Students about to start year 12: AMA Watch

redmeercat
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Ask me anything about starting sixth form. I've just finished lower sixth taking French, History and English Literature with EPQ.
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Lena_277
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Hi,
I didn't take English lit GCSE but I'm doing English lit A level. Was wondering how you'd recommend preparing for the course. (My school has already given me two books and two critical essays as summer reading). Also, any general info and tips would be great
Thanks
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redmeercat
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(Original post by Lena_277)
Hi,
I didn't take English lit GCSE but I'm doing English lit A level. Was wondering how you'd recommend preparing for the course. (My school has already given me two books and two critical essays as summer reading). Also, any general info and tips would be great
Thanks
I think having a read of some exemplar essays online might help, and perhaps start analysing the texts a bit as practice. Get your mind into that way of thinking. Remember: every words and plot point in a text has been chosen for a reason. Also remember that you cannot go into a level, even from top marks and GCSE lit level, and immediately get top marks. It takes work and practice, especially surrounding exam/ essay technique. In subjects such as biology where you do modules you can technically get high marks from the beginning on module tests, but English is more of a building subject.
You will also probably be doing coursework. If you're being set books for that, I'd read them this summer so that next summer's reading will just be a refresher. If you get to choose, do some reading over this summer and broaden your répertoire, si that you can make the best choice possible when it comes to it.
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Lena_277
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(Original post by redmeercat)
I think having a read of some exemplar essays online might help, and perhaps start analysing the texts a bit as practice. Get your mind into that way of thinking. Remember: every words and plot point in a text has been chosen for a reason. Also remember that you cannot go into a level, even from top marks and GCSE lit level, and immediately get top marks. It takes work and practice, especially surrounding exam/ essay technique. In subjects such as biology where you do modules you can technically get high marks from the beginning on module tests, but English is more of a building subject.
You will also probably be doing coursework. If you're being set books for that, I'd read them this summer so that next summer's reading will just be a refresher. If you get to choose, do some reading over this summer and broaden your répertoire, si that you can make the best choice possible when it comes to it.
Thanks a lot, that's really helpful.
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livelyrao
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(Original post by redmeercat)
Ask me anything about starting sixth form. I've just finished lower sixth taking French, History and English Literature with EPQ.
Hey! Do you have any tips for EPQ (I'm so confused about it aha)? Also, I might do English Lit and French, how much of a difference is it from GCSEs? Thank you for your help. (:
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redmeercat
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(Original post by livelyrao)
Hey! Do you have any tips for EPQ (I'm so confused about it aha)? Also, I might do English Lit and French, how much of a difference is it from GCSEs? Thank you for your help. (:
EPQ sounds confusing and horrible, but it always works out in the end (I say there evening before I get my EPQ results...) if you put the effort in, which I'm sure you will. I think my main tip is to remember that it isn't all about the essay, it's also about the process of finishing the essay including research and planning, and about evaluation. Thus, you can get marks for everything you do, as long as you record it comprehensively. I personally typed up a log of what I did each session as well as side notes to myself and weekly evaluations of successes, failures and decisions. I found that that was quite an easy way to maintain organisation whilst not being too constrained by a table format or anything, especially as I put the evaluation in red. So you can change your research focus or change your plans as much as you like, as long as you can explain why you did it and what you would have done differently from the beginning to make life easier for yourself now!
Something else is to choose a topic you really like... Maybe give yourself a day this summer to fall into Wikipedia or YouTube or something to find something you want to seriously read up on. You'll need 20 (give or take depending on your focus - science typically needs more than humanities, but don't quote me on that) sources, and they should be from a range of formats. E.g. Books, Google scholar, newspapers, videos... As long as they're academic! So you'll be doing a lot of reading. Doing some of that reading and note-taking this summer would really help you, but it's not necessary. Just deciding your general topic area is enough for the summer, unless the school has asked for more.

Note - if you want to write an essay on the battle of Britain, don't read the whole 5000 page book on 20th century Europe... Use the index to find mentions of the battle of Britain and read the 7 chapters where it is mentioned.

French and English:
Think of GCSE French and English as taster lessons for A level. You did them and learned stuff, but lessons are completely different from GCSE and there is a lot more depth. To put this into perspective, at the end of GCSE French I could barely begin to have a simple conversation in french, compared to this summer where I have been able to talk for hours at a time in understandable French about topics I'd also struggle discussing in English. I love both these subjects and would never hesitate to recommend, but don't do them unless you enjoy them beyond the specific teachers you had at GCSE.
In terms of difficulty, GCSE and A level aren't comparable in the slightest. I went from 8 in GCSE French to D at A level in my first term. However, that's completely fine as both English and French are subjects where you gradually build your competency, opposed to science subjects where you have a grade for specific topics (although exam technique is also important with science) which shows which topics you are better and worse at. It's a bit depressing to drop such a lot, at the beginning, but that's why we study for 2 years to improve instead of doing a term of sixth form and then taking the exams! And you are gradually submerged into the A level standard, rather than pushed in the deep end, so it's completely fine, really.
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livelyrao
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(Original post by redmeercat)
EPQ sounds confusing and horrible, but it always works out in the end (I say there evening before I get my EPQ results...) if you put the effort in, which I'm sure you will. I think my main tip is to remember that it isn't all about the essay, it's also about the process of finishing the essay including research and planning, and about evaluation. Thus, you can get marks for everything you do, as long as you record it comprehensively. I personally typed up a log of what I did each session as well as side notes to myself and weekly evaluations of successes, failures and decisions. I found that that was quite an easy way to maintain organisation whilst not being too constrained by a table format or anything, especially as I put the evaluation in red. So you can change your research focus or change your plans as much as you like, as long as you can explain why you did it and what you would have done differently from the beginning to make life easier for yourself now!
Something else is to choose a topic you really like... Maybe give yourself a day this summer to fall into Wikipedia or YouTube or something to find something you want to seriously read up on. You'll need 20 (give or take depending on your focus - science typically needs more than humanities, but don't quote me on that) sources, and they should be from a range of formats. E.g. Books, Google scholar, newspapers, videos... As long as they're academic! So you'll be doing a lot of reading. Doing some of that reading and note-taking this summer would really help you, but it's not necessary. Just deciding your general topic area is enough for the summer, unless the school has asked for more.

Note - if you want to write an essay on the battle of Britain, don't read the whole 5000 page book on 20th century Europe... Use the index to find mentions of the battle of Britain and read the 7 chapters where it is mentioned.

French and English:
Think of GCSE French and English as taster lessons for A level. You did them and learned stuff, but lessons are completely different from GCSE and there is a lot more depth. To put this into perspective, at the end of GCSE French I could barely begin to have a simple conversation in french, compared to this summer where I have been able to talk for hours at a time in understandable French about topics I'd also struggle discussing in English. I love both these subjects and would never hesitate to recommend, but don't do them unless you enjoy them beyond the specific teachers you had at GCSE.
In terms of difficulty, GCSE and A level aren't comparable in the slightest. I went from 8 in GCSE French to D at A level in my first term. However, that's completely fine as both English and French are subjects where you gradually build your competency, opposed to science subjects where you have a grade for specific topics (although exam technique is also important with science) which shows which topics you are better and worse at. It's a bit depressing to drop such a lot, at the beginning, but that's why we study for 2 years to improve instead of doing a term of sixth form and then taking the exams! And you are gradually submerged into the A level standard, rather than pushed in the deep end, so it's completely fine, really.
Thank you so much for this reply! It really means a lot
I was thinking of deciding the topic for my EPQ, but I couldn't come up with anything. I looked at my a-level courses' topics to see if I find anything from that interesting but nothing grabbed my attention. I thought it was just me getting stressed about it that's why I couldn't find anything I liked. So I tried to find stuff (articles, books) to read for fun and I literally couldn't find anything.
As I said I looked up my alevel content and nothing seemed to interest me, I guess I just need a break. But I'm taking subjects which I enjoyed the most and found interesting but now I'm scared I'm losing my interest in them :/
I find Alevel French content interesting but I wasn't planning on doing French at Uni so I might not take it. I really don't know, I'm so confused about A-levels entirely ahahaha

Also, thank you for the advice on Alevel English and French, I feel more confident now
Last edited by livelyrao; 1 week ago
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redmeercat
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(Original post by livelyrao)
Thank you so much for this reply! It really means a lot
I was thinking of deciding the topic for my EPQ, but I couldn't come up with anything. I looked at my a-level courses' topics to see if I find anything from that interesting but nothing grabbed my attention. I thought it was just me getting stressed about it that's why I couldn't find anything I liked. So I tried to find stuff (articles, books) to read for fun and I literally couldn't find anything.
As I said I looked up my alevel content and nothing seemed to interest me, I guess I just need a break. But I'm taking subjects which I enjoyed the most and found interesting but now I'm scared I'm losing my interest in them :/
I find Alevel French content interesting but I wasn't planning on doing French at Uni so I might not take it. I really don't know, I'm so confused about A-levels entirely ahahaha

Also, thank you for the advice on Alevel English and French, I feel more confident now
This is my 6th time writing this out, hence the delay... Sorry about that! Should've sent it last night but my lack of technical ability was too much to persevere through!

EPQ:
It looks like you're searching so hard for the perfect topic that you're getting overwhelmed by all the possible options. When I said research, I should probably have said that you should research based on what you know you're interested in. Even if your hobbies aren't particularly academic, you should certainly factor them in! If you like watching cat videos, you could consider social media or animals as a broad topic to start with. If you like fruit you could do it on nutrition. Identify what you like doing and from there come up with a list of broad topic areas, and later you can work on choosing which one and specifying what you actually want to do. I enjoyed comparing the English and French versions of 'Under the Sea' as well as reading, so my topics were literature and translation. Later (after mind-mapping a hundred different options) I chose the title 'Is literature fundamentally untranslatable?'. I'd really suggest not doing a topic you're going to do at school... Even if you really enjoy school the individual topics are unlikely ever to be ideal. Make an interest academic, rather than making an academic topic interesting, if that makes sense.

French:
Honestly, if you enjoy French, take it. Unless you need specific A levels to become a doctor or something, it is never going to be a disadvantage for uni. Of course it is hard, but if you enjoy it it is also really good fun and really interesting. Intact, unless you have a vocation, I wouldn't worry about uni at all now because the important thing is enjoying your subjects, after that you will end up in the right place.

Motivation/enjoyment:
It sounds like this summer your subjects have come to represent stress rather than enjoyment. Happens to the best of us! You haven't actually had a lesson for ages, so now that you're thinking about sixth form and the uncertainty and all that, they are no longer as enjoyable as they were because you're worried about making the right decisions. I was a bit like that with English - I'm dyslexic (didn't know that then) so I've always struggled a bit with essays and during the summer I was just worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up and that my GCSE results would be loads below everyone else's. In the end, English was my second lowest grade for GCSE (stressing me out further) and I began to overwork in attempt to get up to standard and so lost my enjoyment of reading a bit. In the end, however, it made no difference. I started sixth form, read the set texts, and now I really enjoy reading again, as well as essay writing and analysis, because my teachers have been so good. They gradually slide you into A level standard... There's no expectation of perfection from the beginning, and because you see them so much more often then at GCSE you get to know them much better, and they (any good teacher) will impart their enjoyment of the subject back onto you. You'll also study things that you never even thought about before... My teacher recently mentioned the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which was really interesting, and that is now going to be a big part of my coursework. If you ever enjoyed your chosen subjects, A level is where that interest will grow. Load of people talk about losing interest in subjects at A level, but I don't think that really happens... I think people who took subjects that they found easier get stressed by difficulty, and those who genuine enjoy subjects often mistake dislike of specific tasks (in history, for example, I hate making my flashcards) for dislike of the subject. I reckon that you should take a break from thinking about school for a bit... If you feel particularly motivated then fine, but if you don't then don't make yourself do anything! You need to relax before the year begins. Believe me when I say there's time to both work and stress later. It's ok to doubt your decisions, it's ok to change your mind, but it's also completely fine not to think about it for a while. If it comes to it, you can always change your options after a couple of lessons if you think you've made a bad decision as most schools don't have a problem with that.

Let me know if you have any other worries/ questions
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