Starting Year 12: Seven myths and misconceptions about moving up to A-level


After Year 11, one of your options is to start your A-levels

This whole new qualification level can seem incredibly scary and you've probably already got some ideas in your head about how horrific it's going to be. 

But we've got some of the things you'll likely be thinking along with lots of other people – that we can prove wrong! We've also included things the TSR community has posted about A-levels.

1. It's all work and no play 

You've probably heard from your teachers that your workload will get bigger and harder and that can sound pretty scary!  Thankfully though, you will have time to live a normal life alongside your studies.

With some time management, a study planner and cutting down on procrastination, you'll find your workload really manageable and you'll have plenty of time to spend away from your desk. Over the next two years you'll potentially want to build on your experience for your personal statement, so you should get out there and experience as much as possible.

Organise yourself to a decent standard and you'll have a good amount of free time throughout the week to pursue your own interests!


2. Because you're taking fewer subjects, it's less work 

Although you’re doing less subjects the amount of time you spend working overall is still about the same. You shouldn't go into your A-levels thinking you can kick back now and take in the subject matter by osmosis because you found it easy at GCSE.

There is a jump in the difficulty of each subject, and your homework will be harder, so just go in with an open mind and do the work required.

Here's a list of everything you'll need to take with you to sixth form or college.

I thought I could carry on with the same amount of work as I did in GCSE outside of lessons and still do well. Got kicked in the face by some mocks so that changed me early on thankfully.


3. It will be like the TV shows 

The likelihood is you'll have seen at least one TV programme featuring a shockingly bad sixth form or college, where students run riot and there's teenage drama everywhere. Rest assured, your lessons won't need to feature on a show like this.

As everyone matures and starts their A-levels, the dramas seem to calm down considerably as everyone starts to realise they're basically adults now. While you might have been looking forward to watching over the top arguments and teenage angst, the more realistic sixth form/college life makes it much easier to focus on your grades!

After seeing certain British TV shows I expected it to be rather scary.


4. A relationship will ruin your grades

You might already be in a relationship, be thinking about starting one, or be set on not even going near potential partners; but whatever your situation, just remember that a relationship doesn't have to take up your entire life. While it may be true that your relationship might not withstand separation at university, there's no harm in being with someone.

You will have spare time and sometimes it's helpful to have someone close who you can video call to revise with – especially if your partner does similar subjects to you.

I know if you don't get your priorities straight/manage time properly then yes, your grades will suffer, but I managed just fine, and it was a good source of happiness and helped to motivate me.


5. Your subjects are all going to become insanely difficult 

While it's true that there is a big step up from GCSE to A-level, you wouldn't be allowed to take the subject if your sixth form or college don't think you're capable at it. If you're choosing to do an A-level in a subject, you're probably either a) already very good at it b) have the necessary transferable skills to excel and c) dedicated to it.

Don't worry you are going to survive the next two years and while there might be some difficult topics along the way, you can get on top of them with extra studying or asking for help either with your teachers, your friends, or here on TSR.

If you worked very hard to get your grades whatever they might have been then you probably wont find the "gap" too huge in my opinion.


6. It's going to be full of cliques 

Your GCSE years might have been very segregated between different 'types' of people, with rivalries and arguments. However with A-levels, a lot of students will have left to go to different colleges or start an apprenticeship. This means that the extreme types of personality that often start cliques will all die down and everyone will get along a little more.

This isn't to say that you're suddenly going to be best friends with the people that you used to want to go to war with, just that everything will be so much more relaxed. Your classes might be mixed up with people that you haven't met (if your college isn't attached to your old school) didn't previously talk to, or you might have free periods with them so you'll get to know so many more people.

I believed that college would be full of cliques and groups like my high school was but it really isn't everyone just talks to anyone


7. If you managed to cram at GCSE, you can do it again for A-level 

You might have found your GCSEs really easy and just absorbed knowledge. You might have not needed to work too hard to do well. While this isn't the case for everyone at GCSE, it isn't the case for anyone at A-level. You will have to work and revise, so regardless of how easy or difficult you found your GCSEs, just go into your A-levels open-minded and ready to work!

GCSE apart from French I only revised information from text books etc. Needed to do so many past papers at AS level.


Subject guides

Are you taking any of these subjects at A-level? Here are some guides to what to expect when you start, from students who have been there, done that:

English literature

More useful links

The current Year 12 chat thread
The 10 most important pieces of advice for starting A-levels
11 things A-level students wish they'd known
A-level forum

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