So, over on my instagram I’ve been talking about doing a post about how I’m finding sixth form so far, and lots of you have been really interested (as well as having lots of questions to ask me) so I figured I’d do one now! I’m currently a little bit over a month into my time at sixth form, and I wanted to bring you all up to speed on how I’m finding it. It’s definitely different, in terms of dynamics, the workload and the environment, but not in a bad way. I’ve decided to go through a few ‘sections’ of my daily life at school, if you will, to explain what I’m thinking of sixth form at the moment.
THE WORKLOAD – WHATS IT LIKE?
I wouldn’t say the amount of homework we get set is ever too much, if anything I think I have less homework than GCSE, but it’s usually quite difficult or requires loads more thought and time dedicated to it. So far, I’ve found the work I’ve been set for my subjects really interesting and that makes it a little easier to complete, but on the whole I’d say it’s a really manageable workload.
However, what I do think is hard is the amount of independent work we’re encouraged to do.
Obviously at sixth form you get a lot of free time, out of my whole timetable I’d say half of it is free periods, which is really great for getting work finished in. I’m so thankful for my free periods because they make it way easier to get all my homework done, however we’re also told to do independent work in these times and outside of school. My issue is, I’m not entirely sure what independent work I’m supposed to be doing; in Psychology, I’m conscious that I don’t want to race ahead on the specification, and in English and History I seem to just be printing out interesting articles and annotating them. I think that because I’ve got three very content heavy, essay based subjects, the nature of my independent work is also very heavy in reading, which I guess I sometimes find a little bit boring. I do make revision notes too in this time, which has been helpful so far.
WHY AM I ALWAYS SO TIRED?
This might be a strange heading, but I thought it might help shed some light on my general sixth form situation, and also go to show that everything is not always rosy and while I enjoy sixth form, it’s also a huge struggle.
I currently get on my bus at 7.30am, which may not sound that early but it means I have to be up for 6.30am at the latest. My bus journey is an hour and ten minutes there, and an hour and ten minutes back. The whole travelling is really exhausting (not made better by the fact that the bus is freezing so I spend the majority of this time shivering and/or sleeping)! When I get home, I’m always so tired that I end up lazing around, reluctant to get on with any work. Luckily, I get most of if not all of my school work done during the day, which helps on an evening. I also have a part time job on a weekend, and with all this combined I don’t really end up with a whole lot of free time. It’s the main reason I’m not so great at posting on my blog at the moment, which really frustrates me because I love blogging.
I seem to always be totally shattered, and feel cold and pretty much unwell half of the time. This isn’t exactly new for me, I’m naturally a very tired person, but it’s still not great to be constantly shattered. These feelings really crush my motivation a lot of the time, which isn’t exactly ideal.
PSYCHOLOGY SO FAR
So far, psychology is probably my least favourite A Level – not because I’m not enjoying it, but because I do really like all of my choices and this just falls on the bottom of the pile because it doesn’t interest me quite as much as the other two. We started with research methods which was a really technical and mathematical topic; this initially made me really worried, because if you’ve seen my GCSE results post, you’ll know that maths and science aren’t my strong point. I tried not to worry about this and although I do understand the topic, I don’t really get it as well as I could and should do, so I know I need to work on that.
We’re now just starting social psychology, which I’m already finding way more interesting and understanding a lot better, and that makes me feel more confident in the subject as a whole.
We were given our targets for psychology recently, which were based off our GCSEs and I got a C, which kind of left me feeling demotivated; not that a C isn’t good, but I’d hope to achieve a lot higher. However, they’re only based on GCSEs so probably won’t represent how we’ll actually do.
ENGLISH LIT SO FAR
English lit always has been (and I expect always will be) my absolute favourite subject, because I just really enjoy it. We’re studying Othello, Wuthering Heights and pre-1900 love poems on the AQA spec, and I’m really enjoying it. Othello is probably my least favourite part of the course so far (only because I don’t really enjoy Shakespeare that much), but I’m enjoying Wuthering Heights more than I expected to.
In terms of the workload we get, it’s not too bad – most of my time spent at the moment is just making my class notes/annotations more developed and in depth, or finishing up the annotations on a poem. One thing I have noticed is that theres nowhere near as many resources for A Level Lit (especially on YouTube) as there was for GCSE, which is a shame because I think I’d find a bit of Mr Bruff useful at times!
We haven’t really done anything graded so far/been given a predicted grade, but I know I’m really enjoying the course and I’m not finding it too hard at the moment.
HISTORY SO FAR
History has been quite different to GCSE – it suddenly seems like a tonne more info and pretty fast too. I’ve found that there’s a lot of work to do outside of the lessons to bring myself up to speed with what’s going on, and I need hugely extensive knowledge on what’s going on in every time period ever (so that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but what I’m trying to get at is that the amount of stuff I don’t know is quite overwhelming).
We get set an essay every two weeks or so for the American West topic, and because my Britain topic has the Churchill study which is 100% source based, we do a lot of source analysis too. In a way, I’m glad we’re practicing for the exams so early on because it was definitely my biggest weakness at GCSE and my biggest worry at A Level, but it’s also hard to do exam questions when your knowledge on the topic itself is pretty limited.
I am enjoying history a lot more than I thought I would, and the Britain topic is really interesting (I’m much more interested in British political history and such likes, so this topic is perfect for me).
ANSWERING YOUR QUESTIONS
What are the biggest changes from high school?
Definitely the amount of independence you have; down to the level of free time in free periods and how much you’re expected to work on your own initiative, to how teachers treat you. Also, teachers are way more vested in the subjects, they seem like they want to be there teaching you (which I found was definitely not the case at GCSE), and the class sizes are super small. I think my largest class probably has about 18 people in at a maximum, and my smallest is 8 people, which makes it a lot easier to take information on board.
How is history A Level, what are you studying for it and is it a lot harder than GCSE?
I think I’ve covered this a bit already, but I’m definitely enjoying it. It’s different to GCSE but only slightly, the content is slightly harder but nothing monumentally difficult, and you can definitely understand it better if you put the time in. In year 12 I’m studying The USA in the 19th Century (1803-1890) and Britain 1930-1997 (with a study on Churchill 1930-1951 for the sources part of the exam). In year 13 we do Ireland. I’m on OCR too, so this varies a bit across all the exam boards.
Are you happy with your options?
Overall, yes I’m really happy. At first I was really worried about psychology – I even deliberated dropping it and changing it to something else for a week or so when I was finding it really tricky during the research methods topic, but now we’re onto social psychology & I’ve invested some time into figuring out what’s going on, I feel much more comfortable about it.
Is it as hard as you expected it to be?
Honestly, not really. I think having free periods really helps with the workload because it gives you time to get homework done while the information is fresh in your head, and also time to go over whats just happened in your lessons. The work is difficult, but then I’d say my GCSE sciences were way more difficult than my current A Levels, but that’s probably just because I didn’t like GCSE science and so didn’t fully concentrate. I think what makes A Levels better (I won’t say easier, because they aren’t easy by any stretch), is that you’re actually really interested in what you’ve chosen to do (or hopefully you are!).
What are you expecting for the end of the year?
I’m hoping that by the end of the year I’ll feel more confident in psychology, and in exam skills in history. Although I don’t want to jinx myself or anything, or come of as more clever than I actually am, I’d like to get AAB in my end of year exams (B in psychology I expect), although this is an incredibly hgh and unlikely target! Plus, we haven’t even been given all our predicted grades yet, so I don’t exactly have an idea of what I’ll get, however I would like to improve hopefully one grade above my target.
Thank you guys so much for reading, hopefully this has brought you all up to speed with my A Levels so far, and explained a little bit about why I’ve been slightly absent. I’m on my half term soon so will be putting together lots of blog posts for you guys then!