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Sixth Form Tips

Hi everyone!

If you're in the UK you might be preparing for GCSE results day (good luck) and there's a good chance you'll be planning on starting sixth form in September - you may have already had an induction day or week.

A few of you have messaged me on Instagram asking for tips about how to approach Sixth Form so I figured it was a concern for a reasonable amount of readers. Beginning P16 can be quite daunting and I wasn't really sure what to expect so I've put together this post to give you some tips that I've discovered over my time studying A Levels.

First up, a little bit of (school) background on me just in case you're new here: I'm a 17 nearly 18 year old about to start Y13 in September at a Sixth Form in a school in North East Derbyshire (although for arguments sake we'll just say near Sheffield). I have been at the school since Y7 however the Sixth Form is quite separate from the rest of the school and so nobody walks in to A Levels knowing exactly what they're doing. My school still do AS exams even though they don't count towards our final grade but we still sit the official exams and then also do the official A Level exams at the end of Y13 which count for 100% of our final grade with coursework that we also do next year. I originally studied English Language, English Literature (separately, not combined, both AQA) , History (Edexcel, Route F I believe if you're interested in my topics)  and Biology (OCR)  although I dropped Biology earlier this year.

I definitely prefer A Levels to GCSE, however, they are a lot of work and if you did sail by at GCSE you might need to change your mindset. I have just been appointed Head Girl after having been on the Student Council since Y7 and want to study Law at university as of September 2018.

 I think that's everything but any questions just message me on Instagram @ellerosepics, Twitter @ellerosedtweet or comment on here. If you're really interested in my GCSE results, they're on my Instagram page, however, I don't have my AS results yet. 

Anyway. On with the blog post...

1) Be prepared for Sixth Form but don't stress (which is hard I know)

Write a list of all of the equipment you'll need - this will really depend on your subjects for for me the essentials are pens, coloured pens, highlighters, portable hole punch (they're about £1) and paper. Set up your folders early with dividers so you can revise easily and find bits of paper. Doing essay based subjects, small folders have been an impossibility. Instead I have a 'master' folders for each subject or topic that are the biggest I could find in the shops and then a few plastic wallets and A4 ring binders that I take to school with the things I need for that day in them. Bonus tip: buy a good quality rucksack because you'll be lugging a lot to and from school in the next few months, a bike with a basket on the front and a locker at school is even better.
Take your summer holiday as a time to relax and prepare. If you have summer work to do, wait a week to enjoy your holiday and then plan out when you'll do it and get it done well before the end of the holiday. Be ready to go in to the new year inspired to work efficiently and remember why you've picked the subjects you have - if the thought of studying the A Levels you have chosen in depth sounds dull (particularly common with people who chose what they think they should pick rather than what they want to pick) get thinking about changing your subjects otherwise this year won't be fun. There's no such thing as an easy A Level but some will take more time than others. I tend to write between 3 and 6 essays per week plus other homework plus revision plus extra reading whereas a mathematician might instead have a number of problems to solve fo r homework. It just depends what you'd prefer to do.
The step between GCSEs and A Levels is big and nobody expects you to get it straight away. An A at A Level isn't the same as an A at GCSE. But don't panic - start slowly, be positive, scrape through the first few weeks as you find your feet and you'll get in to a routine. The best preparation you can have is just to rest and relax.

2) Your teachers aren't your enemies

You tend to have a different relationship with your teachers at A Level - most teachers I have spoken to prefer Y12 and 13 because students have chosen to be there. If you're stuck it's now too important not to ask and get things clarified, your class will probably be smaller, mine have an average of 10 students so don't worry about asking questions or just stay behind after lessons.
Don't betray the trust though, do your homework, try hard in lessons, get help if you aren't sure. It'll also help get you some slack if you do need a bit of leeway- earlier in the year I had a lot going on and so I spoke to my teachers about moving some homework deadlines, they were fine with it because they knew I always tried my best and it was an exception.

3) You've not failed if things don't go how you expect 

I began with 4 A Levels and now am taking 3. I loved Biology, wasn't struggling academically with it and was getting As in all of my tests. However, I was doing all of my class work and homework and didn't have time for anything else due to the volume of work I had for my essay subjects (which might not seem like a big deal for some but I wanted to be able to do extra reading and revision and at the time I was looking at studying English and History and uni). So, I dropped Biology, at first feeling like I'd failed in some way. It was the best choice I made this academic year and I haven't  regretted it once. I have an extra study period each day and I can fully commit myself to my subjects. I think if I was taking sciences and maths or another combination in which there was less extra reading and homework I would've kept all 4, however, you really do have to do whatever you think will increase your chance of success - none of the universities I am looking at want more than 3 grades although if your universities instead use UCAS points, there could be an advantage to having an extra AS as it will give you more points. Similarly, you'll probably have some disappointing grades at times during your A Levels, don't fret like I have a tendency to, use it as a positive; you can't improve if you never get it wrong.

4) Consider your options after Y13 but don't become too absorbed in them

Again another thing that I should've listened to when I was taking my AS exams. Having a goal is a good idea to stay motivated and ensure you don't drift through then have no idea what to do next. However, little is the be all and end all, and this applies if you're collecting your GCSE results in what I believe is now 24 days as well. Stay away from The Student Room, it'll  probably destroy your confidence and give you false information. Open days tend to start around June though (although the first one I went to was October/ November for taster lectures so book these asap, especially if you'll have to travel (I might do a guide to open days soon, I've been to a lot recently).

5) Don't let the wall take you out of the game 
A short but important final point. You will most likely hit the wall at some point. Could be after a week, a month, a term or a year. You'll feel like you'll fail no matter what, you'll want to curl up in bed,quit A Levels and never return. You can do this. Keep going, take a break to regroup and remember it's normal to feel like that. Don't keep it to yourself, speak to friends, family, teachers and you'll get there.

And finally, good luck! A Levels can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Get stuck in, be involved in the Sixth Form, help with fundraisers and take every opportunity that comes your way!

Elle x

Useful links (not affliated... obviously)  



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