A level up! How to handle the jump from A levels to degrees
I’d like to start this post by welcoming new and returning students! I hope you’re avoiding fresher’s flu and settling in well. In this blog I’d like to talk about something I think will be useful to new students and that is the jump from A levels to degree. Sadly, I didn’t take any BTEC subjects or equivalents for students coming from outside of the country so I can’t offer any insight into how they compare to degree work. I took 3 A levels and one AS level so I’m hoping I can offer some insight and tips on how to handle transitioning from A levels to university work.
Firstly, a small disclaimer: everyone’s experiences will be different, and I will only be speaking from my personal experiences. However, for me, I did not find the jump from A levels to degree work that difficult (or at least no more challenging than the jump from GCSEs to A levels). Although lectures have a different structure to lessons, I don’t find it too hard to follow along to someone talking at me. Some of my lectures still provide us with handouts which I personally find helpful to look back on as a summary of the lecture. Personally, I find lectures move at a faster pace than lessons and feel slightly less interactive than A levels, however this works well for me as the fast pace forces me to be constantly attentive and to take good notes, otherwise I may not understand important content. Another concern for me was potentially becoming bored of studying a single subject for three years, however I have found taking a variety of modules and the fact that each lecture covers something slightly different prevents me from becoming bored. For me, seminars felt the most similar to A level work as they seem very similar to small group discussions where people can ask questions and discuss their different ideas.
Another big difference between A levels and university work (and something that really surprised me) is the amount of independent work I have to do. At A level, the teachers taught us exactly everything we needed to know for the exams, whereas at university, I find that the lectures will cover a subject briefly and if I am interested in learning more about a topic for an essay/exam, I have to go and independently research it for myself. This doesn’t mean that lectures don’t offer help and guidance if I want to learn more about a subject, it just means that if I want to expand on a subject, I have to put a little bit of extra effort in to doing my own research, since there is not always enough time in lectures to cover absolutely everything concerning one topic. I have found this actually works well for me as it allows me to focus more on certain areas that interest me the most.
Following on from this, I personally do not get homework anymore in the traditional sense. While doing my A levels, I was often given pieces of work to complete or questions to answer ready for the next lesson, however now I find that my “homework” now consists of doing reading for the lectures and seminars. Although reading academic texts doesn’t sound like the most interesting way to spend an evening, the readings do serve a purpose and I find them helpful in expanding on topics mentioned in lectures or for finding information to use in an essay.
Another potential difference between A levels and a degree is the introduction of coursework. Depending on when you did your A levels or GCSEs, you may not have had to do any coursework up until now. However, if you do have coursework to do, this usually means you have less exams at the end of the year, or that your exams make up a smaller portion of your final grade. Personally, I prefer coursework to exams as I find I have more time to think over my work which means I usually do better in coursework, rather than exams. I can sometimes find it a bit stressful if I have lots of coursework due at the same time or during the holidays, however this is easily managed by giving yourself plenty of time to do your work, rather than leaving it all until the last minute.
In conclusion, the jump from A level to degree is not as scary as it seems and is definitely manageable. If you keep on top of your work and ask for help if you need it, your time at university should be successful. I hope you all have a great week and feel free to comment if you have any questions!