Success at A-Levels: A former student’s guide

Get your mindset right

Success in anything starts with how you think about things, and as I found out with A-Levels, having the right approach in your mind is key to achieving what you want.

It’s important to outline what you are trying to achieve before you even attend that first class. For me, the minimum was to achieve the grades I needed to get into university. But before you decide what you want, I think it’s important to have an optimistic view. If you are thinking negative, and targeting the lowest grades, then inevitably your energy and outcome will be negative. Where your focus goes, your energy will flow.

So for me, when there was a particularly essay I didn’t want to write, I used to block out all the ‘I don’t want to do this’ talk, and just see it as an opportunity to succeed and achieve my goal, rather than an obligation.

Understand the specification

Each subject you are studying should have a ‘specification’ which in essence outlines what you need to know for your exam. Obviously the teacher is meant to teach you all you need to know, but I found that having the specification on me when I was revising was really helpful because often there is information in textbooks that you just don’t need to know and a quick glance at the specification will inform you of what you do and don’t need to know.

Furthermore, they often give hints about the exam by sometimes stating that only a small amount of knowledge is needed on a particular topic which helped me tailor what I need to revise.

Know the course

Obvious though it may sound, but actually knowing the whole course is a huge benefit. The reason I say this, from my experience and from talking to friends, is that when there is a choice of questions to answer and you only know about topic A rather than topics A, B and C, you are limiting your chances of doing well and often suffer. It’s true that if you master one topic and its guaranteed that a question will come up on it, you can do brilliant, but from my experience not only is this stressful (i.e. the examiner decides to be annoying and not put the question in or the question is really difficult) but also extremely risky. Thus, I strongly recommend that you know all the topics.

Doing this will allow you to pick and choose what question to answer in the exam rather than being forced to do a particular question. And yes it’s a great feeling when you can look at the questions and think to yourself ‘I can answer any of these and do well’.

Do the thing you keep putting off/find most difficult first

We’ve all come to that stage, whether at home or in the library, when we have everything set up to revise, and we ask ourselves ‘what do I revise?’. For a long time, my approach to this question was to revise the area I found most interesting or liked the most. Yet how I regretted that when the exam paper came back with me scoring maximum marks on one question and then for the rest of the paper getting the bare minimum.

This made me realise that the concept which I found most difficult, was what I must learn and revise first. For me this was ‘quantitative easing’ and after I prioritised it at the top of my revision, I began understanding it more, answered questions confidently and scored highly. Additionally, when you understand the topic you find most difficult, you will be much more confident about the course as you have learnt the hardest part.

Over the course of the school year, there will be times when you don’t do well or where you put everything in and it still doesn’t come out right. It happened to me several times over. But each time it happened, I just looked at my end goal and kept going, and it worked.

Start early

I’m sure you have heard this tip several times over, which if anything says that there is some truth behind it. In my opinion, there is no doubt about it, that the main reason why I knew all the course and was confident going into exams was because I started early.

When you have being going over the same things for nearly 5/6 months, the answers and correct way of doing things just come naturally to you. Obviously at the start of the course, you have learnt little content so there isn’t much to revise, but I found by the time I got to December there was enough content learnt to be revising fully. Yes you do have to revisit topics when you revise early, perhaps several times over, but this is good, as you have already learnt it and created notes, meaning that you just need to remind yourself of the content instead of having to learn from scratch.

Moreover, I found that teachers don’t necessarily finish teaching the course until 1 or 2 weeks before the exam. So, if you have revised early, it gives you a chance to focus more on the content that’s new rather than fretting about the fact you are going to have to revise both old and new knowledge.

Revise in short periods

When was the last time you spent 3 full hours, without no break concentrating fully on one task? The closest I can think of is perhaps when watching a long film, but even then your mind begins to wander. So why is it that people think they can revise in one lump sum of 2/3 hours? It’s not possible to work that long on one topic without losing concentration.

Think about it, footballers play for 45 minutes and then have a 15 minute break, and authors don’t write a whole book in a day, they might do a couple pages a day. I revised in either 40 minute periods followed by 10 minute breaks, or 20 minute periods followed by 5 minute breaks. It’s much more efficient to revise in this manner and it felt more effective in helping me remember content.

Find your rhythm and what suits you

One of the key parts to my success at A-Levels was I figured out what worked best for me. And by that, I mean things like where I worked best, what time of day I revised best in, what subjects to revise first, who to revise with etc. These things may sound a bit ridiculous, but when I found out what worked best I soon became better at my subjects.

For example, when I started out revising with friends in the library, I realised that my revision notes weren’t to a good standard or I couldn’t remember what I learnt, as I was talking more to my friends. To rectify this, I completed all revision which required reading and writing at home, and left revision where I would test myself to do with my friends.

Another example, is that I would practice doing exam papers at the same time of day in the same conditions as they would be for actual subject exam so that when it came to the real thing my brain had been tested on the same knowledge at the same time of day in the same conditions several times over. Although the questions were new, the process wasn’t, which eliminated any nerves and made me more confident.

Test yourself

Testing myself over so many months was crucial to my success as it allowed knowledge to be fully built-in. This was essential for someone like me, who can easily forget stuff and when you want to know all the course to get the best grades.

There are various ways you can do this. I think the best way I did this was writing cue cards with questions on one side and the answers on the other, and taking time to test myself once a day. Be careful not to write loads of content on these cards as then it can be impossible to remember or even complete. Testing with friends in a similar manner is also effective, especially with things like key terms. Everyone has their preferences in doing these things, but I think the key is to take time to test yourself each day.

I used to make the most of the ‘dead time’ of my day by testing myself. For example, in my 20 minute walk to college I used to listen and answer questions I recorded myself asking on my phone, or just try and remember pros and cons of a topic.

Past papers

Effectively this tip is the same as the last, but completing past exam papers is an essential part of doing well at A-Levels. Although I didn’t want to do them, all the past questions I completed really helped me to know the correct style of writing answers, and understanding what sort of questions typically come up in exams.

I made the effort of printing off past papers as far as 2004 all the way to the most recent paper. Even though it took some hunting around on the internet, doing so enabled me to see all the different questions that have come up over the years, and allowed me to prepare for any possibility. I soon realised that examiners often use the same questions, but just change the wording of the question to make it seem different which I think helped me understand what questions normally come up and what the question is actually asking for. I think the key is to practice questions, as no matter how many revision notes and posters you write (which is good), you need to actually answer questions to get ready for the real thing.

Don’t give up

This tip is more general but something I just thought I’d end on. Over the course of the school year, there will be times when you don’t do well or where you put everything in and it still doesn’t come out right. It happened to me several times over. But each time it happened, I just looked at my end goal and kept going, and it worked.

It’s tough but it’s worth it.

Jumping into A2


By Chanoice Jones

My first week back at Seevic was slightly more difficult than expected. Firstly, I had to become accustomed to waking up before 11AM and going to sleep before 1AM! This, as you can expect, made me very disorientated for the first few days…

Moving straight into A2 from AS is a bit of a step up, and you are expected to give 100% effort from the minute you walk through the door. There’s no ‘easing into things’ like last year – but then there’s the bonus that you only do 3 subjects rather than 4 that you do in the first year.

The A-Levels I will be completing this year are Textiles, Photography, and Media.  As these are mostly coursework-based, I’ve made sure to get prepared early so that I hit all my deadlines later in the year.

This time last year, I was trying to find my way around the college a little so it has been a bit of an easier transition and more familiar environment this year.

Saying that, being a first year was really good – making new friends that you will have for life and getting to grips with new and exciting lessons.

If you’re just starting out at Seevic, I’ve put a few tips below.

  • Complete your summer homework. I can’t even begin to tell you how much this helped me start college. It meant I could get ahead on my coursework while I had a large summer break instead of having to complete it when I was already at college
  • Don’t waste too many free periods. If you have a 3 period break, spend at least one of them in The LINC catching up on work. This will guarantee you more free time outside of college
  • The jump from GCSE to A-Levels is big so it wouldn’t be beneficial to think you can sail through it as easily. Learn from my mistakes and do as much work as you can – I achieved an A in Geography at GCSE however, at A-Levels, I got a U in the same subject
  • Invest in a few pairs of good quality jeans. It might seem simple but transitioning from wearing a uniform every day to wearing casual clothes every day can be difficult. This will ensure you will always have something to wear
  • Make as many friends as you can in the first week. It’s more acceptable to start a conversation with a stranger in the first week than it is when you have been in the same class for 8 months and you still do not know their name
  • If you can on some of your longer breaks, get lunch somewhere outside of college – Hadleigh, perhaps – a change of scenery can be refreshing and will help your concentration in periods 8 and 9.

Getting arty at Seevic


By Sarah Judd

Thinking of studying art or design at college?  I am an A2 student studying Fine Art, Graphic Design and English Literature at Seevic, and so the Creative Arts department here plays a big part in my everyday life.

If you are thinking about studying an arts-related subject, Seevic is a great choice.  I’d recommend the Fine Art and Graphic Design courses as they have helped me to develop creatively by using a variety of media.  The purpose-built West Building at Seevic, in which its Creative Arts department is located, is an amazing environment where you can grow your artistic potential and build your portfolio for the future.

From my experience, all the art tutors and technicians are wonderful – giving advice, guidance and a push in the right direction right when you need it.

For Fine Art and similar subjects, there are large open-plan studio style classrooms in which white walls are gradually decorated with student artwork as the term goes on, giving you plenty of inspiration as you look around the rooms. For Graphic Design there are many Apple Mac computers with up-to-date software and the full set of Adobe programmes ready to be utilised for all of your design needs. There are also friendly technicians at the technician station where you can ask for help and borrow equipment like paint, paper, cutting tools, laptops and even graphics tablets for digital illustration. If you are studying a Film Studies or Media course you can also borrow cameras, microphones and tripods. Whatever it is you need help with, the technicians have it covered!

If you want to study art further, moving towards a career, Seevic is a great place to start. From my experience, all the art tutors and technicians are wonderful – giving advice, guidance and a push in the right direction right when you need it.  The majority of tutors have experience in their field outside the college and so are able to give an insight into the industry and advice on what path you need to take in order to progress in the competitive art world. The atmosphere in the art department is great as you are surrounded by peers who share the same interests and ambitions as you, and working together can be very inspiring.

Overall, if you are thinking of studying an art-related subject at A-Level, Seevic College offers an amazing, supportive environment with great facilities to help you create anything you want.

I’m in my second year as an art student now and am enjoying it immensely.  I have been given a wide range of projects to help stretch and develop my skills.  I have decided to continue on next year at Seevic with the Art and Design Foundation Diploma before moving on to university.  This is another fantastic opportunity that the college offers, allowing you to take a year to build your portfolio and try different disciplines.  If you are also currently studying an art course, whether in AS or A2, and are unsure how to take it forward in the future, it would be a good idea to look into the Foundation course at Seevic as it is valued by many universities.

Overall, if you are thinking of studying an art-related subject at A-Level, Seevic College offers an amazing, supportive environment with great facilities to help you create anything you want. It also offers great opportunities if you are currently studying an arts subject to help you get the most out of your course and further your career prospects.

Meet your Principal


By Dan Pearson

With the new academic year in full swing, I just wanted to take some time to say hello as your new Principal.

I have worked in education and management in and around London for the past 16 years where I have had the privilege of positively impacting the lives of over 10,000 students – many of whom have become very successful in their own field.

Before training as a teacher and undertaking management qualifications in education, I trained as an Actor gaining a degree, and latterly as a Director. I enjoyed a career in theatre and television and, from time to time, I will be found working with our own creative arts students.

I’m proud to be here to make sure you get where you need to be.

I hail from Liverpool and, with a passion for football, please feel free to stop me for a chat about LFC – or, on a more serious note, tell me how you are getting on here at Seevic and how we can continue to improve.

I’m proud to be here to make sure you get where you need to be, and my initial focus will be stimulating innovation and encouraging your tutors to experiment with new techniques to ensure you enjoy and excel in your learning.

I’m always open to new innovative ideas, so remember to stop me and give me yours!

I look forward to seeing you all as I walk around the college; here’s to a great year.


My taste of the working world

olivia parmenter

By Olivia Parmenter

After studying my Level 3 Childcare Learning and Development course at Seevic College I then continued with my studies as I wanted to pursue my career in becoming a Primary School teacher.

I decided to continue studying at Seevic as I felt the college has a thriving environment with fantastic facilities which were extremely beneficial to me. Seevic College offers a part time Foundation Degree in Early Years which suited me greatly which is why I chose to do this. The Early Years Degree enables me to work alongside my studies allowing me to begin to earn my own money, which I feel is a bonus being able to study and earn money at the same time.

I consider myself as very lucky, being offered this job and it was Seevic College who provided me with this job opportunity.

I have recently been offered a job as a Learning Support Assistant (LSA) in Thundersley Primary School which I am due to start in September. I will be working in the school four days a week and on a Thursday I will be returning to Seevic to continue with my Degree.

I consider myself as very lucky, being offered this job, and it was Seevic College who provided me with this job opportunity. The reason being that Thundersley Primary School was where I completed one of my work experience placements, allowing me to express my skills and capabilities, resulting in the Head Teacher offering me a job at the school.

From my work experience I gained a great amount of knowledge, experience and responsibilities which I feel helped me to develop into the ambitious person I am today, with a goal of becoming a Primary School Teacher.

During my placements I volunteered in various childcare settings such as nurseries, preschools and primary schools which encouraged me to decide what aged children I would like to work with in the future.

I would like to say a massive thank you to Seevic College for providing me with a great opportunity which is allowing to fulfill my dream.

Summer Plans

Helena Wood

By Helena Wood

It’s finally summer.

After a long year of hard work it’s finally time to chill out, relax, and basically sleep for 11 weeks.

Or is it? In reality, there’s a lot to do over the summer that can help you to prepare for the challenging year ahead.

Obviously, what you do is going to depend on whether or not you finished college this year. If you have: congratulations! Whether you’re going to university or not, good luck, and have fun venturing out into the big wide world. If, like me, you’ve just finished your first year, the work isn’t over yet. It’s time to get ready for next year.

There’s a lot to do over the summer that can help you to prepare for the challenging year ahead.

One thing you can do is get work experience, if you don’t already have a job. This is useful for the future because experience is highly valued by potential future employers. It also helps because you can gain skills, which will also help in future employment. Plus, you can potentially get paid! And who doesn’t want some extra cash for summer?

Another thing to do over summer is to go to university taster/open days. These help you get a feel of the place you might potentially be studying and living in for a long time, so it’s important to choose the right university for you. You can also discover more about the course you want to study, which is obviously important. I’ve been to two so far, and can vouch for how useful they are, both to get information about the course and also to get a general feel for the campus, atmosphere, and accommodation, etc. You don’t want to end up going somewhere you hate for 3+ years.

While there’s a lot to keep you busy over the summer, it’s important that you do take time to relax, and to enjoy your free time. You’ve earned it! You’ve dealt with the doom and gloom of exams and coursework, and so you deserve to have as stress-free of a summer as possible.

Have fun!

My time on the Student Union


By Denni-Lee Hughes

When I first joined Seevic College I was a shy and quiet person; I didn’t know anyone at Seevic apart from my friends from secondary school.

One day I heard they were looking for a representative for key areas in the college so I decided to go to Student Services and apply for the role of Executive Representative of Learning Plus and Personalised Pathways – and luckily I got it!

Since I’ve joined the Student Union I have become a much more confident person and have made a lot of new friends as well as new skills and qualities.

If you are thinking of applying to join the Student Union, you will find yourself much busier than normal.  Alongside a weekly meeting with the member of staff in charge of the Union and conference meetings for staff and students, you’ll also have termly meetings with the Principal about what has been raised at your weekly drop-in centre in the college from other students.

Since I’ve joined the Student Union I have become a much more confident person and have made a lot of new friends as well as new skills and qualities.

You’ll also be involved in fundraising for lots of different charities.  My favourite fundraising activity that we have done is the Christmas Jumper Day, where you come into college wearing your favourite Christmas jumper to raise money for a good cause.

I personally think that becoming a part of the Student Union is a very good idea to put on your CV because when you go and apply for jobs they can see that you took part in extracurricular activities which were your choice.

I would absolutely recommend being part of Student Union to a friend because you are part of the learner’s voice, representing the opinions of the students across college.

And the best bit? You get paid depending on how many hours you work over the month!

Get involved by visiting Michelle or Sarah in Student Services!

Goodbye Seevic College!


By Denni-Lee Hughes

Well, what can I say about Seevic College?

It’s fair to say that I’ve had some ups and some down days here, but overall Seevic has helped become a much better person and more confident.  All of the tutors have helped me on my journey, and I can’t believe it is my very last year at Seevic.

I have made so many new friends at the college and gained loads of new skills and qualities to help me in the future – whatever I choose to do.

I will leave with a sad but happy face knowing that, although this chapter is ending, there’s a new one beginning.

I see both the tutors and my friends at Seevic like part of my family, and it will be a shame to leave them behind.  On my last day I’m looking forward to saying a massive thank you everyone who has helped me during my last two years at the college.

At 4.30pm on Monday 27 June 2016 I’ll be coming to an end of my time at Seevic and, as I look around, I’m sure that I’ll say to myself how much I’ll miss everyone here.

I will leave with a sad but happy face knowing that, although this chapter is ending, there’s a new one beginning.  I hope all of my friends and tutors here at Seevic College never forget me, because I know I will never forget them for helping me so much.

So, farewell friends and tutors at Seevic College.  Thank you for everything you have done.

Your next steps…

Beth Peacher

By Beth Peacher

For some, finishing college is not far out of sight.

On one hand, it’s exciting.  Starting a new chapter and taking the next steps towards your future career; whether that be getting a full-time job or progressing onto further education to gain those extra qualifications, degrees and experience.

On the other hand, it’s unforgettable.  For those friends, memories and funny moments created and shared during your time at college.

So what is the main thing people may miss?  Definitely not the hours of writing/typing up coursework or the hours spent revising for exams, but most likely, the atmosphere.  As it’s the friends and class members you have that make your time at college the funniest and most interesting, wouldn’t you agree?

Your path is dependent on the choices you make and how hard you work towards what you want to achieve.

So when it comes to walking out those doors for the last time, where will your next year be taking you?  Everyone will take a different path – some succeeding, some sitting on the fence and some who perhaps are still not sure of what they want to do.  In my opinion, there are three types of college leavers, these being: the ambitious achievers, the indecisive individuals and the pessimistic people.  Most of which will have achieved their full potential at college; some perhaps will be disappointed with their qualifications; some of which may have left without a qualification as they found college was not for them.

Your path is dependent on the choices you make and how hard you work towards what you want to achieve.  College is one of the final reminders that these free opportunities you have only come once, therefore you should take them openly to gain and achieve those qualifications that will support you and provide you with mass opportunities throughout your life.

Managing your time


By Lacey Cottle

Do you struggle to stay managed and organised every day? Do you forget or lose information? If you do, you are not alone.

Many students, including myself, experience times of stress and begin to lose control of the vital objectives from time to time. Time management is an important element to complete work or/and coursework effectively – although, you still need to allocate yourself time to carry out personal tasks, such as times to self-indulge and enjoy your favourite activity; whether it be to shop, dance, or go kart!

You will forever worry and doubt yourself for lacking various qualities that those surrounding you have. However, don’t forget that you are in charge of your own time. You can dictate at precisely what hour and minute you aim to achieve an objective of yours. All the tasks you need to achieve by a set date will be successfully completed if you allocate time effectively.

Breaks are vital in order for you to relax and allow yourself time to refresh before trying to absorb another load of information or complete another task. If you do not provide yourself with a break, you can tire yourself out.

Dismissing your workload could potentially lead your health to deteriorate, due to stress and other related problems. This, in turn, will force a strain on yourself as you will not be capable to focus and carry out tasks as efficiently.

My top tips:

  • Have an organisation chart or schedule – this will allow you to ensure you accomplish all you aim to by the deadline
  • Have a break every 30 minutes – this provides the body with the ability to stretch and re-charge, as well as for our brains cognitive purpose
  • Ensure your breaks are around 15 minutes – this allows you to have a break, yet is quick so you can achieve what you want tto in the given time
  • Prioritise your tasks – completion of the most important task/s will reduce your stress.

If you use your time effectively you will accomplish all you want to. Time management is a key to your own success, so it’s crucial to arrange your time efficiently to further achieve your goals.