A Check In with Year 13s

After a crazy end of term during the last academic year, you may have begun year 13 a little more anxious than usual. While that’s completely understandable, there are a few things to remember and which should ultimately reassure you that you aren’t disadvantaged in any particular way.

Firstly, remember that the entire country was under lockdown and so missed the end of year 12 in the same way that you did. You all had to adapt to online resources and teach yourself the majority of the content which you needed to know. But now, you are back at school and ready to accelerate your learning journey. 

Teachers will be bombarded with tasks and to-do lists but fundamentally, your year group and year 11’s are there top priority. So, there are 2 things to take from this. Firstly, your teachers are there to help you achieve the best grade possible - so use them to your advantage. Secondly, you need to hold yourself responsible for your own learning. That’s always been the case with A Levels, but it’s more crucial now than it ever has been before. 

You need to begin by seriously assessing how well you know your year 12 content. It is more than likely your school will be setting mock exams to see how you have progressed, but if not, you need to set yourself some exam papers. Print off AS exam papers for each of your subjects and assign yourself time to do them under exam conditions. I cannot emphasise enough how crucial this step is. You need to know where you stand in this A Level journey. You may spend your whole Saturday just doing exam papers, and then Sunday marking them. Or it may take you a few days to get through doing and marking your exam papers. But, the time you spend here is an investment long term. 

Tip: Once you have done the exam papers, you can hand them in to your teachers to mark. Particularly if you do essay-based subjects where marking is subjective. This will save you time and allow you to focus on other things which you need to organise instead. But before you hand the papers in to your teachers, ask them how long it will take to mark, because you want the papers back ASAP and it’s no good if it’ll take them a couple of weeks to mark. 

Once you have your results and marks, you need to analyse your papers and make a plan. Just to warn you, this term will be particularly stressful as you review year 1 content whilst simultaneously beginning year 2 content. For this reason, it is imperative you create a timetable for at least this half term. Over the half term holiday, you can reassess yourself and make a timetable for the half term ahead. You need to look through your papers and look for the following points. Firstly, what did you get wrong and why? If it was careless error, make a small note. If it was due to you having incorrect understanding make a note. And if it was due to you just not understanding the question, make a note. Build up a list and then look at which topics these bullet points fall into. 

Look for trends. Are there certain topics you kept making mistakes in? If so, make a plan to talk to a teacher or tutor about them. Book a lunchtime to spend with your teacher and get them to go through it with you. Clearly, if it’s a topic you’re weak at because you self-taught it, you need someone else to go through it with you. And then, timetable when you will review the topic again at home a couple of days later. Do this with all your subjects. 

You might have heard of spaced repetition. That is to revise your content regularly, with timetabled breaks between each revision session of the same content. As great as this is, I believe that spaced repetition of learning is equally important. Once you’ve learnt something new, you need to learn it again a couple of days later. And then again a week later, and two weeks later. After a month or so, the concepts should be firmly stuck in your brain. Do this with the content you may have been weak at at the end of Year 12. And do this with the new year 13 content which you are being taught.

See why it is so crucial to timetable in your work? Each spaced repetition session doesn’t need to be long. They can be a simple 5 to 10 minutes. Just something to ensure that the content hasn’t left your thoughts. 

Ultimately, keep focused, stay calm and stay in control of how you are spending your time.

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