If you are in the final year of your GCSEs you may be considering stepping up to A levels next. Whether that will take you on to university or down a different path such as with an apprenticeship remains to be seen, but first you may be wondering what you can expect from Sixth Form. You may have heard that there is a step up in what is expected of you for you’re a levels, and there is no denying that this is true. However, there are a few things in your favour to help make the transition smoother.
The first thing to remember is that you will be moving from AS level to A2 – which makes the transition from GCSE slightly easier. Many students choose to take 4 or 5 AS levels and then drop one if they are struggling. This allows you a back-up option, and means that your others will pick up with the least favoured one having been dropped.
Also try not to pay too much attention to any A level horror stories you hear – social media is a great tool – but you should be careful what you believe!
Of course, as you might expect, the level of detail will deepen for A level, and while you will go over some of the things you learnt at GCSE you will be expected to increase and improve your knowledge. For this reason it is always better to take subjects that you enjoy or are good at (or preferably both!).
There is also the prospect of early exams – with AS levels asking you to sit your first modules just a few weeks after starting the course. While this may seem daunting you can retake them in the summer, when you have more study experience to call on. You will also have a better idea of what to expect by then, so if you pass first time, then great, but if not you have another chance later and can use your first exams to gauge how you are doing early on.
You will also be expected to do more work with more detailed and longer assignments than you were used to for GCSE. However, helping to balance this out, you will have smaller class sizes, which gives you more direct contact with your tutors. Most sixth form colleges are more relaxed than school too, creating a better working environment, while you should find yourself surrounded by people who are more willing to work, helping to push you along too. Try not to hide in class, but instead get involved and you will gain so much more from your lessons and benefit from the smaller class sizes.
Being able to focus on less subjects means that you get to really investigate those that you like, leaving those you didn’t behind at GCSE.
Once you are used to AS levels, the step up to A2 should be a bit easier too, while your tutors will be keen to help you improve too.
There is no doubting that A level is tougher than GCSE – with many saying that, given the relative workload, it is even harder than university! However, the more relaxed learning environment and the right preparations will help make this easier for you.
Make use of study advice to help you achieve more and remember you are not alone. Many thousands of others are also going through the same thing, and so long as you put in the work you should find that the step up to A level is manageable.