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Taking the Leap to Maths A-Level Can Be Daunting!

From Ellen, published on 07/08/2017 Blog > Academia > Maths > A level Maths Help: What to Expect & How to Tackle Problems

Maths at A-level can be an extremely challenging subject, which takes quite a leap from what you will have been doing in your maths GCSE. A-levels are divided into two years: in year twelve you will take your AS levels, and in year thirteen you will do A2.

Maths A-Level Course Syllabus

Maths A-level, starting with AS level in year twelve, builds upon what you have been learning at GCSE. You will start cultivating the maths skills that you started learning throughout your GCSE, but you will develop this further and fine-tune subject knowledge on your way to handling much more complicated mathematics.

So if you have no idea what to expect, you can check your syllabus according to the exam board your college will be using. But maths A-level, regardless of where you take it and the exam board you take it with, will consist of a fairly standard curriculum in the UK.

Experience challenging and sophisticated maths! Maths lessons during A-level can be quite a step up from GCSE. Photo credit: Vancouver Island University via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

AS and A2 maths consists of topics you will already be familiar with, as well as a few new concepts too. These are mainly outlined as:

  • Algebra and functions
  • Geometry
  • Sequences and series
  • Trigonometry
  • Exponentials and logarithms
  • Differentiation
  • Integration
  • Numerical methods
  • Vectors
  • Statistical sampling
  • Data presentation and interpretation
  • Probability
  • Statistical distribution and hypothesis testing
  • Quantities and units in mechanics
  • Kinematics
  • Forces and Newton’s laws
  • Moments

Some of these will be built on in more detail and at a more difficult level if you opt for further maths.

Further maths is an option offered by most A-level colleges, and it is also available if you take an international baccalaureate as your post-16 education path. If this is something that might interest you, make sure you check with your college to see if they can offer it.

Further maths is a great opportunity to study sophisticated and challenging maths, whether you want to carry it through to university or you simply just can’t get enough of mathematics!

You will probably be familiar with the majority of these standard A-level maths topics, and others might be completely new. You’ll find that most of them will link back to topics you have seen at GCSE, and your teachers will show you how the maths you already know can be developed further.

Help with Maths A-Level Problems

You might find that some of these topics are quite challenging, and you could face a few hurdles during the transition from GCSE maths revision to AS level maths, and even further along in your A-level course as well.

Perhaps you are finding A-level maths especially difficult? Have you fallen behind in class and feel like you can’t catch up? Or maybe it’s just a specific concept that you can’t get your head around?

It’s completely normal to feel like you’re drowning in maths sometimes! There’s a lot to learn on an A-level course, and you are expected to acquire knowledge in great detail. This can sometimes be the biggest difference between GCSE and A-levels.

The gap between GCSE and A-level can sometimes feel quite big, and you might feel as though you aren’t finding your feet as quickly or as easily as you expected.

The main difference between GCSE and A-level is that before you were given a clear structure of what you needed to know, whereas with A-level you are required to take a bit more initiative and do more study in your own time.

And this is why it’s easy to fall a bit behind. It’s up to you to keep up at A-level, and if you have a lot going on and lots to learn across your subjects, you could face the problem of feeling like you don’t have enough time to learn everything you need to.

With A-level maths – and all subjects for that matter – you will find that the biggest difference compared to GCSE is that you can’t just get away with learning the content, you have to really understand it too. This means putting in the extra hours of work outside of the classroom, and trying not to fall behind.

Keep Calm and Plan

The first step to take if you’re facing problems with your maths A-level is to keep calm and remember not to panic! Get hold of your course syllabus and sit down to make a detailed study plan. You can even find websites that will help you put together a revision timetable so that you prioritise the right stuff.

Time management is crucial for any study period, and especially in your exams.

Plan out how much time you need to spend on each topic, leaving the most time for whatever you find the most challenging.

With maths, practise really does make perfect. So the best way to overcome hurdles and problem areas is by sitting down and practising the maths until it becomes second nature and you can solve problem with ease and confidence.

Tackle your study problems with past exam practise! Going over your notes and doing past papers is a great way to revise! Photo credit: me_chris via Visual hunt / CC BY

Online Maths Resources for A Level

Other great ways of tackling maths A-level problems is by finding websites that offer lessons, tutorials and guidance on the course content and the upcoming exams. There is slightly less available than there was at GCSE, but there is still a plethora of sites and resources that you can utilise to help you study and to clarify any issues you have.

At A-level, the maths you will be studying is naturally a lot more complicated and demanding, but there are still lots of great websites to help you out when you’re struggling. RevisionWorld is brilliant for course content support, exam technique and past papers, so you can tackle any problems at home!

Maths Genie is another wonderful site completely dedicated to maths. You can find EdExcel past papers and notes on individual topics to help you out at any point in your course.

Find A Level Maths Past Papers

The best way to prepare for your exams and test your knowledge so far is by doing some past exam papers. You can get hold of these from you school or online, depending on which exam board you are with. Make sure you get a copy of the mark scheme too so that you can mark you own work and see how you did.

Doing past papers will help to familiarise you with the format of the exam, the style of the questions, the length of the paper and the command words that are frequently used. So sit somewhere quiet with no distractions – try to recreate exam conditions if you can.

Once you’ve read through and completed the past paper, you’ll get a clear idea of where you need to put more work in and how much time you will need for each sort of question. It will become clear where your strengths and weaknesses are, if you weren’t sure before.

Hire an A level Maths Tutor

You might want to consider hiring a private maths tutor for A-Level revision to help you through the challenges you are facing. A tutor with experience and expertise can sit with you and work through the problems at your own pace, to suit your particular way of learning.

As we’ve already said, it’s less of a jump from GCSE, and more of a leap. You need to be able to understand the maths content you are learning, not just be able to regurgitate stuff in an exam. A home tutor can be the best way to make sure you’re putting in the extra study time, and that you can keep up and feel confident with your maths learning.

With online platforms such as Superprof you can also find online tutors who can give you lessons via video call, meaning that you can get maths help from the comfort of your own home! This can be a really great option if you have a busy lifestyle or can’t get around too easily.

Seeking maths help for a teacher or tutor can help you succeed Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support with maths if you need it! Photo credit: University of the Fraser Valley via VisualHunt / CC BY

One of the best things about sixth form or college studies is that classes are generally much smaller than they were at GCSE. This means your teachers will have a better chance of spending time with you on a more individual basis, and you will have more chances to speak up and receive attention on problem areas.

You might find, though, that you need a bit more of this individual attention and teaching, which is where a private tutor would come in very handy indeed when faced with maths A-level problems.

So whether you’re struggling with a specific topic or type of exam question, or you just need a bit of guidance with maths in general, there is always a solution to the problem! And keep in mind that past exam papers can be your best friend when you’re facing problems with getting the hang of exam technique or applying your maths to certain questions.

Remember too that the best thing you can do is to stay calm and confident, manage your time well, and make a detailed study plan for exam season. And don’t be afraid to ask for help or look into private tuition, try whatever works best for you!

Discover how useful maths can be in life and why you should consider studying it.

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