Make the most of your study leave

Mar 01, 2021

The idea of study leave is great, but you have to know how to use the time to your utmost advantage. Jill Leavy, FAE student and winner of the CAP2 F.N. Kelly Memorial Prize in 2020, explains how she turned her study leave into exam success.

There were many advantages to study leave during a global pandemic and, with little opportunity to socialise, my main focus was preparing for my CAP2 exams. 

The sun shone for the entirety of my study leave and made the time equal parts bearable and frustrating. I set myself up in a quiet space – well ventilated, with an abundance of natural light. 

Prepping for leave

Before leaving the office, ideally most of your work projects should be finished up. Any unfinished work should be handed over to others on your team. Putting together a detailed list prior to your planned study leave with detailed explanations, where necessary, will minimise disturbance during study leave.

Gather your material

There is nothing prescriptive when it comes to studying strategies. The most important thing is to find what works for you, and remember that we all learn differently. When preparing for exams, my one rule of thumb is that I must see the material three times. My first engagement with my study material is writing out the notes – a mindless exercise, but I find it beneficial to get into study-mode. Next, I watch the online lectures. While time-consuming, I am able to include important, additional information to the notes I have written. Once I have my notes compiled, I then allocate time to understand and assimilate the material.  

Create a timetable

To allow me to complete this process within my study leave period, I made a realistic timetable. I had a regular starting and finishing time each weekday and, although I timetabled some study for the weekends, I also factored in time to unwind and decompress.

Remember: your timetable will need to be reviewed, adjusted and amended and, for me, it did require a certain amount of flexibility. I covered two subjects each day and allocated two days per subject, nearer to the exam, for writing exam papers. On the days I focused on exam papers, I did two exam papers each day and corrected them. 

Find support

It’s paramount to have other people with whom you can liaise. For me, that included people from my intake – all of us were in the same boat. We solved each other’s problems, swapped ideas and generally buoyed each other up.  

Get organised

For open book exams, know where everything is! Whether you have handwritten or printed notes, make sure you know them inside out. Sticky tabs, highlighters and Post-its are essential kit. Use them to make life easier.

Remember self-care

As with all study rituals, ensure that stress is minimised and that sleep patterns are adhered to, a healthy diet, loads of Omega-3, regular exercise and plenty of breaks all help too. For me, large quantities of carbonated beverages were my salvation.

Study leave is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself accordingly and be kind to yourself, remembering that some days will be more productive than others. Study smart, not hard – and always remember your goal.