Ah, A Levels. The portion of one’s life where you suddenly lose the will to live and spend most days having breakdowns whilst saying to everyone else you’re fine and everything is under control. In other words, A Levels are stressful.
Now, you might have noticed by the title that I studied A Levels from 2015 to 2018 which may be confusing to some of you as A Levels are two year courses. I started A Levels in 2015 but had to leave in April 2016 due to mental health issues and the fact that A Level Maths was hell on earth. As a result, I started again in September 2016 and took up History instead which in hindsight wasn’t much better.
But I survived! Of course, there were lots of ups and downs but I came out of the other side.. just. I’m going to take you through my 3 A Levels individually as well as my experience at College as a whole and some tips and tricks that helped me to cope.
Disclaimer: All of my A Levels apart from Maths were linear A Levels, meaning I took all of my exams at the end of the 2 year course as opposed to some being taken at the end of first year and the rest being taken at the end of the second year. Furthermore, Maths will not be mentioned as I didn’t study it for a whole year so I don’t feel the need to talk about it.
English Language: I was definitely set on taking a form of English at A Level, whether it be Literature, Language or Language and Literature combined. I eventually settled on language as I felt I would enjoy that course the most and I believed it would be the one I would succeed well in.
I really enjoyed English Language. I enjoyed the topics I studied and once upon a time was set on doing Linguistics at university but eventually changed to politics. My favourite topics were language and gender, political language and spoken language in terms of accent and dialect. One part of the first exam is called “writing about a topical issue” in which you’re given a statement such as “Technology is ruining the English Language” and you have to write an opinion piece, a magazine article, a blog post (oh the irony) or a speech to name a few to either specialist or non specialist audiences. I really enjoyed this part of the exam as it was something completely different to all of the analysing I had to do for other questions in the two exams.
However, the one downside of English Language was my first year teacher who really knocked my mental health numerous amounts of times. Granted, he’s a lot better now but at the time I thought “how am I meant to survive this?” By contrast, my second year teachers were lovely. Yes, I preferred one to the other but both of them were extremely easy to talk to and I got along so well with them.
Sociology: By far my favourite subject. Ever since I did a taster session of this subject four years ago, I knew I had to take it at A Level. The topics I studied were so interesting and I genuinely didn’t mind having to write 30 mark essays sometimes as I really got into the topic I was writing about.
Second year sociology was definitely a lot better than first year. The topics were more interesting to me (Crime and deviance and the media) and the structure of the course in second year definitely suited me. Although Education and Family are interesting, as you get towards the end of those topics, you end up looking at social and educational policies which are so dry even my teachers were like, “Ew.”
The best part of Sociology by far though were my teachers. My first year teachers had the most amazing friendship and it still makes me smile thinking about how they used to just walk into each other’s lessons just to see each other. Equally, my second year teacher was the most amazing person. I’ve never met someone who cared about me and other students doing well as much as he did.
History: Aha. History. The one subject that’s given me more mental breakdowns than I’ve had hot dinners. It’s an A Level that sounds interesting on paper and it is but my god, it’s hard. However, I must admit that the actual content itself wasn’t hard but rather the amount of content I had to learn. It’s still stressing me out as I’m typing this. My coursework still gives me anxiety even though I finished it back in March. Furthermore, writing continuous 20 mark essays is enough to make me want to crawl under the duvet and never reemerge again.
History was by far the subject I invested the most amount of time in. The time I spent leading up to my exams was planning essays onto flashcards and memorising them until I could tell an examiner every benefit and weakness of Stalin’s economic policies.
Truthfully, I regret taking History. I love learning about History in my spare time and I think it’s such an interesting subject but the amount of stress it put me under still haunts me. Also, the stress was also heightened by continuous changes in teachers (4 in total) and a change of topic in the course. (Goodbye British Empire and hello Protest, Agitation and Parliamentary Reform)
College: At first, I hated college. I didn’t like the fact I had massive gaps in my timetable, I didn’t like the fact I never saw my friends and I HATED finishing late. (4pm or 5pm) Eventually, I grew to love it. I loved the freedom I had at college and the fact that teachers treated you like adults. My college was also an international college and there are not many sixth forms in my area which means lots of people from different schools and different countries came to my college. Lunchtime, particularly in second year, was always a laugh with my friends and I grew to love the big gaps in my timetable as it allowed me to get work done and again added to that sense of freedom I had.
So how did I get through A Levels?
- my family – Shoutout to my parents for guiding me through endless amounts of breakdowns and panic attacks and for constantly making me feel better when I felt I wasn’t good enough.
- my friends – Shoutout to my friends for making me laugh when I needed it andfor being there for me through the tough times.
- my teachers – Well, some of them.
- My Bullet Journal – Essentially my best friend. My brain dumper, my to-do list and my decorative book in which I could doodle until sunset.
So that’s my experience of A Levels. A chapter of my life and one that I certainly won’t be forgetting in a hurry. If you have any questions, feel free to comment them below.