What I wish I had known at A Level

Published by Sophie
on 04/03/2020

For anyone in the thick of it studying for their A Levels, BTEC or the like, it can be hard to think outside of that A Level bubble. I remember being in year 13 and being continually annoyed by ridiculous requirements on marking schemes, being sick of re-reading the same novel over and over to revise for English Literature (safe to say that I will not be reading Wuthering Heights for the 4th time in the near future), and just bursting to be leaving my final exam with the start of University in sight.

Having been at University for 3 years now (time really flies!), I thought it would be useful to outline a few things I wish I had known at A Level that might have made the future a little less daunting, and possibly even made me appreciate the A Level way of learning before it was gone forever.

1- Never again will you have to re-read the same text 4 times to revise
The reality of English courses at University can be a harsh one to begin with. Having studied 6 texts across my 2 A Level years for English Literature, having a novel a week to read at University was a hard adjustment to begin with. Though re-reading the same text may have been monotonous at the time, there often feels like there isn’t enough time to read University texts even once! Looking back, I wish I had relished in the free reading time I did have, whilst also wishing I knew that I had a wealth of amazing literature to read just around the corner!

2- You will have more writing freedom
As someone who was always frustrated by the restrictions of A Level mark schemes and examiner expectations, I wish I had known what freedom there was to come with writing at University. At UoB I have had countless opportunity to create my own essay questions for modules meaning I have been able to hone in on topics I really love. I have also found that the mark schemes we are to abide by at University are less about what content is expected to be in your essay, and more about academic style, form and structure.

3- There is writing help available!
As A Levels were coming to a close, and having had amazing teachers and guidance at college, I began to worry that this wouldn’t be the case at a University with so many students! But fret not! AWAS are available for all of your writing needs and more information on this service can be found here!

4- The whole “the jump from GCSE to A Level is harder than the step from A Level to University” argument is… kind of… true
Though I would argue that the jump from GCSE to A Level can be jaunting for some in terms of content, independent work and exam rubric, it would be wrong to write off the step to University as easy. But rest assured the biggest adjustment you might face at University (in terms of academics) is likely to be getting used to seminar preparation and the lecture/seminar method of learning. Realistically there is a lot less assessed work (at least for someone like me who had a mock exam every week in college), and A Levels will likely have prepared you well for the independent study and reading you will be expected to do.

All in all, education doesn’t last forever, and the biggest thing I wish I had known back in my A Level years was to make the most of it. Enjoy every second and cherish it while it lasts.