We asked the TSR community what one piece of essential advice they would give to someone starting their A-levels right now. Here are the 10 most useful things they came up with.
1. Set a goal
A-levels are hard work. You need to be motivated to knuckle down and get all your studying and revision done if you want to succeed. But it’s pretty difficult to push yourself if you don't have goals and constantly remember why you’re doing these courses.
2. Believe in your potential
Anyone can get better at anything. You’re probably not going to do brilliantly in every test and piece of homework but if you put the study hours in, act on advice your teachers give you and practise lots of questions, your marks will improve.
3. Work hard but keep a balance
It’s important to attend lessons, get homework done and revise for tests. And if you take study a bit further by doing some extra reading or practise questions, your effort will most likely be rewarded with good grades. But remember that life is about more than studying. You need a social life and time to unwind.
4. Be organised and stay organised
You probably don’t have exercise books for A-levels so you need to keep track of all that paper. Get files for each subject and file your work away in date order. Keep hold of those teacher handouts and make sure you use some sort of calendar to make a note of deadlines, exams and anything else.
5. Review your work regularly
Something you learn in September might not be examined until 20 months afterwards so it’s inevitable that some work will be forgotten. Checking what you’ve learned regularly and testing yourself on it is the best way to keep it fresh in your mind.
6. Use your teachers
Most teachers know a lot about the courses they teach, meaning they know how to score high marks in exams and they know the common mistakes. Most teachers also like to help, so they are probably the most important resource you have. Make sure you make the most their expertise.
7. Avoid comparing yourself to other students
There will probably always be someone who does a bit better than you at something. Comparing yourself to them will only be de-motivating. The only person you need to compare yourself to is... yourself. Learn from the mistakes you make and your work will gradually improve.
8. Don’t think ‘free’ periods are ‘free’
Most A-level students are not in lessons all day long. They have ‘study’ or ‘free’ periods. It’s very tempting to use all these for relaxation and socialising. But if you can use just some of them for study then you’ll buy yourself more free time at home.
9. Past papers are your friends
There are only a certain number of questions that can be asked on a specification. Inevitably the same old questions about the same old things keep popping up. The more you practise questions and check your answer against the mark scheme, the more you’ll gear your work to what examiners really want.
10. Look after your health
Studying A-levels can be stressful. There’s so much think about and a lot is expected of you. The pressure can build up quite quickly and may feel overwhelming at times. That’s why it’s important to look after your physical and mental wellbeing.