The step up from A-levels to University study – OurWarwick

The step up from A-levels to University study

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)
Abigail Booth | English Language and Linguistics with Intercalated year Contact Abigail

If you’re planning on coming to university this year, you may have some concerns regarding how different your university experience will be compared with your time at college. A significant cause of worry for many students coming to university is the step up in terms of studying. In today’s blog, I’ll be talking you through some of the differences you can expect from university study.

The range of content

One of the key differences when considering university work and A-level work is the range of knowledge that you will come to acquire.  I have found that while in my A-level English Language course I studied maybe 4 large topics, in my undergraduate degree I covered a vast number of topics, even within the first year.

Not only were there more topics to learn, but how they were presented to me differed. In A-levels, I found it was very much the approach of ‘here is this theory, learn it, here is this, learn it’ and it didn’t combine together very often, meaning I had lots of separate bits of knowledge in my mind to learn. At university, however, I have found much more coherence between the different aspects of the course, with a lot of overlap happening in terms of knowledge.

The level of in-depth knowledge you’ll acquire

Further, instead of touching on theories and knowledge at the surface level, at university, you will delve deep into lots of different areas. You’ll be encouraged to share your own opinions and reflect on personal experiences, something I didn’t do throughout my A-levels. Obviously, this will depend on the subject, but in my experience, I have been encouraged to think critically about topics and ask questions, instead of just being expected to absorb information. IATL modules (which you can take as optional modules throughout your degree) at Warwick have particularly encouraged this – see what they have to offer here : Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) (

Assessment methods

Perhaps the most notable difference upon coming to university is how we are assessed. In A-levels, you’ll have mostly exams at the end of the year, with perhaps a small percentage (around 20%) of your grade consisting of one piece of coursework. At university, there is generally many more different assessments to take throughout the year, which means less tends to rest on a final end of year exam. I take a Social Sciences degree and have mostly 50% assignment, 50% exam for each module, with some modules being 100% assignment, which will comprise of usually two large assignments. Even people taking non-essay based subjects have had less to do at the end of the year however, with Maths students having both winter and summer exams, and some assessed work in between.

The level of independent study required

I personally found the level of independent study to stay the same from A-levels. I felt that during my A-levels, teachers began to ‘instruct’ us less, and wouldn’t chase us up as much in terms of deadlines, in comparison to school. However, at university, you do not have your parents nagging you, and the departmental staff will not remind you about deadlines – it is your responsibility to keep on track, and if you submit late work, you will simply have points deducted on the Tabula system (Warwick’s system used to submit work). Luckily, Warwick has an app called ‘My Warwick’ which has deadline reminders pop up one week and one day before assignments are due!

How you feel about your subject

Studying a subject at degree level can really help to shape your feelings towards it. Unfortunately, we cannot predict the future and therefore, you may love it even more than you did at A-level, or perhaps, your feelings may turn sour. Try not to worry about this, after all, none of us know 100% whether we’ll love our degree when we apply, we only go off the knowledge that we have at the time.

I hope this blog has helped to discuss some of the step ups from A-levels to degree level. Feel free to reach out with any questions you might have!

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (the)
Abigail Booth | English Language and Linguistics with Intercalated year Contact Abigail

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