hey everyone!! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer filled with prep for the new school year! I finished my a levels this year, and now being a *recently qualified* a level survivor, I thought I’d create a lil masterpost of tips (I wish I’d known lol) to help out all of you who are just beginning (or continuing) these tough couple of years - you got this!!
~ academic ~
- read ahead!!! by knowing the content you’re gonna be taught ahead of the lesson, you will essentially already be revising when you’re actually taught it - this puts you in a great position for the rest of the year as when you come to revisit the topic for an end of unit test for example, it will already be very familiar.
- weekly summaries will save your life. they’re a great way of keeping you up to date with a) what you’ve learnt and b) what you have left to learn. by reviewing the content you’ve been taught during the week, you can begin to understand how everything fits together a lot better. this is super helpful because understanding the bigger picture is key in a levels .
- if you take maths/science subjects YOU NEED TO BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO APPLY THE CONCEPTS YOU LEARN!!! there is no point in being able to spout out theory and facts if you cannot apply this theory in new/different situations. I recommend doing textbook questions, then past papers, then more questions (any questions you can get your hands on) until you are familiar with any style of problem the examiners can ask you.
- highlight and tackle your weaknesses. for anything you don’t understand, it is super important that you ask your teachers and overcome it, rather than brushing it under the carpet and focusing on your stronger areas. I would always start my work off by covering my weakest topics first.
- be clever with your time. a levels are the quickest and most intense years of all your time in education, so you have to learn to be organised and not waste time. writing out notes is a great way of understanding concepts, but consider whether your time could be better used practising a few problems or writing an essay based on the theory you’ve learnt. quality >>> quantity
- find your best (and worst) times to study. you need to be fully concentrating and on top of your game when you hit the books during a levels, so find the times when you are most attentive. for me, I could bash out a good amount of effective revision in the morning, but knew that in the afternoons there was no point
because all I wanted to do was nap lol.
- know your syllabus. when it comes to revising topics for end of unit tests/mocks/exams, look up the area in the syllabus and know exactly what you need to know, so that nothing is a surprise. I’d suggest printing a paper copy of all your syllabuses at the start of the year.
~ applying for unis ~
- know your subject. this is especially key for lower sixth, as next year you need to sell yourself as best you can to the universities you decide to apply to. subscribe to new scientist to find out about the newest discoveries in science, watch an interesting ted talk on politics, join a debating society, and most importantly always keep up to date with news about your subject (an important point here is to make sure that your info is from trustworthy sources too e.g newspapers).
- get work experience!! lower sixth students, make sure you are looking for work experience asap as unis love love love this enthusiasm for your subject. apply as soon as you can and for a good selection of places in case you don’t manage to get on some.
- further reading. check if your school/college library publishes a reading list for your subjects, and read a range of the books suggested. all of these ‘supra-curricular’ activities show unis that you have a real passion for you subject.
~ staying healthy ~
- sleep. burnout is real and can seriously affect your performance. at one point in lower sixth I was going to bed at 12pm and getting up at 5am to study - this did not help me in the slightest as I just got insanely tired and couldn’t concentrate during the day. try and get ~8 hours sleep, and make sure you keep a regular sleep pattern.
- enjoy after-school clubs and extra-curricular activities, but don’t make your life misery by signing up to too much. its all about finding the work-play balance. clubs can be a great way of relieving school-related stress, but don’t let them take over your life.
- make sure you get a healthy diet. this is key when it comes to your studies, as a healthy and varied diet can boost your brainpower and allow you to work more effectively. good foods to keep your brain happy include blueberries, oily fish, nuts, and broccoli, but there are a whole host of others that are great too.
- stay social. a great way to deal with the stress that comes with a levels is by talking to friends and family often, as trying to overcome it alone can often leave you feeling worse than before. a problem shared is a problem halved!
- have faith!! there a times during a levels where I can guarantee you will want to give up (it happened to me about 4384348 times lol). its ok to have a day where the world seems to be falling apart, but after some comfort food, a cup of tea and a good nights sleep, you’ll be ready to face it again. a levels are tough, but I promise you are made of tougher shit.
I hope this has helped and even if you find/are finding a levels difficult, keep persevering and you will get the rewards that you deserve! best of luck for the new school year everyone, lets do this!!