WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN: TIPS FOR NEW A-LEVEL STUDENTS!!
hello everyone so I know that in the UK, there are many students who have got their GCSE results and are off to college or sixth form where they will most likely be studying A-Levels or a similar qualification.
I have just fought my way through my first year of A-Levels, also known as AS; and so I am going to give away some tips on how to make Year 12/AS successful!
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN #1: DO THE SUMMER WORK THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SET !!!
Some people that I knew in my sixth form didn’t bother to do the summer work, and honest I have no idea how someone could skip this! I find that this is particularly important for sciences - I did Biology and Chemistry at AS and trust me you need that homework to get you through the first lesson before you properly get into things! Another subject this is pretty crucial for is English (although this isn’t from experience as I didn’t do English) because you usually need to read the book and gain some background knowledge of the characters to be able to start work straight away - if you haven’t read the book, the first few weeks for you will be so hard! DO THE WORK!
Not only does it help you in the first few lessons, but it gives you some background knowledge into the subject and a taster on what the syllabus will include and different things you might be studying. I remember my biology and chemistry work gave us a taster of most topics that we would cover throughout the year and I found it really helpful to give them a look through and answer some questions on the content so that I knew what type of things I would be learning about.
WHAT I WISH I’D HAVE KNOWN #2: THAT YOU CAN GO FROM BEING A STRAIGHT ‘A’ STUDENT AT GCSE TO GETTING ‘D’ AND ‘E’ GRADES AT A-LEVEL!!!
So I guess the title of this ‘what I wish I’d known’ is probably not the most appealing title, but you seriously need to bare this in mind! You probably already know that the jump from GCSE to A-Level is like playing on Call of Duty for 10 minutes and then being expected to go and fight in a World War - the gap for pretty much every subject is huge. The sheer amount of knowledge that you are expected to know and getting used to the new terminology and new techniques and skills you need to acquire can be really difficult to get to grips with at first - but know that this is normal and every A-Level student struggles with this!
At first, you will probably get a few lower grades to perhaps what you are used to, which is absolutely normal and your teachers will keep reminding you that it takes a while to adjust the A-Level life. It is also important to remember that people adjust to them at different times. So whilst your mates are starting to get higher grades/improve their techniques etc. in October/November; you might not adjust until January/February time - or after your mock exams. The adjustment takes time, and sometimes people perfect their technique in their second year. Everyone is different and it is okay for it to be like that. It is important that you realise everyone is different and everyone adjusts and everyone copes with the gap in different ways.
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN #3: IF YOU DON’T LIKE A CLASS AFTER THE FIRST FEW WEEKS, DROP IT BECAUSE IT ISN’T WORTH YOUR TIME !!!
This didn’t apply to me, but a few of my friends regret not dropping subjects that they hated in the first few weeks. Luckily in my sixth form, they offered you to drop a subject at anytime in the year, even a few weeks before the exam! However, if your school doesn’t do this - it is important for you to assess how you are feeling about the subject after a few weeks of lessons and drop it as soon as you have made the decision.
It doesn’t mean that you have to drop one, you could switch the subject to something else. For example, dropping Maths to a science, or Sociology to Economics; or whatever it is you want to change it to. You need to make sure you are comfortable with the subjects you are studying because if you don’t want to study them, it makes studying it so much harder - and with A-Levels being so demanding, it is crucial that you are comfortable so that you can effectively revise and actually want to revise.
If you need some advice about dropping or changing subjects - speak to your teachers or your head of subject/sixth form/ college and they will be able to help you out.
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN #4: GET INVOLVED !!!
This is something I didn’t need to know as I got straight in there, but for many people, this is something that I feel is crucial for A-Levels.
At GCSE I was fairly quiet in my lessons, but after many parent’s evenings of being told they thought I needed to speak more, I decided that I was going to kick their opinions in the ass and get more involved in my work and in my lessons, and I did from day one. I can’t recommend this tip enough.
At A-Level, you have a much better relationship with your teachers because not only are they more inclined to help you because you are taking their subject at a higher level; but also because A-Levels are more independent and won’t tell you everything in lesson; if you go to them for help or always ask questions, they are more likely to help you and have your best interest at heart. If someone clearly shows them they aren’t bothered, they don’t want to waste their time. Get involved and show them you want to be there and study their subject and they will help you!
Challenge what they say and ask lots of questions about the content - teachers love this and it is so beneficial to your learning!
Getting involved can be scary, especially if you are quite anxious about speaking in front of people; but coming from someone with anxiety; getting involved actually really increases your confidence to participate, even if you get the answer wrong - the more times you participate and the teacher recognises you’re having a go - your behaviour is reinforced and you feel more confident!
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN #5: THOSE FREES ARE NOT FOR NIPPING DOWN TO THE CHIPPY - GET YOUR WORK DONE !!!
At first when you get all these free periods in your timetable, you feel like you’re finally free to do whatever the hell you like.
In the first few days, you are going to feel a little empty and like you have nothing to do - these frees are a bit useless to you. I remember on my first day, I had 2 free periods and a lesson, and the day after I had two lessons - I had 5 frees within one and half days - I had no idea what to do with myself! I guess you can kind of be slightly lenient with yourself if this happens, but after the first few days - work just keeps flying in your direction and all of a sudden you become Harry Potter when he receives all of those letters inviting him to Hogwarts - you drown in paper and deadlines and you can’t escape them.
These are where your frees come in handy; and even though I have three subjects now, I still feel like I don’t have enough! These frees take some pressure off doing everything at home and give you that time for independent study. It is important that you work your ass off so you can keep on top of things. Admittedly, everyone falls behind with work and deadlines; even the best of us do; but working solid in these frees just enables you to not fall behind as much as what you would if you didn’t work in them!
In my sixth form, they offer the library where we can talk quietly, or the common room where it is silent study. Personally, I spent pretty much all of my frees in the common room so it was silent which meant I could get lots of work done and I was so much more productive.
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN #6: TRY AND GO OVER NOTES ASAP !!!
I feel like this is really important because if you haven’t gone over things within a few days, you start to forget everything you learned and this makes revision for tests and homework so much harder. Try and keep that information stuck in your brain by going over everything my re-writing them or making some revision resources, like flashcards. This is just a such a productive way of going over content and remembering things.
Many people at GCSE may have done this anyway, but at A-Level I feel like it is a big mistake not to do this just because there is so much information that you need to know and it really works in your favour to be able to go over the notes to keep that information ticking over in your head. It makes revision just so much easier!
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN #7: GROUP CHATS WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE !!!
Setting up a group chat between a few people in your class is actually so beneficial. I know the Maths AS class set up a whole group chat but people in the other biology class to me set up a small one between a few people. Not only can you help each other out learning content, but it enables you to keep up with homework, deadlines and other important things. Also, if you are away for whatever reason, the group chat is a great place to consult for any information (as well as collecting info from your teacher too!)
It acts as a mini support network for your subject and can really help improve your work and help to make friends with people you wouldn’t usually!
WHAT I WISH I’D KNOWN #8: HAVE FUN !!!
Whilst I have been banging on about how you need to focus as A-Levels are not the easiest thing you will come across; it is so so important that you have fun! Mixing with other people in your year and becoming friends with people in your classes and getting to know your teacher and your subject better and having fun with your friends makes everything seem so much better and worth while!
Everyone doing A-Levels is bound to go through mountains of stress but it is important that you do have fun and that you are all there for each other and have a great time! A-Levels offer you to be more independent, whilst still having that help and support and still enable you to have fun whilst drowning to death in work - have fun and enjoy yourself - it makes studying so much more bearable!
Don’t just have fun with your friends, but have fun researching things out of your syllabus and looking more into your subject, you never know what amazing things you can find out which gives you motivation to keep studying and makes it enjoyable!
So there are my little tips for the upcoming A-Level students that most likely start this week. I hope you found them helpful and if you do have any questions about A-Level life or my subjects (I do History, Psychology and Biology to A2 and dropped Chemistry after AS), please feel free to message me!