So, you’ve finished your GCSE’s, what next? What is Sixth Form like? What are the tips to success?
In this post, we'll attempt to answer all your questions as well as give you some life-changing tips to make Sixth Form as great and as beneficial as it can be!
What Happens After GCSEs?
The moment I marched out of my final GCSE exam was somewhat of a relief, to say the least, after all that studying and the prospect of a ten-week summer holiday seemed like a fair reward for enduring two years of GCSEs.
It's really weird, for your whole school life you have been told about those elusive and mysterious things called GCSEs and now they are all over. Now you have your eyes set upon a whole new world that is A-levels, something that you need to be prepared for.
But, slow down, what about the results?
If you finished your GCSE's in the summer, you'll certainly have had a few butterflies on in the lead up to the 20th August - results day!
You see, even though it may feel like a huge weight is lifted after you finish that last exam and can throw out all the revision cards and exam timetables, you still have a good few weeks until you can finally found out if your efforts were all worth it. And, if you worked hard then you may not need to worry at all! It's normal for most people to feel some nerves before the big day though.
During your 2-year GCSE programme, you would have chosen your options for your A level studies. Most pupils take 4 subjects at AS Level, then drop one going into Year 13 and end up with 3 A Levels. Other options for 16-year-olds is the International Baccalaureate, or IB.
A-Levels used to have a top grade of A, but now you can get an A* which is the equivalent to 56 UCAS points. It also used to be compulsory for people to be in education until the age of 16, but now you must be in education or training until you turn 18 by law, which means more people in your generation will have A levels or some equivalent qualification to this than pre-2013.
So long as you achieved the expected grades, you'll be heading off to college or sixth form!
10 Tips for Sixth Form Success
These are my tips for you as you start Sixth Form:
1. Hit the ground running
At the beginning of every new academic year you didn’t do a lot of work – did you? The School gave you time to settle into a new year with new teachers and new classes. In Sixth Form you really haven’t go time to do this because you have far more work to cover.
The biggest mistake thousands of year 12’s make every year is taking it too easy in September. The sooner you start getting to grips with the coursework, and start revising the less stressful it will get later on in the year, when you have AS level exams to contend with.
While people don't talk about their AS Levels when they're older, it's these initial grades from Year 1 of the course that define whether you successfully pass and get to enter Year 2, and they also help your teachers to predict your grades (which as you know even predicted are SO important if you want to apply to universities).
What's more, during some courses like the International Baccalaureate, work completed from day 1 can count towards your final grade so spread your effort equally across the study programme rather than leaving it too late!
2. Get organised
This is really easy, just make a study timetable in your first week.
The best way to do it is by ensuring you cover the subjects you did that day the same day because that is the time the information you learned in class will be at its freshest.
Make a realistic timetable because let's face it, nobody is going to able to study five hours a night every weekday. My Sixth Form recommended a minimum of 4 hours a subject per week, so if you are doing four AS-levels that’s 16 hours a week, or 2 hours a weekday and 3 hours a weekend.
I think you should try to complete between 3 to 4 hours of study / revision on a weekday, and about five hours in a weekend.
3. Use your free lessons wisely
As tempting as it might be to have fun and socialise during school time, try not to get too carried away. You get free lessons so you can get on with your own private study. In Sixth Form you are treated like an adult, so it is important that you act like one too.
Make a To Do List for your free lessons on a post-it note and stick it at the front of your school diary. You will know what needs to be done and how long it will take. But like I said about your study timetable – make sure your goals are realistic.
Allow yourself to take a five or ten minute break, otherwise after the first hour you won’t take in as much. Do allow yourself to take some time out if you are have a rough day and you don’t feel like you can commit yourself to much or any revision.
4. Stay in control of your new independence
In Sixth Form you are responsible for your own education. This is both good and bad.
If it’s not possible to study one evening you will have to catch up another time. You don’t want your teachers or parents nagging you because you are falling behind (however remember you will have more independence so your teachers won't be calling up your parents if you haven't done your homework, which is again not always a positive thing if you need a little encouragement!); if you do badly you have probably got yourself to blame.
Throughout GCSE your teacher is there to hold your hand through up until the exams, now you have a bit of experience on exams under your belt you are expected to study for them independently.
5. Do not accept unsatisfactory teaching
During my A-levels my teachers were all very good with exception of just one. There were lots of problems, including having to wait months before my coursework was marked – this had a negative effect on my final grade.
If you are not happy with the efforts of a particular teacher ask your classmates if they feel the same and tell your tutor. Raise your concerns together as a unit and see if you can resolve the problems together. If this doesn’t work out turn to a senior member of staff e.g. head of department. If this is unsuccessful then get your parents to write a letter to your Head of Sixth Form.
Remember the qualifications you are working for are your own, and you don’t want to risk them due to no fault of your own. It is important that if you do find yourself in this rare situation to get it sorted out fast.
6. Don't fall prey of peer pressure
Even though you're so close to being treated like an adult now by your teachers, that doesn't mean to say that your peers will be mature. Some of your mates may start smoking, bunking off or just not being particularly friendly, and when you are transitioning from school to college it can be quite hard to take when you see those around you change in this way.
Stay focused on your education and your close circle of friends, and try to ignore any negativity.
Remember, that even though it may seem like the end of the world right now if you aren't fitting in with the crowd, within a few years you could be at uni and making new friends with no recollection of those people who made your life miserable at college. They aren't worth it - but you need to know your own worth!
7. Be kind
Similarly, it can just as easily be the other way around, and your kindness could change someone's whole experience of senior school.
For example, at my sixth form, there were lots of boarders who were far from home and did not know any of their fellow students and yet there was a huge divide between day pupils and those living on site. So, rather than turn a blind eye, I made the effort to talk to those sitting alone. I didn't know if they actually wanted to be my friend at all but when I look back now I realise that they probably appreciated the gesture more than I realised!
It takes nothing to show a little kindness - a small gesture can have a big impact. Plus, surrounding yourself in positive vibes will rub off on your studies too as you won't have stress or distractions on your mind!
8. Get work experience
Your course is your main priority but you are also actively encouraged to get work experience before you complete your studies.
You will probably be assigned a week during your programme where you must find a work experience placement, but that doesn't mean you can't try to find another volunteer position for a week during the summer or Christmas holidays too.
You'll come to find that even with a degree under your belt, you'll still be competing for jobs with others just as qualified as you so any extra experience you can get in could benefit you going forward. Universities may also like your initiative!
If you are studying the IB, then part of your requirements will be to complete 150 CAS hours - Creativity, Action, Service. This means dedicating your time to several activities across the terms that will give you a good grounding in a variety of roles.
9. Think about your future
As we've just brushed upon, you may still be in education but you do have to think seriously about your future now. You can't shy away from it forever - you are nearly an adult after all!
So, keep reminding yourself how important it is to do your best, how your attitude now could influence your future.
10. Enjoy it!
All that is left to be said is to also have fun.
Your Last Ever Years at Home
Sixth Form is great as you will (finally) be treated as an adult by the teachers, and have the opportunity to learn more about subjects you like. My best advice is to make the most of it, as soon enough your exams will be over and it will off to the world of work or to University, when everything changes again.
Cherish the time you get to spend with your family and childhood friends, because soon all the kids from the block will be scattered across the country and growing apart in different ways, whether at work, university or travelling, and you too could soon face long periods of separation from your parents.
Enjoy having your clothes washed and being fed with a nice roast dinner on Sundays as these are things you will miss and appreciate more once you move out!