Over the next two years, you will experience the following; internal tests in the November of Year 12, external (AS) examinations in some subjects in January, and in all subjects in May/June and in the following summer, A2 exams. The AS papers contribute 50% of the A2 award so it is worth gaining the highest mark possible in the AS modules, where the level is easier. Many A2 exams also expect knowledge of AS material, so don’t burn your AS notes at the end of Year 12!
- During the first two weeks of November, individual departments set tests to assess your level of progress. These may take the form of past AS papers. They are designed to indicate to you and your teachers whether or not you are coping with the demands of the AS syllabus. The results are analysed using the ALPS system to compare your achieved result with the predicted results based on GCSE grades. (This will be explained to you more fully at the time). The results are also used as the basis for reports issued at the end of term.
- In some subjects, AS modules will be taken in January.
- Study leave will be arranged to commence in early May and will continue until the end of the external examination period. You will then return to school for the remaining weeks of the summer term to start your A2 courses.
- The AS results will be available on the third Thursday in August. If there are unpleasant surprises, you may wish to consider re-sitting one or two modules to improve your result. There is a Parents’ Evening in September; this is an opportunity to discuss this possibility with the relevant members of staff and your parents. Re-sitting modules is not an easy option. It is expensive and it places additional pressure on your A2 work. The preparation for re-sits is entirely down to you. There will be no additional teaching for this, and you will simultaneously need to keep up with the A2 course. Top universities will look for candidates who have gained good grades without having to re-sit. The message is – get it right first time!
- Just as AS levels are a step up from GCSEs, so A2 levels are more demanding than AS levels. In recognition of this, many students choose to continue with only 3 A2 subjects, so as to be able to devote adequate time to the higher levels of study required.
- Study leave will be arranged to commence in mid May of Year 13. Books and resources should be returned to school after the last examination and before the Leavers’ Ball! The examination results are issued on the third Thursday of August. In final recognition of your excellent achievements, an awards evening will be held in the December/January following your departure from school.
The following is an extract from two articles printed recently in the Independent newspaper, written by two (successful!) students, Sarah Hajibagheri (now taking a gap year) and Rob Briggs (a Geography undergraduate at Cambridge University).
- ‘A’ grades are achieved through effective revision followed by successful application of knowledge. ‘Both are based on technique, not necessarily IQ.’ In other words, exam technique is as important as learning facts.
- Revision is RE vision, i.e. revisiting work already covered. The best place to start is the subject syllabus, obtainable from the exam website or your teachers. Use this to identify areas you may have missed, or where your notes are insufficient. Gen up on missing sections.
- Divide the syllabus into manageable chunks or topics.
- Don’t spend days making colour-coded, laminated revision charts but set daily, flexible, realistic targets and include incentives to keep you working. This means waking up before midday so you can give yourself a reward in the evening – socialise!
- Quality not quantity! Short frequent bursts are better as most people lose concentration after 45 minutes.
- Vary your revision techniques because we all learn in different ways e.g. visual learners use mind maps, diagrams and posters; auditory learners discuss ideas with friends in study sessions. Revision doesn’t have to be a solitary business! Split up topics, learn them, present back and then test each other.
- Make use of the media. There are countless revision websites e.g. www.s-cool.co.uk.
- Tuning into a satellite foreign channel or reading a foreign newspaper or making vocab. cards helps language revision. You could bung the cards into your handbag and test yourself, even just waiting for the bus. You could try to think in the language, even when not revising e.g. when nature called, think Ich muss auf die Toilette gehen. You can never finish learning more vocab., but with a basic grammatical grounding, you can manipulate sentence structures to get around gaps in your vocab. knowledge.
- Sort your working environment. Working to music diverts attention, as does outside noise, so shut the windows.
- No point spending hours writing what you already know; start on the topic you feel least secure about.
- Read through friends’ essays to help develop your own ideas and to appreciate the value of a good structure.
- On the morning of the exam, get up in good time, have a hearty breakfast and read through the salient points of your revision notes.
- During the exam season, try to get 7 hours of quality sleep each night. Cramming is rarely as successful as you think. ‘I work best under pressure’ is nonsense – you may produce more in terms of quantity but the quality reveals all! A sensible routine is helpful.
- Try to maintain the daily routine of the school day – don’t be tempted to lie in for hours; you’ll find it easier to reach that morning exam if you don’t.