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What do Top Students Do in their Free Time?

Language/语言:   English   简体中文
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By: Ken Deng   Published on 10 Jun. 2021

Approx. 2500 words, 11 mins

Hello there! My name is Ken and I am a Chinese A Level student in Guangdong Country Garden School. Welcome back to Ken's Study Journey blog. Today, I would like to tell you what do students do in their free time to study more.

Top students always study in their free time, doing some activities related to studying. They may listen to English audio, remember words, and so on.

As an A Level student, I have my own schedule, study plan and daily goals. They help me study more and more in a short time.

Different study tasks are suitable for different environments, so we need to find a suitable task according to the circumstances.

Do you know what things do excellent students usually do in their free time while studying? Let's jump into the post.

Note: Some of the methods in this article are suitable for non-English speakers because English is my second language. This article is written based on my own study strategy.

This article is written for you to give convenience on studying effectively for students during the Covid-19 pandemic in Guangzhou, the city where I live in. All of my extra curriculum were cancelled on the weekend when I have written this. So, I had more free time to do that during the IGCSE exam.

Did you know?

Cambridge Assessment International Education (previously Cambridge International Examinations) recorded and published some videos about doing experiments about physics during the pandemic in 2020. My physics teacher has shown them to me.

I always provide students some study tips and tutorials to encourage and motivate them to study better and obtain higher scores.


There are different types of study tasks that are suitable for student’s free time. For example:

  • Listen to English audio (for non-English speakers; e. g. TED Talks, Podcasts).
  • Read Books
  • Remember English Words
  • Practice English Speaking and Pronunciations using Dubbing Apps
  • Watch English Videos and Vlogs
  • Chat with English Friends
  • Discover and Apply Knowledge in Real Life
  • Remember Knowledge Points using Knowledge Flashcards
  • Self-study some Knowledge on Higher Grades
  • Take Exercises

Some college students usually watch videos (vlogs) on YouTube and/or read blog articles on the Internet. Meanwhile, some students have their own blogs and/or YouTube channels, so they usually publish their ideas.

Listen to English Audio in Transportations

It is obvious that top students in China and other non-English speaking countries or region usually listen to English audio in transportations, such as car, bus, coach, underground, train, and plane.

Listening to English audio can improve my English listening and comprehension skills.

There are several forms of English audio, TED Talks (English speech), audio articles (coming soon on my website) and Podcasts. Different types of audio are suitable for different environments.

I usually turn on the noise cancellation on my AirPods Pro while listening to the audio to reduce the noise inside and outside the vehicle.

It is suitable to listen to them in the highways and express ways because they are stable.

TED Talks

Each TED talk often lasts from 10 to 25 minutes. So, I can listen to it on the transportations during a journey with a short distance.

I usually listen to TED talks on the car between my home and Guangzhou city centre which is about 40 minutes.

There are hundreds of topics for the TED talks, so I can choose and listen to my favourite content.


However, each podcast audio lasts about an hour, so it is suitable to listen to podcasts during the long-distance journey in the cars, coaches, and trains.

I do not recommend you to listen to podcasts during a very short journey. This is because podcasts should be listened to continuously in order to fully understand the content without being interrupted and forgetting the content. This is similar to solving math questions. We will forget about the thoughts of the previous steps once we have paused to solve a question.

Podcasts are the audio stories and interviews made by some podcasters. They usually talk about many things in the real life.

For example, a podcast called Not Overthinking by Ali Abdaal, a previous student YouTuber at Cambridge University, talks about people's emotions, productivity, skills, and great study habits.

There are several mediums for playing podcasts, such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Spotify, and so on.

My Favourite Podcasts

Read Books and Remember English Words

In most of the environments, it is suitable to read books and remember English words using physical books and cards, phones, or computers.

It is easy to start and stop reading books and remembering English words. I just need to take out my physical books or devices (e. g. phone, iPad or Kindle) to start reading or memorising words.

I usually do these two things if my flight is delayed, when waiting in a queue, when taking a rest while travelling, while taking the underground and train, and so on.

I use Quizlet to remember English words and use my Kindle Paperwhite to read books during the weekends and holidays. In my school, however, I use physical books and my own vocabulary cards to remember English words.

Reading books can expand my horizon and remembering words can improve my vocabulary.

Practice English Speaking and Pronunciations using Dubbing Apps

There is an English dubbing app in China, 英语趣配音, in which I can practice my English speaking and its pronunciation and fluency by imitating the voice in a video again and again.

The scoring system is free for the first project every day which is enough for me, so I can correct my wrong pronunciations all the time.

According to my study plan, I usually do this every morning because I am exuberant after getting up. This is similar to the morning reading time in my school.

Watch English Videos and Vlogs

There are millions of English videos around the world, so I can watch them to improve my English listening skills.

I often watch English videos made by top students in universities on YouTube about study tips, university school life, and Apple technology reviews (with student's experience and feelings) when riding the school bus, when waiting for breakfast after getting up in my home, when taking a rest outside, when riding the underground, and so on.

Did you know?

I was a YouTuber previously between 2018 and the begin of 2020.

However, my channel is paused from publishing new videos until 2023, when I will enter a university in the UK. This is because I have massive study tasks in senior high school.

So, I can share my feelings with many YouTubers by writing some comments in their videos.

  Visit my Channel

If you read this article on a computer, you can see my favourite channels at the right sidebar.

More importantly, TED Talks are also available in videos on its official website ( and apps.

Chat with English Friends

I also usually chat with my English friends in my free time to share our ideas and improve my English skills.

We often share photos on Instagram with each other while travelling, make friends on Facebook, and even record and publish videos and watch others' videos on YouTube (this happens several years ago).

Since I entered senior high school, GCGS - Guangdong Country Garden School, I started my attempt to talk with some other excellent classmates in English. This gives me an opportunity to practice English speaking and listening in my school.

This can be done even if other people or me have very low level of English skills. We can teach each other as soon as we discover errors of others.

Discover and Apply Knowledge in Real Life

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about why we should discover and apply knowledge in real life.

It is very important to apply knowledge in real life while studying. Not only can it help you understand knowledge easily but also we can share it with others.

I always discover and share academic knowledge with other students while travelling or going outside, so I can study and relax at the same time. By the way, other top students can correct my errors.

Meanwhile, some of my classmates successfully understood some difficult knowledge, especially computer science, after I taught them using understandable language and examples in real life.

It has the following advantages:

  • Memorise Knowledge more Firmly
  • Explain Phenomena Happen in Real Life
  • Let Other Excellent Students Correct Errors
  • Let Other Students Understand Difficult Knowledge Points More Easily
Did you know?

The first knowledge I have ever discovered in real life is a physics knowledge about distance, velocity and time at the beginning of Grade 8, when I started to have awareness on studying. The formula is s=vt.

I also did an experiment about measuring the speed of Guangzhou Metro Line 5 and Line 13. This have been praised by my junior high school, PCIS.

Since then, I know that we need to discover knowledge in real life. This is because most of the physics knowledge can be applied when I start to study physics in Grade 8.

Most of the other top students around the world do not know this method (about 95%, as I estimated). In other words, this is probably the method I invented.

Remember Knowledge Points using Knowledge Flashcards

Top students usually use Quizlet and other methods on their phones, iPads, and computers to memorise important knowledge points, terms, formulae, chemical equations, and even programming code. Quizlet can be used to remember not only English words, but also knowledge points of other subjects, which has flashcards feature.

However, most of the schools bans phones, iPads and even laptops to make sure students who lack awareness on studying do not play too much games.


Electronic devices, such as phones, iPad and computers, are double-edged swords. Scores will increase if we use them properly. However, the scores may experience a decline if we use them improperly.

Make sure you take a rest and have control when you use them. We can occasionally play games or watch videos other than studying to relax as well, but don't do them too much.

Two weeks ago, I started to make my new knowledge flashcards 4.0 which replaced my old vocabulary cards 2.0 and 3.0. This helped me to strengthen my economics and chemistry knowledge before the real IGCSE exam.

Self-study some Knowledge on Higher Grades

Some top students usually self-study some knowledge, using textbooks or other resources, on higher grades before the course starts, especially during summer and winter vacations.

Free time is not redundant, top students feel it's abundant. We need to utilise our free time to study so we can overtake others after a long period. Don't lose your free time, or you may be overridden by some top students!

If we learn some knowledge in advance, we will understand the relevant knowledge points more easily and remember them more firmly while having lessons later on.

For example, if we have CAIE courses, we can learn AS and A Level (and even A2, if possible) subjects after the IGCSE exam during the vacation.

I didn't self-study before Grade 11 because I lack some basic skills that need to be practiced, such as IELTS, making speech publicly, and so on. This is because I didn't study well and lacked awareness on studying until Grade 9.

I have planned to study some of the AS subjects that are interesting for me during the summer vacation, between July and August 2021, after my IGCSE exam:

  • AS Computer Science (9618)
  • A2 Mathematics (9709) (my school studies IGCSE and AS mathematics in IGCSE grade (Grade 10), and A2 mathematics in AS grade (Grade 11))
  • AS Physics (9702)
  • AS Further Mathematics (9231)
  • A2 Computer Science (9618)

Take Exercises

Taking exercises is also very important for students. It can strengthen your body and gain sufficient energy on studying.

Studying all the time is better for the scores, but it will harm your body and productivity due to tiredness. So, using free time to take exercises regularly can improve your productivity on studying without wasting your time.

If we study all the time, the productivity will decrease continuously and the output will be lower than studying with taking exercises regularly.

Related Knowledge

Now, I am going to tell you an economics knowledge: labour and capital.

Labour and capital are some of the factors of production. Labour is the human effort to produce goods and services. Capital is man-made goods to produce goods and services.

For example, people, such as bloggers and programmers, behind a website and workers in a company are labour. However, teacher's computers used to have lessons connected to a projector, printers, trucks, coaches and scissors are capital goods.

Capital goods can work 24 hours a day and they are not affected by tiredness or illnesses. They can produce large amount of identical goods and services very quickly. However, labour is more flexible.

I usually play table tennis or ride bicycles for about 20 minutes every 45 minutes to 1 hour when studying at home on Sunday or during the vacation.

Additional Tip: Use Apple Products

Apple is a multinational company hosted in California, US and situated in most of the countries around the world. Their products have a huge difference compared with Windows and Android products.

Related Knowledge

Now, I am going to tell you an economics knowledge: multinational companies.

Multinational companies (MNCs) are the firms situated in many countries. However, they may be driven out of business if a country has local firms with similar products.

Some western high-tech companies, such as Google and Twitter, are not situated in China because there are some local firms have similar features (Baidu and Weibo). So, we have difficulty to access their website and communicate with foreign English friends.

Windows computers and Android phones are very competitive because different models of devices use the same OS. In the competitive market, firms have perfect knowledge and they are price takers. Price may be low and quality may be high.

However, Apple has a branch in China as its products are very distinctive. It has its own operating systems (iOS, iPadOS and macOS). I can use Apple Pay to buy foreign tools that do not support WeChat Pay and Alipay, such as Quizlet. Thanks Apple for providing convenience to me for studying and improving my productivity.

I started to use Apple ecosystem, with iPhone, macBook, AirPods, and even iPad, iMac and AirTag at the beginning of 2021. It boosts my productivity while studying.

In fact, Apple has their own operating systems, like iOS, iPad OS and macOS. However, other devices use separate operating systems. Computers use Windows from Microsoft, but phones use Android from Google. In order words, Apple may be the only company that can make operating systems for both phones and computers.

All of the Apple devices can be logged in with an Apple ID and iCloud and hence their information, like notes, reminders, passwords (Safari and Keychain), photos, calendar, can be synchronised between devices. For example, I can continue to take notes on my phone when I need to go outside while taking notes on my MacBook.

You can read this article if you need to learn more about the benefits of Apple products.

My Apple Home PC

Alright! This is the end of the article. Thanks for reading.

If you like this post, please click the thumb up button below and share this article. Also, you can write down your comment below if you have any ideas.

Still have questions or cannot understand my articles? Don't be hesitant to contact me and I am here to help you. I speak English and Chinese.

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