Information for StudentsTips for success
All of our staff and students will say that those students who reach their potential and beyond at A Level approach their studies in the same way.
Here are some of the features of ´the successful SPH Sixth Form student´:
They are well organised, keep their files up to date and devote adequate time to thinking about their subjects, preparing work and revision.
They keep abreast of developments in their subject by watching current affairs programmes, reading quality newspapers and appropriate magazines.
They use this knowledge in discussions and written work to give extra depth to their ideas and to ensure they see topics from a range of different angles.
They actively use Study Periods, and engage in all the relevant learning activities.
If they are struggling, they don´t bury their head in the sand and hope it will all go away; they seek help quickly and put in the necessary time and effort to overcome their difficulties.
They act on all advice given by teachers.
They view learning as a two-way process and engage positively in class.
They concentrate, take adequate notes and ask questions.
They don´t just accept what the teacher says at face value if it doesn´t make sense to them; they challenge and debate ideas until they feel that they have a full, rounded understanding.
They take reasonable breaks from their work to ensure their minds don´t become over–tired, but they don´t waste large amounts of study time chatting when there is work to be done.
They revise material in preparation for the next lesson so they can understand more easily how the new material builds on what they have already covered. This keeps the work fresh in their mind and reduces the workload at examination time.
They go back over their previous work and use their teacher´s comments to improve it; teachers are very happy to remark work which has been improved.
They use their planners effectively to ensure that they can manage their time effectively and complete work by, or preferably before, the deadline.
They enter fully into Sixth Form life and make the most of the opportunities offered.
In the sixth form you will quickly discover that the number of commitments you have has a tendency to grow and grow!
Alongside your academic commitments, you might also find yourself involved in Sport, Drama, Music, Duke of Edinburgh, Young Enterprise, Student Leadership Team and whole school activities. You will also expect there to be an extension of your social life. All of these will naturally make significant demands on your time.
It is therefore vital from the outset that you should establish your priorities and that academic study must always have precedence. As your other interests develop, you must aim for a sensible balance; being over-committed is just as dangerous as being under-committed. You should aim for excellence in your academic studies as a priority.
If you feel that you are becoming over-burdened or, on the other hand, beginning to drift, you must seek advice from your teachers or sixth from tutors.
Study Periods and Unallocated Periods
In the Sixth form you will have a number of Study Periods and unallocated periods each week (colloquially called ´Frees´) and it is important that you use these all these periods as study periods.
Effective use of these periods for additional study within school frees up more time out of school for other activities. Moreover, studying in school where you have access to the appropriate staff, textbooks and facilities makes good sense.
Effective work in study periods is best carried out in the study rooms, the Sixth Form Centre and free classrooms throughout the school.
There is no specific homework timetable in the Sixth Form, and the volume of homework and nature of deadlines will vary from subject to subject and within the school year.
In some subjects you may be required to complete one hour exercises by the next day; in others you may be given a week to research and write an essay – a process which could take five hours (or more) in total. Given the variety of approaches needed when setting homework between subjects, you will need to be well organised and plan your time carefully to ensure all deadlines are met.
Using the Planner effectively will provide you with a quick and highly effective way of staying on top of your workload.
The importance of making a great start
The autumn term accounts for about half the teaching time in the AS year, and the eventual outcome of your AS examinations is in large part dependent on the study habits you develop in the first term.
You will need to establish a systematic work strategy in the first fortnight of Term, and one that enables you to spread your study time sensibly and fairly. You must, therefore, return to school in September determined to tackle your AS courses head on, and equally intent on developing effective study skills and habits.
You should be in no doubt that the Sixth Form is, by some margin, your most important time at school; it lays the foundations for the upper sixth year, provides you with the opportunity to develop a range of skills, and determines your university and further education options.
The speed of adjustment to the pace and style of AS standard work in the Sixth Form naturally varies from individual to individual. The work will be more demanding than at GCSE, and there will be plenty of it. If you are going about your studies in an appropriate fashion you will find yourself very occupied with academic work, both during the evenings and over the course of a typical weekend. You must therefore adjust very quickly to these facts of life in September, for you will quickly discover that the secret of academic success lies in commitment, organisation and momentum. In the first term of Sixth Form, you may find the change in approach to study unsettles you. You will certainly need to organise your work. For example, you must look ahead and not think of set periods of homework.
Staff will expect work to be completed on time. It should not be left until the last minute but should be done efficiently during study periods in School or at home. Moreover, the work set by your subject teacher is a minimum and wide background reading is necessary in every subject. Some people find the transition from GCSE to AS level difficult, but this should not discourage you, it is achievable.
The volume of work in the Sixth Form will be greater than you have so far experienced, while the nature of it will also be different.
You must take responsibility for organising your own time, as homework and assignments will rarely be set on a ´next day´ basis. Instead, they might be set a week or even fortnight in advance.
On average they are likely to take about five hours per subject per week to complete, and you must plan your work programme sensibly, bearing in mind that you will be studying up to four subjects, all of which make similar demands on your time. You must establish a work routine, and then stick to it.
Keep a careful record of all work set (together with any references) and plan in advance when and where you are going to do your reading, note–making and writing. Do not leave everything to the last minute, and do acknowledge the importance of deadlines.
You must therefore pace yourself. Most people find themselves under pressure on occasions, for reasons, which are entirely understandable – you might, for example, have been absent through illness, or be heavily involved in rehearsals for a play or concert. In such circumstances, if you are under pressure to meet deadlines, you should discuss the problem with your teachers in advance, who will be invariably sympathetic.
Sensible planning is therefore the key, and formal written homework and assignments should never be deferred until ´the night before´; it is for this reason that work is always set well in advance, so that you can plan ahead and organise your routine. Set yourself ambitious, yet realistic targets, and develop a pattern of study than enables you to meet them.
The Style of A Level work
You will quickly discover that there is a world of difference between the approaches to GCSE and A Level study.
The transition to new approaches to study will not happen overnight, but occur it certainly must if you are to derive the greatest possible benefit from your lessons in the Sixth Form.
A Level classes are smaller and more intimate than those lower down the school, and this places a much greater emphasis on your active involvement in the lessons. You are likely to see each of your teachers for several lessons each week, and you will quickly appreciate the importance of developing a good working relationship with them.
In the Sixth Form, the role of the teacher is direct, advice, stimulate and encourage. Lessons can mostly be characterised by discussion and exchange of views. You must arrive for each lesson prepared to be lively, interested and involved; reading ahead is of course a precondition of active and informed contribution to classroom discussion.
You must quickly get into the habit of making your own notes in class, as new information and ideas emerge in the course of discussion.
Personal and intellectual motivation is needed throughout your courses, and not simply in the weeks preceding public examinations. In most subjects, there are seldom any ´right answers´, and so no purpose is served in passively waiting for them to be provided. Your aim should be to become an independent learner; this is the main feature of A Level work. Remember that your class work and formal assignments are only part of your A Level preparation; a regular review of your notes and files, as well as additional reading is essential.
Personal Involvement in your Subject
You should be thinking about your subjects not simply in lessons, but also between lessons.
The formal work set by teachers represents the minimum requirement, and you should always review your current work in Study Periods. You should also quickly get into the habit of reading widely and engaging in investigative research.
You should make notes on everything you read and thus learn how to summarise the most important features of a textbook chapter or article.
Teachers are but one of a number of sources of information, and you are advised to recognise this from the outset. They will, of course, suggest suitable reference material and resources, but it is your responsibility to consult it and make full use of it.
You will quickly discover that textbooks are a useful aid but a dangerous master; the unthinking copying of sections of textbooks, or pasting form the Internet, as a means of ´getting homework out of the way´ is easily identified and utterly worthless.
You should be sufficiently interested by your A Level subjects, and this requires a personal involvement. The passionless recycling of textbooks or website pages and bland processing of class notes simply advertises a lack of any such involvement.
The excitement of personal and academic development is linked to intellectual curiosity and an energetic commitment to independent reading and thinking, both within and beyond the specification and classroom. You must learn to develop judgement in selecting and evaluating your material; concepts and techniques must be mastered, and then applied, and to carry out these important tasks, it is essential that everything you read and write is thoroughly understood. When your written work is returned, you should always correct errors, and add material and ideas that you omitted. Work is not completed when it is handed back; the accompanying comments are far more important than the mark awarded, and the learning process incorporates your corrections and additions. Keep a sensible balance between your subjects, and don´t make the common error of simply ´marking time´ in one of them for a term, for this will cause problems to mount up at a later date.
The Importance of success at AS Level
You need to do as well as possible in your AS examinations for the following reasons:
• These represent the relatively easier half of the marks compared to A2.
• To give yourself the best possible grounding in preparation for the very demanding concepts and ideas that you will encounter at A2. The divide between AS and A2 is at least as great as it is between GCSE and AS.
• Most A2 courses have a synoptic module i.e. a compulsory module which requires you to be able to draw upon and link together all of the AS and A2 work for that subject.
• So that we can write the most positive university/college/apprenticeship/employment reference we can for you. Competition for places at university/college/apprenticeship/employment is fierce and you will need to give yourself every advantage you can to secure offers.
The Successful Sixth Former
We recommend that you should be doing at least 20 hours academic work per week outside the classroom. There is always something you can be doing to ensure that you are putting enough time into your studies, and are not wasting valuable opportunities.
You should always seek assistance whenever you feel you need it, and follow all advice given to you.
If you choose to stick your head in the sand and ignore problems in the initial stages of your A Level career then you are only storing up bigger problems for the future. No Sixth Former should be afraid to ask for extra help!
At SPH Sixth Form we view learning and understanding as a highly reciprocal activity between you and the teacher, and if you genuinely do not understand something the teacher will always want to help you; you will get as much help as you want or need!
In addition to your school-based academic work and acting on all advice provided to you by staff, you should be doing the following:
• Wider reading: all departments are well resourced in terms of textbooks/websites/journals so that you can make extra notes and be able to bring something different to a class discussion or debate.
• Finding new sources or angles on a particular subject using up to date journals, or the Internet.
• Making sure your folders and notes are in order, neat and tidy and as detailed as possible.
• Revising material in preparation for the next lesson so you can understand more easily how new material links in as well as keep the work fresh in your mind, thus reducing the burden of work at examination time.
• Going back over your previous work and using the teacher´s comments to improve it, and even put it back in for a remark.
Those students who do best at A Level have the following characteristics in common:
• They are well organised, keep their files up-to-date, and devote adequate time to thinking about their subjects, preparing work and revision.
• They keep abreast of developments in their subject by watching current affairs programmes, reading quality newspapers and appropriate magazines. You can use this knowledge in discussions and written work to give extra depth and authority to your ideas.
• They actively use their study periods, and engage in all of the relevant learning activities.
• They act on all advice given by their teachers in order to master the core skills essential for success in each subject area.
• They view learning as a two way process and engage positively in class. They concentrate, take adequate notes, ask questions, test ideas etc
• They are enthusiastic about all of their subjects and will stick with them even in times of difficulty.
•They seek assistance whenever it is required.
• They have a clearly defined, realistic long-term goal and also a realistic plan of how to achieve this.
While all this may seem highly prescriptive, it has proved time and again to be a formula for success. Rarely do the least able get the worst grade; it is the least industrious or complacent who tend to be disappointed. Each year there are many examples of sixth formers with modest GCSE grades, who go on to excel at A Level and beyond.