Taking the leap from GCSE to A level

Darllenwch yn y Gymraeg

In this week’s blog, year 12 student Amelia Davies gives her insight on moving up from year 11 to sixth form and some of the new challenges students might face.

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All everyone talked about in year 11 was how different sixth form was going to be. I was warned that GCSE’s were a piece of cake in comparison. But I assure you this isn’t exactly true. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, you’ll get stressed. But what they don’t tell you is that as it gets harder, you grow and mature even if you don’t realise. I am not in any way trying to say that GCSE’s were easy because that’s definitely not true, but there is a step up to sixth form that can come as a surprise to some people.

To begin, the relationship you have with your teachers changes dramatically. For me, they treated me more like an adult. These newfound relationships really can be a gift. The teachers go out of their way to help you, and you can make amazing connections that you wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise.

Depending on the subjects you’ve taken, and the size of your sixth form, the classes will probably be much smaller, which allows you to have more interaction in lessons and creates a more relaxed atmosphere. This is wonderful because not only can you snack without stealth hiding it under your notepad, but you really do get an immersive and beneficial teaching and learning experience. For me, my sixth form year group has a grand total of 36 pupils, which means that I not only have an average of 9 pupils per class, but I get more common room benefits and a better choice of chairs at lunch!

Another benefit is that you can study the subjects you enjoy! This means you can concentrate on the few subjects you have chosen because you want to study them. I found it really difficult to decide what I was going to take, so my mum told me to cross off all the subjects I really didn’t like, and it turns out it was the most wonderful thing I’ve done, because I now have a clear goal and really enjoy the subjects I’ve taken.

At GCSE, you skim the edge of your subject, but at A level, you really get the chance to take an in depth look at a topic. The whole point of A levels is to challenge you and your knowledge, and to help you decide what you want to do with your future. One of the things I found more difficult was how I could no longer get away with having a limited knowledge of a subject and then blag the exam. You can’t just recite facts, you have to be able to apply the knowledge that you gain, and you truly have to understand what you’re talking about.

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Another thing I found I had to struggle through was time management. It is so easy to forget about school in sixth form. You get home, and it’s easy just to shut off and forget about revision and extra work until you wake up out of a trance and find that its May and your exams are next week. It sounds ridiculous but you really need to get yourself together and follow a revision timetable, and do the extra work. Motivation is a key skill which you REALLY need to master.

I would also recommend applying to be a prefect, because it may seem like an additional plate to spin, but it is so beneficial in the long run, and can really help you with your personal statement and uni application. Make an effort to attend all the revision sessions you can, and to read around your subject if you have time because it makes all the difference.

All in all, the whole sixth form experience is so rewarding and fun, you just have to be able to balance your time effectively, and enjoy what you study.

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