The Official A-Level Survival Guide

The transition from O-Level to A-Level can be a daunting one. Academic excellence, extra-curriculars and college applications, all come crashing down on you when you least expect it. Even your holidays will seem ironic, as most students here will tell you that even three weeks off can hardly be considered a holiday. Exams are always around the corner, and the dreaded revision time constantly looms over everyone.
You’ve made it here at least and for that, congratulations. Now begins your journey through A-Level, which could either be excruciating, or a breeze, depending on how smartly you go through with it. While we’re on this topic, let me tell you, without any sugar-coating that A-Level will hurt you, a lot. Now you might be thinking that you’re well prepared for the challenges ahead. After all, you’ve gone through the process of examinations and tests before, been the guinea pig to countless curricular and structural changes, and likely (read: hopefully) know which revision style works for you.
Yet there’s always that extra level of stress when it comes to A-Level, despite the fact that during your O-Level you were probably taking more than twice the amount of subjects compared to A-Level.
Considering your time spent in A-Level, they may seem like the apex of all the work you have done and the culmination of all the stress you’ve gone through, upon which your whole life rests. Indeed, whether you apply for university, head into an apprenticeship or go straight for a job, you will believe that you’re A-Level grades mean everything.
However, this isn’t true. Although A-Level seem incredibly important and many will spend with their heads bent over their books working on trigonometry, the Cold War or Milton’s Paradise Lost (highly recommend this book to everyone), I think it prudent to always remember that your exams are not everything. They might open doors for you but they are by no means an indicator of the kind of person you are, or will be in the future. I can understand that telling someone to “stay calm” and “not worry about it too much” is the least helpful advice anyone can ever give to someone, especially a student. I mean if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard these exact same words, I’d probably be able to pay my own school fees.
What students fail to understand is that it’s never about being devoid of, in fact it may be used as a useful weapon. The stress and anxiety an A-Level student undergoes can be used to push them forward and do the best they could. The true battle begins while trying to manage it and keep it under control.
Ironically, the best way to keep stress under control, is not to keep your head bent over your books or class notes all the time. While it is important to put your heart and soul into your studies, it is equally important that you take some time off, take a break and relax as much as possible within your revision plan. Even a 15-minute break in an hour of work can be extremely productive Indulge in something that you enjoy in those 15 minutes to take your mind off differential equations and the concepts of mitosis.
Remember, it’s all about making steady progress while monitoring the amounts of stress you carry. Personally, I would take my stress out in the gym or while reading a book. Other than that, if you’re really tired and don’t want to do anything, you could always just curl up on one of the bean bags in the Common Rooms (maybe not every day, since staying healthy is important too).
Most importantly, talk to your friends about your problems and how their coping with theirs. One thing I’ve noticed is that every one of us thinks that our friends seem to deal with pressure a lot better than us. However, you’d be surprised by what a few minutes of conversation might reveal. You find out that everyone is on the same pedestal, and that you’re not alone.
Obviously your studies, especially at this stage, are tremendously exhausting. No one can handle them perfectly. What you can do, though, is devise a plan and follow it as perfectly as possible.
My advice? Don’t overwork yourself. Take it easy. Your studies are the equivalent to sun bathing. You should know when to move towards the shade, likewise you should know when to call it a day.
It’s all about getting that perfect sun-tan. No one wants to get sun-burned.

Sheheryar Siddiq

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