The beginning of your A levels marks an exciting time in your academic journey. Having hopefully chosen subjects you’re passionate about, your A levels will provide you with valuable insights into what you may wish to pursue in further education.
This time also offers the perfect opportunity to explore your interests outside of school or college, take part in some fascinating Seren masterclasses and advice sessions, and even join a one-of-a-kind Seren Summer School which you may have heard about at the launch event back in October.
Seren alumna Molly Rowlands, now a Natural Sciences (Mathematics and Education) student at Durham University, gives her top tips for making the most out of Year 12 and bossing your studies.
The leap from GCSEs to A levels was an exciting but nerve-wracking time for a lot of learners, myself included. Before starting my A Levels, I was warned about how large the jump from GCSEs was and this terrified me! I was convinced that the work would be overwhelming, but I soon realised that I just needed to change my approach. There are a lot of things I learnt along my journey through Year 12 that I would like to pass on to you.
1. A Levels are VERY different to GCSEs.
The first few months will be tough and I experienced a drop in my grades initially, as did some of my friends. Seeing your grades drop from what you’ve achieved at GCSE can be disheartening but this is very normal. Over time, you’ll adjust to the new way of studying and find what works for you.
2. Get yourself organised!
During my A levels, I kept a lever-arch file for each subject and used dividers to keep all of my classwork organised. I also had a notebook for each exam paper I would be sitting and used this notebook for all my revision. I recommend having a similar system for your studies as come exam season, you’ll be thanking yourself that all your revision material is organised and in one place!
I also recommend making revision resources as you go along. After every lesson at A Level, I turned my class notes into revision notes and made additional resources such as flashcards. This method worked particularly well for me as it meant I could revisit previous topics and supplement my learning outside of the classroom. Whether it’s in the form of mind maps, flowcharts or flashcards – choose whatever method works best for you.
3. Take advantage of opportunities available to you.
As a Seren Academy learner, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to enhance your learning experience further. Throughout sixth form, I attended various Seren sessions including masterclasses and specialist subject talks on a variety of university courses. Attending the subject masterclasses allowed me to try different subjects that I hadn’t studied before, for example law and medicine. You can also talk about these sessions in your personal statement as an example of a super-curricular activity. This is essential if you’re thinking of applying to top universities including Oxbridge.
Seren will be an invaluable part of your university journey, whether you go straight after school or take a gap year, and will provide you with a support system that will encourage you whatever choices you make.
4. Use a study planner to balance your workload with other commitments.
I had a part-time job alongside my studies which meant I had to manage my time carefully. Write down all your commitments for the week, this could include your job or any extracurriculars you participate in, then allocate a portion of your free time to your studies. You’ll be amazed at how much time you have when it’s being managed efficiently!
5. Take time for yourself.
With the increased workload, it can be very tempting to spend enormous amounts of time studying but this isn’t healthy or sustainable. If you do that, you will burn out by exam season when it really counts!
Put aside time every evening to do something you enjoy, whether that’s seeing friends or just watching your favourite TV series. Self-care must be a priority so make sure you look after yourself. Check out Seren’s blog post created in partnership with Mind for top 7 tips to boost your wellbeing.
6. It’s ok not to be ok.
A Levels are difficult in normal circumstances, let alone with the disruption to schools over the last two years. Take notice of your mood and if you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, please reach out and seek help. This could be from somebody in your school, your friends, your family or even your GP. There is always somebody to support you. Don’t suffer in silence.
Your A levels introduce a new set of challenges and experiences that aren’t always going to be smooth sailing. But don’t be so hard on yourself. Take every opportunity that comes your way and remember – rejection is redirection. You’ll always end up exactly where you’re supposed to be. Enjoy the journey and remember to always believe in yourself.