Articles

Top Advice for New Sixth Formers: 13 Ways to Make the Most of Year 12

You have the step up in academic difficulty level to negotiate for a start, and a workload that will require diligent time management to keep on top of.

|

2 comments


You have the step up in academic difficulty level to negotiate for a start, and a workload that will require diligent time management to keep on top of. You might be settling into a new school for Sixth Form, or getting used to having different people around you in your existing school. And then there’s the not insignificant matter of applying to university, and all the build-up that precedes submitting your application. As a bright student, you’ll probably take all this in your stride; but to make it easier for you to deal with, this article gives you some advice to bear in mind as you enter Sixth Form for the first time.

 

 

1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

You might think that doing six or seven A-levels will look really impressive on your university application, but biting off more than you can chew is bound to do you more harm than good. You might find that your school doesn’t actually let you take on this many, for timetabling reasons as much as because they think you’re taking on too much. If they do let you, you might find you get worse grades, because you’ll struggle to stay on top of the workload. Since universities only ask for three A-levels when making offers, it’s better to have three and do exceedingly well at all of them than it is to take on several more and do a worse job at them. Quality is better than quantity when it comes to A-levels, and you certainly won’t be thought less of by universities just because you’ve only done three.

 

2. Managing the leap from GCSEs to A-levels

The start of Sixth Form is the ideal time to get into some good study habits, as these will help you get the best possible A-level grades, as well as standing you in good stead for university. Get into a routine that incorporates plenty of study time, and use ‘To Do’ lists to help maximise your productivity and prioritise homework tasks. One of the best things you can do when you start A-levels is to revise as you go along, as this will reduce your revision workload nearer to exam time by ensuring that you learn it properly first time round. After a class, read up on what you learned to consolidate your new knowledge, and make flashcards with short snippets of useful information on each topic. These will be useful when you revise, both days and months down the line.

 

Placeholder

Sixth form holds enormous opportunities- make sure you’re organised enough to make the most of it.

 

3. Start as you mean to go on

The start of Sixth Form is the ideal time to get into some good study habits, as these will help you get the best possible A-level grades, as well as standing you in good stead for university. Get into a routine that incorporates plenty of study time, and use ‘To Do’ lists to help maximise your productivity and prioritise homework tasks. One of the best things you can do when you start A-levels is to revise as you go along, as this will reduce your revision workload nearer to exam time by ensuring that you learn it properly first time round. After a class, read up on what you learned to consolidate your new knowledge, and make flashcards with short snippets of useful information on each topic. These will be useful when you revise, both days and months down the line.

 

4. Make use of all available resources

When it comes to A-level study, you don’t just have to rely on textbooks to get you through your course material. Try to utilise as many different resources as you can, as this will give you different ways of looking at the syllabus that will help you absorb information more easily. For example, YouTube is full of videos explaining A-level concepts. PajHolden, for instance, produces useful videos for A-level Economics students. Other kinds of resources you could use might include revision guides, webinars, the library and museums, to name but a few.

 

5. Make the most of free periods

Free periods in your school timetable will probably be a novelty for you, but you shouldn’t waste them. Use them productively to write up your notes from class and get homework done, as this reduces the amount of homework you need to do when you get home, and frees up time to spend on reading more widely and developing new knowledge and skills in preparation for university. You can use lunch breaks productively as well, by going to the library to do some work after a short break to eat. Not only does this give you extra study time, but it also stops you spending money going to the shops or sitting in a cafe during your free time.

 

Placeholder

Outside school, there’s plenty of chances to make friends and make a difference- seek them out!

 

6. Applying to university

Your first year of A-levels is when you start thinking seriously about applying to university. You probably already have an idea of what you want to study, but now’s the time to firm up your decision and start thinking about where you might want to study this course. Order some university prospectuses (or look through the ones at your school) and attend open days for any you like the look of. Talk to your teachers too, as they’ll likely have some thoughts on what sort of universities you should be aiming for based on your academic progress.

Also with your university application in mind, your first year of A-levels is a good time to start building up some more relevant experience and knowledge to talk about in your personal statement. Reading widely around your chosen subject is a must, but there are additional things you can be doing to showcase a diverse set of skills. The following are a few of the things you can take on in your first year of A-levels with a view to strengthening your forthcoming university application:

Take an extra qualification to boost your UCAS points

Gain relevant work experience in an area related to your chosen subject

Take up a new hobby, or pursue an existing one to a higher level; ideally one that demonstrates qualities such as teamwork and communication

Tutor a GCSE student in your chosen subject

Do some voluntary work

Get a part-time job (more on this below)

Embark on a project or challenge, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award

Think of your AS year as laying the foundations for your university application. Do as much as you reasonably can now, and you’ll find it pays off next year when you come to write your personal statement.

 

7. AS-levels are 50% of your final grade

Don’t be fooled into thinking that AS-levels don’t matter, or that you can relax this year and make up for it next year. AS-levels constitute 50% of your entire grade, so if you do well in them, you have a good headstart towards your final grade, and it takes the pressure off slightly in your second year. If you don’t work hard enough for your AS-levels, you’ll make your A2 year extremely stressful, because you’ll have to work even harder to get the grades you want. What’s more, you’ll need to work extra hard in your first year of A-levels, because your AS grades will determine your predicted grades – and these are all universities have to go on when assessing your current level of academic ability. If you have poor predicted grades because you haven’t worked hard enough in your AS year, this will have a big impact on the success with which you’ll be able to apply to top universities.

 

8. Don’t leave past papers to the last minute

Past papers are a really useful way of gauging what level you’re working at, and they get you used to the style of questions you can expect in the real exam. They’re going to be tougher than GCSE exam questions, so it’s a good idea to start getting used to them as early as you can. They also give you practice at working out timings for questions. Try to start taking past papers early on, whenever you reach the end of each module; this forces you to revise what you’ve done for that module. Ask your teacher to mark it for you and take on board any feedback you get back to help you understand where you need to improve.

 

9. Build a good relationship with your teachers

Your teachers at A-level may be the same as your secondary school teachers if you’ve stayed at the same school, but if you’re moving schools, you’ll have a whole new set of teachers to try to impress. If you’re staying at the same school and you previously had a reputation as someone who doesn’t work hard enough, or who has the wrong attitude, now’s the time to change your teachers’ view of you. If you’re at a new school, show the teachers from the word go that you’re a model student who’s determined to get top grades.

In a year’s time, your teachers will be writing your university reference for you, and it’s vital that you give them a good impression, with an admirable attitude and making a real effort to produce outstanding work. Ask them for extra work, speak out in class with intelligent opinions, and hand homework in early. You might annoy some of your classmates in the process, but it’s worth it if you’re rewarded with an exemplary reference.

 

10. Get a strong backpack and locker

You’re going to be carrying around a lot of books and folders, so you’ll make life easier if you have a backpack rather than a bag that has a shoulder strap (you’re likely to suffer a bruised shoulder and bad back if you opt for such a bag). If you can get hold of a locker in a handy location, even better, as this means that at any given time, you only need to carry what you need for a particular lesson.

 

11. Try to make time for a part-time job

A Saturday job while you’re in Sixth Form doesn’t just give you some extra pocket money: it allows you to develop non-academic skills that will be useful for university and your future career. This might include customer service and sales skills, as well as working well within a team. Such skills are essential in business, whatever level you operate at, and the teamwork element will be particularly useful for group work at university. But don’t let your job take over your spare time; if you find your grades are suffering, it’s preferable to give up your part-time work, as good grades will benefit you more at this stage in your life.

 

Placeholder

Sixth Form is a great time to find like-minded friends..

 

12. There’s no need to worry about making friends

If you’re starting a new school for Sixth Form, or many of your friends are leaving to do their A-levels elsewhere, you may be worrying about your ability to make new friends. There’s no need to be concerned! The great thing about Sixth Form is that everyone’s there because they want to be, not because they have to be. This means that those taking A-levels are generally more committed to their studies, and you’ll therefore be among more like-minded people. There are plenty of opportunities for making new friends at Sixth Form, the most obvious place being in class: there will be lots of group work at A-level, so you’ll naturally mix with others. Once you’ve got chatting in class, you can develop new friendships from there, perhaps by suggesting meeting up in free periods or at lunchtime, whether to study together or to have a coffee.

 

13. Enjoy it

Sixth Form is a time when you’ve finally left behind the subjects you disliked at GCSE and you’re now able to concentrate on subjects that genuinely interest you. What’s more, you’re working towards studying your favourite subject at university. Although A-levels are harder work than GCSEs, you’ll probably find that you really enjoy Sixth Form and the new challenges it brings. It’s also a time to make the most of home comforts and spending time with your parents and friends before you go to university. Enjoy it, and remember that all this hard work will pay off, even if it doesn’t always feel like it at the time.

 

Image credits: to-do listvolunteeringfriends.

Comments (2)

  1. Morgan Vogwell


    I thought I’d leave a comment talking about your ability to understand your subjects. If you don’t have great understanding about your subject in AS, will this impair you to do well within the first year of sixth form? I’m really worried about this and really hope i can work hard to advance into University after this, as I want to prove myself as a hard worker and not someone who slaked off during their GCSE’s and doing the same with my A-Levels.

    • ORA Admin


      > Hi Morgan,
      Thank you for getting in touch. I wouldn’t worry too much about not understanding enough before you start your AS Level course, as many other students will be in the same boat. Many students start completely new subjects at AS Level, usually because they weren’t available at GSCE (such as Psychology, Law etc), so will have very little subject knowledge before starting the course.
      If you are worried, we would recommend talking to your teacher about anything that you are struggling with.

      Best of luck,

      The ORA Team


You


You may be interested in these other courses:

SUMMER

Medical School Preparation Programme

For students seeking a place at Medical School Read more
SUMMER

Global Leadership Programme

For students wanting to develop leadership and management skills Read more
SUMMER

Business and Enterprise Programme

Gain an in-depth insight into business with this summer course Read more
SUMMER

Law School Preparation Programme

Develop your understanding of the law with tutoring from our expert faculty Read more