Ask Sadia: A-levels, Second Year

Claire asked: “Hey Sadia! Love your blog… it’s so insightful and aesthetically pleasing I’m currently in my second year of A-Levels and I didn’t do so well last year. I was wondering whether you had any tips on how I could get my act together before the big A-Levels themselves. Thanks x”

Hi Claire! Thank you for visiting my blog, and for leaving such a lovely comment.

As you might already know, I’m also in my second year of A-levels, and if I’m being completely honest with you, I feel a bit lost myself this year- I feel overwhelmed, both with my intense academic workload, and with life’s goings-on in general.

But I do have some tips that, hopefully, we might both be able to benefit from. 

Firstly, I think it’s important to choose to focus on the here and now. Past failures should not be dwelt upon too much; what matters is what you do from this point onwards. I guess you could come to see it as quite comforting that AS-levels are no longer a thing, as first year doesn’t really count for much anymore.

You might have moments where you worry that you will not have enough time. You might regret not ‘starting’ earlier, but it might be comforting to remember that, ultimately, the examiners who mark your papers won’t know how much time you spent revising. All they will pay attention to is the marks you pick up.

So how can you make sure you pick up the right marks? In my opinion, the art of studying (which I definitely need to re-master, mainly by following my own advice) can be simplified and seen as the product of three things: understanding the content, creating good notes, and then doing exam practice.

Understanding the content would, obviously, entail paying attention in class… but if you’re anything like me, you might find that a lot of the things that teachers say simply do not get registered in your brain. I, for one, definitely have a habit of zoning out in lessons whenever the teacher happens to be saying something very important. Thankfully, the internet is at hand to help with this: YouTube videos can prove immensely useful for helping you teach yourself certain things.

As for the notes part of it all, I know that a lot of people try to make their notes as aesthetically pleasing as possible. If this helps you make your studying enjoyable, then by all means, do this. But ultimately, the goal is to ensure that your notes cover all the content (use subject specifications as checklists to ensure this!) in the most concise and comprehensible way possible. And once your notes are all done, you are ready to move onto practice papers.

(My personal goal – if I can overcome this winter study rut – is to have all my notes done by January, and then I will move onto constantly reviewing them, and completing past papers)

Practice papers should be completed under timed conditions, and then marked and reviewed. Pay attention to what you’ve done well, and what you might need to revise a bit more. And as for essay-based subjects, making essay plans and writing them out under timed conditions would be the way to go.

Finally, don’t worry too much: a lot of people are in the same boat as you. I would definitely recommend buying new stationery, making a study plan (allocating different topics and different past papers to different days, and spacing out your revision), and then getting stuck in with making notes, and practising under timed conditions. Panicking and overworking yourself at this point in the school year would probably only lead us to be burnt-out and less productive when it comes to exam season, so I would really advise you to take things slow and steady for now.

Make a plan, stick to it, and know that if anybody can succeed with their A-levels, YOU can!



Sadia Ahmed, 2018


This week, I have learnt a quintessential life lesson: when things become unbearable, step back and relax for a while. This may seem like a simple concept, however in the current fast-paced, indomitably frenetic society we live in, relaxation is- no doubt- something that is easier said than done. 

I am a Year 11 student, currently in the process of studying for my upcoming GCSE exams (85 days remaining!). At the start of the academic year, I made a vow to myself. I told myself that I would work hard, and that I would have no zero days- no days utterly devoid of any work, even if that meant dragging myself out of bed to work on some coursework while gradually dying due to being a sorry victim of the flu.

Granted, I have had no ‘zero days’, but throughout the academic year, there have been times when my body pleaded me to stop- to relax, to allow my brain to heal itself. I know that I have been unduly dismissive of the signals my brain has been sending. I disregarded them as excuses for procrastination, but in reality, I needed to relax.

My ultimate advice to fellow students is to create a revision timetable, but within this timetable, allow yourself some time to take a walk, or have a bubble bath, or even to just stare at the ceiling for a while. Your mental and physical health are a thousand times more important than any letter on a grade sheet. That being said, education is vital, and we are fortunate enough to have such amazing opportunities at our very fingertips.

So, fellow comrades: work hard, sleep well, exercise, and treat yourself- chocolate doughnuts were made to be consumed. 

Sadia Ahmed, 2017