AS-level – as you look forward to the final year of A-level
Having completed the first year of the rather demanding A-level, hopefully, the young person has managed the transition from GCSE to AS-level quite well and it is now time to look forward to the final year with optimism.
The way things are organised in schools is such that, in many cases, students who are just completing the first year of A-level are neglected a little bit; particularly from April to July, when the focus is on Y11 and Y13 (the upper sixth in old money!).
Without being pessimistic, it is important to be aware that the A-level gets more challenging in the second year. However, there is no need to panic; on one condition: the student has achieved mastery of basic concepts and can articulate what they have grasped and apply them in both familiar and unfamiliar environment. Learning is not just about passing examinations and it should never be; but, it is only after the standard I have just described here has been reached that a student can achieve a high exam grade.
The notion that the second year is more demanding than first year of A-level is a general perception which, in my view, not quite accurate. I am of the view that there are two main reasons why many students find the second year of A-level more demanding than the first:
- There is a significant difference in rigour and volume between GCSE and the first year of A-level
- Many schools pay more attention to students who are in the final year of public examination – Y11 and Y13 – particularly in the final quarter or so of the academic year
Looking ahead – a little thought about the coming academic year
For the more ambitious young people, who have the choice of taking four or more A-level subjects in the first year, some of them are encouraged to carry on with four, up to the end of the course in the second year. Given the choice, it is better to take and achieve high grades in three A-level subjects, than to do four subjects and fail to achieve a top grade in more than one of them. There is more information at:
My recommendations to students who are going into the second year of A-level:
- Make the very best of the time in June and July and, whatever you do, never switch off. You should still be getting homework assignments for school – all the way to the end of the academic year. Do the assignments as diligently as ever
- By all means, participate and enjoy all the extra-curricular events that take place in your school in the final weeks of the summer term – as they are good for your development; however, maintain focus on your academic work at the same time
- Be prepared to go beyond learning just to past the exam. Go deep, to seek a deeper understanding and relevance as this will allow you to enjoy the learning process. But, your knowledge will only translate into exam success if you master the art of applying knowledge; which comes via practising
- You need to learn how to concentrate and filter out what is unnecessary or does not contribute to your success
- Put yourself in a success-oriented environment – starting from the way you organise your living and studying environment, the peers you hang around with
- Use the summer break to master what you have been taught in the first year of your A-level as you will struggle mightily unless you have mastered that content. You can look forward to 10 weeks of relaxation from the last week of June to the first week of September next year – when you’ll have plenty of time to relax and rejoice – after your finals!
- Be very careful on how you invest your time – learn to concentrate for a reasonable length of time and to do what matters first. Eat the frog for breakfast and keep the egg for dinner! I’m speaking metaphorically. If you practise this habit, you will go to bed every day feeling you have accomplished so much
- Find the study period /duration that works best for you – this should be between 1.5 to 2.5 hours, with a short break
- Make the best of the resources around you – from your teachers, to technology and, most importantly – your most valuable asset: your body and mind. Look after your temple!
Vital tools for success in managing what may appear to be a rather challenging set of tasks above: Discipline and Organisation
A useful link is below: