Welcome back: restarting your studies after a break

Home commitments, new projects at work, or major life events – there are lots of things that may require you to take a break from studying. 

At NCRQ, we appreciate that day-to-day life can sometimes take precedence over your studies, and this is one of the reasons we offer such a generous timeframe on our qualifications. By offering 18 months to complete our certificates and three years to complete the diploma, we aim to give learners enough time to focus on their studies whilst also balancing their work and home lives.

If you’re returning to your qualification after a break, taking the first step is often the most challenging. To help you get back on track we have put together this handy how-to guide. Enjoy!

Find an appropriate work environment

The importance of finding a suitable space to work or study is often underestimated, particularly as more and more of us get used to working from home. Studies have shown that there is a direct link between good posture and effective knowledge retention, and it has been proven that a cluttered workspace can affect your ability to focus on a particular task. So whilst the idea of settling in for a study session on the sofa may seem appealing, don’t forget that this could be impacting your engagement, and ultimately, your grades!

Here are NCRQ’s top tips for making your workspace work for you:

  • Find somewhere clean, tidy, and away from any distractions.
  • Take the time to make a quick assessment of your workspace, such as the height and position of chair, the height of your display screen and the position of your keyboard – and make any adjustments as needed.
  • Ensure there is adequate lighting to read from your workbook, and try to avoid any glare on your screen.
  • For further guidance view HSE’s leaflet here.

Plan your time effectively

When it comes to being your most productive and efficient self, long-term time management is a must. Here are some steps you can take to plan your time more effectively:

  • Create a schedule: To help you set out exactly what you want to achieve and when, create a schedule that allows you to allocate your time productively and efficiently. This will help break down what might seem like a daunting task into much more manageable chunks – you’ll be surprised at how much progress you can make by setting aside even just a couple of hours of uninterrupted study per week.
  • Be forward-thinking: Spend some time considering any upcoming projects or responsibilities that may require your attention, and work backwards from there. Learning how to plan ahead, anticipate your workload and commitments, and come up with strategies to work around these are all highly important life skills that will be useful to you well beyond your time with NCRQ. Our workbooks state how long you’ll be given to work on each assessment as well as the estimated completion time. It is always worth familiarising yourself with these in advance so you know roughly when you’ll have the time to tackle these.
  • Find the balance: Make sure to fit study around your lifestyle, rather than the other way around. With the self-directed and flexible nature of NCRQ qualifications, there may be a temptation to work through the content as quickly as possible. Make sure you are also scheduling in some much-needed downtime. Relaxing or doing something you enjoy can be a very effective way of consolidating the information you have just learnt.

Take the time to look back on where you left off

At NCRQ, we recognise that self-directed learning is not just about learning content, but also mastering important skills that enable students to become lifelong learners. Therefore, learning how to pick up where you left off is key to maintaining a continuous approach to your learning whilst remaining flexible to take breaks as and when needed. 

Students have told us that the modular structure of our courses helps them to set ‘checkpoints’ in their learning, and to structure their progress throughout the course to ensure that they are able to complete the qualification within the timeframe. Here are some of our top tips based on this approach:

  • Review: Spend some time going through the modules you have already completed, looking at your workbook, the online activities, and your previous assessments and feedback. This will help to refresh your memory and get back into the swing of things.
  • Prepare: Have a quick look at the upcoming chapters so you know what you are working towards. It can be useful to have an idea of what to expect whilst working through the qualification.
  • Plan: Take into consideration your personal plans, and take a look at the timeframes given to complete your upcoming assessments. You certainly wouldn’t want to be tackling your final assessment during your dog’s birthday month!

Use all available resources – including us!

A common misconception surrounding the idea of self-directed study is that it is solely an individual effort. In reality, however, there is an abundance of support you can access to make the most of your time with NCRQ.

  • There are many study apps available to download that can be incredibly useful tools in helping students sustain motivation. One we have encountered is the Forest App, which partners with an organisation called ‘Trees for the Future’ to plant trees as you study. This app is fun, easy to use and helps the environment – all while holding you accountable for your time and motivating you to study for that little bit longer.
  • To stay motivated without the use of technology, it can be helpful to share your deadlines with friends, family and colleagues as this can help you to feel more accountable for the deadlines you set. With those around you on-board, they can help motivate you and reduce distractions while you’re working.
  • Last but certainly not least are the wonderful employees and fellow students at NCRQ. Between the tutors, the support team and our students on the forums, there is a wealth of knowledge, motivation and encouragement available to help you get your studies back on track. Chat to your tutors for academic support, discuss your deadlines and queries with our support team, and share your experiences with other students on the forums. Remember, we’re all in this together!

We hope that this guide has been helpful and boosted your confidence in returning to your studies. If you have any other ideas, we would love to hear them – please send your suggestions to so we can share them with our student community! 

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