Focus on getting the grade best A-level grades you can

With places at the very top universities becoming more and more difficult to get, the pressure on young people to achieve high grades continues. At this critical stage of the exam preparation, it’s important for the young person to focus on what they need to do in order to secure as high a grade as they can in all the A-level subjects they are taking in this summer’s examination.

One key point, which some may see as a slight relief (or perhaps the easy way out), is to listen to universities who are offering them lower entry requirements and in some cases some sort of bribe in the form of a couple of thousand pounds of money to come and study at their institution. Personally, I see this as a distraction and a demotivation for the young person who is capable of achieving highly. No sensible young person should be deceived or lured into opting to go to a particular university that offers them extra money as an incentive or the offer of lower grades. Neither of these two criteria should be anywhere near the top of the list when making a decision as to which university to study at. The long term implication can be very serious as society and more importantly top employers discriminate based on which university a candidate obtains their degree from. In most cases, the university you go to matters more than the degree you obtain – except for courses such as medicine or perhaps engineering to some extent. Any sensible person with their head well screwed on knows that a first class degree in Law from Thames Valley University is less easy to sell than a second class degree in Classics or English from Cambridge.

I’m not demeaning degrees from certain universities, I’m just stating the facts of life – based on historical evidence. Of course an Engineering degree from Imperial College, UCL or Cambridge would be ideal but not everyone wants that or is able to get it even if they try.

What I’ll say to young people who are currently doing their A-level exams is to focus on securing the highest grades they can get and not to worry too much about other issues – including a less reputable university who has offered them all sorts of cheap enticements. If you get very high grades, you do not have to accept your university place if you deem the university that has offered you a place to be less reputable than an alternative university who may accept you on clearing or you may defer a place to the following year. The key thing at the present is to secure that high grade and nothing else matters. Our Summer half term revision courses are a great way to cement student’s knowledge heading into the exams and to fill any gaps in knowledge or exam technique before the final exams. The courses are two days for GCSE three days for A-Level, more info can be found here.

To be blunt once again, I come across too many young graduates, who, after graduation, are doing the so-called McJobs – like flipping burgers at McDonald, working in factories or stacking shelves at the supermarket. They often feel very resentful of society and suffer from low self-esteem. They view the whole system as being unfair and think that after all the sacrifice they and their parents have made to get a university degree, the debt they’ve got into and so on; they ought to be doing better as they see some other graduates – from other universities – walking from university into their dream job.

There is nothing particularly wrong about a graduate doing McJobs as long as they were aware well before they went to university that that is distinct possibility that they’ll be doing that job or similar upon graduation and they are ok with that situation. The truth is that most young people have higher aspirations than that.

A summary

If you are currently doing A-level, focus more on getting as high a grade as you can get and in the subjects that the top universities value the most

If the subjects that you are taking for A-level do not include those that are preferred by the top universities and it is too late to change, do your best to secure the top grade in the subjects you are taking

Try and apply to study a more traditional degree course such as Engineering, Medicine, Law, Maths, Physics, Chemistry, History, Economics or a Language at a reputable university – a Russell Group or a Red Brick University. For Medicine, any university in the UK will do! If you want to be a barrister or work for a top law firm, a Law degree from the University of East London is highly unlikely to get you very far!

  • Do your best to secure admission to the more reputable universities. Ignore the offer of money or lower grades from a less reputable university
  • Do your research well and be careful who you get career advice from. Be aware that some teachers will do all they can to discourage you from applying to the top universities as they have an issue with aspiration!
  • When you get your grades, take your time try and find the best university that your grades will get you into. If you think the universities that have offered you a place are less reputable and you try and go through clearing to get into a more reputable university. It’s ok if you feel the need to wait until the following year to reapply but get the grade now
  • If you end up with a degree from university that is less reputable, do your best to persevere and develop leadership and other interpersonal skills that will make you a more confident and valuable person

There are exceptions to the rule, but only if you are determined enough will you get to where you want to be. Look at the Mayor of London – Sadiq Khan, he did not come from a middle-class family from Highgate or from the Home Counties, he did not go to Oxford University. But he works very hard, speaks English well and he is determined – see what he has achieved!

Principal Idris Musty