results day

How I passed A-Level Biology

This is for the anon who was feeling a bit let-down by their AS level biology mark, and asked how I revised.  Prepare for an essay…

First off, a D isn’t far off a C, especially considering the harsh marking this year and the fact that you may have just had an off-day.  There is plenty of scope to make up marks next year in your A2, and in your re-sit.  Ask your teachers to help you do some UMS calculations to see how far you are off each grade.  I had similar results in my AS year and easily made it up with practicals and whatnot.  It sounds like you worked really hard, and the first thing you need to do is recognise that; I’m certainly proud of you!

However, if you want my advice (as you probably do because you, erm, asked for it), this is what I would recommend you do from here on in.  This is because I learn by writing; actually producing words in my own format, repetitively, then reading my own materials. It’s a lot of work, and I have no idea if it’ll work for you, but it was worth it for me.  I got a high A in the end.

~ go through the specification for your exam board.  Write it out in your own words.  Know what you need to know, inside out.

~ divide the spec into understandable chunks - your textbook will help with this e.g. “genetics”.  For each section, RE-CREATE all the following materials, (using your pre-existing notes and extra textbooks if you need them):

~ baseline, detailed notes.  Typed or handwritten, whatever you prefer.  Think of it as writing a textbook, for you.  Explain everything to a depth that someone at GCSE could understand it.  Add photos, diagrams, highlighted words - anything that helps. Spend time on these, as everything else kinda depends on them.

~ quiz.  Every fact you have written in your baselines notes, write a question for.  On a separate sheet, write the answers out in full (these are great for bus journeys).  For example, your notes might say “human somatic cells have 46 chromosomes, organised into 23 pairs.” Your quiz would ask, “How many chromosomes does a human somatic cell have, and how are they organised?”  Your answer sheet would read the same as your notes, “human somatic cells have 46 chromosomes, organised into 23 pairs.”  (See what I mean about repetition now?!)

~ put your specification notes and baselines notes side-by-side.  Create revision cards by withdrawing the knowledge that the spec asks for, from your baselines notes.  Don’t bother writing full sentences or even words; abbreviation like “ind.” for “individual” are handy.  Your brain still reads individual, which is the main thing; but it also sees a much smaller section of writing and thinks “woohoo! Achievable.”  Use different colour pens, different colour cards for each spec section; again, whatever helps you.  (Wilkos is a great place to shop for revision cards, and here in Exeter they do 10% student discount!)

~ do all of the above for every section.  That will cement FACTS into your mind.  Facts are important, but unfortunately at A Level it’s all about the application.  Play the game.  Learn how to pass an exam, by doing the following:

~ try to find past exam questions organised into topics. Depending on your exam board (and how helpful your school is), topic question packs may be very easy or very hard to find.  If so, do the steps below using those question packs.  If not, just do what I’ve written below.

~ print off three copies of each past paper you can find (if your exam board is really new, go back to the old spec and use their papers; just be aware of spec differences), and one copy of each mark scheme.

~ firstly, use the mark scheme to answer each question to your fullest capability.  Write more than you need to.  You literally have all the answers in front of you.  Think WHY the answer is the answer; DON’T just copy the mark-scheme. If you don’t understand anything, consult all your materials (including quizzes), and then ask your teacher for some help in a break time or at the end of class.  

~ do the SAME exam paper, using just your notes and revision cards but no mark scheme.  Mark it using your paper copy and the mark scheme if you still need it. Write out model answers if your actual answer was anything but.  

~ thirdly, do your last copy of the same paper, using just your memory.  Mark it and write out the model answers.  If you don’t feel like you know the paper inside out, repeat whichever step you like.

~ if you did the above using topic question packs, repeat it using the actual mixed up exam papers.

I’m not gonna lie, that is a huge amount of work. The most important final step is: DON’T follow my advice unless you think it would be helpful!!  I have friends who only learn things through reading it out loud, recording themselves saying it and listening back – writing does nothing for them, and the above would be a waste of time.  Only you know how you learn best, and if you’re not sure there are plenty of time-wasting quizzes on the internet to find out.

(Also, environmentalist caveat, please don’t use more paper than you need.  Try printing two pages to a sheet, or double-sided, and recycling anything you don’t need!)

If there’s anything you don’t understand, or if I haven’t explained anything quite right, please get back to me.  As I said, I’m not good with this account but I’ll try to get back to you.  If anyone has any other tips, feel free to send them in!

I wish you – and everyone who reads this – all the best in your studies :)

Love, Becca

This is a post for people who didn’t get the results they wanted today. Please remember that although it’s great to have good grades, there’s many other things in life which are equally and more important. And whatever the schools like to tell you, failing exams does not mark the end to a successful future. There’s more. There’s always another way. So don’t let a disappointing sheet of paper hold you back in any way at all. You tried your best! That’s the most important thing. Now go get on with living the life you’ve waited for.

9.8.15

It’s been 2 days since I came back from holiday so I’m just taking things slow. I’ve gone through and completed my geography notes for next term, and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted! I also continued to work on my personal statement, which is proving to be extremely hard…

ORGANISATION TIPS FOR FRESHERS: THE BARE MINIMUM SO YOU CAN STRESS LESS p1/4

WHAT TO HAVE:

1. A SAFE PLACE – keep all irreplaceable/important documents like your birth certificate, a level certificates, UCAS letters in here. Ideally a concertina folder, or a folder with different sections. Mine is organised by bank stuff, ID, student finance, qualifications, tenancy, and my part time job. Keep this folder in your room and ideally keep a list of what is inside taped to the front.

2. NOTEBOOK – for lecture notes, shopping lists, any notes. At lectures, write the week number, date, module title, etc at the top. If anything requires action (e.g. you have to email someone, read something for next week) circle it, highlight it, underline it, make it clear. When you go home you can make a list of what needs to be done and when. Keep this with you at uni, and when you get home always leave it in the same place in your bag/on your desk. 

3. BINDER – with plastic wallets, dividers if you want. I keep two sections: ‘to do’ and ‘to return’. When a teacher hands me homework or a bit of paper I immediately put it in ‘to do’. When I get home I check ‘to do’ and make a list, decide when to do it. When I’ve done it I immediately put it in ‘to return’. Keep this with you at uni and when you get home always leave it in the same place

4. SEMESTER PLANNER – week numbers going down, mon/tues/wed/thurs/fri/sat/sun going across. Write down deadlines, birthdays, holidays so you can see everything in one place. You might notice two deadlines in the same week. Keep on your wall.

5. WEEKLY PLANNER – print off one for each week, hours of the day going down, days of the week going across. Fill in your classes, society events, etc. Write your goal for that week (e.g. a deadline, or to begin an essay). Keep this in your notebook/binder so if you need to organise a tutorial or to meet a friend, you can quickly check when you are free.

6. FORGET PLACE – this is where I put things I can forget about. Put in stuff you look at occasionally like recipes, or old photos, or internship info you don’t want to think about right now. When I write down a list of all my assessments, I stuff it in the forget place and stop worrying. Keep this stuff in a plastic wallet/folder in your room.

So somehow i managed to get 7A*s and 4As in my GCSEs!!! (Don’t worry, I’m aware there’s only 3As here but I got an A in my maths last year!) I have never been this happy before oh my gosh I am delighted:’) I hope everybody got the grades they wanted and deserved and if you didn’t, it’s not the end of the world❤️

9

17•08•16

I felt super organised today so have started work on my EPQ and sorted out my college supplies. Honestly, I think I’m just trying to take my mind of the fact that tomorrow is results day and I’m kinda freaking out.. Good luck to everyone! 💕

Why British Youth Have More to Worry About Than Americans

I’ve never realised how good American kids have it when it comes to the stress of being accepted into a university. Americans take what is basically the entrance tests– the ACTs/SATs– during their junior year (Year 12 for the Brits), and can pretty much gauge where they can get into and with how much effort they can get in with, especially since almost every school has a range of scores that accurately reflect the middle 50% of the student body. The tests themselves are pretty easy to prepare for, seeing as they always have the same subjects (English, Math, Reading, and Science for ACT; Math, Critical Reading, and Writing for SAT) and they are MULTIPLE CHOICE. Oh, and it’s not uncommon for a student to take the ACTs/SATs anywhere from 2 to 6 times.

British students have it SOOO much worse. They have to prepare for their “entrance exams,” aka A Levels, for two years in a single, dedicated subject, like Economics or History. It’s nowhere near practical for a student to retake the exam, especially if they took the A Levels and the AS Levels in one session at the end of their final year in school. And JESUS CHRIST the exams are no where close to being as easy as a multiple choice test. Those exams are written. Entire pages of my exam answer document have been dedicated to a single question. Then, just to add insult to injury, while us Americans are packing and prepping for the university we got accepted to in APRIL, British kids are just waiting to see if they made the grades to GET IN!!! It gets even worse when you mention that some Americans start their University courses before British kids EVEN KNOW IF THEY’RE GOING TO UNIVERSITY!!!  And God forbid the horror that befalls those who don’t get the grades they need for their choice university and have to go through clearing…

In all, I have so much respect for British students. They have far more strenuous testing conditions and far more stress to deal with. I wish you the best on your results!