Starting Year 13: Tips to Overcome the Last Year of Compulsory Education

Written by a member of The Student Room community

Dear Reader,

Hi, I am Emmanuella from London!  I’m quite new to TSR but thought it would be helpful to some but not all to write this article in case anyone can relate. I am writing this in the summer holidays and am feeling quite nervous at the moment to enter Year 13 in September, but I know those are just normal feelings. There are so many things to think about - revision, social life, university applications…the list goes on and sometimes it can feel overwhelming! However, a very helpful user (@DistESP) gave me some advice to overcome  this last year of our compulsory education. I shall break it up into sections - feel free to copy and paste this into a document to keep the information safe.


  • i know you've probably heard this a billion times but try and plan your time in advance where you can, and draw up a rough schedule.

  • most examples you see will have "slots" by the hour, but i would advise that you think about what your own personal concentration span is.

  • how long can you really focus before you feel distractible, tired or need a break?

  • maybe you like to focus for only 25 minutes at a time (the so-called pomodoro technique) or maybe, for example, you're used to focusing for the length of a "period" as defined by your school timetable, in which case you could choose to have each "slot" in your schedule lasting roughly the length of a "period".

  • you should account for class time, homework, revision, and any other commitments / extracurriculars you might have, but most importantly plenty of BREAKS otherwise you'll burn out! 5-10 minutes at least between each and every slot, and every 2-3 hours you should take a longer break of at least 20-30 minutes.

  • however, sometimes other commitments / tasks might come up suddenly, or you might make last-minute plans to see friends / family. so don't plan too far in advance.

  • what I would advise is scheduling for a few days 2-3 times a week, for example on Sunday night plan for Monday to Wednesday, and then on Wednesday night plan for Thursday to Sunday.

  • you can leave a day out of the schedule if you want a free day (especially earlier in the year when you might have more flexibility), but the key thing is that by making a schedule a few days at a time, you can learn from plans you made in the past and how you got on with them.

  • for example, if you realise after the first few days or weeks that you are allocating too much time to one subject at the expense of another, you can adjust that when planning future timetables!



  • free periods - you probably have these. try to spend these doing homework or revision where possible, because it means you get more study done in the school day and there's less to do when you get home / over the weekend.

  • especially later in the year, when the workload is most intense, you should treat study during free periods like any other class - don't skip it unless there's a very good reason (which would get you excused from class).

  • if you need to take a short 5-10 minute break to get some fresh air, a drink of water and refocus then feel free, but trust me, it is extremely tempting to spend hours worth of free periods hanging out with friends, playing a game or watching Netflix on your phone!



  • in terms of revision, it is far better to learn continuously throughout the year. 

  • a good rule of thumb is that for every hour of lessons you have in each subject, you should do one hour of self-study. 

  • try to include both homework and revision as a matter of principle, though the balance between these will naturally change over the course of the year.

  • as you reach the tail-end of A-level courses after the xmas break there will be fewer homework assignments, but this is by no means time off - you are expected to spend more time revising!



  • still, no matter when in the year, try to consolidate lesson material as soon as possible after the lesson. 

  • this will not always be possible on the same day, but you should try to consolidate a lesson before the next lesson in that topic.

  • this does not have to take ages - consolidation activities could include making neat notes (incorporating not just class notes / slides, but also textbooks, which could explain a more challenging concept in a different way to your teacher), making flashcards / Quizlet study sets, learning vocabulary / grammar for languages, or trying practice questions.

  • in the end, more consolidation as you learn will mean less stress when revising for topic tests, mocks and the final A-levels, and better retention - once a fact is in your long-term memory it is much harder to forget. 

  • it does not mean you will not need to revise at all in advance of exams, but you will be able to focus more time on practice questions because you will have already reinforced the key concepts and facts in your head.



  • think of your schedule as your life schedule, not just your study schedule.

  • if you can encourage your family and friends to adapt your schedule (e.g. keeping dinner ready in line with a scheduled dinner break) then it will help tremendously, but equally the opposite could apply and you may have to adapt your schedule to work around your family's needs and conveniences.



  • if you have not already, you will start the UCAS process almost immediately once you reach year 13.

  • you should already have an idea of which unis and courses you're interested in, and make sure you've done as much visiting as you need before term. starts.

  • remember, you have five course choices in total. Only one can be either Oxford or Cambridge, and only up to four can be medicine, vet-med or dentistry courses, no matter the uni.

  • My advice is to look at the typical entry requirements, compare with your predicted grades, and apply for courses at:

- two 'reach' universities - these are your absolute best-case scenario, and should have grade requirements that match your predicted grades or are maybe even a little higher (if you're feeling confident that you could exceed your predictions!)

- two 'target' universities - these are unis that are just right, with grade requirements slightly below your predicted grades, so there's a good chance you'll get the offer and hopefully make the grades

- one 'safety' university - with entry requirements some way below your predicted grades, this course may end up being the one to keep you out of Clearing!


  • also, applying for two courses at the same uni, especially if they are similar, is likely to be a waste of time; many uni's allow transfers to similar courses at the start of first year so the five options are best spent applying to five different uni's.


  • try to make sure your application is ready by your school's deadline, but let them know if you are having trouble for any reason.

  • the sooner you ask for any help you may need, the more options you have available to you.



  • you should by now have at least a full draft of your personal statement ready. it does not necessarily need to be fully polished and ready to go at this stage, but it should be more than just a list of initial ideas.

  • i remember our school had given us feedback on our first-draft personal statements before we even broke up for the summer between Y12 and Y13.

  • otherwise, if the January deadline applies to you, you have more time so use it wisely - do not leave it all to the last minute and try to get feedback earlier rather than later so you have time to redraft and get even more feedback.



  • depending on the universities and courses you apply for, you may have to go through admissions tests and/or interviews, so build that into your "life schedule" too. 

  • there are plenty of resources to practise for these. 

  • if you need to sit an admissions test there will be past/practice papers available online, and you can ask your subject teachers for help - just make sure you give them as much notice as possible so they can fit you in for things like personalised meetings or practice interview sessions.




  • do not stress about whether you will get offers from universities. 

  • if you follow the 2x 'reach', 2x 'target' and 1x 'safety' model, and check with your teachers that your choices are realistic, you should get at least some offers. 

  • but even if you do not, UCAS Extra, and in the worst case scenario Clearing, are available as options too.



  • the important thing is, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF!

  • yes, there is a lot to do, but reassure yourself that you are extremely capable and you will get through it all.

  • if you are at any point feeling like it is all too much, trust me I have been there. late nights before assignments are due, long hours of revision, it seems endless but just know it is NOT and you WILL get through it. every stressful moment will pass :) 

- i hope this advice helped you a lot! Feel free to share this article with your fellow Year 13 friends and if you have any queries, feel free to drop me a message or chat in the official Year 13 thread (2023-2024 cohort!) -



Emmanuella :)



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