Monday 21 August 2017

My Advice to New A Level Students

I am about to go into my second year of A Levels, having struggled my way through the first year. I hope I can help any of you who are starting sixth form this September. Good luck to you all!

Use your frees wisely

At the beginning of the year, even at the end of the year now that I think about it, many people in my year spent their free periods socialising then having to do their work at the last minute. I then watched as they stressed out later on and panicked. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet or anything but I’m quite happy with the way I’ve used my frees this year. I tried to do all the work I had whilst I was in college so I could have the evening to relax. This stopped later on as revision started, but I think it really helped me keep calm at the beginning. Obviously, there’ll be days when you want to go outside and socialise and you should – just make sure you get your work done as well as taking breaks and being mindful of your mental health.

Get a planner

My planner is my lifeline. I honestly don’t know how I would last more than a day without it. I get it out at the beginning of every lesson and I have my life in there. I use it for planning blog posts, homework, coursework, monthly goals, making notes of events in my personal/social life, my D of E (when I did it) as well as paid work and the day to day to-do lists I use to keep myself productive. Time management is a key skill you will learn when you start your A Levels and a planner is something that helped me (and my friends) a lot with keeping on top of everything. It doesn’t have to be expensive or even a physical object, some people prefer to use apps like Reminders or Calendar to help them manage their workload, you just have to figure what suits you.

Speak to your teachers

They’re there to help. Ask the question you think is stupid, it might help in your exam. Give them practice answers you’ve written and make sure you have something to work on. Ask them for help on any areas that you’re stuck on, They’re there to help. They’re literally getting paid to help you. Obviously, don’t go to them constantly. You are meant to be more independent at A Level but your teachers will still help you when you need it.

Do some sort of wider reading

A Level requires a lot more than GCSE did. Read around your subject in any way possible to give your background information which will improve your understanding, your coursework (if you have it in your subject) and your exam answers. For example, in A Level Government & Politics, a lot of examples are required and wider reading provides the examples that are needed. In English, reading lots of texts in relation to the texts you actually study helps you understand those curriculum texts better and develop your interpretations of them.

Wider reading doesn’t have to be daunting or stressful. It could be in the form of documentaries (for politics, documentaries such as Meet the Commons and Meet the Lords), TV shows (e.g. Question Time or the News), the newspapers, apps (for languages etc.), books (both fiction and non-fiction), films, podcasts, YouTube videos. The list is endless. Don’t take on too much at the beginning, you can build it up and change the amount you’re doing to suit your workload. Keep a note of what you’re reading, you could mention it in your personal statement.

Secure work experience early

Believe me, you’ll need some sort of work experience before you finish sixth form. Get as much as you can (obviously within reason, don’t spend your whole time doing work experience and manage your A Level work, that’s your priority) in the relevant field. You can use it, and what you’ve learned from it in your personal statement if you want to go to university. If you don’t want to go to university, it will still be useful as experience when applying for jobs or apprenticeships. Any experience in the right area will do you a lot of good in the long run. Get it organized early on then you won’t have the extra stress of finding a position late along with everyone else who didn’t think about it earlier.

Take your learning into your own hands

You are given a lot less support by your teachers at A Level – it’s a fact no matter what school or college you attend. You become a lot more independent and whilst your teachers should provide you help when you need it, you shouldn’t be relying on them. Look up the mark schemes and extra details for yourself. Look ahead at what you’re going to be studying. Revise the content without being prompted by your teacher in homework. Once you take proper control of your studies and learning, you will benefit most from your own individualized approach.

I wish you the best of luck if you are starting A Levels – they’re going to be very hard, stressful and you’ll probably have a few breakdowns at the least, but you can pull through it still. Support your friends, help your classmates and talk to your family.  Remember: your mental health is priority – it’s okay to take the odd day off here and there to help you cope with the stress you’re under.

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