A Student's Diary – Studying A Levels


What's it like to be an A Level student?

There is a huge transition from GCSEs to A Levels. The content will be harder, and the tone of the class will change becoming more focused and intense.

Your sixth form or college studies are hard to navigate through, especially by yourself. So I will help you to break down what happens on an average day of an A Level student, and give you insider tips on how to get through those sixth form or college years.

Sixth form students studying

Life in A Levels

Your day will consist of following set planned lessons. In my school we have four lessons per day – each lasting around 70 minutes – with break and lunch. We have time with our tutor at the start and end of the day which we use for personal development or self-study. 

One thing you will notice that’s different between GCSEs and A Levels is that you have free periods where you can indulge in social activities, studying or even idle loitering.

You can use your free periods to keep up with your subjects – if you work at school you'll free up time at home. Of course, you can’t avoid work, such as extended projects and studying for exams, but it is important to give yourself enough time to relax.

An example of a sixth form/college timetable

This is my timetable, but this will vary across schools, however the general structure should be the same. 

  • 8.50am – 9.00am Registrations/tutor
  • 9.00am – 10.10am First period
  • 10.10am – 10.35am Break
  • 10.35am – 11.45am Second period
  • 11.45am – 12.55pm Third period
  • 12.55pm – 13.30pm Lunch
  • 13.30pm – 14.40pm Fourth period
  • 14.40pm – 15.10pm Prep/tutor

A Levels are basically GCSEs on steroids – questions are way more detailed. You must memorise and regurgitate information at will and in my opinion, questions are written like 19th-century English.

You will often hear that A Level students mostly know all of the information but in the end, not understanding the exam questions leads to their downfall.

Man jumping to success

Top tips for success in class

  • Notes are important An hour of content will not be taken in just by listening. You have to consider that you have other lessons that day, so write down all you can.
  • Share notes If you are not copying from a book it is most likely from a lecture, which can be very fast paced and it's difficult to take all the information down. Most often, people pick up different ideas so sharing notes is very helpful.
  • Organise your notes Have a different folder for each subject. This will help you to avoid losing project work.
  • Ask the teacher for materials Any PowerPoints, work sheets and books can really help in the future. Teachers will not refuse your request – if anything, it shows how keen you are and will likely bring you more support from your teachers. Digital copies of lessons are also great revision sources.
  • Your phone is always needed Unlike in lower years you will be allowed to use your phone in class to take pictures of diagrams and notes, or even to research areas you are struggling in.

Top tips For A Levels in general

  • Avoid missing school During your GCSEs you can miss lessons and still understand the next one. This isn't so easy at A Level as the topics all link together. It will take time to catch up which may cause more stress, more problems and more time wasted.
  • Look at past exams Exam questions are the key to passing or failing an exam. Get a feel of how exam questions are worded. If you don’t answer the question properly you will miss out on full marks. Revising for your exams? See advice on how to revise effectively.

My story

I come from a small town, I have joined the hardship of A Levels, and I am currently studying, English, Biology and Chemistry. Although these topics have the stigma of being difficult, time moves quickly through A Levels so enjoy them. It’s a short time in your life, so study but have fun.