There’s always time to turn it round, I was told.

I received a pretty rough set of AS Level results in August 2010.  I was fishing in Scotland when I got the news – safe to say making that phone call made me think about anything but the reel.  Don’t think I caught anything larger after a minnow afterwards.

I took Maths, Physics, Chemistry and French at AS and had managed nothing better than CDEE in those four.  Telling your parents that you felt confident and then getting this rather crushing piece of news was rather sobering to say the least.  I mean, how on earth did I actually fail that summer chemistry paper?  To this day I’m still confused.

One year later, I got my results in IT, Maths and French –  I’d pulled ACC out of the bag for A2.  Combine that with the DE from the sciences I dropped out of and I had accumulated enough points to see me off to university.

I make no bones about this fact: my first year was really a bit of a waste. I did the bare minimum, focused too much on playing sport and running a radio station and enjoying the experience.  You almost forget you’re an A Level student.  I try not to think too much about what would have happened if I walked out of AS Level with what I was aiming for – AABB?  Doesn’t bear thinking about after that first year.

Of course, turning it around from four disasters to three pretty reasonable marks is something that I’m rather proud of.  However, it does serve as a powerful reminder that yes, your AS Levels do matter.  OK, so you’ve got a year to turn around anything that you’re not happy with, but ultimately there are a few things to consider…

University applications

I hate to break it to you all, but it’s remarkably tough to convince a subject teacher to predict you a grade if you’re miles off it in your AS results…
“OK, so you want me to predict you an A… Erm, I doubt it.”
“Oh come on Sir, that’s not unreasonable.”
“After an E at AS it probably is.”

You get the idea.  At the very least you’re going to increase the pressure a lot with some retakes here and there, which won’t soften the blow by any means.  It’s going to be a tough uphill slog to the end, especially if you’re coming from behind.  You need to keep your expectations realistic when it comes to getting your predicted grades.  If your AS Levels are solid, however, you might find yourself having an easier time getting the grade you want for that lovely application of yours.
I hate to say this, but from experience A Level teachers do get it right.  Every grade I was predicted, I got.  Simple as that.  Kempy, I hated it when you predicted that C in Maths – I thought I could get a B.  I loathe it even more knowing that you got it right.Universities are interested in predicted grades greatly and even more so now that some are beginning to make unconditional offers to highly-achieving students before they’ve even sat their A2s.

It only gets harder…

I’m not going to lie to you, your A2 work is much harder and can be quite demanding. You will need a solid foundation of knowledge from your first year of A Level study in order to successfully progress.

From my perspective, I think it would be prudent to say that you need to make the most of it being ‘easier’ and brace yourself for the tougher work.  Of course, no work is truly easy and so you should be prepared for the AS work in itself. Take it seriously and you’ll perform even better.

Another key thing to remember is that all of your AS work contributes to the overall A Level mark if you continue with a subject to A2. Almost certainly the AS counts for 50% of the final mark, so it’s half that can be used well or can be rather neglected.

I walked into my AS exams and thought they would be nice and straightforward – that particular approach would not only make that fishing trip a little miserable but it made my work during A2 so much harder.

A lot of people talk about re-takes and how that gives you another chance. Perhaps, but it isn’t easy to study one module and preparing for it… All whilst going over something old because you’re sitting that exam again. Of course, you have nothing to lose (except a draconian fee for sitting the paper) but I would always urge people to exercise caution. If you’re well-prepared first time round, you might not need them. A few people I knew in Sixth Form were reaching their targets at AS and decided to re-take bits and pieces anyway – all in the name of getting an even higher mark to support their marks. Ok, fair enough, but if you are concerned about the extra pressure that will put you under, think very carefully about it.

I remember my brother taking a module again to give himself some breathing room to hit a certain grade. He now admits that perhaps a bit more work at AS and it wouldn’t have been so necessary.

The idea of ‘turning it around’ and improving a bad AS mark – whatever your definition is – has to be taken with caution. My bad AS mark in French put me under a load of stress during A2 as I wrestled with several modules at once. At the same time, I have two more demanding subjects to deal with too!

Yes, it’s all important. Your AS work gives you the foundation for future study and it can be tough to turn around if you don’t knuckle down and get to your own targets.




Need a School support teacher?

Did you like this article?

5.00/5, 1 votes


Avid movie-goer, reader, skier and language learner. Passionate about life, food and travelling.