My experiences with A levels were fairly positive. I had thre choices as to where i could study my a levels; i could either stay on at my school and go to their sixth form, i could go to the local sixth form college that is purely a level, or i could go to the city college which teaches a wide variety of courses including a levels to awide variety of ages. I chose the latter option, mainly as a chance to get away from lots of people at school and make a fresh start. None of my close friends were doing a levels so that didn't matter, but i think if there is a chance to be with friends it is always worthwhile to take it because friends will be the ones there to support you when you need it.
Ok on to A levels in general. The a level is split into two parts, the AS level and the A2. The AS level is the first years worth of A level and overall is worth half an A level. A2 is the second year, which when combined with the AS gives you a full a level. A levels have 5 grades, A-E, and most university offers are loosely based around a combination of grades usually from the average of three a levels.
I took 6 A Levels in my first year - German, Mathematics, Media Studies, Psychology, History and Critical Thinking (this was compulsary, much like general studies is in many colleges). This is not something i would recommend as it became really stressful around exam time.
The beauty with the AS level though is that after one year you can drop some subjects if it is too much, and still have some recognition of completion. I dropped critical thinking and german, which meant in my second year i was able to continue with four, a much more manageable target.
A levels were very worthwhile for me though, without them i would not be able to go to university and be in the situation i'm now in! but if a levels aren't for you, there are plenty of alternatives to look at.
A levels.. where do i start, There are to main places you can chose to study A levels if thats the route you decide to go down, at a school's 6th form or at a college which is specifically for A level students. The main difference between the 2 i think is 6th form colleges tend to be alot bigger .. sometimes thousands of students in the case of farborough 6th, however the teachers are more qualified for teaching A levels rather than teaching in general.. for example in a school you will be taught your a levels by the same teacher that also teaches 11 year olds. YOu will get alot more freedom to do your own thing in acollege, for example you'll only have to be in college for your lessons where a school in most cases will enforce that you are there for the entire school day whether you have lessons or not..
In my opinion a college is more of a stepping stone to university where a school 6th form is pretty much the same as school.
Subjects - Its sooo important you pick the right ones from the onset, i made really bad choices in the first year and as a result had to drop 2 of them and take up a whole A level in a year in an atempt to turn my grades around however this ment i would only get 2 A levels. During the first year people tend to take it easy and think well theres always retakes.. but your AS's are worth 50% of your A level, the A2's make up the other 50% yet the As's are soo much easier so its vital if you want decent grades that you get the as many points at AS as theyre much easier to obtain yet are worth the same! Another thing id say about subjects is when chosing try and pick one subject you'll actually enjoy because once you lose intrest completely you'll just stop bothering.
Im not overly clever and could have tried alot harder than i did in the first year, ... i regret all this now but whats done is done, but if you put in the work it doesnt matter how naturally clever you are you can get decent grades, alot of it is just remembering what you've been taught .. and knowing how to structure it.
Importance - I think A levels are most important if you wish to go to university as you need them to get in, however if your planning to go to 6th form and then leave and get a job, i think the expirience is more important and you may aswell leave after GCSE's... but remember that once you have your Alevels you'll always have them.. you never know
I have had the delights of doing A Levels since 2001 and I will be leaving to go to uni later this year (if all goes well). This review is generally about A Levels, college and other fun topics such as applying to uni that 16-18 year olds get to experience. It is aimed at said students as well as parents and those thinking about A Levels. - College - I go to North Devon College, which is an FE college and not a sixth form. As such I can?t really speak for those at sixth forms. College is certainly a jump from school ? increased work, no uniforms, call teachers by their first names, lots of work, free periods, more work, greater independence and did I mention extra work? It is great being treated like an adult but it helps if you act like it as well ? just because you have a free period on a Monday morning doesn?t give you an excuse to turn up some time after lunch. At our college the ?Food Hall? is a kind of café we have and it acts like a magnet for students skiving out of class. The teachers won?t go there and drag you back ? you will just miss what is being taught in the lesson. That?s your look out. -AS Levels - Ah AS Levels. I am in the second guinea pig year and so the teachers are just being confused by the first year?s results at the moment. I did AS Law, Geography, Psychology and Economics +Business Studies (so much for mixing art and science) in the first year. Added on to this were the college?s compulsory AS General Studies and Key Skills. Key Skills are fairly pointless. Anyone with half decent English skills can pass the communication exam ? its just extra work to do. I managed to avoid the IT exam but I heard it was easy e.g. Which bit of writing on this page is in bold? Non one really likes General Studies but it is linked to our tutorial programme. If you are aware of current affairs and issues you will do fine ? again it just extra work distracting you from your chosen subjects. I found AS Levels in general to be
harder than GCSEs ? you get a lot more work in lessons. Also in my subjects I had quite a lot of coursework to be done. This may take a lot of effort to do but at least you know you have got 1/3 of the marks before you go into the exam. - A2 Levels ? I chose to keep on Law, Geography and Economics + Business Studies to A2 Level. That means I chose to do the full A Level in them. I also started AS Critical Thinking to do as well (part of tutorial again ? ?enrichment?). AS is often called ½ an A Level but it is better to think of it as the first year of A Level ? A2 is the second year. You don?t do anything any differently ? it is just more of the same. Having now done my January exams I have already passed Geography and Business ? even if I did not turn up to my June exams I would have a C in both of them. That is the benefit of AS, modularisation and coursework. It means more work as you go along but less panic at the end. I had exams in Jan 02, June 02, Jan 03, and will have more in June 03. I also had assessed coursework in between exams. At least I don?t have to revise work learned 18 months ago for the last exams as in the old A Levels system. University If you want to go to uni then it is best to be organised. Your college/school might give you lots of support or none at all but if you are organised then it will get done. From September when UCAS starts up you should get writing practice personal statements. The forms are a maze of bureaucracy and you will need to practice a few times. I applied online which is easier and faster ? you can type your statement and check progress online. I recommend it. For courses such as Medicine you have to have finished by the end of October, and if you will need an interview then that takes time. The rule is the earlier the better. If your form is in by November then you won?t be in the mad panic at the cut-off date. Don?t make things up in your statement as your lies will find you out in
an interview. I never had an interview so I don?t really have any advice for that. Don?t take rejection personally (I?m a hypocrite ? I now have a grudge against Bristol) but celebrate your offers. If your final results aren?t what you wanted then it is not the end of the world. Ring the uni you had as a firm choice and ask if they will still have you. If you don?t reach your insurance offer then there is clearing. I just hope this will not be my fate in August! I have an AAB offer for Law at Cardiff, so wish me luck come June exams!
I don't know whether this category wants general comments on A-levels, parents experiences or guides to A-levels for parents. Who knows, maybe even all three, but what I'm going to do is give advice to parents from the viewpoint of someone who has just finished their A levels. The first, and biggest difference between A levels and all the previous time at school is that A levels are optional. Your child doesn't have to be there anymore. There is a whole host of other options available to them; they can go in to the world of work, they can go to college to learn a specific skill, even join the army. This means there is no point in a child being forced by their parents to do A levels. You have to want to do A levels, because no longer will your school or college pressure you to do the work. If you can't be bothered to do the work, then quite frankly, your teachers won't be willing to teach you. That doesn't mean that should you forget your homework one day that you'll get kicked out, but if you never do any work and fail your tests and exams, then the teacher will simply kick you off that particular course. Nice, I know, but there?s no point in wasting peoples time. So basically, what I'm saying is don't force your child to stay at school and do A levels. I would imagine that the vast majority of parents would want their child to continue in education, but the reality is that not everyone wants to. It doesn't really matter how clever your child is, as there are now a range of course on offer, but the fact remains that if they want to be somewhere else, then they should be somewhere else. It may indeed turn out that your child regrets not going back to school, but it isn't a good idea to force the issue, at 16 you are old enough to make your own decision. Next up, you must realise that A levels are hard. I did mine before they introduced the new AS level system which should make the transition easi
er, but whatever they do A levels will not be easy. So don't expect your child to get A's. Some people have it in them, others don't. There are people who can do no work and get an A, others can work their fingers to the bone for 2 years and get an E. That's not to say that hard work can't improve grades, but don't expect miracles. If your child doesn't do too well in an exam then try not to be angry. We know when we've done badly and the last thing we need is our parents shouting at us. And going back to the last point about grades, just because your child happens to get a D doesn't mean it's bad. If they were predicted an E by their teachers then they have done very well. It's also a good idea to understand the courses your children are doing. With lots of modules and coursework flying around it can get very confusing, and I can't tell you the amount of times my parents enquired as to what a particular exam was worth, or if it counted towards my final grade. Next up, you have to remember that at the ages of 16, 17 and 18 your child is now a young adult, and we all know the social lives that young adults have!! You've got cars, going out and girl/boyfriends. The chances are that school won't be the most important thing in your child?s life, but you must try to keep a balance between the two. Too much fun and obviously the school work will suffer, but forcing your child to stay in permanently and they will just resent you. There's a similar situation with working too. Unless you're really nice parents your child is going to have to work to finance his or her social life. To be honest, this can be a bigger problem than the actual social life. Working 5 hours on a Saturday isn't going to do anyone any harm, but once you start working 15+ hours per week it is certainly going to affect school work. Too many people have said they were unable to do something because they are
working, and although it probably encourages good organisation it isn't an ideal situation. You can't go to school from 9am 'till 4pm everyday, have a couple of hours homework to do and then work 20 hours on top of that. Something is going to have to give, and it's usually the school work. With all this it would be very easy for a parent to get overly involved with their child?s life. Yes, it is good to encourage people to do the best thing but at the end of the day you can't control you child?s life. Revision is a good example. When it came to GCSE's you probably had to badger your child to revise and this was perfectly acceptable, but now that it's A levels I really don't think it's up to the parents to make their children revise. By the age of 18 you're old enough to know what you have to do, and interfering parents will just make things worse. If I want to revise I will, but if I'm not in the mood then I just sit there and think of other things. You can't be forced to revise. I guess that my overall advice to parents is not to get too involved in a pushy way. It's up to the people doing the A levels to do the work, and most of the time the work does get done. This isn't to say you shouldn't be involved at all, because if your child starts going out and getting drunk every night or working 40 hours a week then they do need a bit of help! All I'm saying is don't become the evil dictator parents!
Some people think that to be successful in A-level Art,all you have to do is splat a bit of paint on a canvas when you feel the inspiration.Believe me they are soooooooo wrong! I took my exam under the EDEXEL examining body. I thought all examining boards wanted the same thing,but it turned out that some had a more stronger dependancy on the exam to coursework.If you can,find out what the board expects from you,and the coursework/exam ratio,to get you and idea of the course structure. My course was 2 years long, but to be completely honest i thought the first year was acomplete waste of time. All the work i produced wasn't even submitted for a mark. I believe this was because the first year is made to develope ideas and experiment.The only bit of work which meant alot was my Personal Study: The personal study is a project that you work on alone. You basically come up with an essay title,to do with a movement in art or an artist, the subject is entirely up to you. Then you have to spend time researching this subject,and make a written commentary. To go with this commentary you have to produce a book/folder of artwork. The artwork should show experimentation of the movement or style. Also mock images of artists work,and your on images in the style of the artist,or movement. You will be assigned your Personal study at th end of the first year so you can work over the holiday.MAKE SURE YOU START YOUR RESEARCH NOW!So many of my friends didn't bother and then had to rush it or didn't get it finished. The whole point of getting it at this time,is that you havn't got any other artwork to do yet,and in the next year your workload WILL dramatically increase. Trust me.This year your structure is: Personal study- Title established and research started Mock exam-Timed and sometimes used as Unit one!?! During the second year it's alot of hard work. Especially if you have other subjects to negotiate arou
nd.The structure works like this: Unit one- complete project includes research, body of work and a final piece. Unit two- as unit one Unit three- as unit one Final exam Your units each make up your body of coursework. This was the hardedst bit of the course,as the timingand planning needs to be organinsed for you to fit them all in. Each unit can be from any area you want. (My course was focused more on fine art which saw me doing two painting focused units and one sculpture based.)For each unit find out the dates for them to be handed in,and stick to them , otherwise they will leave you less time for you third and final unit. For each unit: Make a plan of the start date and final date to allow you to plan the three main areas RESEARCH/ DEVELOPMENT / FINAL PIECE.Split your timetable into three to allow you time to research your subject. Deveope your ideas and create a body of work. Then create and finish a final piece. Finally you will come to your exam. Because much of your final mark will be taken from the course work you will have a more relaxed time. In the exam you will be allowed a fixed time period. I think ours was ten hours, possibly 20 . This will be slotted into your periods, for example one day you could have three periods of exam which would account for three hours.But this will be established at your school/college. Our school sixth form was pretty laid back and allowed us to have the radio on and talk during the exam. Sometimes you may be required to work in silence.Obviously during the exam you usually haveto stay within the room your working apart from when you are collecting materials. Basically it's not the exam you should worry about, it's the timimg and organisation of your coursework that provided the most problems. Within my class there were people graded from A to E, and this was generally due to how far they'd got with there coursework. Hopefully,if you are doin
g a full A-Level in Art soon this will help. x Good Luck
My son is a guinea-pig, the whole of his educational life he has been a guinea-pig; this time it is AS levels. I live in Kent where we still have selective education and there are a number of Grammar schools. I am not going into whether or not that is fair, but its a fact. What this means of course is that the children in these schools are expected to be among the brightest in the county. So when I say that my son's school is experiencing a level of year 12 drop-out this year which they have never experienced before then you know there must be a problem. My son has played for the same football team for the last 5 years and some of his team-mates go/went to the same school so I have seen these lads grow up. Their self-confidence has been dented by these exams, so much so that they don't want to carry on to finish their A Levels, what a waste. A levels are and always were a two year course. Previously students had two years to do the course, building up and maturing educationally until they were ready to sit them. Now they get flung in at the deep end only partly prepared after one year. Also, like all of these bright ideas, they get introduced overnight. I don't suppose anybody even considered re-adjusting earlier years of schooling to give a better build-up and phase the whole thing in gradually, oh no, that would be too sensible. I have a lot of contact with the school as I am a Governor and it has become apparent to me that a number of the examining boards are just not ready themselves for these exams. The board which our school uses for DT has put together an AS paper which is so biased towards resistant materials that any student who took the Graphic Design paper at GCSE is automatically floundering, this affects almost all students in my son's year. The school was not even given the content of the papers until the students were a few weeks before the mock exams. As far as Universities are concerned
AS levels are a stepping stone to an A level. If you sit four subjects at AS you are expected to drop one and take the other three on to A level. AS levels score as half of an A level so the theory is that a student who would previously have left with 3 subjects now leaves with 3 1/2. All this means of course is that the Universities shift the goalposts again in terms of entry requirements and you are back to square one. This is in fact what has happened. Previously the Universities worked on a 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 points basis for grades A-E at A level. Now they have intrroduced this unified points scoring system which includes A levels, AS levels, NVQ, Scottish Highers, Scottish Advanced Highers and a number of other qualifications. I suppose I can just about see their point in terms of comparing the "worth" of different achievements, but it doesn't half make life complicated. So, in conclusion, stop tinkering around with our educational system, stop ruining our youngsters' childhood and for pity sake give us a bit of stability. I am lucky, my lad seems to be coping, but even he is convinced that a number of his grades are going to be lower than they should be.
After the past few weeks debating over AS levels I thought I would voice my opinion. And I have to say this, they are the stupidest thing the government ever did! Firstly Universities do not pay attention to them and who is to know which Universities do and which ones don't??! Secondly to have to take major exams 3years in a row is a tremendous amount of pressure. Everyone knows that English children have the most exams over any other country in Europe,why increase this? Some may say it is preparing the children for later in life when there are plenty of exams, this is not true at all. The children will become so accustomed to exams they will not know which one is the most important! AS levels have only just been introduced last year. The students this year have only one paper to revise from and those last year had none. The "guinea pigs" are suffering for no known reason. Surely there must be an easier solution such as just doing one AS exam the first year with mocks in the rest and then the rest of the subjects as A Levels the next year. Something is terribly wrong with educational in England if we believe that doing an extra subject will meake or break an education in University.
I am not a parent who has children old enough to sit their A level exams. However, I ‘am’ a parent and it has not been long since I sat exams, and I know how my parents went about it. Having a child of my own now and having gone through what I did during my exams has given me some ideas about what I will do when my daughter is old enough to sit her exams. A levels I believe are 'the' most important and hardest exams, but all exas are exams so as parents we should provide a good base for our children early on so that they dowel in all exams. Firstly, being a parent you have a big responsibility in pointing your children in the right direction. Young children do not know what is best for them, it is our responsibility as parents to teach them. We have to lay the foundations and they are strong foundations, then there is less chance of there being any problems later on. Education is very important to me. I have a degree and still hope to continue studying further in the future. Not only does education get you a good job, but it teaches many other things to, like how to mix with different people, how to mix with people of different ages, it teaches you respect for others and also makes you broader minded. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that those people who are not educated don’t have these qualities. Some of my close relatives are not that educated but have all these qualities. It’s just that I personally feel that education is important and will want it to be important to my children. I grew up in a house where there was a lot of emphasis on reading, but also being a female there was also a lot of emphasis on me learning household tasks such as cooking. I managed to spend enough time on both so I learned to cook, sew, clean etc and also got an education. I don’t regret any of the things my parents did or said during those years and I am very happy with all that I learnt. However, I will want
to teach all these things to my children too but in a different way. I feel that it is never too early to read to your child. Children begin to recognise sounds very early on. They recognise their name from about 6/7 months or maybe earlier. I feel that we as parents should read to our children from a young age. Also, younger children are intelligent, at a young age children can learn much more than they do at an older age. I can give my own example, by the age of 5 I could fluently speak two languages, English and my mother tongue. At eleven I started to learn French at school, I didn’t do bad in my GCSE’s but it wasn’t easy to learn. I never managed to speak it fluently and I can’t remember all that I learned, only bits of it. What I want to say is that it is easier to teach children under the age of ten. I believe that we should concentrate on our children at that stage in their life and teach them all the good we can. We should teach them the importance of education, and develop an interest in them towards education. All children are not interested in books, some have other interests and there is nothing wrong with that. The earlier on we realise as parents, where the interests of our children lie, the earlier we can push our children in the right direction. My main point is that there is no point in shouting at our children to do homework or study for exams, when they are 16 / 17/ 18/ 21 etc. At that age they should take responsibility, parents can’t sit the exam for them they have to do it themselves. They know at that age that if they don’t study they will not do well. Our responsibility as parents is earlier on when our kids don’t know. We have to push them at earlier ages. For example telling a child to do homework at the age of eight or ten is worthwhile because that child is young and after a little push s/he most probably will listen and will do his/ her work. To conclude, my sugge
stion is start early on it may help later on.
Every year the media noise about GCSE, A level and degree examinations gets more and more hysterical and if my experience is anything to go by (fairly recent), it only serves to worry students to an ever greater extent. I admit that I am lucky. I enjoy exams and miss them. But I acknowledge that others are not the same (presumably they hate them as much as I hated coursework). But the more you prepare people to be frightened, the more more frightened they become. The intentions are honest but it's ham-fisted. If we accept that all this exam preparation/therapy/counselling doesn't appear to be working (which it doesn't - kids appear to become more hysterical every year), why don't we try a completely - and genuinely innovative - new approach? Why don't we ignore next year's exams and let everyone get on with it by themselves? At the very worst it can only do what seems to be happening at the moment - people get a little more stressed every year.
I'm afraid I am short of a simple pre-requisite in order to write this review from a parent's point of view. That is, I have no children, never mind any who have sat exams! However, I am in a position to state what it is like to be on the receiving end of parental and other exam pressures and attitudes, as it hasn't been that long since I sat my degree finals! Although I have chosen to place this review in the A-Level category, as it is usually the most important set of school exams young people take, the principles and suggestions in my review should apply across the board, from standard grades and GCSEs, through higher, A-Level and CSYS, right on to undergraduate level. If there was a general category, this is where I would have placed the review, however I will try and make it as geared towards A-level as I can. To write about how parents "should" regard their child's exams is a difficult one to answer, not least because it depends highly upon the relationship between the parent and child. If, by the time you come round to your A-levels, you still actually care what your parents think, then the attitude they take can be vitally important to the student's state of mind, and their own attitude to studying and achieving. If, however you are an independent young adult, who is past caring, or who feels rebellious towards your parents point of view, then the parent needs to stand back and think about how to approach the situation, since their attitude could provoke and even more serious reaction, particularly from a rebellious or aggresively independent teen. I was (and still am) of the former school of thought, so I will deal with that first. My parents view on exams meant a lot to me, and made a big impression on me, however well I tried to hide it. As it happens, I think my parent's attitude, on the outside, was a very good one. They basically said that as long as I did my best, they would be happ
y. However there were other pressures surrounding me. I have a very clever pair of older siblings, both high achievers, whose successes I have always felt I should at least meet, if not supercede. This is not a parental pressure, but a personal one. Whether they realise it or not, this is an area where any parental input, be it words, facial expressions, or just simple comments in passing can make a huge impression on a younger sibling. Parents should always be on their guard about what impressions they are giving to their children, however subtle it may appear. Concientious pupils (of which I was not one!) can also place huge pressures upon themselves during exam time, despite the most relaxed parental attitude. Although a bit of self-discipline and motivation is obviously a good thing, this can also go too far, and lead to eating disorders, nervous conditions and severe clinical depression. Parents should always be on the look-out for their children working too hard - yes, there is such a thing! Encourage your child to take breaks, have fun, and keep these exams in perspective. Although it certainly seems like it at the time, A-Levels are NOT the be all and end all of your life! Ask anyone aged over 21 if they even remember what they got for their school exams - I guarantee that most would have to think about it for a while, particularly Scottish students, who study more subjects at Higher Grade. Having said that, a nonchalant attitude can just as worrying. But do remember that if your child is part of group 2, then nagging them might only push them further and further away from study! Offer to help set up a study timetable, or encourage your child to study with more concientious friends. Many A-level students are working with the sole aim of acheiving grades high enough to gain entrance to university or college. Make sure your child is open to a number of options, just in case their dreams are shattered. There is alw
ays a way of getting what you want, even if it isn't the way you initially planned. If you have always wanted to be a doctor, but didn't make the grade, show your child they can still stay in their field of interest, just taking a different route during which they may find out more about themselves, and eventually find a job to which they are more suited. A-Levels are a stressful time for every student, no matter how laid back they appear. Couple the actual exam stress with the inevitable teenage hormones, boyfriend/girlfriend trouble and self-esteem and self-image conflicts which all teens go through, and you have a very vulnerable young adult. Handle with care! Treat with caution! But above all, let your child know that whatever happens, you will always be there for them, and whatever the outcome of their exams, there is always an option for them.
A-levels....yes, it sends dread through many people! I'd always been pretty clever at school (not that im blowing my own trumpet or anything!). For many, many years I have wanted to become a vet. I mean what a great job that is! Combining my love of both animals and science nicely. *However* there is just one major problem with this. You have to be a genius! Well, not literally, but to get into vet school you basically have to stand out from the crowd. (Not easy when you have a further 2000 or so applicants applying for the remaining 50 places left, all with AAA in thier A-levels and around 5 years worth of work experience under their belt!) So I've known for many years that i've got my work cut out if I am going to be in with even a chance of getting into vet school. Since I made the decision when I was in year 8 I have known that I will do A-level Physics, Chemistry and Biology. The government (or whoever it is that descides these things!) then came up with the brainwave idea of AS-levels!! (sarcasm intended!) As you are all aware I am sure, especially with all the media coverage recently of these new AS's, they are, put simply, half an A-level. Im not mocking the idea of them entirely, after all, they do allow you to choose a more varied choice of subjects. Some pretty strange mixes if you ask me, but there we go! However - they *do* mean more work for us "guinea pigs" this year. I am one of the lucky (or not so lucky dependant on which way you look at it). I was originally doing AS Physics, Chemistry, Biology and IT. However IT was really boring (personal choice), so I dropped it. However it was just a little too late to take up another AS (I dropped about 3 weeks into the year). So I ended up doing a veterinary nursing course instead. This was very interesting, however I will neither get UCAS points nor credit through an actual qualification
for this. (I just get a certificate for it). (Id have to be emplyed at a vet's so that I was doing the course to actually train as a vet nurse for the qualification). So, in a way, i've had it a little easier than my friends still doing 4 AS's. *BUT* this is not going to be the case next year. What am I supposed to do?? Assuming I pass all 3 AS's (keeping fingers crossed!), I will continue them all onto next year, the A2 year. However when applying to University they will see that I only have 3AS's under my belt, even though I went to College - so it's not as if I went to a school that only allowed you to do 3 AS's. This is going to put me at a disadvantage now. They will think I did this out of laziness. So, the *only* way around this is to take up an AS next year. I am going to do AS maths (not easy on its own!), let alone with Physics, Chemistry and Biology both at full A-level standard! Is this fair? You have to ask. Well it isn't my fault, nor is it the system's fault. But why should I, and my grades, be made to suffer? It is clear that these new AS's simply are not working as well as they had thought. (Don't get me started on "Key Skill's"!!) So for a run-down on the new AS's from a "guinea pig's" point of view: I'll start each topic with a line someone has said in either the media or during interviews for college entrance: "The leap from GCSE to A-level is bridged" Firstly, GCSEs *DO NOT* prepare you at all for A-level. Nevermind the AS-level. It should be the full A-level you are aiming at. GCSEs are basically p*ss easy incomparison to AS and A-level. Although you GCSE students may not think so at the moment, or during you maths GCSE exam....believe me *they are* easy incomparison. When I first started on my AS cours
es I felt like I had been completely thrown in at the deep end. AS's basically do not bridge any gaps between GCSE and A-level. Why? Because: (a) GCSEs are far below AS level. Far far far below infact! Even higher tiers. (b) A-level is basically the AS level. Except you've studied only one years worth of it. Think of it this way, in the past you could do a 2 year course to gain your A-level. There were no external exams until the final year. Or you could take a 1 year, intensive course, and gain your A-level in a year. (If you were in a hurry!) You didn't take exams at the 6 month period! You waited until the end of the year. This option was basically for the high fliers, or maybe mature students with a lot of background in the subject or a similar, supporting, subject. So isn't this AS level comparably to the pressures placed upon the high fliers? "AS-levels allow students to take a wider variety of subjects" This in a way *is* true. However most students seem to like a certain type of subject. For example, for me, the thought of doing an AS (yes a whole year!) studying English, Art, Music, French, etc. fills me with dread! Id HATE it, I really would. The "arts" subjects never have appealed (and I did GCSE art?!), whether they be languages, music, art, anything like that. So, that limits me to the sciences. Suits me fine. No problem with them. So that last sentence I just said contradicts what the whole aim in the AS's is! I *wouldn't* have mixed a variety of subjects. Don't get me wrong, there are people who have, but the majority of people either do science subjects, including geography, electronics, etc. or they do arts subjects, including english, other langauges, art, music, etc. There are them that are simply classed as "humanities", e.g. history, law, business studies.
These basically seem to suit the arts pupils. We then get further contradictions when discussing our options right at the beginning of the year. We, well us science students, here: "The other science subjects would help you with this subject" "Universities are looking for a wide variety *within* the science subjects" "You would need to take ---- to do this at university" So we generally end up doing at least 2 sciences. (Again, not a problem with me). All of this seems to contradict some what with the whole point in AS-levels. "AS-levels prepare you for the full A-level" Well have I just missed something throughout the past year?! We *ARE* doing the A-level. What are they on about?!? Do they think we study something totally different this year or something?! Yes, yes, I know they say that it is the "easier" stuff that is in the first year, which, up to a point, may be true. But we're still studying the same things as last years "conventional A-levelers" did! Its just that we get examined all blinking year through! We now have twice as much coursework as last years "conventional" one's had. E.g. this year I have done: 4 assessed practicals in chemistry (all of which then had to be typed up) endless practicals in biology (again, typed up), only to have been told a few weeks ago that instead of do the conventional coursework method of "assessed practicals" we are to do the "practical exam" route. (Got that in a few weeks....aaggghhhh!) 4 assessed practicals (again, all typed up) for Physics. The typing up in physics has been much harder than the others. Not only because physics is harder (on the whole), but because the standard she wanted was *much* higher than the others. She expected us to do all sorts of further manipulation of
equations/formulae (needless one's for this purpose), infact she has recently admitted the amount of work we (or most of the class!) did on them is suitable for next years "research project" which is to span over 4 weeks worth of an individual project. Last years lot got away with only one lot of coursework. Us "guinea pigs" however are to have to repeat all of this over next year too. Thats twice as much work (wow, my maths is good isn't it!) Generally the point I'd like to get across is this: All you GCSE, year 11 students reading this....prepare yourself for next year. I know you wont believe me (I didn't believe the advice until I started my AS's!), but honestly, the new AS's do not make them *easier* not do they "bridge any gaps". For all you A-levelers reading this that got away with it by being in your second year now: YOU LUCKY PEOPLE!!!!!!!!! I really do think the new AS system should be looked at thouroughly. (Which I believe is going to happen). We simply are not ready for this. We're only 16 and 17. We had it easy last year, with GCSEs! The teachers, sorry, lectures! have all agreed that they simply are not *easier* than ni previous years, they have got harder now, with all the increased pressures. As for there not being enough examinars to mark our papers, well thats just a disgrace! Didn't they think of that before!? They had better get my papers marked, all this stress wasn't for nothing, I want my grades....no matter how bad they are!! All in all though, do not let that put you off. I would, even knowing how hard this year has been, still have done them. I am still going to do them next year. I really would urge you to do them. If you are planning on University then I'd sway from GNVQ's, or as they call them now "vocational A-levels". Although t
hey may have A-levels in their title's now, and some University courses do say they "accept GNVQs", A-levels are still looked upon much more favourably.
I just wanted to write this opinion/advice for anyone who is considering A Levels, or parents who have children considering them. I did my A Level courses from September 1998 up until my last exam in June 2000. I know that the way A Levels are now done changed the year after I did mine, but one of my subjects was Business Studies, which at the college I went to, was already being done the new AS Level way. ~ GCSEs VS A LEVELS ~ The first major point I will make, which I have never heard anybody disagree with, is that GCSEs do not do a very good job at preparing you for your A Levels. I felt like I was completely thrown into the deep end when it came to A Levels. They are much harder. I am not saying this is a bad thing, just that if you are prepared for this, then it'll be a lot easier to get to grips with them. GCSEs seem to teach you the basics and then A Levels teach you the rest! This may be a slight exaggeration, but trust me - that is the way it feels when you are sitting your 3 hour A Level exam clutching the pen in your sweaty hand and wishing that your GCSEs had maybe been a little harder to bring the difficulty in A Level exams down! You may be thinking 'who in the world would wish for harder exams?' but trust me, I hate exams and -I- wanted to turn back time so bad and somehow make those GCSEs a little harder! ~ COLLEGE VS 6TH FORM ~ Secondly, the choice of whether to stay at school and go into the 6th Form or to go to college. Personally, I went to college. It was a bit of a trek for me. I had to sit on a train for 40 minutes and then on a bus for 10 minutes all the way there and then the same back Tuesday through to Friday, but it was completely worth it. (I found this very useful when you had forgotten to do your homework as you have all that travelling time to do it in! I am joking - I do not recommend doing homework on a train or bus at all. The tutor will catch you out due to the wobbly handwr
iting... not that I ever did it...) I was the only one of my friends to go to this college, (no one else was crazy enough to travel that far) which was a little daunting at first, but you tend to find that most people are in the same position as you, and those that have friends that come with them are looking for new friends anyway - that's one of the reasons they went to college instead of staying on at school! I made friends as soon as I turned up. I got lost and found two other people who were also lost and we stuck together, found a few more new friends and then got them lost too! We are still really good friends today! (We still find ourselves pretty much lost today, too!) You may find that for your first year at college you start your first term a week earlier than those that have already been there a year or so. This is because they have a 'getting to know each other' week. You are split into small groups and do some little teamwork games, so that you can get to know people. It is very comforting trust me - you learn that you are not alone in the not knowing many people department! I felt that college made me grow up a lot and become very independent (and I mean 'independent' in the good sense for all you worrying parents!) I also became very open minded which I think is always a good thing - nothing annoys me more than people who think everyone should agree with their opinions and not have their own... grr! I don't think that this would have worked with me if I had stayed on at school - but I am not saying this is the same for everyone. I did see a lot of 'shy' people who came to college who left due to feeling lonely all the time. I also saw some loud mouth lads leave, as they couldn't handle the growing up part. There are of course others who just feel more comfortable staying at school – and if that is what you want, then I am all for it. You also have to be prepared to organise all your own work totally at colleg
e. At schools you still have the teachers that push you for the homework. At many colleges (not all, but most) you call your tutors by their first names (we even ended up calling our Business tutor Bazza and our Media teacher Gezza!) This is just one example of how much more laid back colleges are, and thus they leave you to your own devices when it comes to homework and revision - if you don't do it they wont kick up a big stink about it like they do at schools. You may think this is a good thing if you hate homework, but it means if you are too relaxed, then you could fail your A Levels because of it. If you are the sort of person who needs to be pushed to get the best out of you, then I strongly recommend thinking about staying on at school. If you are like me and are more likely to get things done if you aren’t pushed for them, then college is the answer. Think about this one hard - you will be here for up to another two years of your life, and as long as you make the right decision, then they could be the best two years or your life! ~ EXAMS! ~ And finally... coping with exams! I don’t believe that a college student is any better at exams than a school one and vice versa. Now, when it comes to exam day, there aren't that many people who are calm... lets say about 1 in a million. If that. This is the same with parents too. Infact, I don't think there are any parents that don't get as stressed out by the A Level exams, if not more than their children! Parents - you have to remember that your children are so worried that they are going to fail, that you shouldn't show them your anxiety at all - they will just take this as if you have no faith in them what so ever, even if that is not true at all. I know that isn't what my mum was thinking at all, but because of her worrying, that's how I felt. Students - everyone worries. You are not alone. Just remember though, try to stay as calm as possible. If you go in
to an exam thinking you are going to fail, you will spend you whole time in there worrying instead of doing your best. Girls - exams do funny things to your hormones. Guys - exams do funny things to those strange emotion thingys that you may have been trying to ignore up until now. I saw grown lads in tears about their exams, as they were "sure they were going to fail". This is all I can say about this area really. I won't say don't worry, as that really annoyed me when people said it to me during my exams, but what I will say is - I'm sure you'll be fine. Whatever the results, at the end of the day you really will be fine. Trust me. Just remember – be prepared for these exams to be nothing at all like GCSEs! ~ THUMBS UP OR DOWN? ~ All in all, if you really want to do your A Levels whether to carry onto uni, or just to extend your qualifications from GCSEs, then go for it. I didn't go to uni, but I am still really pleased I did my A Levels. Just please, please, please don't make the mistake of doing them just to waste another couple of years. There's a lot more easier stuff to do if you just want to waste time. Good luck to all those A Levellers out there!
This year is the last year of A levels as we know them. Any of us who have done A levels will have done a 2 year course or for those who wanted to do them quickly a 1 year course. The A levels done have covered many subjects and come in many forms some based soley on end of course exams while others have had exams and maybe course work throughout the 2 years. For all these A levels there was a lot of work to cover to achieve a good qualification. Now a change has come. It has not got easier it may well have got harder! The A level courses are now comprised of two parts. There is the AS level. (In my day that was the paper for the superbrains!) The AS is equivalent to half an A level. This is done in 1 year and there are exams at the end of that one year. Most A level students are expected to do at least 4 AS levels. That is an awful lot of work for a 17 year old. After the first year when you have done your AS levels you then work towards your A2 which takes the next year. Now you will do fewer subjects. The work gets harder as you finish the A levels. The idea behind the change was to widen the range of subjects studied by a student at this level. While this is a commendable idea there are many teething problems being encountered as the first set of AS level papers are sat. Schools are having too many exams to run. the young people are having too many exams on one day. I think that this situation could be improved by not making everyone sit the AS exams but only those not continuing to A2 level, that way there are going to be a lot fewer candidates for each subject and it would ease the burden of the exams on the students.
In the recent revelation where A level papers were on sale for £400.00, I think that the examination board should have sent out the backup papers in time for the actual exams. The costs for investigating potential cheats, and the disruption to other students could have all been prevented. I feel its a gross misjustice to all students that have worked hard throughout the term. I wonder how many students could afford £400.00, which highlights again, the rich and poor divide. I might also question their security procedures, surely their is a better way?