My A Level Experience

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A Levels are frequently noted as some of the hardest exams you’ll ever sit and definitely served as a shock to the system at the start of Year 12, back in 2013. Having recently completed my A2 exams and with A Level results day quickly approaching (and GCSE results day too for that matter), I thought that I would summarise my A Levels experience and share my ups, downs and advice with you. A little pre-warning, this is likely to be a long and chatty post so it may be worth grabbing a cuppa!

Year 12 - Back in August 2013, results day came around and I still hadn’t finalised my AS options choices. Although I had definitely wanted to study Geography, History and Maths, as these had been my favourite and stronger subjects throughout GCSE, we were strongly encouraged to take 4 options for AS meaning that in a rushed and un-researched panic, I chose French. This was a major downfall on my part and I would strongly encourage anyone starting their AS Levels in September to properly read into the subject content of the course you hope to study or if you are unsure of your fourth option choice, equally consider only taking 3 subjects from the beginning. Most universities don’t take into account your 4th AS choice if its not continued to A2 (though equally some universities will count your result for UCAS points) and so it is often seen as a waste of time and energy that could impact your AS and A2 results overall. Its also worth noting about additional qualifications offered at your Sixth Form such as General Studies, EPQ and Critical thinking. At my Sixth Form these were heavily pushed at a time when you are already overwhelmed by starting new subjects and a different style of learning. I personally opted for an EPQ which involved writing a 5000-word essay of a subject of your choice. I did, however, underestimate the amount of time this would take and the deadline was in the middle of March, a critical time for starting revision for my AS Exams, proved to impact my AS level grades. As a result, although I scored the highest mark for my EPQ Essay, it did heavily impact the outcome of my AS Exams meaning that I would have to later re-sit some of my AS units at the same time as my A2 exams.


Year 13 – Year 13 seems like a blur to me, but most significantly I noticed a further step up from Year 12 in terms of difficulty. Taking History, Geography and Maths, there appeared a clear change in exam technique from the long answer questions being 24 marks or 15 marks to now being 45 and 40 mark essays, and the difficulty of Maths AS to A2 being another significant jump. The longer answer questions took a substantial amount of time to answer and required a totally different approach. My workload in Year 13 changed too, compared to Year 12. Year 12 consisted of teachers constantly bombarding you with extra work, often deemed a waste of time, whereas in Year 13, particularly having now dropped French and EPQ, there appeared less work being set by teachers, but the work itself would take longer to complete. More commonly, I spent my time doing wider research or creating revision material throughout the year- such I would definitely encourage from the start of Year 12 to give you a wider scope of the subject, especially now many A Level courses have gone linear.

The more obvious difference between Year 12 and Year 13 was UCAS. For those unaware of UCAS, UCAS is the only route for UK students (as far as I am aware) to apply to university. I could dedicate a whole separate to post for applying to university and the UCAS process ( I actually featured a guest post HERE for those interested) but the most time consuming aspect of the application process was certainly writing a personal statement. There aren’t many people I know that enjoy writing about themselves but unfortunately it is a vital component when applying for university and one I urge those waiting to go into Year 13 this summer to start now if you have the chance! Writing a personal statement is heavily time consuming and a real pain frankly so its worth getting it done ahead of starting the school year to save yourself time and drafts.

At the start of Year 13 I also lined up numerous university open days and researched into various Business and Marketing courses I was interested in, before finding my ideal course – Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations. I’d strongly encourage you to, even if you are only vaguely interested in going to university, to research into these courses over the summer and line up some open days since nothing lets you explore whether Uni would be right for you then exploring different parts of the country and hearing from university students themselves about what they like and dislike about their course and university.

Year 13 was also the time when my health took a turn. Un-known at the time, I was not in a good place with my health, which resulted in a 9-day stay in a neurology ward by Easter. ( I have written all about this here).This meant that after much hard work throughout the year, I was faced with the realisation that taking my A2 exams in 2015 would not be a possibility and that I’d have to defer my exams until Summer 2016. This at the time seemed daunting but I would not have been in the right frame of mind or health to have undergone them and definitely don’t regret my decision to defer – your health, both mental and physical, at the end of the day is the most important; over any education.

Year 14 – Returning to Sixth Form in September 2015 was a daunting and lonely prospect. All of my closest friends had moved away to University and I was faced with the challenge of not only another year of difficult A2 study, but having to form new friendships in a year group of already settled friendship groups. The first 2 weeks of Year 14 were the hardest for me, having to introduce myself to people in already close knit classes. I found that I was isolating myself away from my fellow Year 13’s at break and lunchtimes and keeping myself to myself. Fortunately, 3 days into term I jetted off to Kavos on a pre-scheduled girls holiday which definitely allowed me to escape from the difficult reality of home. This allowed for a short break before returning back to reality, but I couldn’t completely relax while I was away. By the time I had returned from my holiday, it was week 3 of term and I was able to get close to a fellow Year 14, who introduced me to a group of lovely Year 13 girls. Although this friendship group would never replace the close group of friends of whom I’d been friends with since Year 7, it was a lifted burden knowing that I would have friends to talk to and reassure me throughout the year. From this point on, the year seemed to fly by and it was soon Easter again and I was handing in my A2 History coursework before spending 3 months heavily revising for my exams. 

Year 14 was a difficult concept to grasp, but its not so bad. If you are faced with the difficult decision as to whether to retake some of your exams, or resit a year, it is important to remember that it is only a year of your life now that will help to impact years of your future. 10 months of getting your head down and focusing on what you want for yourself is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Undertaking Year 14 allowed me to confirm to myself that I definitely wanted to go onto further education and go on to study something that I want to pursue as a career. Yes, I’ll admit it was difficult to wave goodbye to my closest friends as they moved on to pursue their own ventures, but I was easily able to (and I did during October half term) jump on a train and travel around the country to visit them. I also think it helps to strengthen existing friendships and realise that with some friends you’ll drift apart - and that’s okay! I am just under 3 weeks away from receiving my fate but I am equally of the mind-set that everything happens for a reason.  If my results don’t go the way I am hoping for, then there will always be another pathway leading to where I want to go.

I realise that by the end of my long-winded ramble on my A Level Experience that I haven’t really given much advice, but equally I hope that I have given you an insight into what the last 3 years of my education have been like. Who knows where the next 3-4 years will be taking me, but I certainly hope to be able to share these years with you.

Have you completed your A- Levels? Let me know below! 

Beth x x

P.S- Read more about my A Levels HERE

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