I have been told by many people that the biggest transition in education is not from Sixth Form to University but actually GCSE to Sixth Form. However, fear not, my friend. After finishing my studies as a Sixth Form student and achieving A*AACC (still not happy about them two Cs!), I can give you many helpful tips on how to maximise your education, achieve the highest grades while enjoying your social life outside of Sixth Form.
#1 What to do in Free Periods!?
This is by far the biggest problem I occurred. Since I studied five A levels in my first year, I only had two free periods so I tended to relax in them ones. However, in my second year, I had nearly two free periods a day. The biggest tip I could give you is to make sure you are not bored. By this, I mean always know what you are going to do before you start your free period: even if this means doing something un-educational. For example, you could:
- Of course, finish your homework and carrying on studying which you should put as priority first over anything else. Put some music into your ears and get working and time really does fly by! It’s always best to try and stick to a routine when choosing what free periods you are going to study. For example, stick to a timetable where, let’s say, Wednesday’s free periods consist of you catching up on homework.
- Bring your iPad in and play games, watch a movie or listen to music.
- Bring a portable games console in to play on.
- Sit and socialise in free periods where you know your other friends have free periods too.
The chances are that you are studying 3-4 A levels. You will have plenty of time to catch up on homework and work in your free periods. Once that work is done, make sure you keep yourself entertained because free periods, especially doubles, can become extremely boring if you have nothing to do!
Where to Study in Free Periods?
The common room, depending on what sixth form you go to, can be a good place to study. However, you will usually find that people end up doing nothing in their free periods and sit and chat in the common room. This can become quite distracting if you want to crackle down and do some serious studying: especially if your friends are close by. For this reason, look towards the library or a quieter studying area such as a free classroom. I don’t mean for you to do this every time you want to study because some free periods have much fewer people in the common room than others. For when the common room is extremely busy and hard to work in, look for somewhere else to study.
Lunchtime and Breaktime
It’s cool going out at lunchtime and breaktime as a newly passed driver in your new car. This tends to be best when you do it around once or twice a week. Most people at lunchtime and breaktime head to the sixth form common room as an almost rendezvous point so if you want to socialise and talk to people, head straight there for when it is lunchtime and breaktime. The only problem that I found is that chairs and sofas go fast at the start of lunchtime so make sure you get the comfy chairs before they all go!
You should ALWAYS do well in Coursework
Most A levels now have theory and coursework exams. For example, both Physics, English and Music has coursework exams for me. Coursework is brilliant because you can put in as many hours of work into it as you like outside of school which means you can potentially gain a much higher grade than you would in a theory exam.
What you put into coursework is the grade you get out of it.
If you don’t put many hours in, you will not do well. In essence, it is easy marks. Therefore, always make sure you try your absolute best and put more than necessary hours into all your pieces of coursework.
Record your Results before Exams
Out of everything I could give you as a tip this, to me, helped me achieve at least one extra grade in Maths and Physics. When it came to revising before exams, I, of course, wrote up all my notes onto this website for Physics (could’t really do it for Maths). After I had done that, I went through every paper possible and recorded the results in Edexcel for iPad (Numbers app) and transformed the results into a graph which you can see below (click on the image to view them larger):
From plotting my past paper results produced correlations where I could see which exams I was improving in, the strongest in and the weakest in. I will go through every graph to give you an idea of what I was thinking at the time:
- My Physics AS G492 exam papers were, on average, getting better. I had a small dip in my percentage which led me to revise a bit harder. After that, you can see my results get better where my actual exam grade was at all time high.
- For Maths A2, although it is harder to tell, you can still see some correlation between the results I obtained. On average, every graph has positive correlation. The only anomaly is the 95% I actually achieved for C4 which I am still baffled about how I did that!
- My Maths C2 papers almost had reached a maximum. For this reason, I realised that even if I did more papers, my grade wouldn’t really change. It was for extra revision at the last minute that enabled me to a 95% again.
- My Maths AS past papers made clear, to me, that I was gaining the most improvement with S1 statistics. For this reason, I did hold back the revision on the other two modules and concentrated on S1 which is noticeable with C1 where it dips a little. Due to this dip, I then concentrated my effort equally on all three papers.
You see, without recording my results, I would not have gained as detailed an explanation for my results. I honestly learned so much about myself from recording my results and it proved to become quite helpful in helping me achieve high grades.
Maths A Level (OCR)
For all those about to study Maths as an A level, do not be turned off by what you got at GCSE. I got an A at GCSE and was predicted a B at A level but ended up with an A and, overall, 89.7%. GCSEs are the thing of the past for you now, like A levels are for University students.
Maths AS (OCR) is a big leap I have to say. You will tend to find that the homework the teachers give you is to finish off the exercise you are doing in class. A common Maths lesson will consist of:
- Being taught something new in class.
- Attempting to use the newly-taught maths with questions in an exercise.
- Finish the exercise off as homework.
The last bullet point only really has to be done if you don’t understand the newly taught maths. For example, if you get every question right in class and completely understand the new maths, you don’t have to bother doing the exercises.
For Maths OCR, I found that Core 2 was the hardest. I did Statistics which was very simple as if you know how to put the numbers from a question into a calculator, you will always get near full marks. For Core 1, you should be scoring quite high too.
Maths A2 (OCR) was a big leap up too and continues where the AS finished. Core 3 is usually the toughest exam because most schools tend to make students do it in January. However, out of everything, I found that if you put enough work in before exams, no Maths exam should be that tough. You need to remember that you don’t have to actually get every answer right to get an A grade. It is all about method marks and the way you work through the question. For this reason, don’t ever cross anything out!
For anyone who is also studying Physics, doing Mechanics 1 is a must because Mechanics in Maths OCR is nearly exactly the same as parts of Physics B OCR AS.
Physics B (OCR)
When it came to Physics B AS (OCR), I felt that the transition was not too drastic. The only thing you will have to bare out for is the increased homework where you will get around two pieces of homework a week to complete. This is a must do because you are learning content in Physics and not just remembering formulas etc. like you are in Maths.
Physics B A2 (OCR), I found, was a big leap from AS. I had achieved an A at AS and my first exam, G494, I got a D in. Looking back now, because it was a January exam, I think I mistimed my revision to the point that it was two late. For example, summer exams had me revising 2 months before. I was only revising a month before G494.
Therefore, my tip is to not get caught out with late revision for January exams. If you are unsure when to start your revision, make sure to start it late November and gradually increase the intensity of your revision every week from there.
The coursework in Physics should really get you excited seeing that there is no limit to what type of experiment you want to perform! For example, I looked at the Magnus effect which is what makes footballs curl when they spin (where I got an A). The sky is the limit!
The other piece of coursework consists of a report which I did on Formula One Aerodynamics and KERS (where I got full marks) . You see, you can honestly do your coursework in A2 on anything.
English Literature B (AQA)
I honestly really enjoyed English Lit throughout my studies. It was a shame that I got such a low mark considering that I was predicted an A. In English Lit AS, you study three texts, write two essays for coursework and have one end of year exam. The AS was difficult at times considering we had to study Shakespeare’s Hamlet. However, we also studied some great texts like The Great Gatsby and The Kite Runner (all of which are online for your use on AskWillOnline).
The only problem with English Lit is that there is a lot of reading. You will find that the homework is not difficult but just takes a longer time than normal to do (for example, reading 1-2 chapters etc.).
At English Lit A2, you are required to read 3-5 books over the summer in preparation for coursework where you have to write two essays on two of the books: one is a perspective such as Marxism and one is a comparison of the books. This might sound like a tall order but as long as you pick two books that you really get in depth into and really enjoyed reading, you should have no problem at all. I chose Billy and 1984. One tip – do not choose Fifty Shades of Grey!
The exam is similar to AS where you have to now write two essays on the texts you study which, for me, was Frankenstein
, Dr Faustus
and The Bloody Chamber
. The only thing about A2 is that the homework intensity increases because you have to read lots more books than at AS. Putting this aside, it is a great course to study, looks great on UCAS applications and will definitely help you improve your grammar and essay writing techniques.
Here are the two essays I did at A2 of which I both got an A for:
Playing the piano to Grade 8 standard, Music AS sounded the perfect option for me which it definitely felt like. You have to study several pieces of music for the theory exam (at the end of year) which can become quite boring sometimes. The coursework is brilliant because you get to compose your own music and play your instrument for a recital. It was honestly the only lesson I felt like I wasn’t in a lesson because for some double periods, I would sit in a room by my own or with one other person and just crackle down composing music that I enjoyed.
The only problem is the music board I was with being Edexcel. My coursework came back as an E grade for AS which I was predicted at least a B. I got a remark and went up 13 marks which is just under two grades. I then went to appeal where the whole class went up marks each including myself too. I then got a letter from Edexcel apologising for the bad marking. My tip for you – don’t trust examiners especially with coursework. For exams, you could have had an off day. But, with coursework, you have more of an idea about what type of grade you should be working towards.
At A2, you have to study yet more pieces which isn’t ideal but your recital is now double the length and you have to compose two pieces of coursework. I enjoyed this A2 because, like I said, I never really felt like it was a lesson but I still worked hard.
Unfortunately, my recital, which was playing the likes of Debussy’s Minstrels (which is beyond Grade 8), to a very high quality, came back as an E. I was disgusted at this marking again and so was my teacher so we went for another remark where I am still awaiting the results (September 2013).
If you are going to study Music and have the option between Edexcel and another examining body, please don’t choose Edexcel. They have awful examiners marking the work of students and have no clue of what actual Music quality is. They have completely turned me off A level music. All of the above about Edexcel is completely true.
Business Studies (AQA)
Business Studies was a tough course mostly for the amount of essays you have to write for homework. Since the exams are essay based, the teachers want to get you practising essay writing as soon as possible. As you may tell from the amount of Business Studies content
on AskWillOnline, I enjoyed Business Studies. But, the reasons for me enjoying was, of course, down to the course itself but also the teachers. I had some great teachers that taught me Business Studies that made it both enjoyable and educational (which can be difficult for teachers to obtain!). If you are not interested in today’s business events, you might not want to take this A level. The only thing I can say is that Business Studies looks great on your UCAS again because:
- It means you are great at essay writing.
- You are able to analyse text, data and come to a conclusion about what they mean.
- You are good at making rather challenging mathematical equations.
It doesn’t take much for students to ‘click’ with how Business Studies works. Once you are gaining the top marks, it is hard to obtain anything but high marks thereon after.
And of course, Socialising
Sixth form will become a busy time for you especially with the amount of people turning 18. In this first year, you will usually find that most people have house parties. You will find that you will get around one or two house parties every two weeks especially at the start of sixth form (they fade out towards summer). With house parties, I can give you a few simple tips:
- Whatever time you are going to them, go 30 minutes later unless it’s your friend who is hosting the party.
- If drink isn’t provided, take more than enough for you to get drunk on. This is because the chances are somebody is going to eye up your drink and take some!
- Whatever time you are going to leave, leave 30 minutes later.
You will find that at half and full terms, you will get loads of house parties condensed into a small time frame. Still go to all of them but make sure you don’t get so drunk that you can’t make the future upcoming ones.
In the second year of sixth form, everyone will be turning 18 and looking to go out to places to legally drink such as the pub and nightclubs. If your friends are still 17 and you are 18, go to the pub. Do not go to a nightclub because they will ID every single person going in.