10 Enjoyable Ways to Keep Your Studies in Gear over the Summer Holidays

Image shows a young woman writing on a beach.The holidays are here – at last! – and it’s time to have some well-earned rest.

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Many weeks stretch ahead of you in which you’re free of the tyranny of your normal workload and able to do as you please. There’s just one problem with six or more weeks off from studying though: you start to forget what you learned last year. If you’re midway through a multi-year course, this might prove a bit of an issue when you return to school at the end of the summer and you need to spend a while getting back up to speed. It can also be a problem when you’re moving from GCSE to A-level and you’re continuing some of the same subjects – you need to remember the knowledge and skills you picked up at GCSE. Luckily, though, there are plenty of things you can be doing over the summer to help keep your brain in gear and stop you forgetting all the things you’ve worked so hard to learn. And don’t worry – the things we’re going to suggest won’t impinge too much on your enjoyment of the summer!

1. Read lots of books

Image shows a young woman sitting on a chair and reading a book, looking out over a clear blue sea.
Reading books is always better in the sun.

The summer holidays are a great opportunity to kick back and relax with a good book. By all means read some books for fun, but you could also use all this reading time productively by choosing your books wisely, theming them with what you’ll be studying in the new academic year. For example, if you were going to be studying English Literature next year, you could use the summer to get a headstart on the reading you’ll need to do for that, or just generally improve your knowledge of literature by reading a mix of things (or maybe even all the books by a particular author). If next year is shaping up to focus on science subjects, textbooks might be a bit heavy going for the summer, so instead you could choose a range of new release science books on topics that interest you. You don’t even need to read about subjects you’re going to be studying; the summer is also your chance to learn about academic subjects you’re interested in but that aren’t options at school. Whatever you read, you’ll be keeping your brain cells in action, thinking about relevant issues and improving your general knowledge. So, find a shady spot under a tree, grab a cold drink and get your nose stuck in a book.

2. Watch TV

Image shows a documentary being filmed at an Observatory in the Atacama Desert.
Whatever the subject that interests you, there’s likely to be a documentary on it.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? We’re not advocating spending the entire summer watching reality TV or similarly uncultured television programmes; a little of these is fine, of course, but try to make your television time more educational by watching documentaries, perhaps relating to the subjects you’re going to be studying in the next academic year. You could watch nature documentaries to keep you thinking about biology, for example, or weather documentaries if you’re about to start a new geography course. The content may not be directly relevant, but it will all help keep you thinking in an academic way. If you’re studying English in the new year, you could watch some film adaptations of books you’re going to be studying. If you do this, try to read the book first, so that you have a chance to form your own thoughts about the text and characters before you see someone’s interpretation of it.

3. Keep an eye on the news

Image shows a newspaper with roses slipped inside it.
Keeping up-to-date with the news is easier than ever.

Watching the news is generally a good idea for awareness of current affairs, but it’s useful for keeping your brain in action over the summer and it keeps you abreast of any developments relating to what you’ve been studying or what you’re going to be studying in the new year. The news isn’t all politics and conflict (though these are, of course, good to be aware of anyway); it’s likely that there will be plenty of news stories relevant to what you’re going to be studying. New scientific discoveries might come to light over the summer, for example, and you’ll come across as very switched on when you return to the classroom and ask for your teacher’s opinion on it before they get a chance to ask the class! Make a point of watching the news once a day or reading the newspaper, and you’ll easily be able to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world.

4. Go on holiday to practise languages

Image shows Paris, with a view over Notre Dame Cathedral.
Take the Eurostar to Paris and practise your French.

If you’re going to be studying a language in the new academic year, and you either want to get a headstart or keep what you learned last year ticking over, why not go on holiday to a country in which the locals speak that language? There’s no better way to practise a language than conversing with those who speak it as their native language, and simply being surrounded by that language will help you absorb its rhythms and sounds. When you return to the classroom at the end of the summer, your pronunciation will be more confident, your vocabulary still in good shape and your conversational skills improved. Not only that, but you’ll associate the language with a happy holiday – it’s a no brainer, if you’re able to persuade your parents to take you (or let you go on your own, if you’re old enough).

5. Form a summer reading group

Image shows someone reading a book with a purple cover.
Reading groups can be a relaxing and social way to avoid learning loss.

We’ve already advocated doing plenty of reading over the summer, but if you want to make it a bit more social, you could club together with some friends and form a summer reading group. Pick a book each week or fortnight and then organise a get-together to discuss what you all thought of it. You could take it in turns leading the discussion, prompting debate by coming up with a few questions in advance. If it helps you think about the book in a structured way, you’ll probably be able to find some reading notes online that give you some questions to get discussion started.

6. Attend a summer school

Image shows ORA students having fun in a college quad.
You could learn about a subject you’ve never studied before while having fun and making friends.

Academic summer schools are designed to impart new knowledge and skills at the same time as enabling you to make new friends and have a good time, and they’re perfect for preventing summer learning loss. You could choose a subject-specific summer school that will help you brush up on a particular subject you might be having difficulties with, or go for a more wide-ranging course that covers a variety of academic topics to broaden your general knowledge. Here at Oxford Royale Summer Schools, our teaching style places emphasis on academic discussion, which helps develop your confidence and debating skills. What’s more, we schedule plenty of time for having fun with your new friends and exploring the UK, with day trips to interesting places such as Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon or Blenheim Palace (birthplace of the wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill). You can find out more information about our courses here. And this isn’t just an option for the summer holidays – we also offer Easter revision courses to make the most of your time off school ahead of exams.

7. Revisit and organise last year’s notes

Image shows a folder with neatly categorised notes.
By now, you might also have a better idea which of your notes are valuable and worth keeping and which can be thrown away.

You’ve come to the end of a hectic year’s studying, and if your notes are in an organised state then you’ve done very well! If, as is more likely, they’re in a state of disarray, one of your summer tasks could be to revisit them and get them properly organised. This is particularly beneficial if they’re for a multi-year course and you will need to refer to them again; but even if they’re your GCSE notes and you’re about to move onto A-levels, it would still be beneficial to organise the subjects you’re going to be continuing to A-level, as you may need to refer to them again. Give yourself two or three weeks of not looking at your notes to allow your mind to clear, and about halfway through the summer, devote a day or two to sifting through your notes, getting them properly organised, and skimming over their contents to remind yourself what you learned last year. If you have any scrawled handwritten notes, you could type them up so that they’re easier to read for future use.

8. Get out and about

Image shows the dramatic ruins of Fountains Abbey.
You could visit the magnificent ruin of Fountains Abbey.

No, we’re not talking about going to Legoland (though by all means do that too if you want to!). We’re talking about visiting museums and places of historic or academic interest: a trip to a castle or stately home, a science or history museum, even a classical music concert or play. Trips like these don’t just get you out of the house: they teach you some new things, broadening your general knowledge and keeping the academic part of your brain ticking over. When you visit these places, buy a guidebook or programme and take the time to read about what you’re seeing, so that you consider it in a more academic way and learn about it in more depth.

9. Embark on a summer project

Image shows an amazing origami heron.
Over the course of a summer, you could become very good at origami.

The long summer months are an ideal opportunity to embark on a big project, as you’ve finally got enough time to focus on something for an extended period of time without school and homework getting in the way. You have the freedom to pursue a project you’re interested in – but try to choose something that requires some intellectual thought. Here are a few possible summer projects you could consider:

  • Write a novel or collection of poems
  • Build a website or set up a blog
  • Build something, such as a model aeroplane or boat
  • Get your parents’ permission to redesign the garden
  • Conduct a series of scientific experiments
  • Learn to cook or invent some new recipes
  • Learn a new craft, such as origami
  • Do some art, such as drawing, painting or sculpture
  • Research your family tree
  • Invent something

You’ll probably have some ideas of your own, but hopefully this list gives you plenty of inspiration if not! The important thing is to set yourself a goal to be achieved by the end of the summer, divide your goal into more manageable targets with timeframes, and work your way through the project to see it to fruition. It’ll be a genuinely satisfying thing to do, and you’ll be able to use it to demonstrate your determination, ingenuity and time management in future university and job interviews!

10. Become an expert in something

Image shows someone holding a chinchilla.
Why not become a chinchilla expert?

This could be your summer project, but we felt it warranted its own entry on this list. The summer holidays give you enough time to really get stuck into learning about something interesting, so why not use this opportunity to become an expert on something that interests you? It can be as obscure as you like – whatever you choose could easily become useful or a talking point sometime down the line, whether in a university interview, pub quiz or maybe even Mastermind! For example, you could choose a particular species of animal and learn all about it from books, get some work experience looking after it in a zoo, see it in the wild and so on. You could choose a classical composer, reading about their life, listening to their music, seeing their music performed in concert, reading their letters, visiting where they lived. You could choose a particular author and read all their works and biography. The possibilities are, quite literally, endless – and the exercise will give you practice in academic research, spark your intellectual curiosity and keep your brain active over the summer.
When you’re still at school or university, it can be tempting to do nothing for the entire summer after you’ve devoted so much time to your studies during the academic year. But while you should definitely spend some time lounging around without a care in the world, your studies will benefit in the long run if you keep your brain active with a few interesting summer activities and projects. Anyway, you should find the suggestions on this list so different from your term-time workload that it won’t even feel like working. As we’ve said before, a change is as good as a rest!


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Image credits: banner; sea; documentary; newspaper; Paris; book; files; Fountains Abbey; origami; chinchilla.