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Going from studying a variety of subjects to specialising in just four at A Level is a big change. There are a few differences to be aware of between secondary school and A Level study. As well as a change in subjects, you are about to experience a new academic timetable and different way of learning. To get ready for the change, there are a few things you can do to prepare for your A Levels.
You can start to prepare for your A Levels the summer before the start of term. If you can’t wait to start learning about your favourite subjects, get a head start on your course by reading around the subject. Some teachers will provide you with recommended reading – but if you don’t have any, any general background reading on the subject is a great place to start. Summer reading is not compulsory for A Level study, but it might help you feel more prepared about starting your A Levels, as well as showing perspective universities that you are interested in your chosen subject.
Going back to school
One of the biggest differences you’ll find is the absence of a school uniform. One way you can prepare for your A Levels is to plan some possible outfits – or even go on a shopping trip. By planning what you want to wear before the start of term, you won’t have to worry about it once you’ve started your course, allowing you to focus on your studies.
The absence of a school uniform doesn’t affect the quality of the education of a school. Usually you will be allowed to dress as formally as you like. Lots of students use the opportunity of no uniforms to show their personal style. Pick clothing that you feel comfortable and confident in to make the most of your A Level experience.
With the start of a new school year, comes new stationery. If you’re starting a new academic journey, there is no better way to start fresh then by picking new school supplies. Upgrading your stationery can help you to plan for the more intense level of study and adapt to the level of organisation you’ll need as an A Level student. Some useful items to have in your schoolbag include:
- Subject-specific folders
- Diary or a planner
- Well-stocked pencil case
- Subject-related revision materials
What to expect during your A Level studies
The biggest difference between GCSE and A Levels is the number of subjects you study. You will now be specialising in up to four subjects based on your university and career aims. Classes sizes for GCSE students will vary depending on where you study, but A Level students typically have the benefit of learning in smaller classes, ensuring you get the attention you need to succeed.
Many students wonder how hard A Levels are, especially when they see how the study schedule can differ from secondary school. However, you will benefit from free lessons which you can use for extra study time. Being an A Level student requires a lot of time management and independent study. Teachers will be giving you more responsibility and will expect you to complete a larger quantity of work to a higher standard.
To be successful in your A Levels, you will have to manage your time effectively. This means not only keeping track of your homework and assignments, but also allocating time for any extra study beneficial to your subjects.
Preparing for university
Alongside your studies, being an A Level student also means applying for university. You will probably already have an idea of what you want to study before you begin your course. As an A Level student, you should start researching your university options as early as possible. Your college will be able to help with this and offer you guidance.
Before you start your A Levels, you may want to start thinking about the university application process. Applying for university as an A Level student involves applying through UCAS and writing a personal statement. Your personal tutor will be able to guide you through the process, but there are plenty of things you can do yourself to make sure your application stands out from the rest.
Joining clubs and societies
Participate in extracurricular activities to ensure you are getting a well-rounded education, both inside and outside the classroom. By joining clubs and societies, you can learn more about your chosen subjects – or show dedication to learning something new, a trait which can impress universities. Some examples of extracurricular activities and achievements to include on your application include:
- Sports teams
- Volunteering experiences
- Certificates and awards
- Musical qualifications
- Trips, lectures and exhibitions
Gain practical experience
The same attitude goes for practical experience, which you can mention in your application as an example of your hard work. Practical experience will help you gain valuable skills that can be useful in the future. Many schools offer subject specific volunteering experience as part of their A Level programme.
Just a few of the skills you may develop through work are:
- Time management
Of course, the first step in anybody’s A Level journey is to make sure you’re choosing the right subjects for you. Choose subjects that complement one another and that will help with your career aims, but most importantly, that you enjoy.