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A-Levels: Oh god, what have I got myself into?

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Welcome to my crib.

Thought I'd start my GYG blog with a really bad joke!

Anyhow, my name is Aaminah Saleem and I'm on my first year of A-Levels.

This blog will relay my journey and show updates of progress (hopefully!)

Academic information:

I have recently completed my GCSE's & this is what I got:


Biology: A
Business Studies: B
Chemistry: A
English Language: 6
English Literature: 8
Geography: A*
German: A
History: A*
Maths: 7
Physics: A

I was happy but I was upset with the B's as I was predicted A*'s in these subjects. Anyway, the motivation to start this GYG blog is so I can track my progress and motivate myself into working hard.

The A-Levels I'm taking are and my predicted are:

Business Studies: B
Geography: A

I do want to get business up to an A- that would give me more options when applying to universities.

I will be undertaking an EPQ but I keep changing my mind on what topic, I hope to use a human topic I've been doing in geography as the basis of my EPQ.

Exam boards & topics:

History OCR: Civil rights in the US (controlled assessment), American Revolution & Birth of USA (1740-1796) and Britain (1900-1951)

Geography Edexcel:

  • Physical geography: Tectonic process & change, coastal landscape, water cycle & water insecurity and carbon cycle & energy insecurity. 2 hours & 15 minutes and is 30% of the A-Level & 105 marks.
  • Human geography: Globalisation, regenerating places, superpowers and migration, identity & sovereignty. 2 hours and 15 minutes, 105 marks & 30% of A-Level
  • Synoptic: This is the unseen papers (20% of the A-Level & 70 marks, 2 hours and 15 minutes)
  • Independent investigation: 20% of the A-Level and is 70 marks and is 3000-4000 words.

Business is AQA and we have 24 chapters (BUSS3).

Personal information:

Throughout year 10 and 11, I suffered heavily with social and exam anxiety which made the exams I took difficult to put it simply. I wish I did seek help out sooner rather than the March of year 11. This had a huge impact on my mental well-being and when I opened my results; I was proud because I managed to actually achieve good grades (to me). Anyway, onto me!

I am 16 years old and an Aquarius.

I am a bit of a self-proclaimed nerd! I'm known for being able to binge-watch Sherlock, Dr Who and Harry Potter. However the downside to that is sometimes getting so emotionally invested into a show I may end up neglecting my work which I'm trying not to.

I have a lot of hobbies. Public speaking is one. As a child, I was bullied a lot and ridiculed and had low self-confidence so a teacher entered me into a debating competition which I actually won. Ever since then, I've become increasingly more confident when speaking in front of a large crowd.

This sounds typical but I love reading and writing. Most of what I write is poems- I'm very politically minded so I penned a few poems on the refugee crisis out of frustration, anger and sadness. I have written a few short stories which I keep private because I'm very self-critical of my work and I never think it's good enough.

Reading is something that is as important to me as oxygen- I know it's a horrible cliche. Jacqueline Wilson, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Cathy Cassidy were authors I'd read. Past my bedtime using a torch I had from a residential trip- every time I heard a footstep, I'd be acting asleep which wasn't always convincing! However, I strained my eyes so badly I got glasses!

Singing is another hobby which I'm bad at. I'm into a quite a wide range of music. Pop music, classical, alternative and french music are the broad categories I love listening to. I'm not the best at singing but it doesn't stop me from jamming out in the shower!

I have 4 sisters- when I talk about my personal life it may get a bit confusing. 3 are younger and 1 is older than me.

My goals:

I want to study Geography at Glasgow or Aberdeen or Royal Holloway.

I will be posting updates around once a week- or twice a week to update you with test scores, achievements, setbacks and life in the sixth form.

Mini Progress:

I'm part of the Aspiring High group at my school and we've had visits from admissions tutors from Oxford and Cambridge & I have a 1-1 mentoring session with a teacher.

Feedback from the session:

  • I have done a lot of extra-curricular activities and wider reading along with geography based activities
  • Focus on getting my AAB to AAA or maybe A*AA (A* in geography)
  • Make links with what I study to what I read to the news
  • Watch more documentaries and look at listening to some podcasts
  • Stay up to date with the news (Brexit, refugee crisis etc.)
  • Look at the recommended reading list set

As part of the programme, I actually mentor a Year 11 which I hope is useful for her!
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Report 3 years ago
Congrats to you for still being able to achieve the grades you did while struggling with anxiety.
You said you wanted to study at Royal Holloway, was it the spotify ads that convinced you?
Are you looking forward to the new season of Doctor Who?
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Report Thread starter 3 years ago
(Original post by IAmNotStressed)
Congrats to you for still being able to achieve the grades you did while struggling with anxiety.
You said you wanted to study at Royal Holloway, was it the spotify ads that convinced you?
Are you looking forward to the new season of Doctor Who?
Thank you so much- it's really kind of you to say that! There are times where I regret not working hard enough and it makes me feel really good when people are so kind about it! I have an older sister who was looking at universities when I was in year 10 and I picked her up with my Dad. Entering it was shocking. The campus was surreal (I likened it to Hogwarts) - that little drive to pick up my sister piqued my interest and ever since I was looking at it . I have an uncle who did geography at Royal Holloway and he absolutely loved it! Royal Holloway is close enough to my family that I can come back whenever I wanted and the area is lovely! I'd say it was a mixture of those factors! Looking forward is an understatement- I've been going on about the new season so much, my sisters made a petition to stop me speaking about it!
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Report Thread starter 3 years ago
Half-term update:

I really love my subjects and I'm actually ahead of my studying. I went to the same school so I've branched out a bit and made a new group of friends. We've had end of term tests and throughout we've had essay questions and end of topic tests. I've been set 4 essay questions and a business project which I want to get done on Monday and use the other days to make revision notes and relax! I'm actually really proud to say that this term I was awarded an award for academic attainment in geography out of my year and I got a position as an Year Ambassador- I gave tours for our open evening and I was proud of being confident and actually talking comfortably around people. I've been asked to introduce a programme to Year 9 in an assembly. I am doing an assembly in front of Year 11 about work experience and summer schools.

I've been getting involved a lot in school. Attending a philosophy club and I've taken advantage of all of the Eton College events available (I go to talks at Eton College for the geographical and environmental societies). Writing for the school newspaper. I'm proud of these contributions. Also since my handwriting is really bad, I sometimes take my MacBook to school to type up notes using my textbook in free periods and to make my lesson notes. I got an iPad to take to school- less dangerous and it's got a bluetooth keyboard which still has charge from when I got it in September (I use it for around 2-3 hours a day).

During half-term I'm going out to London to go Oxford Street, Imperial War Museum and I'm going to go to Westfield (time-permitting) with my youngest sister who has a history project to complete. On Sunday, I'm going to the BBC Radio 1 teen awards with my other sister.

I have become much more organised- at GCSE I hated doing it but now I've got 6 folders. 1 for human geography and 1 for physical- I didn't want to separate AS and A2, human and physical seemed to make more sense .1 for Britain (1900-1951). 1 for American Revolution & Birth of the US (1740-1796). 1 for business chapters 1-12. Another for chapters 12-24. I was struggling with file dividers for business so I bought a set of numbered file dividers on Amazon 1-30. The others may be used for other subjects or for revision.


  • I have done a quarter of my notes for the British side of the course (1900-1951)
  • My USA notes (American revolution & birth of the USA 1740-1796) are actually just over half way done!

Essay results for the British side:

  1. Summer homework: looking at why the national government was formed in 1931 (12/20). I was happy with this because it was a C and I was 2 away from a B- considering I did this without knowing how to structure a 20 marker was pleasing as my target is an A so I'm actually on track! My improvement was to focus more on the question and not to waffle as much.
  2. Essay 1: to what extent do the sources support how Britain was a thriving country (15/30). I was surprised by the result because I thought I would've got over half but I understand what went wrong. I talked too much about the NOP of the sources & needed to insert more knowledge. This essay was done on the second week- we were given it to see how we would approach a 30 marker so without knowing how to structure it and the level of analysis- this result was okay.
  3. Essay 2: how far do the sources support the view that the Taff Vale case was the main reason for the creation of the Labour Party (8/30). I was gutted when I got my result and my history teacher pulled me over to the side and she showed me that all I did was analyse the sources and the NOP of them, I didn't really explain how they showed it and I didn't insert any knowledge about the Taff Vale case.

On the US side of the course I've had one essay which was summer homework. 20 marker about the stamp act (was the reaction to it justified). I got 17/20 which I was ecstatic with.

My results have shown me and my classwork that I struggle more with Britain.

I also went to a taster day for History at King's College which was really interesting. If I change and want to do history, I'd like to go to a London university because of how it's a cultural and historical hub.


Our first two topics are tectonic hazards and globalisation.


  • I have a new geography teacher and she's absolutely lovely! I didn't enjoy the physical side of geography that much at GCSE but now I really like it.
  • I have made notecards and mind-maps of all of my case studies.
  • I've been making a lot of progress with my work and notes

Essay results:

  1. Evidence of continental drift (10/12)- I was really pleased with my result and I needed to just bring in another piece of evidence or further analyse the evidence I gave
  2. Benefits and risks of living near an area of volcanic activity (11/12)- the extra mark would have been obtained if I structured my answer more coherently


  • Globalisation is my favourite topic: it's the most interesting and topical
  • We've had some debates and I've participated heavily in them
  • It links really well with business studies so I have a lot of overlap
  • I have a new geography teacher for this side- she was at my school last year and taught my friends class

Essay results:

  1. Explain the benefits and problems associated w/ globalisation (using examples) 10/10- my teacher said it was a model answer so I have no complaints- a tiny thing I hated was my introduction so I rewrote it

Business Studies:

I was a bit reluctant about it because of the grade I got but I have actually done well! I realised that I need to pay attention to more economic news so I've got an subscription to the Economist. We had to do a summer report on a Business and I got a B in it- my improvements were to use more secondary data and look at share price trends.

  • We've covered 2 topics: what is a business? and managers and leadership and decision making
  • Started finance and marketing
  • My test scores have been consistently high which I'm proud of

Essay results:

  1. 9 marker: 9/9 (using the case study, why has the business been profitable). I'm happy with this result because my teachers said it was a model answer and he was really nice about my progress
  2. 9 marker: 8/9 (to what extent has profit always been the objective of Samir and Jack. I didn't read the case study entirely so I know what information I could've included
  3. Finance initial assessment: 30/30. I was the only one to finish and get full marks which is really nice to hear especially since I was really nervous about the result. My only criticism was making my writing legible.
  4. 16 marker: Which option should he choose? (new camp in Scotland or add new facilities to the existing camp). 14/16 marks. My criticism was that my answer was too long which I agree with- I'm trying to focus on reigning in on what I write
  5. 9 marker (7/9): Analyse benefits and drawbacks of scientific decision making. I didn't include anything about bias or where the information actually comes from- doing that would've given me 9/9
  6. 16 marker (14/16) : Should James start a campsite with Fellow Farms? To get the top marks I need to look at the bias of the figures in the case study as they are from a salesman so I shouldn't have considered them to be 100% reliable
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Report Thread starter 3 years ago

Update 2: Revision, stress and progress

So, this update is to give people reading this, insights as to how I study and try to manage stress and anxiety along with tracking progress.

I never found the right revision technique until a month before my GCSEs. I wasn’t someone who could just power work for hours- many times I got bored or I felt like I was doing too much.

Don’t fall into the trap that I did. Staring at a textbook trying to remember things.

I’ll go through techniques for each GCSE I did.

GCSE Techniques:

Biology: I used a lot of mind-maps to draw diagrams & to make links to my other topics. Mind-maps are a lifesaver for biology. I was able to visualize what organ I was looking at during my exam and sketch it out which probably helped me a lot in unit 3. Revision notes are useful- don’t copy them word for word from the textbooks. Concise notes are your best friend- summarising a topic onto a notecard is the best way to learn. Start off with writing everything you need to know & condense. Acronyms are probably going to be your best friend- I use w/ (with), w/in (within, = (means/led to) and a lot of subject specific acronyms. Once you’re confident with knowing the content. Past papers! Do past papers. Mark them. Highlight what you didn’t get. Look at the examiners report- a lifesaver! It’s a wonderful resource- the exam board are telling you what the most common mistakes were! MyGCSEscience is great along with Primrose Kitten

Business Studies: Exam-technique will serve you well. In year 11, I focused on knowing everything and anything. Content was too much and exam technique was weak for me. I regret not doing many past papers. Even if you think business is the easiest subject- don’t get complacent. In many respects I was arrogant, I got A*’s in everything we did from year 10 and I didn’t think I needed to work on anything but I did. I was 2 marks away from an A and I’m sure that could’ve been easily obtained if I had focused on exam technique. A lot of business is application- apply your knowledge, don’t just state that overdrafts have high interest rates. You need to state the effect it will have on the business in the case study. Evaluation as well: make sure you focus on justifying your choice- always leave your best argument in your conclusion. Tutor2u is so helpful! I’ve been using it for A-Level and it explains the topics so it’s concise & straight to the point.

Chemistry: When it came to Unit 1, I just made revision notes and that worked well for me. Unit 2 was where I drew diagrams of different processes and used mind-mapping. Bonding is a topic where you can draw a lot of diagrams (covalent, metallic, giant covalent, ionic etc.). Unit 3 was where I used tables- soft water vs hard water. Wrote methods for experiments in my own words when looking at the Haber Process.

English Language: Most of the revision was at school but at home I practised 40 markers and gave them in to my teacher. 40 markers are so important. I redid questions when I got my mocks back and handed them in.

English Literature: I did a Sign of Four, Romeo and Juliet, An Inspector Calls & love and relationship poetry anthology. Sign of Four was a Sherlock novel which of course was a huge perk for me! Anyway, I bought all of the books. I highlighted and annotated them in great detail- if you want to re-use it for a sibling, use post-it notes (my sister was doing different books so I wasn’t too fussed about keeping the book neat). Context is important. To get the 8’s & 9’s you need to look at context. An Inspector Calls- it is rife with it. Dramatic irony (when Mr Birling talks about the titanic), class division in the 1900s, gender inequality, attitudes towards the working classes and if you’re studying Britain around 1900- use what you do in class (I was lucky and actually studied Britain 1890-1918). For Romeo and Juliet, look at societal views towards love, sex and marriage. Patriarchy is imperative to the book & look at upper-class society (arranged marriages, women seen as property etcetera). I think I have some resources if needed. If anyone wants them I could attach them to this post. Sign of Four was published in 1890. Look at Jack the Ripper & link it to the police. The police in the novel are presented as incompetent because people of the time thought they were lazy, loud and incompetent- links to Jack the Ripper as he was never caught which feeds into this idea that people thought the police weren’t good. Look at colonialism and racism- there is so much about this. The characters description of Tonga & how they talk about India. Look at how they feared the ‘unknown’. GCSE Bitesize, gradesaver, sparknotes,eNotes and a classic- Mr Bruff (if you prefer reading than watching he does kindle editions of what he says).

Geography: I used a lot of revision techniques. At GCSE, we had 12 topics and an unseen paper. I got 100 UMS in everything (unit 1 & 2 and my controlled assessment) but the unseen was 93 UMS using these techniques. I made my Dad go out and buy a big wad of A3 paper to make mind maps. I split it up into how many mini-topics there were per subject and studied like that. Diagrams are a must if studying for geography- coloured pencils really help to make it stand-out. My teachers produced revision sheets full of everything we needed to know in an A4 booklet which I used. Notecards were my best friend when it came into case studies. I couldn’t organise them because I kept using really complicated methods- giving each topic a number & each mini topic a sub number & file all of the 1’s together & 2’s & 3’s which didn’t work. Get notecards for each topic & staple them together. Having 12 sets of notecards just for case studies sounds annoying but is an organisation dream. Throughout year 10 & 11, I did all of the work set & asked my teacher advice for further reading. Past papers are so important especially for the unseen paper. I got an A in that mainly because I hadn’t practised that much- I only did 1 past paper when really I should’ve done more especially as the only way you can revise is making sure you understand all your topics & making sure you know how to understand how to answer questions.

German: Vocabulary is important. I used this . I printed it out and spent a few hours cutting them out and sticking them out onto notecards. I’m not sure how the new specification is different but I did a lot of past papers and looked at the examiners reports- for German you can see the common mistakes people make when trying to translate (maybe misreading a number or not thinking about a word in specific context). Watch German movies if you want to as fun- there’s one on Netflix called naked amongst wolves which is about a group of men waiting for the allies to liberate their camp as they look after a young Jewish BOY. It’s also a book which is amazing. I highly recommend this movie- especially if you study Nazi Germany.

History: Timelines were how I really revised. Using different coloured pens & A4/3 paper- names of acts passed, influential people etcetera will help. If you have sources, analyse them in great detail and link to what you know. Use context as well. Notecards are useful to sum up each topic into manageable revision. Keep practising essay structures & questions.

Mathematics: The 9-1 specification is hard- you’ll need to work harder for those top grades. are so helpful. They come with practice questions and video’s which you can watch. Maths genies is an amazing resource. I’m not neat and I can’t draw the complicated diagrams so I got these revision cards which were amazing. Those alone can get you high grades. Use notecards for the formulas you need. Focus on learning them & applying them. Use past papers (even the old specification is slightly useful).

Physics: Again, formulas are so important. Put them onto notecard, remember the hell out of them & units. Do practise questions & ensure you know how to apply the formula. I revised using acronyms (to remember the different types of energy I used Cheeky ****).

Elastic potential
Y am I doing this? (this was a joke to fill the y)

Gravitational potential energy

Watching videos and mind-mapping is effective. Physics is more about understanding the concepts and applying them to questions. Do a lot of past papers & the examiner reports.

A-Level Revision Techniques


Business: I use tutor2u as my main source of revision along with my textbook. I read the economist because, business always changes and it’s very topical. Being involved with politics will help as well. Making sure you are proficient in maths. I spend 30 minutes here and their ensuring I practice my maths because calculations are really important- within the exam, they are the easy marks you can pick up. I’m writing up all of my notes in the textbook.

Geography: I write up all my case studies on notecards- I ask for the case studies sheets to be put up on Show My Homework- since my writing isn’t neat- I type my case studies and use word to highlight specific detail. I use my geography textbook to type up my notes- I never type up case studies as it’s already done when I get set it for homework.

History: I write up notes from the textbook summarised a lot. I make tables & I use notecards. I also watch John Green videos which are really educational & funny. I am looking to find some wider reading & I’m going to visit museums more often & watch more historically relevant movies. Since we cover such a depth of information, I’m working on making a timeline- it just helps revision, as all the information is condensed into 1 place- it’s not all the revision but a foundation for it.

For all of my subjects, I use the textbook to write a list of definitions so I can make my own vocabulary & it helps to remember complex words.

How I manage stress and anxiety?

  • I make lists to track what work needs to be done- at GCSE I didn't do this and I got really panicked and stressed about how much work I had
  • Don't leave anything to the last minute. I am guilty of doing it occasionally but most of the time, I do my work on the day it's set. Having to do the homework the night before gives you so much temporary stress especially if it's an essay
  • Be mindful- please don't overload yourself. Revision timings I use is normally 40 minutes max with a 10 minute break; That break is used to walk around, talk to my sisters . I have a 5 minute slot to get organised for my next session.
  • I'm not the most fit or active person but I started doing yoga at home. There are a lot of YouTube videos which are suited for beginners- it gives you personal time to relax. Studies also show that exercise is important
  • Reward yourself! Every time you complete a task, congratulate yourself. Give yourself bursts of motivational
  • I was taught a technique: when you suddenly get overwhelmed- think of 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear and 2 things you can see. It allows you to refocus and help the overwhelming feelings
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. I was ashamed and embarrassed of my anxiety & stress. I didn't ask for help but my school saw me struggling a lot and referred me. Your teachers and parents and friends care. Even if you feel scared, please speak to someone. Sometimes when I had really bad depressive feelings, I would cry and keep mulling over it but there are online services where you can speak to someone anonymously like Kooth
  • Surround yourself with positivity: make sure you don't surround yourself with people who are negative. Even if you've known them for a long time, if they put you down- its wrong and you shouldn't deal with that- I did and honestly it's toxic
  • Do not focus on what's happened. I was such a negative person & when I got my mock grades; I focused on the negatives- I obsessed over the grades and kept thinking what I could've changed but now I'm trying to focus on what I can change and try to be more productive
  • My best piece of advice would be don't neglect your mental health. It's so important. Your mindset and mental health do have an impact on how you perform. How you feel, how you're coping with exams & your mental health are so so important. You need to focus on yourself. Grades are grades- they will go up and down. If you're someone who suffers alone from exam anxiety. You're not alone. In my German reading exam, I actually spent half of it in tears, sobbing and I couldn't focus- my heart was pounding & I couldn't even read the paper. I let that impact my mood & obsessed with it which wasn't healthy or helpful. If you want to private message me about something, I encourage you to do so. I've struggled with so much and I've learned a lot about my mental health & how to improve it generally.

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Report Thread starter 3 years ago

Monday the 23rd Update:

  • The BBC Radio 1 teen awards were absolutely amazing!
  • Today I got a lot of holiday homework done: my business project is done, I have done my USA essay on 'was war inevitable at 1765?', my geography essays are done but I did leave one thing out- doing some questions on Ireland based on a handout given to us in History (Britain) which I'm going to try and do tomorrow. I did write up another 6 pages of Britain notes & I did 10 pages of geography
  • Tomorrow I'm hoping to see the new Thor movie I'm lowkey (get it?) hyped
  • The history booklet should be done tomorrow & I'll relax in the evening and have a movie night

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