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    Hi,
    I have just started my A levels at college (biology, chemistry and maths) however, I keep hearing people mention about how hard A levels are compared to GCSEs.

    How hard are they compared to GCSEs. What is the jump like?

    In peoples experience all they did for GCSEs is memorise the content and do all the past papers per subject (5 or 6) and they ended up with As/A*s (not because they were intelligent as you dont need to be too smart to get As/A*s). Can I do this for A levels too and end up with 3 As or AAB? My Biology teacher said the exact same thing but dont know if that will get the grades I want. Also, I'm not so smart like others, I just complete the text book, do couple of past papers and do the exam (what i did in GCSE) so how would it be like for me. How can I become more intelligent in the way I think and apply knowledge for A levels since its much harder?

    I also hear a lot of teachers say 'read a lot around the subject'. Does this basically mean complete the specification and understand it. And when you try to understand the content, it basically means just read the textbook (since there are explanation in textbooks). So when they say that does it just mean read the textbook since everything in the exam is what is written in your textbook. Am I wrong because I'm too used to knowing what GCSEs are about and how the exam papers wok at GCSE level.
    Thanks
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    First of all, when your teachers say 'read around the subject' they mean read books that aren't your textbook; books that will broaden your knowledge beyond what you're taught at A Level e.g. 'What Is Chemistry' by Peter Atkins. You don't really NEED to do this unless it is for a subject you enjoy a lot. I'd focus on doing wider reading that will later help with applying to university - so any books relevant to what you intend to study.

    You really can't just memorise content and expect to do well. You won't get more than a D if you do that. I did all the subjects you're doing + Physics up to AS and know for a fact that simply memorising won't work - you might as well not turn up to the exam. Anyway, I didn't think the step-up from GCSE was that big. I'd say the step-up from AS to A2 is greater (though I can't comment on the new specification).

    Try to stay on top of your homework - doing it as soon as you get home or even staying after school if possible to do it then (without the added distractions). Independent work is very important at A Level - it's necessary to work outside of your lessons. It'd be best if you could do as many hours outside of school as you spend in lessons e.g. if you have 6 hours worth of chemistry lessons per week then you should aim to do 6 hours independent study outside of school. If you really can't, try doing 3/4 hours at first per week per subject - if you spread it out you don't need to do more than 45 minutes after school (Excluding homework). If you have study periods (or free periods) do use them! You could do homework/rewrite notes/read through your textbook/do some wider reading etc.

    I find that keeping ahead of the class schedule works quite well. If you don't want to make notes for something you haven't yet been taught properly by a teacher, then at least try to read ahead in you textbook. I can't recommend this enough it honestly works amazingly well. I tend to do this in my study periods.

    For maths it's all about practice. Use ExamSolutions to learn the content then do loads of questions - first do the questions in your textbook and once you're comfortable with the topic do all the actual exam questions you can find for it. I guess with biology you can actually get away with some memorising, but that doesn't change the fact that you need to understand the content. Exams will often test your ability to apply knowledge to previously unseen situations. If you simply memorise the content chances are you won't even spot this and just think it's something you've not been taught.

    Don't just memorise. Understand and practice. Practice a lot. Not just 5 or 6 papers - all the papers you can find (maybe multiple times- I had papers that I ended up doing 3/4 times). Good luck
 
 
 

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