If you have done well in your GCSEs, you may feel well prepared for A level, but there are new skills required to be successful at A level. Many students find this jump quite daunting and it is sensible to make sure you are fully prepared.
If you are reasonably quick at picking up new ideas and are able to understand and explain what is taught in class, you will do well at GCSE. However, A level requires applied thinking and opinion forming. Many students get a great deal of satisfaction from learning the advanced skills they require to do well at A level and they will tell you that their enjoyment increases with the difficulty. However, in order to succeed there are some important points to consider:
Choose subjects you enjoy
If you choose subjects you have a genuine interest in and aptitude for, you are more likely to find the work rewarding. If you lack this interest, you will find it hard to do the necessary reading and work required to get a top grade. Teachers will also expect you to have a personal interest in the subjects you are studying (as they do!). You will be working with a small cohort of students (a maximum class size of nine students) and you will get to know your teachers well.
Some subjects are classified as facilitating subjects by the Russell group universities. These subjects have a reputation for having a ‘jump’ in difficulty between GCSE and A level and are favoured by top universities for certain degree courses.
Many students only put some concerted revision into the final months of their GCSE course and still manage to achieve good results. However, at A level, revision must be a regular part of your work routine. This is the reason Brampton College tests its students regularly throughout the academic year. The tests are not about remembering information, but using it!
Time management is a new skill for students to acquire. Your timetable will not look as full as it did in year 11 and every day will have ‘free periods’. It takes some real discipline to use these wisely. Spending time when you get your timetable in September, considering how you can get all the homework assignments done and revising regularly can be the key to early success. At Brampton College, we provide our students with a planner to make sure all deadlines can be met whilst also factoring in time to relax and enjoy extracurricular activities.
Learn to build on ideas
A levels are more about applying ideas than learning and understanding them. You will be expected to think for yourself, compose original work, dedicate time to reading about a subject and build on the ideas you have been introduced to in your lessons. This will mean using (or improving) your organisational and analytical skills. Whilst ideas can be introduced in lessons and you may understand them when the teacher goes through them, it will only be when you go away and think about the ideas and then apply them for yourself that you will have reached a good A level standard.
Maintain a balance with extracurricular activities
It is important to ensure you keep a balance between your academic work and other important activities that keep a healthy work-life balance. Regular exercise, having time to help others by getting involved in charity work and doing valuable work experience are important in developing the soft skills needed for university life and beyond.
Use your tutors well
Your teachers will know that the transition between one level of learning and another is difficult. At Brampton College, we encourage students to talk to their teachers if they are finding it hard or are struggling with the workload. They will encourage you to use our tutorials to get some help. Your personal tutor will also be keen to talk to you and offer help.
Prepare before you start
It is useful to look over your GCSE notes over the summer to remind yourself about the background information you should know. Regardless of the subjects you choose, it is important to read well and often. If you improve your literacy so will your performance.
A level students are expected to be independent learners. We recommend you read relevant magazines like the Economist or New Scientist for example to make sure you understand the relevance of the subject you are studying in a wider context. Brampton College is on the edge of London and there is a wealth of museums, theatres, and lectures open to students over the summer holidays and during term time. These opportunities can help develop your understanding and interest in your A level subjects.