It is October. New Year 12s have now spent a month in the Sixth Form. Having negotiated their way through the new dress code and enjoyed lounging on the comfy sofas in the Common Room, it’s time to get down to work.
So how can you maximise your potential in the Sixth Form? I interviewed some former pupils to see what gems they could pass on to their successors.
Tamsin highlights the importance of choosing subjects you enjoy. A-levels require so much in-depth study and this will become a slog if you do not have an interest in your subject. Even at this stage, it is not too late to change if you have made a mistake. “I know someone who made quite a big change from Chemistry to English A-level, and they never looked back. In fact, they are going to study English at university”, she says. However, subjects should not be changed on a whim. It is important to speak to the teachers and to look at the textbooks for your proposed subject. Make any changes with an informed approach.
Adam emphasises the ‘jump’ from GCSE to A-level. It may have been possible to get by at GCSE without too much work, but at A-level this approach is untenable. Each A-level syllabus is larger and harder than at GCSE and takes longer to understand and analyse. She advises to “prepare well for your weekly tests as otherwise you will have too much to revise all at once at a later date. The course information simply cannot be crammed.”
Homework can take several hours a night and it is important to plan your week to make sure you do not have an unmanageable work load. Many subjects have a coursework component, which can take the strain off doing examinations, but coursework has its own pitfalls. Often, coursework deadlines for different subjects coincide with each other, making planning a necessity; coursework can represent a major part of your final grade and must not be rushed. If you have a problem meeting your deadlines or feel you are falling behind, Daniel advises approaching your teachers, “They won’t think you weren’t listening if you ask a question, and they want you to do well”, she says.
“Get involved in extra-curricular activities, as not only do they look good on your personal statement (part of the UCAS application form) but they give you a break from academic study”, says Tamar. She also suggests looking into universities and prospective courses early. Tamar continues, “It takes a long time to establish which of the many courses on offer are ideal for you and, for new subjects, you need the time to read up about it in order to know if you are interested in them. It is also a good idea to see a careers adviser if you are stuck. They may suggest things that you didn’t know existed!”.
Natalie Lancer is the founder of MyUniApplication.com and www.findanonlinecourse.com. She can give you expert guidance on A-level choice, university applications (UK and US) and the Personal Statement.
Natalie’s top tips for maximising your potential in the Sixth Form
- Check you know what your chosen A-levels entail by speaking to teachers and reading sections of relevant text books.
- If you think you have made the wrong choice, seriously consider changing subject – you should maximise your chances of getting good grades
- Plan your weekly work schedule to make sure you do not rush coursework or test preparation
- Start researching universities and courses early to give yourself enough time to make an informed decision
- Speak to a professional about A-level and university subject choices