Thursday, 19 May 2016

What's harder, uni or A levels?

Now before I begin, please consider that this is a subjective piece and that I am writing via my own experiences of A Levels and my degree (English and Creative Writing). I appreciate that not everyone will have had the same experiences as me but I do think on the whole this blog has a certain amount of accuracy.

Sixth Form students, I do not envy you.

Whether you're taking AS or A2 exams, I remember those days as fondly as the day I first got stung by a bee.

They were the most nerveracking, atrociously long, and torturous weeks of my life.

You have to revise for 3/4 subjects. You have an exam on average once every 2 days, maybe twice, maybe thrice. You have the pressure of university breathing down your neck.

I promise you, sixth form students, it's not forever, even if it seems like it will be. The last exam will come around eventually and you will, eventually, be able to go home and not have to look at a piece of paper for at least a few weeks, depending on what stage you're at.

You have my full and unrelenting sympathy.

But what next?

If you were like me and hoping to go to university afterwards, you might be thinking, 'will university will be on an entire new level of pain?'

Are A Levels, as teachers love reminding their students, the introduction to university life?

'This sort of independent study is what you have at university'. 'If you turned up a minute late for a class at university you'd not be let in.' 'You think you have a lot of work now? Wait until you go to university, that'll be a shock for you!' - read all of these in the whiny, high-pitched tone of that one teacher who's been at the school since the dawn of time. We all had them at school, that one teacher who was hated by everyone and was everywhere and anywhere as if they were the omniscient fart of the school.

So, is there any truth in their statements?

Comparing them to my university experiences, no.

Yes, there is a lot of independent work to do but no more than A levels. You have a LOT more free time at university, meaning you can take your time to do the work without worrying you're going to get a detention or a black dot next to your name.

No, if you turn up a minute late to a lecture they will not tell you to f-off. Some lecturers might, but the vast majority will just give you a look, perhaps crack a joke, and let you sit down and get your paper out.

The workload comparison from A levels to uni?

Well, there's a lot of work at uni, of course there is. But I have to say, looking back, the workload for A levels was more time-consuming and soul depleting.

At uni you are a) doing a subject you love (or at least should be), and b) only doing ONE subject.

The biggest criticism I have for A levels is that doing more than one subject in that much depth becomes confusing and stressful. You might have to switch from thespian mode to historian mode, English mode to Music mode.

It is as if they expect you to have a switch that can change your mental state from, for example, creative to academic.

University allows you to stay in one continuous mindset.

Yes you will have different modules but they will all be part of the same tree. During A levels you're constantly jumping from forest to forest.

Don't think I'm saying A levels are completely awful. They are the toughest test to show you whether you're ready for uni. If you pass then great! You are ready for the next step in higher education. However, if you fail, this isn't to say you're not fit for university.

All I'd say for you unlucky students in sixth form, take your exams seriously and prioritise them completely. Work hard, revise a lot, and go into the exams with a cool mind; granted this is easier said than done.

Don't worry about university during A levels. It's pointless at that time.

The workload at university is far more controllable than A levels.

A levels feel like you're freefalling without a parachute. University feels your freefalling without a parachute also, you just have a cushion to land on instead of concrete.

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