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An A-Level Survivor’s guide to Sixth Form

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By Aksa Ditta – 30th November 2023

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Welcome to the exciting world of sixth form, a pivotal moment in your academic journey! Sixth Form is full of new experiences and exciting opportunities. However, don’t let the added freedoms trick you into thinking it will be a breeze. A Levels are difficult. Very difficult.

Along the way you are bound to experience some form of adversity. Whether you struggle to keep up with the workload, or get rejected by a uni or two, it’s important you don’t let A-Levels get you down. That’s why I have compiled this guide based on valuable lessons I learned from my time at Sixth Form, and things I wish I had done differently.

Number 1: Know your enemy

Not knowing what you want to do post-school is a perfectly normal feeling, and you are definitely not the only one feeling a bit lost. To help you decide, there are plenty of work experience opportunities, uni open days and taster sessions you can access online for free to help you make a choice.

Deciding on your path early will make your life easier. Figure out what you need to do, and when. Is there an interview? An admissions test? A Questionnaire? Get ahead of the curve with early preparation and then make a plan of action.

Number 2: The plan of action

Clearly write out exactly what it is you need to do to achieve your university offer. E.g., I need to get AAB, or I need to get 2700 in my UCAT.

Once you have the what, focus on the how. Are you going to try a new study technique? Have you got in contact with your mentor? Perhaps, you could start building your CV! Having a way of seeing exactly how you will get there significantly increases the chances of it actually happening.

Number 3: Time management

I had a countdown for every significant event on my whiteboard. Seeing “7 days left until the UCAS deadline” prompted me to get things done and dusted. If there is a certain grade you need to achieve and you aren’t quite there, ensure you have improved by just one grade by a certain date, then repeat. A-Levels are a marathon, not a sprint, so do not be put off if everyone else initially seems like they have the edge on you. If you manage your time well, believe me, you will catch up and overtake.

Number 4: Do not be afraid to have ambition

From the beginning, my teachers did not support the idea that I wanted to go to Medical School, but I went for it regardless because I had never wanted anything so badly. I put blood, sweat and tears into my application, and when I got rejected, it just proved their point that I wasn’t good enough and so I just gave up…

Only kidding - of course I didn’t. I got back up, and decided I was going to go for it again and reapply (wish me luck!). If your heart is truly in something, your backup won’t satisfy you. The hard work and the struggle is worth it if you get to where you always wanted to be. Sometimes it’s ok to not want to settle for second best.

Number 5: Look out for yourself

I cannot stress how important looking after your mental health is at a time like this. In fact, if you’re an A-Level Psychology student, you’ll learn about the diathesis-stress model and how difficult and stressful situations predispose us to developing a mental health disorder. So - if things are becoming overwhelming, do not put off letting somebody know whether it’s a friend, parent or a teacher. There is support out there- you just have to be courageous enough to ask for it.

Number 6: Exam preparation

One of my biggest regrets is not doing enough active recall. I would sit and passively watch how to calculate moles in Chemistry thinking I would be fine, but I was humbled big-time in the exam. Familiarise yourself with the content, but then practice practice practice. Actively memorising knowledge and carrying out exam papers is the key to an A*. You can use flashcards, the ‘look-cover-write' technique, or even an online platform like UpLearn which gives you quizzes in between videos.

Number 7: Keep going

Lastly, never ever give up. Challenges and setbacks may arise, but they are opportunities for growth and learning. With observable targets and unwavering determination, you have the power to overcome obstacles and turn your dreams into reality. Embrace the challenges, and stay focused on your dreams, for only you can make them a reality.

For more top tips in smashing sixth year, be sure to speak to your mentor, or head into Community to ask your questions.

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