathroom equations.

2. Recording information onto cassette tapes, and playing these as you sleep in order to hypnotise yourself smart. Bonus points if you record the messages backwards under your favourite Ace Of Base track.

3. Colouring in.

4. Sleeping with textbooks under your pillow. This is similar to Number 2, but a lot less hassle, and not much less effective.

You may wish to stick to one of these, or mix and match to suit your own personalised learning styles. Bear in mind that parents aren’t always au fait with these learning approaches (even though they totally work; see I just spoke actual French). So if any of them drop in to check on you, you should probably pick up a pen and a book.

“The important thing to remember is that however hard you work, the grades you achieve in your GCSEs will completely define your future success.”

Two weeks off school is the perfect time for a dramatic makeover. Why not put some Sun-In in your hair and study in the garden for a bit, with your eyes closed? Fun Fact: A lot of people believe that Sun-In was designed to allow you to achieve Barbie-blonde locks. This is a common misconception. Sun-In will allow you to achieve Barbie-textured hair, but the colour will remain unchanged. Study leave is also the perfect time to try any make-up that requires above-average levels of bravery.


All work and no play may well be the motto of your future employer, so remember to relax while you can. You’ll need to take regular breaks. You can use this downtime for:

• Panicking about the future
• Vowing to study more
• Contemplating death and the slow march of time
• Listening to Atlantic 252 on your wireless

The important thing to remember is that however hard you work, the grades you achieve in your GCSEs will completely define your future success. I can’t stress enough how often you’ll have to list each subject and grade to fascinated questioners, and whatever you learn, you’ll definitely use it lots, in every one of your future jobs.

All the best,

Dotty Winters (Maths, English, Physics, Chemistry, French, German, Geography and one other one).


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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.