With my first week of Year 13 over I thought it would be a good idea to write about my experience of A Levels so far. They are infamous for being insanely tough and as my dad has told me multiple times, "they're more work than a degree". In this post I'll be writing about my personal experience (my college, my courses etc), any advice I have and what I would have done differently in Year 12. I still have a long way to go until completing my A Levels, though!
To begin, I will just give some background on where I study. I go to a college that is about a 30-40 minute drive from my hometown, I chose to go here as it is renowned for outstanding results and my local colleges/sixth forms just didn't appeal to me. To get into this college I had to get at least six B's in my GCSEs, which I managed to do. My lessons can start at 8:45 and finish at 4, and unfortunately last year I had one day where I only had a 45 minute break between all of my lessons. Luckily this year my timetable is much more flexible and now that I can drive (!!) I have a lot more freedom when it comes to being at college, as I am not obliged to be there if I don't have any lessons.
The subjects I'm studying are English Literature, Psychology and Spanish. I got an A* in Spanish and an A in English Lit in my GCSEs, so it is evident that I enjoyed them and was subsequently good at them, however I had never studied any form of psychology in my life before taking it at A Level and I would 100% recommend to people to look into subjects further before just assuming "I'll enjoy them!". I found psychology very tough to begin with as there is a lot of content and some of it can be quite difficult to get your head around, but nevertheless I enjoy it and I love my teacher. I know everyone says it, but the more work you do the more you get out of the subject.
When I started at my college last September, I assumed that Spanish would be the most difficult subject and I was fully prepared to be dreadful at it. I was so wrong! In my opinion, Spanish is nowhere near as difficult as people told me it would be. There is no denying that learning a language is tough, but the main piece of advice I have is work your arse off!!! Any form of work you can do outside of your lessons, do it. And then do some more. Don't dedicate your life to extra work, but an extra hour or so each night or after your lessons will go a very long way. In Year 12, I would have an hour and a half long public bus journey if I finished college early, and I would spend that journey rereading the books I was given for English, listening to the Spanish Charts on Spotify and reading the 'BBC Mundo' app on my phone (BBC World News, in Spanish).
You could say I am a "half guinea pig" (put so nicely by my English teacher) as the government has changed the way A Level exams work. Instead of now obtaining AS Levels at the end of Year 12, we have to take exams at the end of Year 13 that cover everything we've learnt over the two years. I will be a part of the second year to take these linear A Levels, and they're quite scary for me!
At the end of last year, everyone at my college had to take internal exams in order to provide ourselves with predicted grades for university and in some major cases, to kick people out of college if they had not done good enough to continue with their courses. I cannot say I was super chuffed with my results as I believe I could have done better, but I got the grades I needed to apply to the universities I want to go to so I can't complain.
A quick list of things I would do differently/advise people to do when studying their A Levels:
1. Always do any work you have been given as soon as you get it - you will find it so much easier than letting it all pile up for the weekend and losing track of what you have to do.
2. Go above and beyond - although it's not always necessary to do more work than you need to, there's no harm in doing it.
3. Don't worry about money too much - my problem was, during exams, I was working up to 25 hours a week at a part-time job. It's not that I was worried about money (we were understaffed), but it had a huge impact on my grades and I know I would have done better if I hadn't have been at work so much.
4. Organise yourself and your subjects.
5. Try and stick to a routine.
6. Don't always prioritise your social life, but at the same time don't always prioritise your studies. Try and keep a good balance (I will admit, it's not as easy as it seems)
So there's my first 'A Levels' post, I'm sure there will be many more to come that are probably less longwinded. I hope you enjoyed reading this and that it was of some use to you!