My A-Level Experience - Year One

As many of you know after I finished my GCSEs last year I decided to carry on to do my A-Levels at Sixth Form. Well, I have now finished all my first a-level exams (which if didn't know the first year is called AS and the second year A2) and thought I'd share my experience so far with all of you (well, those of you who care).

After getting my GCSE results I decided I wanted to do 4 AS levels: history, spanish, english literature and sociology, which I then started in September. I thought I'd structure this post based on each subject I chose and my individual experience with each subject (as they were all different). So if I was you I'd get a cup of coffee or tea and get ready to sit down to read a rather long and wordy post.

History AS

History is quite easily one of my favourite subjects but this year I did struggle quite a bit. At GCSE I managed to get an A in History, so starting AS with a good grade and really struggling at the beginning of the year really made me question my whole career plan and future. Which may seem to be a bit pathetic but seriously I am one of those people who plan ahead and expect everything to fall into place. I think my main struggle was not with the subject itself but the teacher I had alongside the topic we were learning. It was my teachers first time teaching AS History and he hated the French Revolution and I didn't think he was that great a teacher, going from having such a great teacher at GCSE. French Revolution in my opinion was a really difficult subject and I really struggled getting my head around the whole topic therefore after my January exam for French Revolution it wasn't a surprise when I got an E. I can happily say that after doing my retake in May I feel a bit more confident with the subject (but still not expecting to get an A in the exam). The second topic: the Sixties was so much better and so much easier to get my head around. I think what helped is that what happened in 60s in Britain is still relevant to this day. I didn't take an exam for this unit in January but sat the exam a couple of weeks ago and feeling alright about the questions and the exam overall. So fingers crossed I do well!

Spanish AS

Everyone who does A-Levels have that one subject that we never put as much effort in as much as the other ones, mine was Spanish. I regret this massively. I would never recommend doing that. Spanish is such an interesting subject, learning a new language is just amazing. We took the whole year doing the topic before doing the exam as well as the coursework. If you did GCSE Spanish you will probably remember doing 2 pieces of writing coursework, 2 pieces of speaking coursework, a listening exam and a reading exam, AS in some ways is easier. You only do one piece of coursework which is speaking and one 2 hour exam with listening, reading and writing. (we did the AQA exam board). I really struggle with listening but AS Spanish allows you to pause, rewind, forward and replay the listening as much as you wish making it easier to be able to 'hear' what they are saying. The speaking coursework, went well for me, we aren't supposed to get our marks until results day but my spanish teacher shared with us what she would've given us and I would get the highest in the class with a high A (but I'm not pinning my hopes on this) and the exam went okay, it could've gone better but it could've got a lot worse. We'll just have to wait and see.

English Literature AS

Our English Lit course was based on an exam and coursework. We did the exam in January which was (I am so glad I didn't as the exam was apparently awful!). The coursework part of the course was two essays based on two plays. A larger comparative essay and a smaller essay which was based on a letter to do a modern remake of one of the two plays we studied. The plays we studied were Shakespeare's Othello and John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. I personally really like Shakespeare's work and was probably the only person in my English Lit group to enjoy the play. I managed to do really well in my coursework and guaranteed myself a B overall in my AS English Literature. I am so relieved and happy I have got myself a B and will try my hardest to work that up to hopefully an A next for A2.
based on poetry and prose. We had to study a set of poems we had to study from a selection given by the exam board, we studied the poems about 'Home' whcih I really enjoyed and liked. I personally really like annotating poems and finding a deeper meaning then the surface shows. For the prose section we had to study two novels, which were: Brighton Rock and Lies of Silence. I wasn't expecting to do well in the January exam as even though I got two As in English at GCSE we had to change our writing technqiue completely to fit with the expected A-Level type of writing. This took quite a while and I am still improving to this day but I walked out of the January exam with a B. Which I was over the moon about. I then decided not to retake the exam in May as I didn't want to put more pressure on myself.

Sociology AS

This was the subject I had never done before, so wasn't really sure how I would get on with the subject. Similarly to History Sociology is based on two units with an exam for each unit. Unit One was on socialisation of people based on numerous factors including family, media and peers. As well as research methods because we had a pre-released material which our exam would be based around. I really enjoyed this topic and was confident about the January exam, which I got a B in. I was so happy seeing as I had never done the topic before and had no experience with it beforehand. Unit Two was based around Youth, including youth and deviance, youth and education, etc. This was my first May exam and I honestly cannot say if I've done really badly or not. It wasn't the best paper ever but I hope I have done enough to get a B in AS Sociology. 

My Advice

  • If you are thinking about taking A-Levels next year I would recommend making sure it's exactly what you want. So many people in my year have dropped out because they thought it would be different and they don't see a future involving the need to have A-Levels.
  • Make sure you pick subjects you enjoy or are interested in, you don't want to be sat there for a year thinking/wishing you could've picked a better subject.
  • I think one of the most important things is to look at the subject course and the layout of the course. Make sure the layout suits you especially as now there are no January exams. Can you handle the pressure of maybe ten exams at the end of the year? If not look around at different places to see how the courses differ.
  • Think would you benefit by going to a sixth form or college. The environments are completely different. Most people I know regret not doing A-Levels at college, at our sixth form we are 'baby-ed' quite a bit whereas college offers the chance for more freedom and the opportunity to be allowed to be adults.
  • Make sure you keep your notes organised, this is probably my biggest regret and learning far too late how important organisation is for A-Levels. (but that deserves its own separate  post)

If you've made it this far I salute you. This is probably way too wordy or too personal but what you going to do. I hope you enjoyed this post and if you have any other questions about my experience don't hesitate to ask below. 

Until next time...
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