6ix form advice

Thursday, 1 December 2016

*THIS POST IS VERY VERY VERY LONG*❗

also, sorry this isn't the most festive way to start blogmas ha

I'm a new sixth form student (ooo 'fun') so I thought I'd do a post all about GCSEs, A-levels and of course subject picking. I'm in year 12 -it's so weird to think I was in primary school 6 years ago wth- and I'm studying 4 A-levels consisting of History, English Literature, Biology and Spanish. I'm used to the 'oh biology, that's such a strange mix' so please spare me. Anyway, I'm going to just give you guys some GCSE advice, how to pick your A-levels and ultimately how to cope with them too. I'll be going into detail in each of my subjects for those who are looking to study them too. 

Okay, I'm going to start by saying GCSEs ARE NOT THAT DEEP now I can't lie and say that GCSEs were a breeze for me because they definitely weren't and I probably cried more than I should've over them. But, I don't think you should get too stressed over them because they're simply there to move you onto your next stage of education which are A-levels or BTECs. As long as you get your 5 A*-C grades...or is it 9-5 (?) you're a-ok. Definitely still revise for them because then that would be disastrous- just because the grade requirements are quite minimal and you can get those minimum Cs in your sleep it doesn't mean you shouldn't aim for those A*s ;) I did work quite hard for my GCSEs and although people in sixth form may put down GCSEs as being "so easy" and requiring "literally no work" it's still smart to work hard for them because that allows you to develop a solid work ethic from there which will be really useful for A-levels...trust me.

Picking A-levels is so difficult because you need to think about: what you like, are you good at them, will you get grades (if you're planning on doing a subject you're failing at in GCSE you probably won't even get an E at A-level) and also are they what you need to do your chosen degree? If you don't know what you want to do at uni yet, like myself, then at least pick subjects that are facilitating. All of my subjects are facilitating subjects, meaning they leave you open for a wide range of study at uni, I'll link a list of those subjects here if you need them. Now you don't have to take all facilitating subjects but at least take one as it'll definitely give you many options in the future. As I mentioned earlier, do not pick a subject just because it will get you to a certain degree e.g. chemistry just because you want to do medicine at uni. I highly recommend going for A-levels that you genuinely like and ones that you cannot imagine yourself not doing and that is what will help you base your choices on. Hmm, what else. You must do subjects that you genuinely enjoy otherwise it would just be a shambles. I'm not even joking. Alrighty, I'll get onto each of my subjects:

English Literature: This is one of those subjects that I just float through, I'll do the class work and then the essays (which are bloody hard) and that's about it. Your first essays will most likely be terrible and it's expected so don't worrryyyy. Your teachers will also complain that your essays are too, I quote, "GCSE-like" but yet again it's expected as that's literally all you've known how to write up until now. At one point I got a U in an essay because I couldn't understand the question so I made up one myself and answered it instead  :))))) you gotta do what you gotta do and now I'm achieving B+'s and A's in essays that I actually did answer the question in lol, so don't give up!  You have to be prepared to do a lot of reading and not only of the texts you are studying but also alternate readings and contextual reading, it's part of A05 and A03 to include some alternative readings and context in your essays. It only has to be a few lines long but it definitely gives your essays a boost. update 11/3/17: we're currently doing coursework and I want to point a gun in my mouth and shoot myself, so much rigour is needed for just a plan and the comparisons between each book will be the death of me. on a lighter note, my essays are continuing to prove which only goes to show that practice does indeed make (almost) perfect! 

History: Honestly my favourite subject ever I'm a massive History lover. Again, there is so much to this subject which can be really daunting, a lot of essays and alternate readings are needed which is so time consuming but it's a must. Do not let the A-level course content put you off, as someone who loves Modern History, when I saw what the course consisted of at my sixth form my heart dropped (yorkists, lancastrians and tudors and the german reformation) but again, if you really love the subject then you will have to be willing to learn about dead white men in the name of your passion for the subject as a whole. Plus, you might end up surprising yourself- I really like the Yorkists, Lancastrians and Tudors at the moment. I find that you have to be very good at sources, you basically need to be able to analyse sources in such depth you'll actually feel like a crazy person picking apart every word...who knew the date something was written in could be so important. 

Biology: A subject that is anomalous to the rest. I love it though. Biology A-level really is a massive step from GCSE and is perhaps the only subject I'm actually feeling the 'jump' in. When we first started the course with learning about the ultrastructure of eukaryotic cells I was honestly so mind blown at how much more detail we have to go into at A-level it's crazy. Bio is definitely a subject that you constantly have to keep on top of as the content is so vast and there's so much to learn, if you ever let it pile up then you're basically doomed :/. You also need to be ready to do hundreds of practicals because you have to do around 20 of them and assess them throughout your whole course time (make sure you're organised and aren't like me who got a bung stuck in a test tube)

Spanish: If I do end up dropping a subject in January then this will be it. Do not think that just because you got an A* in it at GCSE with minimal work, you'll be good at A-level because speaking from experience, that's a myth. However, doing a language at A-level is so so so rewarding, especially if you do put the work in and it's 10x more interesting than it is at GCSE. With the A-level you're able to have much higher level debates about topics such as: the changing of the internet, feminism, how the image of family is changing (same sex parents etc), LGBT issues, Spanish history and their dictatorship under Franco, the civil war (which as a History geek, I enjoy very much) and literature. All very exciting but so much grammar and vocabulary work. If you're going to pick Spanish (or any language) then make sure you know the grammar inside out and are confident enough to speak in it (almost) continuously. update 11/3/17: right so I haven't dropped Spanish because I actually really like it now, especially as the progress is explicit. I have fortnightly speaking sessions with a native speaker and I do try to immerse myself in the language by following various Spanish pages and bloggers. We're currently studying the film Volver by Pedro Almodovar and it's honestly the most interesting film ever- the themes and messages behind it are so thought-provoking and intriguing. 

Okaaayy so thats each subject analysis done. Now, how to cope with them. You've probably heard every one tell you that the step from GCSEs to A-levels is crazy and that you should just avoid A-levels at all costs. I am going to be your ray of hope/sunshine/optimism/all-the-above, and tell you that they're not that bad (so far!) and as long as you're doing subjects you like -I feel like I've repeated that so many times- then you won't want to kill yourself that much. The workload is significantly larger, I usually get around 4-5 essays a week but if you organise your time properly and use your some of your "study periods" to work in (I hardly ever use my frees appropriately but in my defence I only have 4 hours free per week as I haven't dropped  a subject yet) then you'll be fine, don't worry. You don't have to use all your study periods effectively, do have breaks because A-levels are crazy tiring, but you do actually have to work.

I'm so sorry this post is long but there is SO much to cover. I hope this was helpful to any of my conflicted year 11 readers because I remember being in that position last year, so I thought I'd write this wall of text in an attempt to guide and reassure you all. If you have any questions about sixth form and A-levels and all that then just email me (it's in my contact page, I cba to write it out) or tweet me or something and I can try to help ya. 

Are you in sixth form? What are you studying/what do you plan on studying?
-Dalal

ps: this is a collab post with AMBRA 

6 comments :

  1. This was actually really reassuring seeing as I'm already crying over GCSE's in Year 10!!

    Edie x
    thelifeofedie.com

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    1. Don't worry about them too much, if you ever need help you have both me and Ambra to help and tutor you whenever :)

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  2. Omg Dalal this was such a helpful post! Thank you so much, I have my college interview on Tuesday for the one I want to go to and I'm feeling pretty chill about my GCSES at the moment, I'm choosing History, Combined English, philosophy and Textiles and I'm so happy with the choices I've picked (I just hope they'll be alright when it gets to A level). Luckily my history course is more modern than the one you're doing although any history is alright for me :) x

    Eleanorclaudie.com

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    1. yaaayy, I was hoping it'd be useful and I'm glad it helped. History and English are quite fun, I have a friend doing textiles and she's finding it really stressful as it's so much written work as well but it seems fun so :) good luck w/ errythang

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  3. I’m reading through this and we basically said the same thing but hey lalalalllal


    Ambra

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    Replies
    1. well good tips are universal then innit

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stop procrastinating and just comment already
jk
funny comments get extra points