What to expect from A-levels

by Anita Naik

For current year 11s moving towards A-levels, this year's transition is likely to feel more daunting, thanks to two academic years of homeschooling and disjointed lessons. Yet, with the right mindset and knowledge about how A-levels work, your subjects will be easier to tackle. What you do need to know is A-levels mark a shift in learning, taking you away from memorisation and a multitude of GCSE subjects to subject specialities and more autonomy. Here's what to expect from A-levels.

Work is more analytical than GCSEs

At GCSE, students take a more general approach to subjects with a syllabus with a significant content level. A-levels are a precursor to undergraduate study, and for this reason, the aim here is for students to develop insights and evidence-based opinion and arguments. This means taking an analytical approach and moving away from describing what happened to why something happened. An essential tip to remember is analysis focuses upon why something is significant/effective/important with evidence.

Focus on independent work

Learning to work independently after GCSEs isn't easy. If you're used to being told what to do and what to study, A-levels can be a shock to the system. The subjects you study are reduced to allow for in-depth learning, which means creating your study schedule that manages your workload and allows for further research and learning. Time management is critical for A-levels. It's easy to fall behind quickly if you don't set your timetable and keep to it, factoring in time to explore more ideas and opinions around your subjects

Build evidence-based opinion

Rather than memorising the syllabus, more marks at A-level is given to your own evidence-based opinion. This means drawing on thoughts and examples outside of those provided in class. External study is the key here as it will give you a more comprehensive understanding of your subject. What can help is to listen to podcasts in your subject areas by thought leaders, read subject journals and the latest studies and ideas around the subject you are studying. Debate these ideas with your peers to help you build constructive arguments that you can later use in class/essays.

Keep a good growth mindset

You may be tired of hearing about the importance of a growth mindset, but this precisely what you need for A-levels. Even if you did very well at GCSEs, A-levels can be challenging. As marking has moved more towards testing your ability to apply your knowledge, it's important to know what examiners and teachers are looking for from you, what you can improve your work and how to improve it. This is where a tutor can help in showing you what's expected and why.

Seek extra help

As A-level teaching is less hands-on than GCSEs, you may feel you have to become adept at studying on your own. This isn't the case, so seek out help from teachers on everything from further resources to help with the actual material. Peer support is also an advantage now, not just around sharing resources but also with discussion around opinions and ideas, that you can later use in your work. Finally, an A-Level tutor can also help with confidence, study tips and specific subjects you are struggling with. Help here not only focuses on subject support but also what is required of you to gain a specific grade for university entry.

Tags: A-Levels
Categories: A-Levels