I’ve recently ended a major chapter in my life, at least in regards to the major-ness that is a British education, getting my A Levels. It wasn’t easy, it was almost as hard as watching Britney mime at the VMAs (after that I’m pretty sure I could lip sync Britney better than Britney), but I was able to leave sixth form with a smugness that could only be achieved by actually achieving. How? Through blood (usually that of my sister’s because If I was suffering so was she, my choice not hers), sweat (you know there’s something wrong with your fitness regime when essay writing is the most strenuous task of your day) and finally tears, lots and lots of tears (usually because I wanted to give up and sleep, I NEED MY 8 HOURS OKAY?!). If you don’t cry profusely during your A levels, if by April you haven’t shed a single tear, I can categorically tell you you’re doing something wrong. Because it’s such a daunting prospect, and a lot of students are moving on up in the next few days, I thought I’d share my story/tips/whatever genre my waffle falls into, in order to enlighten you my dear readers, on how to not fuck up your A levels.
A levels are of course split into 2 years, I know there’s been a few changes so how relevant this will still be to the majority of you I don’t know, but I do know it’s still important to your university applications so listen up. AS levels are more important than your GCSEs, in my case they were responsible for 50% of your A level grade, as many people I know saw this year if you mess them up your overall grade will suffer. Had I revised more and not winged it as much I would’ve had an easier ride this year, when pushing yourself is admittedly hard (just picture yourself waving a middle finger at all the teachers who doubted you, because: ‘My haters are my motivators’). Even if you’re AS levels no longer effect your overall grade they are still a focal point of any Ucas application, they along with your personal statement and references are what will sway a uni into giving you an offer. If you wanna get into somewhere with a stellar reputation your AS grades don’t have to be perfect, but they should be close to the standard offer the uni makes, within one or two grades below what they want. Keeping on the topic of Ucas… don’t forget REFERENCES!!! Mine were nice because I’m naturally a fake ass bitch in class, but if you’re not be warned, shit can get real. Teachers can’t officially give you bad references per say, but they don’t have to give you false praise either, so when you’re giving your form tutor side eye and a snarl keep that firmly in the front of your mind. Think of AS levels as the foundation to the year of struggle ahead of you.
Not-so-swiftly moving onto my year of personal hell, the year of A2… DUM DUM DUMMMM. Coming into this year I had a change of attitude, I had already proved myself but as always there was room for improvement. Predicted grades are not a given, that 1 grade up thing? Yeah that’s not actually a thing, if your teachers think you don’t want it they won’t predict it. So in order to make sure you get what you want be sure to start the year off as a brown nose, talk to them on a personal level (majorly awkward but it must be done), let them know the predictions you need for your university, there’s no harm in being direct; particularly when it fizzles down to something so important. If they’re still not wiling then make a plan of action, ask what you can do to change their mind – because they can’t really say no to something like that. A little bit of work in September goes a long way in November when your application’s being sent off, believe me gurl (not being sexist, it just sounds more sassy that way). Personal statements! You ideally want yours entirely done (don’t forget time for editing, you’ll be doing a lot of it) by the very start of October, mid September if you’re going for Oxbridge. Ask any and every relevant teacher to read through it, mine caused a clash of the teachers which left me with two final versions, this may sound slightly superficial and harsh but trust whichever of those teachers went to the better university, if they got themselves in then their input should be a step towards getting you in.
Finally this is a given, you better work bitch (a lot more Britney in this post then I originally intended). I probably shouldn’t say this, and if your teachers/parents asked who gave you this idea don’t quote me on it, but despite what they’ll tell you, granting yourself unofficial study leave is your best option. Come May of your final year you should know how to write an essay, if not then stop reading this post and reevaluate some things cos you aint my problem son; taking that as a given your content will be done and class will now become a cycle of revision sessions. This piece of advice really depends what type of learner you are but in my case anyway, drawing a mindmap with my teacher doesn’t do much for me, I fly solo. I usually give myself this ‘unofficial study leave’ the 3 weeks or so before my first exam, at this point you’re already entered in for it and your uni has already accepted you, so attendance wise you really don’t need to give a shit and your school probably won’t either. If like me you had to memorise a shit load of facts that you’ll never again use in life, attempt to rope in a family member, preferably a sibling to spend their evenings testing you, that’s what the final hour of your revision should entail – forced family bonding.
Exam season is your final hurdle, you will feel like there’s no point because it’s an endless cycle of derivative and exhausting tests which merely measure your ability to cram, but make no mistake, it matters. If you try and you don’t succeed, well at least you tried. I was particularly unlucky this year, I got cellulitis (a nasty skin infection which hurts like hell) in both my legs a couple days before my first exam, I was bleeding and I couldn’t walk at all, think of me as a young weepy Bambi (soz for the sad image but true story bro), despite this I refused to stop revising. When it boiled down to it I knew it had to be done regardless. Come the day of my exam, with my sister acting as my crutch I made my triumphant return to school (okay not so triumphant I was bleeding and crying, but still) and after a huuuuggggeee fight with my teachers, because apparently about 80% of them felt the need to be all up in my business at that given time, my head of year forced me to skip it and head to hospital instead. He wasn’t able to give me any assurances that the exam board would okay it, he just promised that as I was a good student, who really wanted to sit their exam (a stupid amount) to do his very best to sort it. By the start of my exam season I felt defeated, after a day off and some KFC (food of champions) I got back to it, no matter what I continued to try because that’s all anyone can ask of you. Come results day I found it did, the exam I missed thanks to my surprisingly high mock grade (yup they actually matter now too) and my amazeballs head of year, became an A and the other exams I did, which I never stopped working for, were also As (that was soley down to me cos I’m awesome okay). For the first time in my life I dedicated myself to my studies, and for the first time in my life I relished in how great that felt. You will encounter hurdles, but I have no doubt that you’ll get what you put in. I don’t know how deep that sounded so I’m gonna pause it there.