One of the last posts in my back to school series was very popular (‘what I wish I knew when I started my A levels’) and I had a lot of people messaging me thanking me for the advice. This made me so happy so I thought to create another post with hopefully more help. This time I am answering specific questions that people asked me on Instagram and twitter, so it is more adapted to what people actually want to know. Most people go back to school/sixth form either tomorrow or Tuesday, so I thought this was perfect time to upload this post and answer a few questions in order to put your mind at rest. I apologise for how long this post is (and for the lack of photos!) but I wanted to answer every single question that was asked to the best of my ability.
For anyone that hasn’t seen my posts before, I am 17 and going into my second year of sixth form where I take 4 A levels.
Advice for choosing GCSE subjects- @basicallyselina
Pick what you like! At GCSE it might feel like the end of the world if you don’t know your career, but honestly nobody knows so your options dont have *too* much impact in general. Obviously if you have a very specific career in mind (for example medicine) consider taking triple science, but apart from that the general rule of what you like and what you are good at is the best way to go about it. You want to have fun at GCSE and your option subjects take your mind off the harder ones, so its best if you enjoy them!
In order to actually pick, I would make a list of all the options offered at your school, cross off the ones that you definitely wouldn’t enjoy and then go from there. Ask your teachers plenty of questions and make sure you know enough before you sign up for a course. The more you know, the more you can make an informed and correct decision. Although one key tip… do not just pick subjects because your friends are! You most often have a seating plan and theres no point doing something just because someone else is if you won’t enjoy it.
Should I keep some GCSE revision notes for the subjects I’m continuing? (Wished to be kept anonymous)
I feel like it depends on the subject! If you aren’t sure I would keep them anyway, you can always throw them out later but you can’t retrieve them if you have already thrown them away. Not all of them might be useful but they may save you writing up notes from scratch, as you could just add new knowledge to the previous notes that you had. This is particularly useful if you are a visual learner, as it will help you link your old knowledge with your new knowledge. I kept some of my business notes and I found them very useful to go back on old knowledge.
Are GCSE’s as scary as people make them sound? @beauty_obsessed_x _
No! However Ill be honest, GCSEs are a lot of work and it is easy to feel under pressure. Its the first set of exams that you have done so you will probably feel nervous going into them, and although you always feel nervous going into exams it does get better when you know what the process is like and what to expect. Just make sure to manage your time as best as possible and to try and spend time on the subjects you aren’t too confident on, but most importantly don’t stress too much!
What GCSE’s did you take? @beauty_obsessed_x_
I obviously took the compulsory subjects, for example science, English and maths. Then at our school we had to take French and a humanity, so I chose geography. Then for my chosen subjects I picked Art for two of my options and business for the other one. We started GCSEs in year 9, so I had three years to complete all of these courses and I came out of secondary school with 10 GCSEs in total.
Which ones do you regret taking or not taking? @beauty_obsessed_x_
This is such a hard question as I believe that you shouldn’t have regrets, however I do wish I hadn’t taken art for two of my options and instead only one. This is because art is a huge workload at home, and I think it made me more stressed with the work to do. If I had only taken one art, I would have had more time to dedicate to my other subjects, so I could have potentially got better grades. This being said, I did enjoy taking art and it was a fun subject so I don’t regret the course because I didn’t enjoy it!
Are GCSE’s stressful? @beauty_obsessed_x_
Its quite easy to have a lot to do at GCSE because its the first real time that you have a lot of schoolwork pressure, but if you organise your time and subjects it is relatively easy to get through. Just make sure that you revise as you go along and always keep up to date with your subjects in order to not fall behind. That being said, make sure you have time for yourself as well!!
How do you balance your studying and your life? @study_to_learn_xx_
This is something that I really struggle with! I either end up studying all the time, or spending too much time being social. Its so hard to balance! All I would say is if you are like me, I would make a ‘time schedule’, so you know what times you are studying and what times you are seeing your friends/relaxing etc… this makes it easier to make sure you are balancing all of your time! I also like to use the ‘rule of 8’ sometimes on days where I’m not at college and having a studying day. This is where you spend 8 hours a day sleeping, 8 hours a day doing whatever you want and 8 hours a day studying. This is really helpful to manage your time and it makes sure that you aren’t studying for 14 hours, which is often what I find myself doing by accident!
How do you organise your time equally for all subjects? @corgiistudies
Similar to balance studying and life, I use the same tips. It is hard to manage your subjects evenly because some do require more work than others. I would do all of your homework first because thats the priority, and then focus on your most difficult subjects first as they are the ones that need work! It is easy at sixth form to focus on one subject and then fall back on the others, so just keep swapping around your priorities and it will be fine. I try to have one study session a week per subject and then two on the subject that I find most difficult at that moment, and I find that this is quite effective.
How to do well without having to give up free time? Asking for a friend @emilyjasminex
This was a joke question from my best friend, but it actually does raise a quite valid point about A levels. When doing A levels (or BTECS but I have no experience of that) the workload can easily creep up on you, so you do need to give up free time in order to stay on top of everything. Even if it is only an hour per subject per week, it is better to go through your college work to consolidate your knowledge. Everyone loves a bit of free time, but at the same time everyone loves opening good grades on results day… so try and use some of your spare moments to revise!
Do you think that there will be big jump from first to second year A level?- Margaret Wilson
I am going into my second year of sixth form now so I can’t answer this with experience, but I am going to predict that it will be harder. Purely because there will be a lot more work and a lot more to revise/remember for the exams. Pair that with the pressure of university applications and I’m thinking it will be quite a stressful year. However the saving grace is that we already know the sixth form and our teachers, so there is nothing changed in that sense. Remember when you had your first day at sixth form and didn’t know anyone? Now you have a good group of people around you (both students and teachers) so you have support network for when the workload does get too much! I think next year is going to be good despite the extra work.
What subjects did you take at A level? @bethxkate
I am taking economics, business, geography and sociology. I love and would recommend them all!
How did you manage the workload that you get given at sixth form? @rubyomaraholt
Stay organised!! Prioritise your time and make sure that you do work in your frees if you need to. It is quite strange when doing work at sixth form and quite hard to get used to, as the majority of work you do is not actually set by the teachers and instead independent reading etc. Make sure that you know what you need to do and then break up your time, but also make sure that you have some time to spend with your friends as well. It is easy to feel out of your depth at sixth form but only doing work 24/7 will drain you and you need to be social!
Is A level a big jump from GCSE? (Wished to be kept anonymous)
Its not as bad as you expect! Everyone always says its a huge jump and I do see why they say it because each subject is so much harder and with more content, however you do drop to 4 subjects so you have more free time to focus on them. At school I was in lessons for 25 hours a week and in my first year of sixth form I had 18 hours, so thats over a day extra to spend on your subjects! Don’t think it will be a big jump and just keep working hard, and you will be fine. I just worked as hard as I did at GCSE and I didn’t notice too much of a jump, so don’t worry.
These questions are from the lovely @omgitshollieep_ , who is actually coming to my sixth form next year! We were having a conversation about it and these are the questions she asked, I thought to include them in this post for people who are also coming into year 12. Obviously some of these questions are very specific to my sixth form, but hopefully it gives a bit of insight anyway.
In terms of stationary what do you think are the main essentials? Do you think using folders or notebooks are better for work?
I love stationary and there is such a good feeling when you buy all new stationary for a school year! My essentials would be a lever arch file per subject that you will leave at home, and also a day folder per subject that you take in your bag. This means that you put your essential papers in a day folder and it saves you lugging around lots of lever arch files that will get so heavy. I prefer paper and folders so it is easier to move things, there is a lot of content for sixth form so I feel like notebooks would get very full very quickly. I would also recommend a planner or diary of some kind, sixth form do give you one but it isn’t too good so most people use their own. Some people use their phones but I am the kind of person that likes pen and paper, so I have a bullet journal. I won’t go on too much about it because I have already done a post (click here) but I couldn’t live without it at college. Although if you don’t want to make it yourself, a regular academic diary will be completely fine. Apart from that, you just need the usual stationary etc that you would have at school… oh and plenty of lined paper!!
I am thinking of doing a post on how I make effective notes, and how I store all of my revision so if that is something you are interested in, please let me know!
What do you do during frees, where do you go?
Its up to you! There are plenty of places to go to at sixth form! Most people either go to the cafe, the hub (which is basically a common room) or the library. However there are plenty of places to sit and see friends, there aren’t ‘set’ places to go as such and instead you can do whatever you like. If you have a long day, you can go home and come back, or you can walk into town or to some shops that are nearby. Obviously I know that every sixth form is different and I am just talking about my own experience, but I have found that it is so chilled and nobody really minds where you go. I often spend the majority of my time in the hub (common room) as there are always plenty of people to chat to and it isn’t too quiet like the library is (I find it very hard to work in silence).
Are the teachers nice or do they come across strict?
They are so nice, I don’t think I have ever come across a strict teacher at sixth form. They actually treat you like adults the majority of the time and there is a lot more mutual respect, which I love. You call teachers by their first names (hard to get used to) and this makes everything more relaxed. I could go and speak to my teachers about anything and they wouldn’t mind, honestly I couldn’t rave about my teachers enough. 🐟
Are the days long or will I have shorter days?
At my sixth form, you will probably have one or two full days a week and the rest of the time you will have shorter days. I was very lucky this year and I didn’t have any full days, which I liked as it meant I had at least one free everyday. Most of my friends have at least one day where they have a full 9-4 though, my timetable just didn’t work out like that. In your first year you will have 18 hours a week, and I will leave my last year timetable below so you can see an example.
Did you find it hard to make new friends?
Not at all, I did keep my friendship group so I wasn’t really ‘forced’ into making new friends, but this year I have met so many people who I class as close friends now that I didn’t even know a year ago, even my boyfriend I met at college and I didn’t know him before I moved to sixth form. Everyone is in the same boat and you end up talking to people in lessons and in your frees, and it is so easy to find people with common interests. Now you are at sixth form everyone in your subjects actually like the subjects so most of the time you already have something in common, so thats good! Just make sure to talk to as many people as you can and I’m sure you will be absolutely fine.
How long did it take you to adjust from school to college?
I thought it was going to take me a lot longer than it did, because I am someone that doesn’t like change. However I actually settled in really well and after a couple of weeks I was completely fine, and the thought of going back to school felt weird.
Does everyone have breaks at the same time or is it staggered?
At my sixth form, everyone has a set break and lunch together but frees are staggered. This means that even if you don’t have frees with your friends, you will still see them for about an hour a day which is nice. However the majority of the time you end up having frees with your friends, this year I only had one free a week where I had no friends and I dedicated that time to studying so it all worked out well.
To wear something that you feel comfortable and good in on the first day (if you feel good you will act more confident), try and talk to as many people as you can and remember that it is nowhere near as bad as you are thinking it will be.
I really hope that this has helped some people and have put your mind at rest, particularly if you are moving to sixth form and another school this week. Its a scary time but just immerse yourself in everything and I am sure that you will love it. If you need any more advice feel free to message me on my social media, or check out this post for more information (what I wish I knew when I started my A levels). Thank you to everyone who featured on this blog post and helped me out, I really appreciate it!