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    21/04/17


    Exhausted doesn't quite cut it! Definitely overdid the past papers weeks ago, and now I'm paying for it. Taking it a bit slower now, and using study time to do a mixture of quick practice questions (this site in particular has been great for practising IUPAC nomenclature) and look-cover-write-check tests for definitions and essay points. Family apparently think I'm calmer this year, but there's still some time to go before exams; there's a chance for panic to set in yet, haha. I have my surgery consultation next week, then after that (and a quick checkup beginning of May) I have a clear home stretch to exam day where I can really knuckle down and get definitions, key points, and methods burned into my head.

    Grandfather is still very unwell. It's horrible seeing him deteriorate as he is; every system in his body is basically shutting down one after the other and he lapses in and out of cognisance on the regular. At this point, there's nothing they can do—we're literally just waiting for him to die, and trying to make him as comfortable as possible in the meantime. He's refused to take his medication a few times; he and the rest of the family are coming to terms with the fact that he likely doesn't have much time left. Can't help but wonder if he's another victim of my exam time curse, or whatever we're calling my streak of bad luck when it comes to family members dying off whenever I sit an exam. I know it's coming, and I know it's going to rock the metaphorical boat that is my home life when he finally does pass. But we'll try not to dwell on that. For now, it's just a matter of making the most of the moments we have left with him, and trying to remember how sharp his mind was before things went downhill.

    Either way, I feel bad for being quiet on here. I've just been so tired at the end of every day that it really hasn't been a priority for me. I'm hoping I can get back to some degree of regular schedule again, soon, but no promises.

    Past Paper Progress

    ...I know I said I wasn't going to do any for a while, but the LCWC and question practice was getting tedious, so I snuck in the last Chem 4 June paper I had been holding onto.



    ...Don't look at me.

    CHEM4 JUN 15
    Spoiler:
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    TIME: I forced myself to sit down for the whole 1hr45 mins this time. Or tried to, anyway. With 20 minutes still left to go, I called it a day. Hah!
    MARKS: 80/100
    GRADE: A
    THOUGHTS:It felt like it went really well. Had several questions where I got full marks. A few things that have been brought to my attention as something I'm rusty in are benzene chemistry (bond lengths, enthalpies etc) and kW definitions. The rest of the marks were lost on, yet again, not reading the question properly. I certainly seem to have an issue with getting my brain to slow down long enough in order to read questions fully; I keep going into a haze where I can only get my mind to stop racing enough to skim-read everything, and even when I finish the paper and have time left I know is just for checking, I'm apparently reading something completely different to what's actually there. I might try popping some gum when I've finished papers; maybe that will cue me to relax and slow down and check things thoroughly.

    I think I've just spent so long not doing well at exams that my brain just goes into a panicked fog whenever anything remotely resembling a test comes up.
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    01/05/17


    It's been a while! Life is just really manic at the moment. I'm just about keeping my head above water, and while this blog does help me keep track of my progress, it is also exhausting keeping it going when sometimes all I want to do is just wake up, eat, work, eat, sleep - wash, rinse, repeat; no interruptions or deviations.


    I had my surgery consultation last week, which ate into the latter half of the week. The surgeon was really friendly, and at least I now know I'll have it done before going to uni - although it'll be tight, as the op is scheduled for the week of exam results aghhh.

    Trying to work around family has been difficult. My bike completely broke (after I had an accident with a car) so now I have to walk to the library every day, and because of my mum caring for step dad's parents, I no longer have the chance to go gym in the morning before studying. Means I have to wait for her to come home in order to go in the evening, which then makes my whole day many hours longer (and the gym workout less efficient, because it's so busy in there by the time 5pm rolls around). Eep.

    Looking at potentially just doing floor workouts at home and going for a jog before studying rather than going to the gym. It's not ideal, but at least it'll keep my fitness up for surgery, and clear my head before I go and do my practice papers.

    A little over a month to go now! A part of me just wants it over and done with, and another part is terrified. I know I'm capable of getting the grades I need, I just don't know how my brain is going to work in the exam. Actually -- a little elaboration on that under the next heading.


    The Number Game

    I've noticed I really struggle with writing down numerical characters or reading numbers. I could cry with frustration every time I mark a past paper and see I have, for some reason, written down the numbers completely backwards or for whatever reason have simple swapped one digit out for another entirely. I say frustrating because the workings are absolutely correct - it's just my input into the calculator and/or my reading off of it apparently just completely muddles the numbers. I can't seem to catch the mistakes and errors when checking my work during the exam, which now makes me super nervous—if I can't spot arithmetic mistakes until I have a mark scheme in front of me, how am I meant to trust what I'm writing is correct in the real exam?


    Kind of just feels like my body is doing everything it can to throw up obstacles haha. I'm going to try a number of things (some at partner's suggestion) to see if I can't combat it, but I honestly don't know how many techniques I'll be able to use in the actual thing, especially verbal techniques. I'm the only one in the room taking the exams, but I still doubt the invigilator will allow me to speak aloud to myself.

    1. Inputting data on the calculator using my off hand. While I'm somewhat ambidextrous, I'm not fluid enough to the extent that my off-hand doesn't slow me down. It might force my brain to actually concentrate on what I'm putting in if it's not my dominant hand punching it all in in a flurry.
    2. Saying my calculations out loud while I type them in. Saying them aloud when I write them down.
    3. Highlighting not just the questions, but parts of my answers that I need to calculate with.
    4. Write out a skeleton method for working out beforehand, then filling in the values. (Already do this, to some extent.)
    5. Do calculations in stages: I lose concentration really easily on long mathematical questions simply because I want to write every thought that comes into my head, and I rarely have the space to do so on the paper. I might try just writing out the method I'm going to use, doing part of the calculation, then going onto another question before coming back and doing some more calculator work. I'll have to find a way to tab incomplete questions, however, as there have been times when I've completely missed a highlighted incomplete question (maybe bring post-it notes in, or paper clips?).



    Hello Darkness, My Old Friend




    It's exam season, thus marks the return of: The Post-It Notes.

    It's become a running joke in my family that every year I've had exams I've gone around the house in a flurry of paperwork, textbooks, and pens, and put post-its up everywhere. I've dialled it back a bit in more recent years, but this weekend (after buying masking tape, because regardless of mum's insistence we had some, we definitely didn't) the little yellow hoohahs were stuck up and have assumed their positions glaring at me. Add to the fact that my iPhone camera is below potato quality and makes every photograph look like a film-reel from a found camera in a horror movie, and my documentation of the ritual has managed to look quite ominous.








    And a vaguely threatening cis-platin:




    Starting past-papers in earnest again tomorrow; library was shut today so spent the time spring-cleaning, planning dinners for the week, and sorting things for health. Will need to spend some time on the phone tomorrow trying to rearrange this surgery date but, with luck, I will be back to my regular posting here with results from papers. Hopefully, they'll be better this time round.
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    02/05/17


    :bunny:41 days to exams. :bunny:

    Did yoga before bed and made sure I had 8+ hours sleep last night. Think it's made a positive difference as I feel a bit more alert today, rather than my usual grogginess. Tried to sort out hospital date but will have to wait until tomorrow to hear back, as secretary is on leave. Revised Period 3 trends on the walk to the library; was attacked by hordes of ladybirds on the walk back. :laugh:

    Past Paper Progress

    CHEM4 JAN 10
    Spoiler:
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    TIME: 34 mins to spare
    MARKS: 85/100
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS:Quite pleased with how this paper went - pretty easy and straightforward. I dropped 3 marks for a misread of a question, another 1 mark for only rounding to 2sf rather than 3, and a significant proportion of the marks from question 8 due to general sloppiness and misreading of questions.

    Still a bit dodgy on NMR spectra peak guesstimating, so will revise that over the weekend. Also will go over mechanism/reaction conditions, as dropped a few marks on basic things like that in the latter half of the paper. (It's always a choice between aqueous/anhydrous, reflux, concentrated/XS, ethanolic, acidic/alkaline etc - but I normally get the combinations wrong, haha!)


    CHEM5 JAN 10
    Spoiler:
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    TIME: 30 mins to spare
    MARKS: 81/100
    GRADE: A
    THOUGHTS:I'm so mad lmao. 1 mark off an A*! Still, bagged the 105 UMS I've been wanting to achieve on each Chem paper, so I can't really complain; an A* in both would just make me feel much more comfortable. Eep. I need to go over catalysts and bond enthalpies(esp. WRT Born-Haber Cycles) but overall a lot of the marks were dropped on reading comprehension, mathematical errors, and basic omission of things I thought were obviously implied. Felt like quite an easy paper, and if I messed up on a question it was less because of lack of knowledge, and more a case of struggling with application or wording.
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    03/05/17


    40 days to exams.

    Ohmygod guys. Chemistry felt a breeze today. I think yoga before bed + making sure I have 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep MINIMUM has made a fair bit of difference when it comes to allowing me to overcome the fog when working. I've been trying to drink more water too; the unintended side effect of that is that I get halfway through a paper and desperately want to pee. :facepalm:Maybe lay off on the liquids a little.

    Made a really good chicken tikka today which I basted in butter then chargrilled over a naked flame. Left it marinading overnight so that it would be nice and tender and flavoursome come the morning - but forgot to add yogurt to the to the marinade so ended up watering down the spices a little when I added it last minute. Had that with some yogurt with mint and coriander fresh from the garden, and grilled broccoli and pepper. Was quite yum! Glad I did all the work last night as it was ready ASAP haha.

    Past Paper Progress

    CHEM4 JAN 11
    Spoiler:
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    TIME: 25 mins to spare
    MARKS: 87/100
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS:Really enjoyed this paper. Most of the marks I lost were nomenclature errors. I lost a load on the acid-base calculations but my brain just completely melted on those. Fortunately, I got near enough full marks on the other questions which made up for the 5 I lost those.

    Definitely need to redo some work on nomenclature (or numbering) and NMR peak numbers. Otherwise errors were mainly just RTFQ in nature, which I'm not too worried about.



    CHEM5 JAN 11
    Spoiler:
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    TIME: 27 mins to spare
    MARKS: 87/100
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS: 115 UMS! So, so pleased with how this went! My confidence wasn't too great on some of the questions, which cost me some marks (esp. the last question, which I also apparently forgot to do part of a calculation on, for whatever reason!). Laziness and sloppiness cost me the other marks.

    Must remember to go over enthalpy definitions and H2O2 reactions this weekend.
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    06/05/17


    37 days to exams.

    I ended up not visiting my dad this weekend; he took forever to get back to me, and by the time he did RSVP all the cheap journey tickets were gone, and I'm not keen on spending more than £5 to go crash for a few days. (totally not a cheapskate)

    I managed to finally find a time when both me and the farm are free so I'm popping over to see them tomorrow. Meant to just be a coffee and catch up, but I'll take my jods and boots just in case the opportunity to ride does come up. It's been six months, aghhhh.

    Today (Saturday) I've been working on practicing Hardy-Weinberg problems, Fe2+/Fe3+ aqueous solution chemistry, H2O2 reactions, and Period 3 oxide structures. Yesterday was a whistle-stop recap of numbering in nomenclature, predicting NMR spectra (using this handy website to generate random compounds for myself to work out the number of peaks for) and conventional cell representations; the areas I've found I'm dropping marks on the most in past papers. Will be glad to have a break this afternoon, however.

    Past Paper Progress

    (inputting this without the papers in front of me, so trying to remember thoughts on and problems with them in hindsight...)

    CHEM5 JAN 12
    Spoiler:
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    TIME:
    MARKS: 75/100
    GRADE: A
    THOUGHTS:An okay paper. Had a long list of issues that had cropped up in the paper, but fortunately a lot of it is just a case of quick re-caps to keep the information fresh in my head. Bit bummed to miss out on an A*, but hopefully after revision this weekend and can get back to my UMS busting again.


    BIOL4 JUN 12
    Spoiler:
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    TIME:
    MARKS: 67/75
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS: Full UMS! A little wobbly on Hardy-Weinberg in this one, hence my practicing it over the weekend to build my confidence up. I've been neglecting bio and physics in favour of chemistry, so have moved around my past papers so I'm not constantly cramming chem all the time; hopefully that'll mean I won't get rusty in between doing the other subjects. It's difficult, I find, to arrange a balance between stuffing my head full of chemistry - my weakest exam, and the one I need the highest marks in - and biology and physics which I only need Cs in to get my grades. I don't want to get cocky and neglect them, you know?

    But yes. Full UMS. Hand cramp by the end of it, but the 5 markers were really nice, and the questions were all pretty straight forward and not worded strangely, as AQA seems to enjoy doing. Harrumph.
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    11/05/17



    32 days to exams.

    Cut a boy some slack, please!

    I started out this week well, in that I managed to make a pleasant day trip out of the hospital visit on Monday (incl. a cheeky bite to eat at Chiquitos ) and went riding Tuesday evening (first time in six months - AHHH). But then it all went downhill from there. Got home from the farm on Tuesday to find out that my grandfather has had yet another stroke, so my family were up in A&E until the early hours of the morning. I tried to wait up for them, but I was too exhausted in the end.

    Woke up yesterday morning with a thumping headache. Managed to shake it off around lunch time, walked to the library, sat and did some chemistry practice questions from the Letts Revise AS & A2 book, but by the time I got around to doing the physics paper the headache had return and it was taking all of my waking strength not to fall asleep on the paper. Ended up coming home early in the end and sleeping off the headache.

    Then, lo and behold, upon waking and going downstairs to say hi to parents (hadn't seen them since Monday; we're like ships in the night) an argument started up about my post-surgery R&R stay with my partner. They went through a multitude of reasons why they didn't want me staying there after my operation, which all in all basically boiled down to "okay, but we don't like you staying with him, because of him".

    ...Every time I think we've moved past this, my step-dad develops a new reason to dislike him. I feel awful, because the poor boy knows my step-dad's attitude towards him, and I can't even give him a reason for it: he's always courteous to him (as he is with everyone), and he's certainly never done me any harm. I don't know if it's because he's older than me (by the same amount my step-dad is older than mum, so...), or whether it's because he doesn't understand how things work sexually, a bit of homophobia, or whether it's a race thing...I don't know. And honestly I'm exhausted with trying to sort it out. At the end of the day, he gets on with everyone else in my family, and he's good to me. That's all I care about.

    As far as surgery is concerned...

    I'm tempted to book a hotel for the day my dressings are due to be taken off. That way mum can stay with me for that last leg and get her fretting out of her system. My main concern is that my dressings are being removed either the day of, or just after, results day. And I really don't know if I'm going to have the strength and stamina to deal with UCAS and surgery at the same time; I get myself into a state normally, yet alone when I've just had an op.

    Another worry: my pre-op check up with the nurse has been pushed back a week. I've been trying to bring my op date forward - but now I'm terrified they're going to push that back as well. If the doctor could've just referred me in September like I asked, rather than making me wait another 4 months, I might have got in in June. Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose. Just feels like a constant uphill battle sometimes.

    But anyway. Enough dwelling. I'm just venting here because it's a bit lonely at the moment, and if I don't keep myself busy, I remember exams are coming and I want to just curl up into a ball of stress and die. I never used to be so worked up about exams. I don't know what happened. :ashamed2:

    Here - have some horses to lighten the mood!




    My pony looks pregnant. (jk she's just a porker)



    I try not to have favourites when it comes to the farm's horses, because I help look after them all (and have ridden them all).
    But...I do have a soft spot for Razzle. She's an a**hole to basically everyone, but a brave little speed demon on a ride. GOTTA GO FAST.



    Past Paper Progress

    CHEM4 JAN 13
    Spoiler:
    Show




    MARKS: 88/100
    GRADE: A
    THOUGHTS:Easy paper. Dropped silly marks in places, but overall got 105 UMS so can't really complain. Grade boundaries were super high (90 for an A*), but that's to be expected with such a straightforward paper. Still need to brush up on my benzene vs. cyclohexa-1,3,5-triene chemistry; that's my main take away from this!



    G484 JUN 13
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 56/60
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS: Full UMS! Majority of marks dropped were down to omission of certain clauses or just generally being sloppy and lazy in written answers (probably not helped by my being half-asleep when doing the paper!). Overall, nothing to spooky. Job done!





    BIOL4 JUN 15

    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 52/75
    GRADE: B
    THOUGHTS:

    What an absolutely bloody mess. 1 mark off an A, as well. A lot of my errors were made in not being specific enough, but the paper felt very focused on tiny parts of the syllabus, rather than covering the main big topics, if that makes any sense? Either way, it wasn't the best of papers, and honestly the examiner's report and mark scheme were both unhelpful and kind of unclear. I need to go over:
    • Productivity
    • Demographic transition
    • Mark-release-recapture
    • Anaerobic respiration

    as those are my main areas of weakness at the moment. Hmm.




    I can't wait for more of this when exams are over...






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    23/05/17



    20 days to exams.

    I...yeah. I'm going to explain further in a spoiler the situation at the moment, but basically things have taken a downhill plummet and...

    I mean. I'm going to the library and studying because I have to. I'm on autopilot now. I'm paddling just to keep my head above water. A part of me is really angry that everything that has happened, has, after all this work I've put in. It felt so much like I'd made progress this year and would be in a better position and yet despite my fighting and trying to get myself into as good a place as possible, the universe still seems to have turned around and spat on me.

    But anyway...that's for under the cut.

    Mum and step-dad are off to RHS Chelsea from Thursday, so I'll at least have some peace until bank holiday Monday. Been riding a few more times since the last update; definitely trying to get as much in as possible before surgery.

    Spoiler:
    Show


    Where to start...

    Okay.

    1. Going back a week or so, my mum announced out of the blue that she and my step-dad have had (yet another) falling out. And, as these things tend to go, she's started looking at places to move out. She suggested I move out for a bit to live with my grandparents or partner or...whatever. Honestly, I don't know, or care at this point. They do this on a regular basis, and frankly I'm getting tired of it. It would be nice to have a single exam season where they aren't stirring up sh*te again. Boyfriend lost it when I told him; I think the only reason I haven't blown a fuse is because I'm just so exhausted, and at this point I'm immune to it all. I just want to sit my exams now.
    2. Cousin was rushed into hospital last Thursday to have an emergency ex-lap, which turned into a removal of part of his bowel, and appendix. He's recovering at the moment, and so far seems okay, and they're hoping he'll still retain continence and function. He's at a hospital ~1hr away from me, so have set aside a day to go and visit him and see how he's doing. Just came as a complete shock - and wish they'd done it sooner. They've been "investigating" for months, and waited until it got this bad to do anything about it because "it might be" Crohn's along with a bowl impaction (the treatment is still the same: remove the impacted part, that had gone into necrosis).
    3. My dog's ill. Again. The vet isn't wholly sure it isn't kidney failure, or the beginning of it anyway. Of course I'm worried. She was perking up a little by the time I left dad's a weekend ago, but it's just another indication that she's getting on a bit now. I try not to think about it, if I can.
    4. Step dad's parents are ill again; his mother has a minor spinal fracture (or something; I didn't get mum's explanation of it) and his dad has had another series of mini strokes since the last update. Step dad's adamant he's coping with it (he's not), and mum is getting frustrated caring for them - not that she doesn't want to do it, but she's just finding it hard sometimes. Stress adds to stress and ends up as point number 1.

    I've vented a fair bit to partner the past few weeks. Some things I feel really selfish complaining about, but as he reminded me, it's natural to feel a little resentful of others when their illness/depression/financial situation means you have to stop doing certain things, or your own needs are no longer a priority. Still doesn't make me feel any better, but at least there's the reassurance that he felt some bitterness and irritation when caring for his own granny.

    I can feel myself getting tired and bogged down again. If I had the money, I'd be tempted to just get a hotel room or small flat for the ~3 weeks leading up to exams, just to get away from everything and everyone. The money issues at home, the constant arguments and pettiness, the snide blaming of me for things that are absolutely nothing to do with me (apparently my existence is cause for arguments?), and the ever-growing pressure of exams looming overhead.

    I want to write more, but this is a study blog, and not a personal diary, and I am just...too tired right now to try and articulate everything. Aurgh.




    Past Paper Progress

    (oh boy do I have a load to add...)


    CHEM5 JAN 13
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 82/100
    GRADE: A
    THOUGHTS: 107 UMS, as hoped. 1 mark off of an A*, which I'm a little gutted by, but the marks lost are nothing a little last-minute polishing won't resolve. Among the topics I need to revise briefly are: MnO4-/Mn2+ reactions(more the catalytic reactions, than the formation of the catalyst); reactions atG ≥ 0; why ionic bonding = basic oxide; bond angles; and the colours of Cr/V/Mn solutions. I feel so much more confident in aqueous ions, Born-Haber calculations, P3 structure, and electrochemistry; it's a relief.



    CHEM4 JAN 12
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 88/100
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS: 110 UMS - tidy. 10 UMS off of full marks! As with many of these papers, I really just need to iron out the creases in my definitions and basic explanations—things that are only 1 or 2 marks per paper, but those 1 or 2 marks can make all the difference!



    G484 JUN 11
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 51/60
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS:An easy enough paper. One thing to take away is that I need to brush up on SHM forces and energies relationships.



    G484 JUN 10
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 50/75
    GRADE: A
    THOUGHTS: Few marks off an A* (52) but nonetheless, 77 UMS is nothing to sniff at. Need to go over examples ofbeneficial resonance; i.e. MRI scanning. I more or less had it down, but my wording and such could do with polishing.



    G484 JUN 12
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 48/60
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS: 86 UMS. Finished this very quickly, but did struggle in some areas. In particular I needed to go over weightlessness, and practice some of those weird ratio questions. I've done a bit on both, but finding questions that are about the specific ratio calculations I mean has been tricky.




    BIOL4 JUN 11
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 67/75
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS:Another full UMS paper. Did this one before I went over the Krebs and Calvin Cycles again, so the notes I made at the end of the paper to revise those things have since been resolved.



    BIOL4 JUN 10
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 61/75
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS: Full UMS. Really baffled by how 61/75 can be anywhere close to full marks, but hey ho! Still need to go over the mark-release-recapture equation, just to get my confidence up.



    BIOL4 JUN 14
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 67/75
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS:Full UMS. Dropped marks mainly on omission and misreading rather than lack of understanding. Really enjoyable paper.



    BIOL4 JUN 13
    Spoiler:
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    MARKS: 64/75
    GRADE: A*
    THOUGHTS: Full UMS. Notes on this paper were to revise respiration and photosynthesis summaries, and integrated systems for pest control, which I have since gone over.

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    Times may be tough but stay strong and keep on persevering YOU can do it!
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    Also I noticed your getting really high marks on chem 5 papers, can you share some tips on how to score high on these papers i am struggling atm. Thank you
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    (Original post by blueriver)
    Times may be tough but stay strong and keep on persevering YOU can do it!
    (Original post by blueriver)
    Also I noticed your getting really high marks on chem 5 papers, can you share some tips on how to score high on these papers i am struggling atm. Thank you
    Thank you. I keep telling myself that in 4 weeks it'll all be over and nothing will matter haha.

    If you're doing the old spec AQA Chem 5 I would highly recommend using the A-Level Chemistry site to practice questions and check you have all the notes you need, as well as Chemguide's notes and questions. Other than that, just do as many past papers as you can, and use them to assess your weak areas. Compare your answers with the examiner's reports to find out if you're struggling with things others tend to struggle with, what mistakes are commonly made, etc. The reports really are an invaluable resource to be using; it's basically a bunch of people who'll be marking your work telling you what small mistakes regularly cost marks, and areas in the syllabus that candidates tend to be lacking in.

    When you know what your weak areas are, target them. Don't bother going over things you know you're confident in at this stage. Use flashcards and look-cover-copy-check techniques to get definitions and basic theory stuck in your head. Do topical practice questions in 15 minute chunks, and try to break up revision with some physical activity, or watching a short (<30 min, ~10 minute preferably) episodes or clips of your favourite show, as this will keep you interested in your work and help you relate your studying to other activities you have done, thus improving your recall.

    I would also suggest having a watch of E Rintoul's videos on YouTube: he does a few past paper run-throughs, and also has video lessons on particular topics. They're quite calm and clear, so they're something you can watch before bed/during breakfast/on the walk to class etc if you find yourself struggling to cram extra revision hours into your day.

    Good luck!

    ALSO: If it's more exam technique you're struggling with, I would suggest practicing papers under timed conditions, and trying to finish with ~10 mins left to go over and check your work. Any more and you may find yourself editing answers simply because you have nothing left to do, and any less and you may rush through checks of calculations.
    If you find yourself pushed for time, do as many of the big-marker questions that you can FIRST. If you find a question has a very high time needed:marks gained ratio, leave it for now and come back to it. Go for the questions that will be relatively easy for you and are worth the highest marks, then work down to the hardest questions and those worth the least marks. This way if you are in a position where you have c. 5 minutes left, and haven't finished all the questions, you won't have missed any 6+ markers at the back of the paper, and hopefully any questions left unanswered will simply be ones you will have to guess on, or that you probably wouldn't have been able to answer had you done the paper page by page anyway. If that makes sense?

    Also be VERY careful on wording for definitions in Chem 5.
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    (Original post by Scitty)
    Thank you. I keep telling myself that in 4 weeks it'll all be over and nothing will matter haha.

    If you're doing the old spec AQA Chem 5 I would highly recommend using the A-Level Chemistry site to practice questions and check you have all the notes you need, as well as Chemguide's notes and questions. Other than that, just do as many past papers as you can, and use them to assess your weak areas. Compare your answers with the examiner's reports to find out if you're struggling with things others tend to struggle with, what mistakes are commonly made, etc. The reports really are an invaluable resource to be using; it's basically a bunch of people who'll be marking your work telling you what small mistakes regularly cost marks, and areas in the syllabus that candidates tend to be lacking in.

    When you know what your weak areas are, target them. Don't bother going over things you know you're confident in at this stage. Use flashcards and look-cover-copy-check techniques to get definitions and basic theory stuck in your head. Do topical practice questions in 15 minute chunks, and try to break up revision with some physical activity, or watching a short (<30 min, ~10 minute preferably) episodes or clips of your favourite show, as this will keep you interested in your work and help you relate your studying to other activities you have done, thus improving your recall.

    I would also suggest having a watch of E Rintoul's videos on YouTube: he does a few past paper run-throughs, and also has video lessons on particular topics. They're quite calm and clear, so they're something you can watch before bed/during breakfast/on the walk to class etc if you find yourself struggling to cram extra revision hours into your day.

    Good luck!

    ALSO: If it's more exam technique you're struggling with, I would suggest practicing papers under timed conditions, and trying to finish with ~10 mins left to go over and check your work. Any more and you may find yourself editing answers simply because you have nothing left to do, and any less and you may rush through checks of calculations.
    If you find yourself pushed for time, do as many of the big-marker questions that you can FIRST. If you find a question has a very high time needed:marks gained ratio, leave it for now and come back to it. Go for the questions that will be relatively easy for you and are worth the highest marks, then work down to the hardest questions and those worth the least marks. This way if you are in a position where you have c. 5 minutes left, and haven't finished all the questions, you won't have missed any 6+ markers at the back of the paper, and hopefully any questions left unanswered will simply be ones you will have to guess on, or that you probably wouldn't have been able to answer had you done the paper page by page anyway. If that makes sense?

    Also be VERY careful on wording for definitions in Chem 5.
    Wow thank you so much, i found this extremely helpful. Will definitely be incorporating these techniques, again wish you all the best in your exams!
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    (Original post by blueriver)
    Wow thank you so much, i found this extremely helpful. Will definitely be incorporating these techniques, again wish you all the best in your exams!
    You're welcome. And cheers!
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    QUICK UPDATE — 30/05/17

    So the real countdown begins! In less than 3 weeks time, I'll be done. No more A-Levels. Bid a tearful farewell to my guy after spending the weekend together, but we're ready to crack open the champagne (or more realistically, lie in bed watching trash) when he comes to visit once exams are up.

    I'm feeling quite confident for my biology, and honestly I think Chem 4 will go really well, too. Chem 5 and Physics I know my stuff, but I don't know how well I'll handle curve-balls on the day.

    I popped into college to remind myself of where my exams are (room 101 - LMFAO) and on Thursdays and Fridays, when it's empty, I'll go in and do the last few past papers I've saved - the 2016 AQA papers and, if I can delete my answers from the scan of it, the 2016 G484 paper (but if not, I've kept back an extra physics paper to do in the exam room as a "warm up" for exams).

    It doesn't feel real yet. Surprising how quickly May has flown by, and yet it doesn't feel like exams are particularly close either?

    Huh.

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    QUICK UPDATE — 05/06/17

    Ugh. So I went through the scan of my G484 2016 paper today and deleted all of my answers in order to print it out and do it in college as my last practice run. Why OCR can't release their papers when AQA do (May the following year) I will never know. I highly dislike them as an exam board, anyway. Forever grateful I got out of doing Salters Chem. :grumble:

    Now that I have the Jun 16 paper I did the 2014 paper today, and lord above was it a fecking nightmare. It felt exactly like last year's paper — just aimlessly running through the questions having no idea what's going on and suddenly questioning all of my physics. I will admit I had a little cry, because it feels like all this work I've been doing to build up my confidence and scrub up my grades is wearing off now that exams are near. I've started taking Kalms in the hope that it'll reduce my anxiety, but so far I don't feel any different, and I can feel the panic beginning to creep in now that we're going live in 7 days.

    The fact that the paper was 65% for an A was a little more reassuring, and I do only need a C in G484 to get a B overall so, really, anything C or above is fine, but getting a B rather than the usual A* was just so crushing and that combined with the news on London, a friend ending up in hospital for an attempted suicide yesterday (and then saying it was because I didn't pay her enough attention), and a lack of sleep just has me spiraling. I hate feeling like I'm losing control of things on this last stretch, especially because it spurs everyone (including myself) to then doubt whether university is the right thing for me because my brain apparently can't handle exams.

    I don't know. I'm exhausted, and I want it to be over now.

    And now, back to cramming.


    ...Heck, I want some chocolate.
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    08/06/17



    4 days to exams.

    Writing this while very sleepy and winding down with Noel Fitzpatrick!



    Aww yiss, this is my jam.

    I've managed to get into college these past few days to do some work, just to acclimatise myself to the room and get used to working in there. I'll be so glad when exams are over. I've hit a patch of melancholy, but I'm chalking that up to exam blues, and am doing all I can to keep on top of it. I've started taking Kalms just to help combat any anxiety before it starts, and hopefully this should be me covered for any meltdowns I may have. Hahaha...haha...*ahem*.

    I wrote to Liverpool as well as the exams officer at my college notifying them of my family troubles. I doubt it will make any difference - if it is taken into consideration, it's only 1% (if that) - but at least I've let the uni know well ahead of time, so they may take it into account come results day.

    I've started doing up meals in advance to freeze, and defrost over exams, so I don't have to cook at all during the week. I'm going to treat myself and have chocolate mini weetabix on exam mornings; just a little pick me up that I can look forward to when I wake up. Every little helps. That, and getting a minimum of 8 hours sleep a night should give me a better start to the day and ensure my brain is as in as good a working order as possible for D-Day.

    At the end of the day, luck will decide how things go on the day.Honestly, I don't doubt my ability to do well this year. I know my stuff. Over the course of this year, self-teaching has showed me how much I can do when I put my mind to it. I've managed to bring myself up from a D in chemistry to A/A* (AND I NOW ENJOY IT!) with zero input from anyone else. I've kept myself motivated, overcome struggles, and worked through problems using my own resources, all while venturing through my first serious relationship, organising work experience, helping others with their own studying and uni applications, dealing with family troubles, and sorting out health problems (including a lymphoma scare of my own) and getting ready for surgery. I hate singing my own praises, but I'm proud of what I've managed this year. And I hope that on August 17th, when I'm healing from my op and I'm getting results in and finding out where life's taking me, I can at least look back on what I've written here and agree that, yes, I gave it my all, and I've done well to get this far.

    And with that sap over...some update on work...


    Past Paper Progress

    (the last few hurdles...)


    CHEM4 JUN 16
    Spoiler:
    Show

    MARKS: 78/100
    GRADE: A
    PREVIOUS GRADE: D
    THOUGHTS: The UMS converter isn't working right now, so no idea what that is in UMS, but point is — it's an A. And a few marks into the boundary, at that. (Although 5 marks off of an A*, poo.) I made a few guff ups, like mixing up calculations for moles at equilibrium, and eliminating some basic (obvious) points. I had a good amount of time spare at the end, but this did feel like a long paper; it seemed to go on and on. Generally there were no curve-balls (2016 me is probably snorting at that comment) - any questions I found difficult were not hard as much as they were just long, and time consuming, and contained plenty of places to **** up. There was a very high number of m/z and reaction condition questions I found, too. The former was fine, but the latter I dropped marks on so. So, with that in mind, my revision for the last few days leading up to Chem 4 will be:
    • Reaction conditions
    • Test tube reactions for identifying groups
    • Ka theory
    • Hydrogen bonding


    BIOL4 JUN 16
    Spoiler:
    Show

    MARKS: 59/75
    GRADE: A*
    PREVIOUS GRADE: C
    THOUGHTS: Just on the borderline for an A*, but considering I only need a C or so in this paper to get the maximum grade I can achieve, I'm pretty happy with that! There were a lot of data interpretation questions in this paper, compared to previous years - or so I thought, anyway. Several questions appeared to be quite similar so I side-eyed them quite a bit while writing, and wondered if I'd just not answered them properly. The long (5+ mark) questions were simple, though, so those were easy marks to pick up. Last-minute revision will be in the following topics:
    • DNA analysis to distinguish different species
    • Glycolysis + Link Reaction
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    (Original post by Scitty)
    08/06/17



    4 days to exams.

    Writing this while very sleepy and winding down with Noel Fitzpatrick!




    Aww yiss, this is my jam.


    I've managed to get into college these past few days to do some work, just to acclimatise myself to the room and get used to working in there. I'll be so glad when exams are over. I've hit a patch of melancholy, but I'm chalking that up to exam blues, and am doing all I can to keep on top of it. I've started taking Kalms just to help combat any anxiety before it starts, and hopefully this should be me covered for any meltdowns I may have. Hahaha...haha...*ahem*.

    I wrote to Liverpool as well as the exams officer at my college notifying them of my family troubles. I doubt it will make any difference - if it is taken into consideration, it's only 1% (if that) - but at least I've let the uni know well ahead of time, so they may take it into account come results day.

    I've started doing up meals in advance to freeze, and defrost over exams, so I don't have to cook at all during the week. I'm going to treat myself and have chocolate mini weetabix on exam mornings; just a little pick me up that I can look forward to when I wake up. Every little helps. That, and getting a minimum of 8 hours sleep a night should give me a better start to the day and ensure my brain is as in as good a working order as possible for D-Day.

    At the end of the day, luck will decide how things go on the day.Honestly, I don't doubt my ability to do well this year. I know my stuff. Over the course of this year, self-teaching has showed me how much I can do when I put my mind to it. I've managed to bring myself up from a D in chemistry to A/A* (AND I NOW ENJOY IT!) with zero input from anyone else. I've kept myself motivated, overcome struggles, and worked through problems using my own resources, all while venturing through my first serious relationship, organising work experience, helping others with their own studying and uni applications, dealing with family troubles, and sorting out health problems (including a lymphoma scare of my own) and getting ready for surgery. I hate singing my own praises, but I'm proud of what I've managed this year. And I hope that on August 17th, when I'm healing from my op and I'm getting results in and finding out where life's taking me, I can at least look back on what I've written here and agree that, yes, I gave it my all, and I've done well to get this far.

    And with that sap over...some update on work...


    Past Paper Progress

    (the last few hurdles...)


    CHEM4 JUN 16
    Spoiler:
    Show


    MARKS: 78/100
    GRADE: A
    PREVIOUS GRADE:D
    THOUGHTS: The UMS converter isn't working right now, so no idea what that is in UMS, but point is — it's an A. And a few marks into the boundary, at that. (Although 5 marks off of an A*, poo.) I made a few guff ups, like mixing up calculations for moles at equilibrium, and eliminating some basic (obvious) points. I had a good amount of time spare at the end, but this did feel like a long paper; it seemed to go on and on. Generally there were no curve-balls (2016 me is probably snorting at that comment) - any questions I found difficult were not hard as much as they were just long, and time consuming, and contained plenty of places to **** up. There was a very high number of m/z and reaction condition questions I found, too. The former was fine, but the latter I dropped marks on so. So, with that in mind, my revision for the last few days leading up to Chem 4 will be:
    • Reaction conditions
    • Test tube reactions for identifying groups
    • Ka theory
    • Hydrogen bonding


    BIOL4 JUN 16
    Spoiler:
    Show


    MARKS: 59/75
    GRADE: A*
    PREVIOUS GRADE:C
    THOUGHTS: Just on the borderline for an A*, but considering I only need a C or so in this paper to get the maximum grade I can achieve, I'm pretty happy with that! There were a lot of data interpretation questions in this paper, compared to previous years - or so I thought, anyway. Several questions appeared to be quite similar so I side-eyed them quite a bit while writing, and wondered if I'd just not answered them properly. The long (5+ mark) questions were simple, though, so those were easy marks to pick up. Last-minute revision will be in the following topics:
    • DNA analysis to distinguish different species
    • Glycolysis + Link Reaction
    Hey!! I can relate to this so much despite being at GCSE.. we both know we've tried our absolute hardest and the blogs are a record of that.. it's the most important thing to know you couldn't have tried any harder, right?

    Also I do the exact same thing with cereal in the morning lol. It's so sad but I actually really look forward to that little bowl of chocolate krave and a coffee in the morning before the exam haha!!
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    (Original post by misstiah_h)
    Hey!! I can relate to this so much despite being at GCSE.. we both know we've tried our absolute hardest and the blogs are a record of that.. it's the most important thing to know you couldn't have tried any harder, right?

    Also I do the exact same thing with cereal in the morning lol. It's so sad but I actually really look forward to that little bowl of chocolate krave and a coffee in the morning before the exam haha!!
    Exactly! And seeing the progress made gives you inspiration and motivation to pull through and see it to the end. Not sure I would've made as much ground in things if I hadn't had the blog keeping me accountable. It's been a sort of stand in for a rigorous course timetable, for me.

    Food is definitely a great motivator haha. My mum used to make me peanut butter + banana sandwiches for my GCSE exams. I'd eat one half before, and save the other half as a treat afterwards. Simple things! :moon: Remembering that's making me hungry…

    Good luck with your exams! I have every faith you'll do excellently. 👍 Go out and smash 'em!!
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    09/06/17



    3 days to exams.

    Finished the last paper today: Chem 5. Was going to do some basic look-cover-copy-check revision afterwards but the maintenance folks came in and pinched the chairs, so decided to call it a day and head home for some rest and to write up this blog entry. It dawned on me on the drive home that this is my last weekend before exams start; stomach flipped like crazy, but weirdly enough, I'm not as worried about paper content this year as I was this year. I'm hoping that even if they throw out some bizarre questions, we should be good.


    Past Paper Progress

    (the last few hurdles...)


    CHEM5 JUN 16
    Spoiler:
    Show

    MARKS: 86/100
    GRADE: A*
    PREVIOUS GRADE:D
    THOUGHTS: Thought this was a straightforward paper: enjoyable, plenty of time left at the end (even went through and caught a computing error!), and the 7 markers were pretty simple and not too time-consuming. There were quite a lot of calculations, but none were too difficult. I cocked up 9d by forgetting to multiply by a factor of 3, which ended up costing me 3 marks, but otherwise the method was correct. I'll just have to remember to triple check calculations. Overall, really pleased with the improvement in this paper. It's my last exam (19th), so won't revise for it this weekend, but over the next week I must make sure I go over:
    • Hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells
    • Reaction reagents + conditions
    • Colorimetry


    G484 JUN 16
    Spoiler:
    Show

    MARKS: 44/60
    GRADE: A
    PREVIOUS GRADE:E
    THOUGHTS: OCR haven't released the 2016 mark schemes to students yet, so had to mark using teachercol's unofficial mark scheme (many thanks!). Using that, I have at least an estimate 44 marks, which is what was needed for an A. I was pushed for time on this paper (spent too long on lower mark questions), but I at least managed to catch the majority of my arithmetic mistakes using common sense, and the SUVAT questions (plus 3 + 4) were pretty easy and straightforward. I mainly dropped marks on question 5. I spent ages trying to work out where I'd gone wrong in my calculations, only for it to turn out that I hadn't properly looked at the diagram and so my radius calculation was a bit off. I'm still quite slow at rearranging, but that's something I think will always take me a bit of time to do, so I'll just have to learn to allow myself time for those sorts of questions in the future. The majority of the written theory was easy marks (he says, having confused Newton's 1st and 2nd laws...), and overall I feel things went well. It's not the highest mark I've ever achieved on a physics paper but, hey, it would've got me a B last year!

    So, for me to work on for the last time are:
    • Utilising ratios
    • Components of forces (inc. pairs of forces)
    • Newton's Laws of Motion


    It's the final countdown....! *synth lead*

    Over the weekend I plan to do some final look-cover-copy-check revision just to cement in my head the exact wording and key points needed for basic marks. Plan is as follows:


    BIOLOGY
    • Glycolysis
    • Link reaction

    CHEMISTRY
    • Test tube reactions for identifying groups
    Spoiler:
    Show

    G7/halides, acyl chlorides, amines
    • Hydrogen bonding
    • Ka theory
    • Reaction conditions + reagents
    Spoiler:
    Show

    Alkene → alkane, haloalkane → alcohol, 1' alcohol → aldehyde, 1' alcohol → acid, 2' alcohol → ketone, aldehyde → 1' alcohol, esterification, ester hydrolysis, haloalkane → amine, reduction, adding a CN group, acylation with acyl chlorides + anhydrides.

    PHYSICS
    • Newton's Laws of Motion (inc. pairs of forces)



    I'm still divided on whether or not I want to work on Sunday or not. One half of me says enough is enough; time to rest. But the other half is worried that even slacking a single day could make a difference. :unsure: Will have to see how things play out.
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    (Original post by Scitty)
    Exactly! And seeing the progress made gives you inspiration and motivation to pull through and see it to the end. Not sure I would've made as much ground in things if I hadn't had the blog keeping me accountable. It's been a sort of stand in for a rigorous course timetable, for me.

    Food is definitely a great motivator haha. My mum used to make me peanut butter + banana sandwiches for my GCSE exams. I'd eat one half before, and save the other half as a treat afterwards. Simple things! :moon: Remembering that's making me hungry…

    Good luck with your exams! I have every faith you'll do excellently. 👍 Go out and smash 'em!!
    Aw that is so sweet thank you. Right back at ya!! You seem so prepared and ready to ace those exams

    I also fancy peanut butter and banana sandwiches too now so thanks for that lol.
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    (Original post by misstiah_h)
    I also fancy peanut butter and banana sandwiches too now so thanks for that lol.
    You're welcome Gold is the devil's fishhook etc etc. Or in this case, peanut butter is.
 
 
 
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