Thursday, 24 August 2017

last min a-level advice

With results day literally being today (you can always count on me to post in true Dalal fashion) I thought I’d do something that I wish had been around this time last year when I was a) absolutely shitting it for my results and b) wasn't even 100% sure on what A-levels I was going to take. I only thought of this yesterday evening, quickly tweeted asking if this post was wanted, reached out to everyone I know on snapchat and got writing. I’ve rounded up (almost) all honest opinions on a range of A-level subjects so that you can know what it’s really like to study it before you fully commit to it. I study Biology, History, English Literature and Spanish so I’ll be chipping in my experiences with those throughout my first year and have got a few friends to write paragraphs their experiences with their subjects.

  • Bio: Biology is my favourite science, hence why I picked it. This is the subject I felt the “jump” most in. Trust me it was so immense I went from being a straight A/A* biologist at GCSE to a solid E/D in my first few weeks. But it is expected with sciences. Something as simple as labelling an animal cell in the earlier years (it was literally just cytoplasm, cell wall, cell membrane and nucleus) had escalated to 3D diagrams including the golgi apparatus, extra and intra cellular ribosomes, centrioles and lysosomes. Oh an trust me, the learning curve is still happening; I had a brief insight into my A2 content and everything you know about photosynthesis and aerobic respiration is a lie. Photons, Krebs Cycle and the Calvin Cycle are included. To sum it up, with A-level biology you should: have solid maths skills as most exam boards are incorporating more mathematical calculations (much to my despair), be prepared to do 100s of practical investigations, have a lot of content fit into one lesson (I swear my brain dies a little after each lesson) and make sure you actually understand every bit of content you learn, especially the Foundation in Biology module because everything you learn throughout is transferrable. Oh and please focus in every lesson and try not to miss any because you will come back confused boy. 
  • Chem (same with bio)
  • Physics (same with bio)
  • Maths (will fill in asap)
  • Psychology: According to Ambra, psychology is relatively simple and is just a matter of learning the content and applying it to essay questions (even though it's "fucking annoying to write essays") Even though the content is easy to learn, there's so much of it. 
  • Sociology: SHIT TON OF ESSAYS (no seriously, that's the first thing my friend just sent me) but enlightening nonetheless and REALLY enlightening. You'll have to reference sociologists and make real life applications and/or links. The classroom discussions help you gain different views for exams which is always helpful and you will be trained in writing essays. Although there's a lot of content, it's fairly easy to understand because it applies to everyday life and is straightforward when remembering because of how relevant all of it is to our society. You need a lot of evaluative thinking. 12/10 pick it.
  • Law: ofc my friend Rudo went all out and did the most with her response but consider yourselves lucky ;) My name is Rudo and I study Law, English Literature and History at A-Level.Here’s my honest opinion of law at A-Level so buckle up. First of all I just need to put out there thatyou DON’T need to study law at A-Level if you want to study a law degree, since many universities understand that it is an arguably niche subject which won’t be offered at every sixth form in the country, in the same way that Maths or Biology is. Having said that, I think it’s fair to say that studying A-Level law gives you a slight advantage because you get an early understanding of key legal concepts and theories. It also allows for your legal/analytical mind to be sharpened but as I say it’s only a SLIGHT advantage. In terms of law as a subject I really enjoy it, my school uses AQA and I like the way the exam is structured under them. I studied statutory interpretation, judicial precedent and criminal courts and lay persons in Unit 1. A lot of the content in the unit 1 exam is based off of common sense and there’s not a great deal of applying legal knowledge. All of the questions are worth 10 marks so it literally comes down to memorising essay plans and you’ll be able to do well in the exam. There is only a certain amount of questions which they can ask you because the content is so restricted. You can also usually pre-empt what they will ask you since there are usually patterns which can be picked up on year to year, as with any exam, but this is a risky game to play (so just revise the whole spec!)I then studied introduction to criminal liability and contract law in Unit 2. Now unit 2 is a completely different ball game to be honest with you. You learn a lot more content and you are expected to apply your legal knowledge to problem questions, unlike regurgitating information like in unit 1. In the exam you’re given a scenario where they present an issue to you and they ask you to apply the stature (laws) which you learnt in your lessons to it. Usually the scenarios are stupid but you need to read them quite carefully to make sure that you don’t miss anything. You have to memorise the elements of different laws like assault and grievous bodily harm. It’s way more fun though because you feel like an actual lawyer making judicial decisions rather than a student who is reading a law textbook. 
  • History: I simultaneously love and hate this subject because I swear my emotions towards it are different every week. I have a natural affinity for history but the amount of work it requires is crazy. Admittedly, I slacked throughout the year because I saw I was getting solid A’s throughout with minimal work so when I sat my mock, reality slapped me in the face. Which is why I must reiterate the following: do not get too confident and keep up with all your work. Do not take A-level history if you are unable to write well or if you can’t read anything other than fiction books otherwise you will suffer. Your essays must be perfectly analytical and readily able to scrutinise every source, regardless of whether it supports your overall argument or not. You need to read countless historiographies and input other historians views to help support your argument or help you undermine the given one. As well as that, you should definitely check out exactly what history your college/sixth form offers so you know what to expect. With that being said do not let it put you off because trust me, as a modern history lover when I learnt that I’d be studying the German Reformation and Yorkist, Lancastrians and Tudors in my first year I just about died. A year later I can tell you that regardless of what you study exactly, you'll enjoy it because the study of history isn't solely about the actual part of it you study but of the analysis and judgement of it.
  • Geography (will fill in asap)
  • Spanish: I take Spanish but will also speak on behalf of all languages because the course structure is pretty similar throughout. Personally, languages at A-level are completely different to the study of it at GCSE mainly because it advances to a much higher level. Definitely one I wasn't expecting at first but less than a year later I can say that I’m much more confident in speaking, reading and writing the language so the initial shock is worth it. You are given much more freedom and creativity with A-level study (this is across the board!) and the course content is incredibly interesting. For example in Spanish we study a film, a piece of literature, religious attitudes in Spain, cultural celebrations, family attitudes, gang violence across South America, LGBTQ rights and more. The oral exam in year 13 is what sounded most daunting when I started as I was told I would have to speak for 25 minutes in non-stop Spanish. I can assure you that by the end of year 12 you'll be able to do this, because if I can do it (and go over my time) then anyone can. Your independent research project literally gives you so much freedom to run wild and research anything within your languages sphere it’s amazing. If you are resistant about taking a language, I urge you to do so. 
  • Film Studies: This is not what you're expecting, trust me. You won't be sitting around and watching a ton of films and try to act classy whilst discussing them. There's a load of analysis, case studies on producers and audiences included in the study BUT I would say that it is a very doable course because of the massive discussion element of it and if your teacher is nice, the handouts too. If you're unable to study without a textbook then this isn't for you, you'll have to make your own notes. You have to write a lot of practice essays to finally get the gist of its structure. 
  • Product Design/Art: I only picked Product Design because all the other subjects were dry. i have a vague artistic background and am moderately creative (or so I think.) Don't worry if you can't draw for shit, you've just gotta know how to use a ruler. The course is honestly so damn fun it covers working with your hands, sketching and 3D modelling (which are good for future employers.) I would explain the details of the course but it's bound to chance soon. If you're doing a lot of STEM subjects then this course is a way to add in some diversity. You unexpectedly gain a lot of life skills. I wouldn't consider the court easy as it requires a lot of dedication to finishing projects but yeah, I recommend it. 
  • Drama: With drama the teacher literally leaves you to your own devices most of the time. At the end of the day your grade is up to you and the people you work with. The best thing about it is that the people who initially took it because they saw it as an "easy A*" end up dropping out, leaving only a few dedicated individuals in your class which helps with efficiency as you can probably imagine. 
  • Music: Music A-level had the smallest leap from GCSE in my opinion as it was prxtially the same same structure and same way to how you complete the A-level; the only difference being the quantity of work growing tremendously. Composition and Performance continue to have a big influence on your grade, so the more creative you are with these, the higher your grade. This definitely helps a lot, especially if you hate the written work and Setworks. In addition, the the increase of Networks, there are more links between them which makes it easy to revise and remember how to answer in exam conditions. On a whole, Music A-level must be approached by student who are willing to extend their creativity and put 110% into each section. 
  • English Literature: This is the biggest L of 2016/17 for me. I picked this subject on enrolment day because my other options to fill the empty block were either Maths or Geography which were massive no’s. I have always had a strong background with English but I don’t think the further study of it at A-level is for me, however I think it’s mostly due to my disgraceful exam board than the actual discipline itself. My exam board (WJEC) is renowned as the hardest board for A-level English Lit with many other boards being significantly easier which is why I am deliberating on dropping it when I return this September. 

I really hope this can be of any use to any of you. It's very last minute so not as detailed as I would like it to have been but I will be adding to it as more contributions come. I want to say a big thank you to all those who sent me their passages, I appreciate you (and hopefully my readers do too) 

Also good luck with your results, I hope everything goes/went how you want/ed it to! and if not, this is not the end as you can always bargain your way in- your new GCSEs were seriously hard...major props to you all <3 so proud of you!!!

-love, Dalal

ps: if you have anymore questions/concerns then pls email me ( OR dm me on twitter @dalaltahira and I'll answer you...promise


  1. the history comment is 110% me with the "love hate" thing, I adore the subject but also wanted to burn all my books and never write an essay again–oh a levels X

    1. at least someones with me on that one!


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