Essential A-Level Tips
Whether you are a Year 13 student or about to start Year 12, the very thought of A-Levels can be quite daunting. However let me start off by saying they are not the be all and end all of your life. If half way through you realise that A-levels aren't for you and want to take a more vocational route or even choose to opt for an apprenticeship, that is totally okay. Your future is exactly that-YOURS.
If you are ready for the challenge of A-levels, read on!
1) Organise! Organise! Organise!
Your journey through your A-Level studies will be a lot more independent than GCSE's and the phrase "you are responsible for your own learning" will move from being just a cliche to the truth. The first way to make this journey easier is to organise yourself and these are some things I did that helped me utilise my time whilst studying.
Have more than one copy of your timetable so you know when and what you need for each lesson, e.g. one in your room, one to take to school, a picture on your phone etc.
Keep a folder each subject where you can keep any loose sheets of work - I had a workbook for some subjects which I hole punched so that they could also go inside my folder.
Have a dedicated workspace at home where you can study/keep all your school work so that it is in one place and there is a lower chance of work getting lost- it is the LAST thing you want to happen, trust me.
2) Keep up to date with notes/homework
In my opinion this is one of the most important if not the most important part of your A-Level study. The way A-Levels are structured is such that your teachers are not able to go into depth about every area in the subject that you have chosen, unlike in during your GCSE's. Therefore after lesson it is up to you to go and use the text book and other resources to fill in any gaps in your knowledge as well as to gain a deeper understanding of what you have learned.
After every A-Level Biology lesson for example, I would use a free period to read the pages of the textbook we had covered in class and add to my notes. When it came to using my notes as revision, I knew that I had everything I needed in one place and wasn't missing any key pieces information. Later on when revisiting certain topics I would then look at different resources to explain the things I already had a base level understanding of and wasn't learning anything new.
It is important to realise that revision shouldn't be the process of learning new things but developing a deeper understanding and cementing the knowledge you already have in your brain.
3) PAST PAPERS
I want to emphasis how important it is to be completing past paper questions all throughout your study. They give you a sense of the types of questions you may be asked in the real exam as well as a tool to practice your time management. The mark schemes are equally as important since they are literally an insight into the examiners brain. They tell you what the examiners are looking for when they ask you certain types of questions and this is invaluable in manipulating your answers during exams to ensure you pick up the marks you deserve.
4) Have a copy of the specification for each subject
The specification is written by the exam board and it tells you what they are going to be testing you on and in many cases, in how much depth. A-levels can seem hard because there is a lot of information you need to know and constantly apply in various amounts of depth.
The specification also breaks down the different Assessment Objectives (AO1, AO2 etc.) that are covered in the subject and how to make sure you are hitting these objectives in your answers.
All the major exam boards have a copy of their specification on their website where it can be downloaded for free. I highly recommend also having a printed out version where you can annotate and highlight what you are covering as you go along or the topics you may need to revisit
Even though it may be hard, there are some things you may need to give up or dedicate less time to when you are studying your A-Levels in order to maximise your chance of getting into your chosen university. For me, one thing I did was cancelling my Netflix subscription in Year 13 as painful as that was. Drastic? Maybe but very necessary since I spent way too much time watching Suits and Prison Break...
For you it might be giving up/cancelling something different but whatever it is, make sure you get you priorities straight.
Spend your free periods or as my school called them, private study sessions (so we were less inclined to think we were "free" from doing work...) wisely. Take it from a student who has already been in your position when I say, at some point you are going to wish you had more time, so utilise what you already have.
6) Have something other than school work to spend some time on
It can be easy to get caught up in your studies and whilst A-levels are important they are not more important than your mental health. If you are feeling overwhelmed please speak to someone; your parent/carer, a trusted teacher or a school counsellor. Trust me when I say that someone will understand the pressure you are facing. If they recommend an activity outside of academic study to take your mind off work, not only is this one way to help release some of that stress A-Levels bring, it may be something you can potentially add to your personal statement as part of your extra curricular section.
A final note
A-levels are not easy but they are manageable using these tips as well as many others you may get from friends and teachers. We all have your best interest at heart and want to see you succeed.
Lastly, have fun! You chose these subjects for a reason and when you enjoy something, it is a lot easier to dedicate time towards it. Embrace everything that comes with studying A-levels, the resilience, organisation, dedication and much more because these are skills you will keep with you for life!
Hi, I'm Aba and I started The Student Scope to give other students advice on their academic journey. Have a look around and enjoy!