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A Level Survival Guide

You might not realise it yet, but A-levels are some of the most challenging exams that you’ll sit in your life. This might seem illogical, because surely degree-level examinations are more demanding, right? Well, the reality is that the step up in difficulty between GCSE and A-level is far greater than that between A-level and degree level. This is because GCSEs are carried out under the guidance of your teachers, whereas A-levels will be your first taste of working independently.

For this reason, A-levels can come as a bit of a shock to some students, but it’s essential to keep calm and make sure you take advantage of this time. Not only will your A-level results decide which university you get to attend, but these exams will prepare you for student life. To put your mind at ease and reassure you that your A-levels aren’t going to be an impossible task, we’ve outlined the six things that you can do to get the best possible results in your upcoming exams.

1. Learn What Your A-Levels Are All About

Before you even begin thinking about ways to perform well in your A-levels, you need to build an understanding of what they’re all about. This will be different for every course, because both your teachers and the exam board will have outlined different course curriculums, learning objectives, and testing methods.

If you want to make life a little bit easier for yourself throughout your studies, you should take the time to read through the course outline, and see how the next year of your learning is going to be structured. In doing this, you’ll be able to prepare yourself for the content of the course and any exams that you might have to sit. You can then use this to put together a revision calendar early in the year, which essentially gives you a headstart on your studying.

2. Set Reasonable Goals

The trick to getting through your A-levels is to make yourself a revision plan early on in the year and then actually stick to it. In making a plan so soon, you’ll be able to space your studies out over a long period of time, rather than cramming information in the night before your test, which very rarely works.

Spend at least an hour on each piece of work, and give the information plenty of time to soak in – don’t forget to test yourself afterwards to make sure you’ve learned it properly (if not, revisit it).

When you’re putting together your plan, it’s important to be realistic about how much you can actually achieve in that time. You are the only person who fully understands how fast you can absorb new information, and factoring this into your study timetable will be more beneficial to you in the long run – just make sure you’re not setting yourself too much work, because this will only cause more stress further down the line.

3. Organise As You Go

We know how it is: you convince yourself that you’re going to be more organised this term, buy a load of new files, and make sure you go out of your way to get your studies in line. We also know that this never lasts long. You start to think that if you write in your pad in order, and date your work as you go, then that’s basically filing, isn’t it? Next thing you know, you’re not even including the date, and before you know it your pad looks more like a scrapbook than a revision tool.

This will take some self-discipline, but if you spend just one hour each evening writing up your notes and putting them into the appropriate files, your life will be a hundred times easier when it comes time to knuckle down. Working in this way will also encourage you to focus in class and make notes that you can clearly understand, meaning you’ll be more efficient all round.

4. Read As Much As You Can

The more you understand a subject, the better equipped you’ll be to write about it under exam conditions. It’s likely that your teacher will set you a reading list, which covers all of the topics that you’ll be getting tested on when exam season comes around, but it’s also a good idea to use your spare time to read up on the subject as a whole. Working in this way will supplement your knowledge and enhance your understanding of the subject.

You can find out all about your subject by looking at the books that appear in the reference section of your core reading, or by asking your teacher for some extra material to go through in your own time. If you’re in need of specific information, you can make use of the many online resources available to A-level students, including Google Books, online forums, and A-level support sites.

5. Stay Healthy

You might think that the best way to revise is to lock yourself in your room and live off energy drinks, but this isn’t actually the case. In fact, studies show that having a good diet has a direct positive impact on how well we absorb information. Brain-boosting foods like blueberries, leafy greens, and fish have all been linked to improved memory, due to the physical effects that they have on the body.

The same logic applies to staying fit and healthy, because exercise releases proteins into your body which help you learn more effectively than you would without doing any physical activity. Studies show that not only does it make you feel more alert, but it improves concentration and brain development, so it’s worth dedicating some time through the week to going on a run or hitting the gym.

6. Relax

Between now and your exams, you’ll be doing plenty of learning, studying, and exercising (if you follow our advice), so it might seem difficult to find the time to settle down and relax. It’s important that you don’t overwork yourself, because this will have a negative impact on your productivity. When you’re done with your revision for the evening, make sure you spend a couple of hours with your feet up, and get plenty of sleep each night throughout exam season.

Get Yourself in the Right Frame of Mind for Uni

A-levels can be tough, but once they’re over you’ll get to spend the next few years making friends, learning new things, and experiencing life as a university student. If you’re keen to find out more about student life, take a look at what the average calendar looks like for one of our residents.


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