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    Grow Your Grades 2017



    School
    I'm in my first year of A Levels (Lower Sixth/Year 12) at my school. I will be taking an AS exam in one of my subjects in the summer, but my other three subjects are linear so I won't be taking external exams in those subjects until Summer 2018.

    Target/Predicted grades:
    • Business A (Linear)
    • English Literature A (Linear)
    • History A (Linear)
    • Politics A (Modular)

    We had our mocks in November (with only 2 months of the subject eek!) and I achieved my predicted grades in each subject which was a positive start to my courses!

    For reference, my GCSE grades were:
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    Art A*
    Biology A*
    Chemistry A*
    Economics A
    Further Maths B
    English Language A*
    English Literature A*
    History A*
    Maths A*
    RS A*
    Spanish C


    I'm hoping to take Law with Politics, or a politics or international relations course at university so I want to get as high UMS as possible in my AS politics so I have a good predicted grade for A2.

    At the moment I'm planning to drop Business at the end of Lower Sixth as I enjoy it less than my other subjects but I want to leave my options open incase my internal end of year exams don't go well in one of my other subjects.

    Personal

    I've always enjoyed school but I'm easily distracted from homework which is something I need to work on this year as the workload increases. I plan to work hard enough to get A's at A Level and get into my first or second choice university, which would be a first for someone in my family.

    Outside of school, I am currently doing Gold DofE, having already done Bronze and Silver in previous years. I'm also training for my local half marathon in May to raise money for Macmillan, this a challenge because I'm not a natural runner.

    To finish...

    I'm always open to constructive criticism/advice from others and can always help others too. Will post pictures of revision, timetables, workspace etc. Feel free to join in with this if you'd like.
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    Year 13 student who got A in government and politics and B in English literature at AS and who is going to study international relations in university here. Here are some tips for AS government and politics, AS English literature, some general tips, and activities that you can do that you can put in your application for politics/international relations/law.


    I. Government and Politics

    1. General

    a) Check the time. Both exams are a mark a minute, but manageable.

    b) In each unit, you have four topics. DO NOT REVISE ALL FOUR TOPICS. In school, you will obviously be taught them all, but learning them all when you only need two or three topics for the exams is ridiculous. Choose two main topics per unit and focus on them. Choose a reserve topic which you will also revise, but not in as much depth as your two main topics. In the exam, go for your two main topics unless one of the questions is absolutely evil (hint: the June 2016 government and politics paper 1 had a TERRIBLE democracy question, though democracy is an easy topic in itself). If one of your main topics has a question that is terrible/evil/you have a hard time understanding and you think you can do a better job with your reserve topic's question, choose the question on your reserve topic. For the first unit, I chose democracy and pressure groups as my mains with elections as my reserve since these are the ones I found easiest; of course, you may have a different opinion, so choose your own main and reserve topics.

    In the first exam, you can get away with revising only two topics (I started revising so late I did not have the time to give my reserve topic the attention I should have but got 90% UMS anyway, although I would have got more if I had the time to complete the 10 marker), but in the second exam, you pretty much need those three topics since your two main topics may be questions 1 and 2 (you can only do one) and questions 3 and 4 (which carry 40 marks, again you can only do one) may be your reserve topic and the one you did not revise. This is what happened to me; for the second paper, my main were the constitution and the Parliament with the Prime Minister as my reserve, but questions 1 and 2 were on my main topics and questions 3 and 4 were on my reserve topic and the topic I did not revise.

    c) Follow the news! This is way more important than it seems since your teacher may ask you about the news in class and important changes may happen. This is especially important for political parties and perhaps pressure groups.

    d) Use examples that are as recent as possible. The EU membership referendum of 2016 is a much better example than the 1975 EC referendum.

    e) For 25 and 40 markers, you are not allowed to stand on the fence with whether something is good or bad or if you agree or not. You can only acknowledge the other side has a point but that your side is better for/because -insert reasons here-.

    f) If you can do it without using up more than ~20 seconds, write TWO examples. This is not exactly feasible in every single question, but when it is (e.g. when just mentioning the name of two secondary political parties is enough to count as two examples in a paragraph), do it.

    2. 5 markers

    Start with a definition of any specialist terms (ex: Political parties are groups of people with similar ideologies who aim to hold political power and become the government). Add in an example or two (two only if possible; keep in mind you are very tight on time, e.g. do not go into detail about what the Countryside Alliance and WWF did, but do mention the name of two pressure groups if naming them is enough to count as two examples). End with a small explanation. This should not be too long; about 7 lines and 5 minutes should be enough to get you full marks. In fact, you may even finish this question in less than five minutes, thus buying you a bit of time.

    3. 10 markers

    You just need three paragraphs. Follow a typical PEA (point, example, analysis) format. Usually, you can find the point with a relevant example in the book. The analysis does not need to be very lengthy, but should be there. In paper 2, take a single point from the source and two from your own knowledge, but this is not a must and you can do just fine with two points from the source and one from your own knowledge. About 5-7 lines per paragraph and 10 minutes are enough.

    4. 25 and 40 markers

    a) Start by defining any specialist terms if applicable. Show the two opposing sides of the question if there is one. If needed, show a continuity instead of two opposing sides (e.g. from Thatcher to Blair). End the introduction with your judgement. 4 lines is enough, but a longer introduction (6 lines) is acceptable if you need it. I myself did need a longer introduction; there is no shame in that.

    b) - For 25 markers, you always need five PEEL paragraphs that need to confer a balanced view while still supporting your argument. My favourite structure is to use an argument that supports my judgement, one against, followed by another one in favour, then another one contra, and to end with one more argument that is pro whatever I think. I stole this structure from a past student whose structure was praised in an examiner's report. I like this structure most since it shows both sides of the argument while still maintaining a strong start and ending that supports my thoughts. That being said, any structure will do as long as you put three paragraphs for your point and two against.

    - For 40 markers, this is basically the same, the only difference being that for 40 markers, you may need either four or five paragraphs. If you only need four paragraphs, my favourite structure is to start with a paragraph supporting my view, continue with two against, and finish with one that supports my view. Of course, any structure works, but starting off and ending with paragraphs against what you think does not really sit right with me and does not make for that strong an argument. In 40 markers, it may actually be a better idea to use more than one detailed example in order to support your argument, create a continuity or show a trend since you need to write a lot about little material. Your analysis needs to be bigger and more detailed than in 25 markers too.

    c) Your conclusion is basically a short summary. Just say that although you see the opposing sides has a point because -insert whatever points the other side support which you included in your essay-, you think your side is better/more accurate/whatever since -insert the points you included in your essays-. This should take 4-5 lines, 6 at most.

    d) The examples and analysis are VERY important. Some recent examples and a good analysis will get you the top marks.


    II. English Literature

    a) Quotes, quotes, and more quotes. Make a list of quotes you think will be useful in the exam and memorise it.

    b) Read articles and essays about the books you study. You may find a lot of great words that you can borrow either for analysis or as an example.

    c) Familiarise yourself with the writers you study. Read about who they were, how they lived, what they believed in, etc.

    d) Take into account context. Historical, economic, social, sociological, and geographic contexts are particularly important.

    e) Analysis is everything. Make sure your analysis is very detailed, certain, and concrete without being so long it becomes confusing.

    f) Use online resources to gain a better idea of what the poems and books are about, what they signify, etc.

    g) In your poetry essay, when you need to compare works or argue something about a poet's ideas/etc, cite three of their works. Any less and you seem like you do not really know much, any more and you may be spreading yourself too thin. Ideally, use a pro and a contra argument from one work, a pro and a contra argument from another work, and a final argument which supports your view from a third work.

    h) In the book/play essay, context becomes more important. Make one of your paragraph be related to the context.


    III. General Tips

    a) DO NOT remember more than you need. Sure, the PM is given seven roles in the politics book, but you only need five so mark the five roles you will memorise and do not give the others more than a passing glance (which, if your memory is very good, may be enough to remember them anyway). Make sure you know what you chose to revise well, though!

    b) Watch out for what the question asks! To what extent questions require a link and analysis that are a bit different from a discuss question.

    c) Try to start revising as early as possible (a.k.a. now). If you do not, then do not panic; you can do it!

    d) Read a lot of the best past essays and a few of the worst ones. Model your own answers after the best ones and look at the worst ones so you know what not to do. Give a passing glance to mediocre ones, but nothing more.

    e) Argue well. Politics and English literature are literally you arguing in favour of your ideas (which is what lawyers do when defending their clients anyway).

    f) Do NOT 'waffle'. Do not just sputter random BS and hope it counts as analysis.

    g) ALWAYS support your arguments with strong evidence and analysis.

    h) Argue with yourself! In a paragraph, you can start by supporting your view, then state why it may be wrong, only to retort and say why your view is better in the end with an argument that goes against the argument which does not support your view.

    i) If you decide to study combined Law with Politics or Law and Politics/Politics and Law, you will need to speak about both subjects in a more or less equal manner. If you study Law AND Politics/Politics AND Law, half of your PS should be about Law and the other about Politics. If you choose to study Law WITH Politics, 66-75% of your PS should be about Law and 25-33% about Politics.

    j) Be succint and clear. Do not make your sentences too long and make sure what you write does not get too fuzzy and 'waffle'-y.

    k) You may want to make a revision schedule. Very few can keep it up for a long time, but even sticking to it for a week is good. I made mine so I revised 6 hours per subject weekly (that means 24 hours a week in total) and managed to stick to it for three weeks, which was more than enough for me to get a good grasp of the study material.

    l) Obviously, revise in whatever way fits you best. I learn best by reading everything over and over again, but others learn better with flashcards and through other means.

    m) Make sure you understand your A-level material. If you do not, then there is little chance of doing well. Ponder on the material for hours if needed as long as you get it in the end.

    n) Use your classmates as resources. Discuss the material with them and you may find they bring up points that you can use in your analysis.

    o) Know your specification and what you need to know to get the marks by heart.

    p) Read examiner's reports and learn from them.


    IV. Activities to put in your application

    1. General

    a) Any school activity is useful. Become a student Ambassador, class representative or head boy/girl, join the Student Council or your school's newspaper, participate in RAG, tutor younger students if applicable, etc.

    b) Volunteering is great! Whether it is for a charity shop, an animal shelter, the Citizen's Advice Bureau, your local library or with an organisation you believe in, any voluntary work is good.

    c) Work experience looks amazing on a PS. Whether it is a week of work experience in a law firm or a part-time job at Tesco, it still shows the skills and experience you have gained to prepare yourself for university.

    d) Join a local Youth Group. My MP just set up one this year and I was supposed to be part of it, but I had to move to another country. You may find one in your area.

    e) Do the NCS. The international NCS is especially relevant to your subject choices, but cannot be done unless you do the NCS first. It costs 50 pounds and seems to be a very enjoyable experience.

    f) Go to a summer school. With your GCSEs, it should not be hard to get into.

    g) Go to taster days relevant to your subjects. This is not going to go into your PS and does not mean much, but UCAS will ask you if you attended any.

    h) Becoming a youth leader for the scouts or something could be interesting.


    2. Politics and international Relations

    a) Email your constituency office and ask if you could do some work experience with your MP. I suggest you do that right now since I had to wait a few months for my MP to be available (I think I emailed them in like October or December-January and only got the work experience in May). They will offer you either a day or a week if your MP agrees to it.

    b) Attend a MUN (Model United Nations). I went to UWE's MUN in November 2015 and it was very fun.

    c) Become a MYP (Member of the Youth Parliament) if possible. The Youth Parliament is not widely known, but it is great for aspiring politics/IR applicants.

    d) Volunteer for your constituency office if it is possible.

    e) Joining (or creating) the debating society and competing in debating or public speaking contests are good whether you apply for politics/IR or law.

    f) Visit the Parliament. Your politics class may go there for a school trip, in fact.

    g) Become a fundraiser.

    h) Joining a party or a pressure group would be nice.

    i) Volunteer for a pressure group.

    j) READ A LOT OF BOOKS. You need a paragraph about all the politics/IR books you read in your PS so you can show your interest in and understanding of the subject, so start reading politics/IR books now if you have not started already. (If you send me a PM with an email address, I will email you all the politics and IR books I have in PDF form. This goes for everyone who reads this.)

    k) Learning a foreign language is one of the best things you can do to become a better candidate for this subject.

    l) Visiting other countries can be linked to politics and international relations.

    m) Going abroad for, say, Camp America or with the WWOOF would be of tremendous help in your application.


    3. Law

    a) Try to see if you can get some work experience in a law firm or at a Court.

    b) Take the LNAT.

    c) I do not remember the name, but there was an event my school spoke about in which you could go to a court, see how a court looks like, and pretend you are a witness/jduge/etc with whoever else is interested. I think it was called the Mock something. See if anything that sounds like that appears in your school (if anyone can remember the exact name, please say it).

    d) Visit a Court.

    e) Joining (or creating) the debating society and competing in debating or public speaking contests are good whether you apply for politics/IR or law.

    f) This is nowhere near as important as it is for politics and international relations, but reading some books can help.


    Hope this helps a bit! Sorry because this post is extremely long and I cannot help with History and Business at all, but maybe this will be of some use. My GCSEs (ABBBCCCCCC) and mock results (ACDE) were nowhere as stellar as yours, but I still got AAAB at AS with minimum effort in the end, so I am sure you can do it.
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    (Original post by l-jan)




    :banana:WELCOME:banana:
    Grow Your Grades 2017



    School
    I'm in my first year of A Levels (Lower Sixth/Year 12) at my school. I will be taking an AS exam in one of my subjects in the summer, but my other three subjects are linear so I won't be taking external exams in those subjects until Summer 2018.

    Target/Predicted grades:
    • Business A (Linear)
    • English Literature A (Linear)
    • History A (Linear)
    • Politics A (Modular)
    Good luck I'm doing Literature, History and Politics at A2
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    Thank you so much for this advice !! I'll take it on board during my studies and leading up to UCAS- Good luck in your A2s!
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    (Original post by boringvoice)
    Good luck I'm doing Literature, History and Politics at A2
    Good luck with your exams too!
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    I'm doing Business and English Literature too!! You're lucky that you get to do Politics as an A Level, our sixth form doesn't offer it unfortunately. What's it like as a subject? Looking forward to more of your posts!!x
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    (Original post by lovegoodjpg)
    I'm doing Business and English Literature too!! You're lucky that you get to do Politics as an A Level, our sixth form doesn't offer it unfortunately. What's it like as a subject? Looking forward to more of your posts!!x
    Hi! Which novels/plays are you doing in English Lit? We're doing Othello, Handmaid's Tale and William Blake right now and I'm always interested in which books other schools are doing? Oh that's a shame if you wanted to do it, it was what made me want to stay at my school for sixth form. Politics is really good and interesting, we do the factual stuff such as constitution and different parts of the government, but we also do current events and have to keep on top of the news so our written work is relevant. Our AS is in British Politics, and next year we do US Politics so get a good scope of different countries' politics. It's a good combination with most other subjects as it's always changing and updating. Thank you!! I hope I keep on top of updating it! xx
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    (Original post by l-jan)
    Hi! Which novels/plays are you doing in English Lit? We're doing Othello, Handmaid's Tale and William Blake right now and I'm always interested in which books other schools are doing? Oh that's a shame if you wanted to do it, it was what made me want to stay at my school for sixth form. Politics is really good and interesting, we do the factual stuff such as constitution and different parts of the government, but we also do current events and have to keep on top of the news so our written work is relevant. Our AS is in British Politics, and next year we do US Politics so get a good scope of different countries' politics. It's a good combination with most other subjects as it's always changing and updating. Thank you!! I hope I keep on top of updating it! xx
    We're doing Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Mrs Dalloway, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Poems of the Decade! You've got some pretty good books, still haven't read the Handmaid's Tale but I need to. And we do Othello at A2! We did it at GCSE as well so at least I'll be used to the text. Politics sounds so interesting!!! I barely have the time at the moment to properly keep on top of the news and I'd love to be able to do it as part of a subject. And that's brill that you get to do US Politics next year as well! Ah I wish I could do Politics even more now. :daydreaming:
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    (Original post by lovegoodjpg)
    We're doing Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Mrs Dalloway, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Poems of the Decade! You've got some pretty good books, still haven't read the Handmaid's Tale but I need to. And we do Othello at A2! We did it at GCSE as well so at least I'll be used to the text. Politics sounds so interesting!!! I barely have the time at the moment to properly keep on top of the news and I'd love to be able to do it as part of a subject. And that's brill that you get to do US Politics next year as well! Ah I wish I could do Politics even more now. :daydreaming:
    We did Streetcar in September briefly as an intro into tragedy themed novels, I really liked it! IT's so handy to do books that you did for GCSE, I did Romeo & JUliet at GCSE which I'm glad about because I think it makes it easie to get to grips with other Shakespeare plays at A Level if you've done them previously, some people in my class have never done Shakespeare before. Yeah it's really good but there is a lot to keep on top of because everything is always changing! What other subjects are you doing? How are you enjoying them? X
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    Tuesday 17th January 2017

    Had a timed History essay question in class today about the most important factors in Mussolini's rise to power. I felt it went quite well, I knew the facts but I was uncertain about how well I linked them together.

    We have moved on from discussing The Handmaid's Tale to discussing William Blake Songs Of Innocence & Experience in English Lit. They're really interesting and the context of the industrial revolution in London at the time is a good insight.

    I'm going to be making sure I do detailed annotations of all the poems because I'm not as strong on poems as I am on novels so I want to make sure I keep that side of the subject up to scratch.

    I have a full Unit One Politics mock exam on Thursday 2nd Feb. There's 4 topics, you have to answer 2 sets of questions so I'm going to be revising 3 topics so I have some wiggle room incase there's a horrible question in one set. I'll be making flashcards and revision notes for these so I'll keep the page updated on those.

    We have the day off school tomorrow (yay!) because potential Year 7s and potential Sixth Formers are taking their entrance exams. I'm going trampolining with my friends first thing, so I'll be revising and completing homework later on.
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    (Original post by l-jan)
    We did Streetcar in September briefly as an intro into tragedy themed novels, I really liked it! IT's so handy to do books that you did for GCSE, I did Romeo & JUliet at GCSE which I'm glad about because I think it makes it easie to get to grips with other Shakespeare plays at A Level if you've done them previously, some people in my class have never done Shakespeare before. Yeah it's really good but there is a lot to keep on top of because everything is always changing! What other subjects are you doing? How are you enjoying them? X
    Yeah it is a pretty good play, I've done it for two years running now though and the characters are starting to get on my nerves a bit!! Yes I've been start bits of Shakespeare since Year 6, which I think stands you in good stead and you're not suddenly thrown in at the deep end and expected to be used to everything. Can't believe there are people in your class who haven't done Shakespeare at school! Our school must have been big on Shakespeare because we did it in some variation every year haha.

    Yeah that is a point. And when do they write the exam questions? Are they relevant to current politics or are they kind of a template that can be applied to any era of politics if that makes sense? I do AS Eng Lit, AS Drama and Theatre, AS Business, and A2 Psych. I'm enjoying them pretty much! Shame I have to drop Psychology this year because it's my favourite lesson. I'm finding Business quite boring to be honest, and not too challenging because our course is mostly just theory that you need to remember and recall in the exam. x
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    (Original post by lovegoodjpg)
    Yeah it is a pretty good play, I've done it for two years running now though and the characters are starting to get on my nerves a bit!! Yes I've been start bits of Shakespeare since Year 6, which I think stands you in good stead and you're not suddenly thrown in at the deep end and expected to be used to everything. Can't believe there are people in your class who haven't done Shakespeare at school! Our school must have been big on Shakespeare because we did it in some variation every year haha.

    Yeah that is a point. And when do they write the exam questions? Are they relevant to current politics or are they kind of a template that can be applied to any era of politics if that makes sense? I do AS Eng Lit, AS Drama and Theatre, AS Business, and A2 Psych. I'm enjoying them pretty much! Shame I have to drop Psychology this year because it's my favourite lesson. I'm finding Business quite boring to be honest, and not too challenging because our course is mostly just theory that you need to remember and recall in the exam. x
    Yes, we did some sort of Shakespeare every year but I feel like it only makes sense in an exam context and is only very important once you get to GCSE. At GCSE our year divided into two top sets and 3 bottom sets, the top two did Romeo and Juliet as their play and the bottom 3 did An Inspector Calls. Yeah, you're right about not being thrown in at the deep end I feel like I already have a good grasp on his laguage style prose verse etc.

    My year is the last year to take Politics as an AS, it will be a linear course starting in September. I don't think the questions are written with specific current events in mind but you have to include events as recent as possible. Some questions are specific, we do a lot about Thatcherism and Cameron's One Nation Conservatism. However, some questions are open, "To what extent do political parties agree over major policies" so I'd have to talk about Labour and Tories under Corbyn and May. THis is difficult because we don't really know enough about May to write an essay on her policies but I tend to just bring in some Cameron. If there was a question on referndums you'd haveto talk about the EU referendum, so it's basically fitting the current situation into wider questions. How come you have to drop psychology if it's your favourite lesson? And yes! Me too I find Business very boring I wish I'd done Economics instead becasue I feel like half of Business is common sense. Which plays are you doing in Drama?
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    (Original post by l-jan)
    Yes, we did some sort of Shakespeare every year but I feel like it only makes sense in an exam context and is only very important once you get to GCSE. At GCSE our year divided into two top sets and 3 bottom sets, the top two did Romeo and Juliet as their play and the bottom 3 did An Inspector Calls. Yeah, you're right about not being thrown in at the deep end I feel like I already have a good grasp on his laguage style prose verse etc.

    My year is the last year to take Politics as an AS, it will be a linear course starting in September. I don't think the questions are written with specific current events in mind but you have to include events as recent as possible. Some questions are specific, we do a lot about Thatcherism and Cameron's One Nation Conservatism. However, some questions are open, "To what extent do political parties agree over major policies" so I'd have to talk about Labour and Tories under Corbyn and May. THis is difficult because we don't really know enough about May to write an essay on her policies but I tend to just bring in some Cameron. If there was a question on referndums you'd haveto talk about the EU referendum, so it's basically fitting the current situation into wider questions. How come you have to drop psychology if it's your favourite lesson? And yes! Me too I find Business very boring I wish I'd done Economics instead becasue I feel like half of Business is common sense. Which plays are you doing in Drama?
    Yeah that seem to be happening to a lot of courses!! That all sounds so interesting though, would love to be able to study Politics in such an in depth way. Is AS Politics any different from AS Government and Politics? Because I know someone who does the latter!

    Because I'm in my final year of Psychology, I'm did the AS last year and now I'm on A2!! And yeah Econ looks a lot more interesting, a lot of my friends do that. And for theory we're doing Hedda Gabler, for performance 4.48 Psychosis (Headrot Holiday for the mock), and for live theatre theory we're doing Curious Incident!!
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    I got all A*s and As in A-levels 3/4 years ago, and it didn't help me that much in the real world when trying to find a grad job...
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    (Original post by lovegoodjpg)
    Yeah that seem to be happening to a lot of courses!! That all sounds so interesting though, would love to be able to study Politics in such an in depth way. Is AS Politics any different from AS Government and Politics? Because I know someone who does the latter!

    Because I'm in my final year of Psychology, I'm did the AS last year and now I'm on A2!! And yeah Econ looks a lot more interesting, a lot of my friends do that. And for theory we're doing Hedda Gabler, for performance 4.48 Psychosis (Headrot Holiday for the mock), and for live theatre theory we're doing Curious Incident!!
    Yeah it's the Government and Politics AS, I just always miss out the Government bit aha. Oh wow, good luck with the A2!! Love Curious Incident, a girl in Sixth Form directed a production of that in our school last year it's a good play!!
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    (Original post by james.proctor)
    I got all A*s and As in A-levels 3/4 years ago, and it didn't help me that much in the real world when trying to find a grad job...
    What did you do at uni?
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    Wednesday 25th January 2017

    Not updated in a week, been snowed under with work recently!

    Got my History essay on Mussolini's rise to power back and got 16/20 which is quite positive I think, as 15 is an A so hopefully I can build on this to get a high A in my end of year exams. Just beginning the anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany topic in the Germany half of History right now, then we would've got to the end of the 1918-45 period and can move on to the cold war.

    Also expecting my English Lit essay on a passage from Othello soon, which I feel went quite well. Begun reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles which is our next book after Othello on the course.

    Beginning to learn how to write 40-markers in Politics. Daunting on me that the exam is in 4 months and a bit. Unit 1 mock is in a week so looking forward to seeing how I perform in a full exam in exam conditions.
 
 
 
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