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A Level survival techniques

It is a bit ironic that I am dedicating my blog post to the thing that is currently causing me the most stress: my A Levels. I suppose this might be useful for anyone currently choosing what they want to study or for anyone who needs any guidance on how I try to cope with A Levels.

Whenever I reveal what subjects I do, most people give me the look of fright. I am currently studying Philosophy, English Literature and Psychology – a tripartite of essay subjects. If I am honest, I would not recommend this combination to anyone in regards to workload; the essay writing is brutal. Though, in my case, there were no other subjects that I had a real interest in or desire to study for two years. Equally, content wise, my subjects really tick the boxes and I am definitely glad I chose them. Also, both English and Philosophy don’t exactly require correct, mathematical answers which really appeals to me; you can have whatever interpretation you want as long as you have the evidence to support it! So my main piece of advice would definitely be: choose what you love. Do not choose a subject on the basis that you think it will be an “easy option” as no A Level is easy. I initially was doing an A Level in Biology alongside Philosophy, English and psychology and found that the jump was too much. The subject just did not have the same appeal that IGCSE Biology did. So whether it be a more creative subject like Drama or a more practical subject such as Physics, every subject will be difficult in some form.

However, if you are reading this whilst being in the GCSE stage, you are probably sick of hearing the ‘you think it’s bad now, wait until you get to A Levels’ comment. I know it is frustrating to constantly hear but, it is true. You will only know until you are doing your A Levels! The contrast between GCSE and A Levels is a big one, but it does not mean that you are incapable of coping with the transition. I would also argue that in some ways that AS to A2 is an even worse transition (if you are doing the traditional A Level course). But as I previously stated, you will become accustomed to the level of knowledge required, I promise.

As expected, A Levels do come with a lot of stress. The pressure to keep on top of the work load is admittedly intense alongside the pressure to start thinking about universities and what you want to do with your life. All I would say is that you need to keep in mind your own mental wellbeing. It is ok to ask for extensions and sometimes take time out – be kind to yourself. I remember berating myself after getting an E in my first psychology test. I made one stupid mistake which led to basically the whole test being wrong – it was like one of those science tests where you if you get part a) wrong, you might as well forget the whole thing. But my teacher reminded me of the most important thing: A Levels are a learning curve and you need to get things wrong to get things right. We are not infallible and it is only in our nature to get things wrong, so do not give yourself hard time for not always having everything under control. It took me ages to learn this, and to an extent, I still am teaching myself it most days, but please try not to stress over “mock tests” or “progress checks” as in all honesty, they are irrelevant when it comes to the final exam. That does not mean to say that it is ok to take a f**ck it attitude to your studies, but it means that you are entitled to sometimes slip up.

My last message, is that you need to allow yourself time out. I still sometimes find this impossible to do, but it is so important to give yourself “me time” for your own sanity. I always find a walk outside is great because not only are you moving your muscles (leaning over a desk being sedentary for five hours is not ideal!) and also connecting with nature. Altreantively, you may want to go out for a coffee or take a bath with an aesthetically pleasing bath bomb– the message is, as long as it doesn’t involve reading a text book, it’s fine. At the end of the day, every person is unique so do not feel intimidated by seeing your friends gruelling six hour study timetable. What works for one person might not work for another. But what is important, is that you do give yourself sufficient breaks throughout the day. Also, if you are simply not in the right head space for revision some days, take the day off. Your mental wellbeing will always come first and one day away from studying seriously will not be detrimental to the end result.

Anyway, I hope this post has been useful and has maybe given you some reassurance into A Levels. As with all my posts, I am always very grateful for any comments or feedback. Most of all, good luck to anyone going through the same process or sitting exams in the Summer. You will smash them!

Lots of love,

Is xx

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