As a GCSE student, you hear a lot of horror stories about how A Levels are a nightmare and sixth form is completely different to secondary school. Most of the time these aren’t true, but it is true that there are a few key differences between sixth form and GCSE.
1. Leaving the site
One of the main differences is that you’re usually allowed to leave the site. This may not be applicable to all sixth forms, but many allow their students to leave the site over lunch or whenever they don’t have timetabled lessons. Whilst you should still spend that time studying, it allows you a greater amount of freedom in terms of where you want to do your work. We prefer to study at home as we get distracted by chatting to people at school, but we know people who stay at school for their free periods as they get distracted at home. This does mean you’re expected to do a lot more independent work as you typically have hours timetabled off for studying, even if your teacher doesn’t explicitly set any homework.
2. More independent learning
The amount of independent learning you’re expected to do does take a little getting used to at first, but once you settle into a routine it shouldn’t be too difficult- especially if you developed good revision skills at GCSE. Your teachers are able to give you a lot more support due to smaller class sizes, so if you’re struggling with anything then they will normally be able to help you out with it. It also helps you to further develop your study skills so that when it comes to exam time you are already in the habit of studying on your own so you can be more productive.
3. Having free periods
For many students you’ll have free periods to help with this, which can be anything from an hour a week to ten hours, depending on how many courses you’re taking and how your school timetables lessons. Not only do they allow you to catch up on work, they can also be used to have one-to-one time with your teacher if you really need it. It is really important that you don’t waste these as they are useful for going over content you didn’t understand in class or simply just catching up on homework so you don’t find yourself falling behind in lessons.
4. The possibility to tailor your learning to your personal needs
You’ll also find yourself being able to tailor your learning to your personal needs more than you could at GCSE. A Levels are different to GCSE so you will find yourself having to change how you learn and revise to fit the requirements of your courses. Your school will typically give you more resources to access which means that you can go and work on your weaknesses on your own, rather than just relying on the teacher like at GCSE. Some teachers may even give you a choice of homework so that you can focus your work on the skills and content you need to improve rather than just a general look at whatever you're covering.
5. More social events
There also tends to be more social things you can get involved with at sixth form, including charity events and sometimes a sixth form council. It’s important to have a good balance of work and socialising at sixth form so your school will often have a common room area (usually only for sixth form students if your school also have secondary school pupils) to encourage this. Make sure that you have fun as well as work hard; after all universities want rounded students, not workaholics.