on surviving a-levels

If you let them, a-levels can become a crash course in self-destruction. As we embarked, with blinding naivety, on the beginning of the journey, a teacher prophesied "this will be the hardest thing you ever do".
I mean, I can't vouch for that as I haven't yet done much else.
But they were hard.
Academically hard, but emotionally, mentally much harder*.
Here are some tips and tricks, some I practised, some I wish I had, to hopefully make the 2 years a lil more bearable.


Also, just a heads up–way up the rational value of a-levels. I got great grades but also entirely lost myself in the process, they weren't as important as I thought. Work hard but care for your mental, physical and spiritual health,

Expect a jump between year 12 and 13
No one warned us. Everyone felt it.

Develop relationships with teachers 
I found this vital, made them more approachable when you had a problem (literally every day), meant they could notice when you needed help and created a nice atmosphere. Because my classes were so small (another thing to expect, unless you are doing a mega popular a-level) I found they could directly and personally help you if you had a good relationship. It also made lessons an absolute lol.

Use your free's
You get so much work done, have more time to do other stuff (or work more lol) and it just pays off. Plus, if your friends use them too it isn't that dull. I actually used to love the library.

yr 12 doesn't matter BUT IT HELPS
I worked too hard in year 12 but it helped unreal amounts in year 13. Especially with the new a-levels, your teachers will leave 3 weeks to revise work from September of year 12 (!). Work hard in 12 nd revision won't be so tedious. (But, from someone who ruined themselves by working too hard, also take year 12 to have fun and create a balance)

Don't forget to have fun (but don't have too much lol)
"Katie, are you doing things for fun? You're 17, you should be enjoying yourself": not an entirely helpful convo with my tutor because a) it makes u feel lame and b) there isn't actually that much time to have fun if you wanna focus. By year 13 I got better at the 'allowing myself to have fun' thing and found if I balanced time well, I could feel justified about a break. Dunno if it helps but my general schedule throughout yr 13 was:
Weekdays: work in hour slots from end of school until 8ish (generally in the library, with breaks for tea and procrastination obvs)
Weekends: saturdays I would have work 10-1 then revise all afternoon and go out in the evening, sundays was revision and beach walk/hungover essays (which are amusing but wouldn't recommend)

Stationary 
Expect to buy thousands of files (you'll need lever arch-trust me), pads of paper (pukka narrow rule was my life), pens and email yourself about 10,000 documents

ASK FOR HELP
I was shit at this. I would just let it all build up and then get so confused because I was overthinking it. This would result in inevitable tears and awks conversations with teachers while I broke down.
This was also essential in solving some teaching problems, because gurl its your education we're talking about.

Its all subjective 
The attitude, the success, the dedication. For me, starting revision early and working up to like 6 hours a day helped me feel remotely prepared and relaxed when the exams rolled around. Others felt fine on minimal work or didnt need to work or preferred to cram 2 weeks before. Use year 12 to find a groove that works for you and don't compare yourself to others

Work from the start 
Even if you don't have set work, go over your stuff from the day (esp if your teaching is questionable) and research/consolidate

Use to-do lists and revision timetables religiously 

Take your time with uni application 
Decide if you're ready, if not just take a break. No justification needed. In many ways I think not applying to uni removed some of the external pressure and I question whether I would have got my results had there been a 'need'.

Essays
(Obviously, this is entirely subject specific)
Essay practice is 110% the best way to learn and practise, esp towards the end. It allows you to consolidate, practise technique, understand general ability and also provides ace revision material later on. I did at least 1 a week, found my style and had immensely willing markers lol.

Sharing 
Especially in English, we all got really good at sharing notes, websites and materials–it helped immensely as it opened you up to new ideas.

Job
All my friends had some form of job in sixth-form. We were recommended 8 hours a week, some did immensely over, I did around 6 which I found I could maintain throughout exam season. The money meant I could fund my weekend antics but I wasn't sacrificing my work.

Carry on doing things you love
I was shit at this and stopped everything. Don't.

Its not boring 
I was terrified that dropping to 3 subjects would be so boring and that I would miss the variety. Man was I wrong. Most subjects have at least 2 'halves' (most have many more, whether this be English texts/genres, Historical periods, areas of maths) so in many ways its like studying more than 3 subjects. Also, you are so busy you don't have time to think about wanting to do anything more.
A necessity list:
- Tea (to leave half drunk cups around your room)
- A dressing gown (couldnt have survived without mine)
- Study music and headphones (for when the library is unbearable or your sister is having an argument outside your room-my go to's were penguin cafe orchestra, studio ghibli, bach cello suite and chopin lol)
- Access to the beach or an open and free place (to cry)
- Copious amounts of water (because filling up your bottle is honestly the best procrastination)
- Comfy clothes (because when exams come round you will live in 1 outfit)

I hope this offered some wisdom, good luck to anyone embarking on A-levels, they're a whirlwind. If you ever need any advice/support/understanding about the relentless stress, hmu, I feel experienced in this department.

***
Some P.S's

*I think your reaction to this entirely depends on your state of mind and approach. If you don't feel stress, aren't particularly academically conscientious (i.e. you don't really care, which 70% appeared not to) it might be a lil tricky but you'll be chill. But from personal experience the vast majority of my friends found it overwhelmingly stressful and all cried awkwardly with a teacher at some point. And me? Well you can guess the answer to that.

(sidenote: just  because they're hard doesnt mean you won't enjoy the time, I honestly had some of the best 2 years which seems oxymoronic and incomprehensible if you counted the number of times I cried, but honestly I had a lotta lotta fun)

ALSO: I'm gonna do specific history and english a-level tips posts because i gotta lot to say about that

9 comments

  1. This is literally the perfect a level guide thank you!!!! Following all these tips and hopefully I shall be okay (I say this, I'll give you an update at Christmas drowning in work) but I shall try and keep my mental health a priority. Please could you do a post specifically about AS French as well? I haven't seen any online or on YouTube and I think it would really help :) thank you and I can't wait to read your history and English posts! x

    eleanorclaudie.com

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    1. I'm pleased it was useful!!! Hahaha don't worry, it'll be okay (it will feel like the hardest thing ever but you'll come out the other side). Yes of course, I also have some friends who just finished a2 french so I'll ask them for their advice too!! Good luck in Sep xx

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  2. Love this- so true about the jump between year 12 and 13. Three of my friends dropped out of sixth form within months of exams because it all got too much, and literally no one blamed them lol. Defo agreed on essay practises too!! I actually kinda miss it I used to get soo into essays, knowing I'm probably going down a more artistic route with less 'writing' as such, probably means I might start essaying on my blog aha! What are you up to next year? x x

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    1. yess! but no one even prepares you and suddenly you're like 3 grades lower?! Ahh yes lamely i loved writing essays, they were like the 'treat' side of revision, if i didnt want to revise i would just whack out an essay hahah. I love the idea of essaying on your blog, 110% down to read that !
      God, the infamous 'next year'. I'm taking a gap and so far am volunteering at 2 places and working but hoping to do some more work and take some kinda class but haven't found anything that tickles my fancy yet hahaha its scary having to actually organise my own time...XX

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    2. Soso true and agreed! Ooh sounds amazing! It is scary but it'll definitely be worthwhile x x

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  3. Your mindmaps and notes are sooo beautiful! I'm so glad all your hard work paid off too, you definitely deserve it!

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    1. thanks Elise hahah definitely procrastinated by making them look nice...you do too!!!x

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  4. Ah amazing, I wish I could have followed these tips at the beginning of year 12 lol. Also congrats that you got good grades!! <3 <3

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    1. Hahah hindsight is a wonderful thing-thanks gal!!!xx

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Katie