5 Things GCSE Students Need To Do Differently at A Level

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Amy studied at the University of Bristol and is our revision blog guru. She only graduated recently so understands the pressures of being a student better than most, and is here to share her wisdom so that you revise effectively, smash your exams, succeed at school and write cracking university and job applications.

You pick up a lot of vital exam experience and revision knowhow from the long, winding road to getting your GCSEs; but A Level exams require a few additional skills. As a GCSE student you’ll already know that A Level past papers will be your best friend, and at Save My Exams we’ve got plenty; whether you’re after A Level Maths past papers or resources to help you revise the sciences.

Having said that, past papers aren’t the whole story. There’s a significant step up from GCSE to A Level; so whether you’re about to sit your A Levels or are heading to sixth form or college in September, it’s important to know what’s ahead and what’s required in order to flourish.

1. Avoid cutting corners

One of the key differences between GCSEs and A Levels is the depth of knowledge required for each subject. You’ll need to be really thorough and strong across the board, and confident in giving detailed answers to a range of questions in coursework and exams.

Homework, however painful it can be at times, is given to help you build this confidence; so when it’s set, you have to not only make sure you do it, but also do it properly and to the best of your ability so you can get the most out of it.

2. Use your time wisely

While you have to be careful not to burn yourself out during A Levels, you also need to avoid time wasting.

At A Level, not only do you have your subjects to contend with, but you might also be looking ahead to applying to university, internships, apprenticeships or jobs, which also takes time and headspace.

With this in mind, it’s more important than ever that you learn to manage your time effectively and efficiently during your A Levels, so that you can get everything done in good time.

Free periods are there to allow you to keep up with your workload, and that workload won’t go anywhere if you try to get through it haphazardly, or not at all. In fact, you’ll only feel worse and more stressed if you leave things until the last minute. If you’re organised, time efficient, and are able to ensure your tasks and subjects don’t run away from you, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

3. Make sure you understand everything

The increased requirements for thoroughness and understanding are the main things that differentiate GCSEs and A Levels. To thrive at A Level, you have to show a real understanding of your subjects and the key concepts at their cores, and be able to explain them thoroughly in response to different types of question.

It’s worth noting that knowing and understanding everything is one thing; but being able to present that knowledge clearly in your exam is another. Having the right exam technique is also crucial; take a look at our Model Answers for examples of the standard of answer expected at A Level.


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4. Be organised

There are fewer subjects to work through at A Level compared to GCSE, but don’t let that trick you into thinking there’s less work; there’s lots of content to get through!

Keep your notes in order and accessible, so that they’re ready to use as soon as you come to revise.

It can be easy to lose track and let things overwhelm you, but with some solid preparation you can ensure this doesn’t happen. The most important thing is to be aware and in control, and to not let things slip. If you can do this, revising for exams will become much easier.

5. Prepare for your A Level exams early

There’s a lot of content to get through when revising for your A Levels, so it’s crucial you’re on top of everything from the off. Make sure the work you’ve done is neatly collected, completed and ordered so you know where everything is when you come to revise it. Make lists of the topic areas on the syllabus as you study them, so you have a topic checklist ready to go when you start revising. You can download our Topic Checklist Template here.

Also, don’t wait until you’ve come up to a particular topic during the revision period to search for the resources. Remember, Save My Exams has everything you could possibly need to revise your Maths and Science subjects, so familiarise yourself with the site and make the most of what we’ve got!

Finally, even if your A Level exams feel like a ridiculously long way off, it’s a good idea to look over past papers to get an idea of the type of questions and topics that come up; and if you have any suggested reading from your teachers over the summer, make sure you do it! It’s never too early to get prepared.

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