//How to keep up with language-learning over summer…//

For many students in the UK and across the world, the summer holidays are approaching quicker than ever. Many of you, like me, are probably studying a foreign language at school or college at the moment, and may be wondering how you will survive going back to school in September after 6+ weeks without having foreign language lessons (well I certainly am anyway, maybe I’m just weird haha).

So, as a year 12 student studying A Level French – and taking my exams next summer due to the linear A Levels – who needs to ensure I’m still practicing French over summer, I come bearing a list of ways to keep up language practice, so by the time it gets to September you (hopefully) haven’t forgotten it all! I’ve come up with a few ideas about how you can practice each aspect of language learning – reading, writing, listening and speaking – so hopefully they’ll be helpful to some of you.

1. Reading

Reading is a really, really great way to keep up language practice. I mean, if you’re a bookworm like me, then why not read books in your target language? Books are relaxing to read, and you can find a genre or author that interests you – there are so many foreign language book lists on Goodreads! Even just reading a couple of pages a day will help make sure you’re being exposed to the language and the more you read, the more vocab you’ll learn and the more you will see grammar rules in practice; basically, it will give you a better grasp of how the written language is formed!

It can be hard to find books that are the right level for your skills in your target language. If you’re just starting out, children’s books are a good idea as they’ll have more simple vocabulary and sentence structures. But if you’re at GCSE level or A Level, you could try reading version of books you’ve already read in English in your target language – for example last summer after I finished GCSE French, I read the first Harry Potter book in French. Often you’re local library will have at least some foreign language books, or you can use their online catalogue to reserve books and get them delivered to your library.

Also I think most A Level foreign language specifications will have a set book list, as you will usually have to study a book as part of the course, but that doesn’t mean you can’t read the other books on the list too!

Another way of practicing your reading is by reading magazines. There’s a really good French magazine called “Ça m’intresse” which covers a load of current themes in society, and a lot of topics relevant to A Level. You’ll have to order them online unless your school or college has them in the library, but one copy would cost roughly £5 including delivery costs, or you can download the digital copy which is obviously cheaper. If not, you can always read articles in your target language on news websites (and Ça m’intresse even has a range of free articles on their website which you can read too).

2. Writing

Keeping up with writing practice can be quite time-consuming and tedious, but it will help you to recal all of the grammar rules and tenses you need to know, as well as practice vocab.

Some simple ways of practicing writing would be to write a few sentences at the end of each week, talking about what you’ve done that week and what you plan to next week. In the run up to my exams, I’ve been doing this by trying to write a sentence in each French tense at the end of each week in my diary.

You could also write some blog posts in your target language, which I will definitely be doing over the summer.

Or, if you do read some articles in your target language over the summer, you could practise summarising the foreign language articles using synonyms which will help both your writing and be good practice for exams (as certainly in French A Level exams we are required to read short passages and summarise them in our own words).

Another thing you could do is set up a Twitter account in your target language, and try tweeting in the language you are learning. You can also follow native speakers or newspaper/magazine accounts in your target language, which will help with your reading too.

3. Listening

Practicing your listening skills doesn’t have to mean sitting down and doing listening past papers and activities provided by your exam board – the internet offers a variety of ways to practice listening!

Firstly, you can listen to international radio stations on your phone or the internet, which is a great way to test your listening skills and discover artists who sing in your target language. Some French radio stations which I listen to include Radio Nostalgie (which you can listen to for free via their mobile app – they play a mixture of 70s/80s/90s music) but there is a huge list here that includes French radio stations that broadcast anything from news to pop to classical music.

Another way is by listening to music in your target language itself. This can sometimes be difficult to find, but there are some good Spotify foreign language playlists – and I’ve created my own French one which I may write a post about in the future!

The there’s also the wealth of foreign language resources provided by YouTube. Sometimes it’s possible to watch old films and TV series in your target language on here for free. For example I watched a French  series called “Extra” which was made specifically for French language learners, so it uses fairly simple language and comedy to help you understand. Also there will be many YouTubers who are native speakers of your target language – one French YouTuber I’ve started watching recently is Anatastesia – she makes a wide variety of videos, many in French so hopefully there’ll be something you like!

Finally buying and watching DVDs in your target language – or films on Netflix – will be invaluable practice for your listening skills. You may have to watch the films with English subtitles or watch them multiple times to understand fully, but it will be great practice and it will also immerse you into the culture of your target language as well. I recently bought some second-hand French DVDs on Amazon for 10p with £1.20 delivery  – so they’re not always expensive! I may also do a separate post on French film recommendations at some point too as I’ve watched quite a few french films – some better than others haha.

4. Speaking

Speaking may seem to be one of the hardest things to practice, because often you don’t have someone to hand that can speak your target language and are willing to have a conversation with you. But, do not fear, because actually talking to yourself is also good practice. For example, you could just challenge yourself to talk for 60 seconds in your target language each day about what you’ve been doing or what the weather’s like etc. If you want, you can record yourself speaking and see your progress. Sometimes even just narrating what’s going on in the moment in your target language helps!

Speaking is actually a lot easier to practice than you might think – for example you don’t have to focus on reading a foreign language book, or remember spellings and accent placements as you do when you’re reading or writing. Speaking practice can be as quick and simple as you want it to be.

Another great resource for speaking practice I’ve found recently is the website and app “Forvo”. Within this app, you can practice your pronunciation. You chose a level to start at – I recommend choosing beginner whatever your level as it you’ll learn more vocab – and you’ll be shown a virtual flashcard with a word in your target language on it. Then you have to say that word, flip the card, hear how a native speaker pronounces it then you can rate whether you failed, were good or found it easy etc. Then the app will keep bringing up the words you struggle with until you’ve rated them easy, then you can move on and learn new words. I highly recommend it, as pronounciation is a large part of speaking a foreign language, and learning how to say things properly can really boost your confidence in speaking your target language.

Finally I want to talk about the app HelloTalk. This app fundamentally allows you to talk to native speakers over message or through voice recordings. At first I was a little skeptical about how safe the app would be, but generally my experience so far has been good! I think you have to be at least 13 to use the app, and after you’ve put in your age, it’ll only allow people within a 2-3 year age difference to you to be able to find your profile and contact you. It also has all the options for blocking people if needs be. So far, it’s been very useful to me. It’ll show you native speakers who are most suited to you based on age and competency level in their target language, and you can the see their profiles and see their interests to find a suitable language partner. Everyone I’ve talked to already seems really friendly, and I find their voice recording option really useful, as I’ve been able to send and receive voice messages from a native speaker in Algeria over the past few days. Also with the text messages, your language partner can correct your mistakes using their great correction feature, which has been really useful too! All I would say is to make sure you don’t put personal details on their, as with any platform that allows you to come into contact with strangers, and obviously if anyone is acting inappropriately towards you, block and report them.

So, that’s pretty much exhausted my tips for keeping up language practice over the summer holidays, but if you have any more to share, let me know below and best of luck to ayone taking exmas at the moment. 🙂

//Français – mon amour!//

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A French magazine I was given after going to a French conference in January (where I jhad to give a weather report in French in front of a group of strangers and direct and film a mini video in French)

Hello! Welcome back, sorry it’s been such a long time since I last posted on here, I’ve been terribly busy with revision for my exams (which are 10 days away eek!) but somehow I managed to find a bit of time today to sit down and write about my growing love of French.

I’ve been studying French since I was in year 5 – so since I was about 9/10. I mean, that 7-ish years of learning French sounds like such a long time (and I’m still not fluent haha) – it’s weird to think French has been part of my life for THAT long!

When I first started learning, I never imagined I’d fall in love with the language – or languages in general – but here I am, studying A Level French and falling helplessly inlove with the French language and culture.

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Throwback to when my French grammar was shocking (and fastforward to my awful photography skills).

In primary school, and the first two years of secondary school, French was compulsory for me, and as someone who always works hard, I put in just as much effort into French as my other subjects. So, whilst most of my friends and classmates weren’t enjoying the French lessons (I don’t get why so many don’t like learning languages??) I was loving them so much I chose to do French for my GCSEs.

I think by about year 10, when I was starting to think about what I wanted to do after school for my A Levels, I started to realise that I really wanted to carry on with French for as long as possible. My French teachers at secondary school were really supportive and encouraged me to do French A Level as well, so that’s what I did, and here I am now!

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My A Level text book.
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My A Level revision scrapbook that I’m actually quite proud of!

Honestly, I think doing French A Level as been the best decision I’ve ever made. Yes, it’s probably my hardest subject, but it’s also the most interesting by far! Luckily, the teachering at my college is just as good – if not better -than that at my secondary school, and my current teacher is alkso really supportive. I also love being in a small class – there’s just six of us – of people that are dedicated to learning French, and don’t judge you for liking languages, like some people did at secondary school.

Also, the A Level course is so interesting! I’m doing the new A Levels, so the expectations are higher than the older specifications, as we’re required to have an exstensive knowledge of French and Francophone culture on a range of topics, but I honestly love it so much. Learning about the French culture has made me love the language even more, as I quickly realised that a language only makes up a small part of a countries culture, and there is so much else to learn.

I also love how when I speak French, I feel like I have a much wider understanding of the world – or at least another part of it. There’s also a sense of pride for defying the stereotype that British people are “lazy and don’t learn languages”.

I have improved so much over the last year, and have gone from someone who would quite happily read and write in French, but couldn’t speak more than a badly-pronounced sentence, to someone who now can understand being taught each lesson in French by my teacher, repsond to her questions, understand French films and books, read French magazines and have a lengthy conversation with other people in French. Also, my pronounciation is really improving too!

The only thing my love of French is missing, is actually having visted France. The only time I (briefly) went to France was when I went to Austria back in 2011 and got the channel ferry from Dover to Calais. But then we only stayed in the ferry terminal for an hour or so at Calais so not really proper France. BUT I am venturing to Marseille at the beginning of July with my A Level French class, and I’m so excited! I can;t ait to experience the culture first hand and practice my speaking skills (hopefully I’ll be confident enough)!

So that just about brings us up-to-date with my French journey. However I will hopefully be posting a fashion-type post over the next week or so (which is new for me so I don’t know how that will go) as due to the hotness of being in the South of France on the French Riveria, I need to go out and buy some summery, lightweight clothing. So look out for that and until then, au revoir!

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A canvas I painted reading “La Vie”

//A wee lil update pour vous//

(What a mess of a title, je suis désolée 😂)

Hellooo! It feels like such a long time since I actually sat down and write a blog post. It’s not that I haven’t had any inspiration – I kept coming up with ideas, but by the time I’d actually have some free time, I’d forget what they were (oops) or watch a couple of epsiodes of Waterloo Road from 2010 (I just love it so much, don’t judge) 😂. But alas, here I am, back to give you a brief update of what I’ve been up to lately!

As you can imagine, my life hasn’t been very interesting over the past few weeks, as *SPOILERS* it’s exam season *sighs* so most of my time has been spent doing revision (or rather, figuring out how to revise effectively).

I have been rather stressed over the past two weeks, as I’ve had a French speaking mock (which was comme ci comme ça si vous comprenez moi) and my history teacher left, so we’ve had various replacements and are seriously behind schedule (eeek!). On top of that, I realised that my revision just wasn’t effective and I couldn’t recall much of what I’ve been revising since February (such a waste of time..ugh) so now I’m trying to pull myself together and use these last three weeks to revise everything….again.

So yeah, that’s basically how my college life has been going. I also received my exam timetable and discovered I have three exams on one day 😭 – 2 hour geography mock, then a 20 minute French speaking exam, then a 2 hour history mock (in which I have to write 3 essays). As I’m doing the linear a-levels, I don’t have any “real” exams this year, which you might think would reduce the pressure and stress a bit but nope! I think the fact that they aren’t “real” is making me more stressed, as for the past two years I’ve got used to taking external exams, and having only internal exams just feels wrong?? I’m still treating them like real exams, but because they are just mocks, my teachers aren’t. So therefore, we haven’t spent much time practicing for the exams so I don’t feel prepared at all, and we’re not doing revision in class because we’re so behind we probably won’t even finish the content before the mocks, which is FAB.

But anyway, I feel like this week I’m coping with the stress a bit better, and I’m just so ready for summer. 

Ooh and I watched Eurovision on Saturday (obvs) and had a sort-of-party thing with the fam like last year, where we had food from across Europe, and this year I spent a few hours painting flag bunting which was cool.

Aside from that, I haven’t really done much. I’ve been trying to put university out of my mind for now so I can focus on my a-levels, but I have managed to book three open days – the first of which is coming up in just over two weeks at Exeter, which I’m looking forward to! 

What have you guys been up to lately? I hope you’re lives have been more interesting then mine 😂

//Your life IS worth it//

I remember being 12, when I couldn’t wait until my 13th birthday when I would actually become a teenager and embark on what I thought would be the most amazing adventure, full of new experiences and new people. Five years down the line, I can say that I have had many extraordinary experiences and had some incredible times like 12-year-old me expected, but without a doubt I’ve also had some pretty low points, which I certainly wasn’t expecting. I think being a teenager is one of the most difficult phases of our lives, with pressures from school, family, friends, future plans – not to mention the challenges we face as our bodies and identities change and we discover – or start to discover – who we truly are.

To be honest, there have been times more recently where I have contemplated ending it all, because I didn’t see how all of this struggle would be worth it or how the future could possibly offer me anything to look forward to. I’m not ashamed of it, nor am I ashamed of all the low points I’ve experienced in my life because I know that there are many teenagers out there who will have felt the same way as me at some point in their lives, and that’s okay, because we’re all in this together. I am not alone in this, and neither are you.

I think it’s important that we talk more openly about our feelings. After all, no one tells you life will be easy, so why should we stay quiet to keep up appearances, when chances are most people will know where you’re coming from?

So this is me, talking about how I’ve been feeling recently, because I know that being open about this will not only help me, but there’s the possibility that I could help someone else too. So if that someone is you, if you’ve ever contemplated if your life is really worth whatever difficulties you may be facing, then I want to tell you that it is.

There are hundreds and thousands and millions of people who have gone through what you’re going through and made it out the other side to live happy lives. That doesn’t mean your struggles are any less significant, it just means that you can do this, because you are just as strong and just as worthy of happiness as every one of them.

One thing that gets me through hard times, is remembering that everything I’m going through now will help me to become stronger in the future and make me a more compassionate person and remembering all the things I’ve gone through in the past – however big or small – that felt impossible or unbearable gives me faith that I can get through this, as can you.

Sometimes it can be difficult, even impossible, to imagine life could possibly get better and how you could possibly feel genuine happiness. When it seems like everyone around you has got their life together, and you’re just stuck in a downward spiral of negative thoughts, it will be hard, but oftentimes people’s lives don’t seem as “together” as they do from the outside so you are most definitely not alone.

Within your teenage years it can feel like your under too much pressure from all angles of your life for such a small period of your lifespan, and I’m not going to deny that because it’s true, but what I will tell you is that you’ll some out the other side with so many happy memories of all the incredible things you did and all the fun you had, and you’ll take away from the low points a greater understanding of what it is to be human, a greater compassion for others and a greater appreciation for all the little things in life that have the power to make you happy.

Basically, I’d like to tell you that your life is worth it, you are worth it. You all have amazing futures awaiting you and you have so much potential that you will achieve in one capacity or another. You will meet people who appreciate you and love you. And if it feels like some things in your life aren’t going the way you want, it’s never, ever because you don’t deserve it, or deserve to be happy, it’s because you deserve so much better than that, and it takes time for life to give you what you deserve. But I can tell you that it will be worth it all in the end.

I hope in some way this may have been helpful to you. If not, it has been helpful to me to be more open about my thoughts and this is something I will look back on in the future to remind me of a time when I felt like life was unbearable, but searched for a more optimistic outlook and struggled on through. If I can, I’d like to say that I’m proud of myself for writing this. It’s not the most coherent or logical pieces of writing, it’s just me trying to reach out and make a difference, because if there is anything that my recent mental health has taught me, it’s that I want to use my voice to show others that they’re not alone.

 

//Worried about the new linear A Levels? Here are some tips!//

Those of you in the UK will probably (hopefully/unfortunately??) know that from 2016 (a.k.a. last September), the government started to roll out its new linear A levels. Which means, unlucky for me and all the other year 12’s out there, we’re the “guinea pig” year – meaning we’re the first ones to go through the stress of having the new system trialled out on us.

The new linear system means that instead of taking AS exams at the end of year 12, and A2 exams at the end of year 13 – which each comprised 50% of the qualification – the majority of us will be taking all of our exams at the end of year 13. Which will mean, trying to juggle learning all the second year content, as well as revising all of the first year AND second year. So basically, STRESS. But don’t worry, as I’ve been suffering  working under the new system for about 8 months now, I come bearing tips and tricks which I have tried and tested, or make a note of things which I can do during year 13 (so I can look back at this when I’m stressed and buried under a huge workload and find a solution) and just general things that I have learnt throughout my experience of A Levels so far.

1. The “jump”

I’m sure most teenagers in the UK will know someone who is doing, or has done or has some knowledge of A Levels, and it’s more than likely that they’ve also told you about the “jump” from GCSE to A Level and how big it is. Now if you’re like me, then you won’t really believe them or have any idea what they’re on about, until about week 3 of A Levels when the teachers have stopped recapping GCSE knowledge to get you all up to the same level, and suddenly you have seven assignments to do, ten chapters of text books to read and five test to prepare for (that might be a slight exaggeration,but honestly sometimes the workload can feel like this!). But don’t let it put you off, because although A Levels are notoriously hard and the workload is huge, if you’re passionate about the subjects you choose, you will love to learn them in such detail!

2. Trial and error

My whole revision and learning process this year as been a game of trial and error. With GCSEs, I found that as there wasn’t much content, I could get away with revising by making mindmaps or flashcards for most of my subjects, and it would be effective, but at A Level, because of the sheer diversity in content between and within each subject, you may find that not one sole revision technique works for you, or that the methods you used at GCSE don’t work with trying to revise such a vast and varied subject content. But that’s ok – I’ve experienced that many times this year and to tell the truth it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, but you just have to go with it: some things will work and others won’t, it’s about finding out what works best for you. 

With the linear A Levels, you’ll either take first year external exams at the end of the Year 12 – but these don’t count towards your overall grade and a sort of a way to gauge your progress, or your sixth form or college will provide internal ‘mock’ exams for you to sit, which is what I’m doing. However, although I’m treating them as if they are real exams (as I need to get a D or above to continue to second year), I’m also using the mock exams as sort of an “experiment” for next year, so I can play around with different revision strategies now so by the time it comes to my real exams next year, I’ll know exactly which revision tactics worked best for what. 

3. Organising your notes

Something I’ve done since September is rewriting my notes after each lesson onto index cards, like the ones below. My notes from class are generally very messy and unorganised, so I take about half an hour after each lesson (or whenever I have a free period or day off) to rewrite them, referring to my text book at the same time to make sure I haven’t missed anything out that we perhaps hadn’t had time to cover in class (which in my experience happens a lot, and it’s your responsibility to check through the text book and make sure you’re staying on track, even if your teacher isn’t).

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Some of my rewritten notes from Geography

I did this as a sort of experiment, to see if it would work for me and just because I needed to get my head round how A Levels work (which is something I’m still figuring out). In some ways it has as when I’ve come to revising for tests or the mocks, I can choose topics to revise in bitesize sections, giving me a clearer idea over what I’m supposed to know, as I find the text book can sometimes feel overwhelming because there is just SO. MUCH. But this way, I’ve broken it down so I’ve just written down the key notes that I need to know, not all the waffle.

However the index card strategy can sometimes still be too unorganised or illogical for me, as I rewrote my notes in accordance to the order of chapters within the text books, and the Geography text book especially seems to be written in a really illogical order, flicking from one topic to the next then back to the first, so as my revision for the mocks, I rewrote them into a notebook, and colour-coordinated them with diagrams in what I consider to be a more logical order. That works a lot better for me, as it’s more visual, so I think next year instead of spending all that time making index cards only to discover writing them up in a different way works better, I’ll instead write them up in the notebook-style that works for me from September, so when it comes to revision I can focus more on recall revision techniques, not making sure my notes are organised!

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My revision notebook – much more organised and revision-friendly!

4. Revision strategies

Again it will take a lot of trial and error to find out what works for you, or what type of learner you are. I think I can be every time of learner to be honest: visual (through use of diagrams and colour-coding), auditory (through saying things out loud that I want to remember over and over again until it sticks), read-write (through rewriting notes or vocab to help me memorise them) and kinesthetic (through highlighting stuff as I read to stop my mind from wandering). Different strategies will work for different people but here are a few methods that I’ve found that really work for me, and may do for you too! (I haven’t found an effective way of revising for history yet which is a BIT WORRYING considering the mock is in 5 weeks eeek!)

  • Flashcards with definitions/key concepts on – works well with subjects with lots of content, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all, break it down onto flashcards. I revised the whole of GCSE triple science in this way by getting my mum (thanks mum, forever my revision buddy!) to regularly test me on the flashcards – she’d read out the keyword, and I’d give the definition. I’m hoping to use the same strategies with Geography this year, as the key pillars of the specification are keywords and concepts and it’s these that you’ll need to use and explain in exams. Can also be used to learn the dates of key events in history, but I haven’t got round to trying that yet!wp-1493651840511
  • Post-it notes for French vocab/keywords – learning vocabulary for a language can be one of the most tedious parts to language learning, and I’m not saying I enjoy it that much, but this is a revision tactic that I’ve recently tried out and has really worked for me. I think the key with learning vocab is to change the way you revise it so it doesn’t get boring, whether that be rewriting it, getting someone to read at the word and you give the translation, drawing pictures to help you remember tricky words or writing words on post-it notes, sticking them somewhere you visit regularly (i.e. your bedroom the fridge etc.) and testing yourself on them. I stuck mine on my bookcase, and each morning I’ll try to translate each word – I wrote the english on the back incase I forget – and once I’ve learnt them I’ll swap them over. This could also work with keywords and definitions, if you don’t have anyone wiling to test you on them at all hours of the day (sorry mum).wp-1493655469867.jpg

5. Exam questions

Now you may be worried, as I was, about the lack of past papers available for the new exam specifications. As you probably know, past papers are one of the best ways to check if a) your revision strategy is working and b) you understand the exam technique required to answer the questions. Something I’ve struggled with this year is the lack of past papers, because I just want a way to test my knowledge and see if how I’m revising is actually working. But after doing a bit of research (and actually reading the text books properly oops)  can inform you that there is exam material out there and available!

Firstly, in the text books themselves, there are usually practice exam questions at the end of each page/topic. Secondly, the exam board may release workbooks – like for geography we’ve just received a workbook for units 1 and 2, which is basically a magazine which has around 60 questions in PER TOPIC (which is basically exam question heaven if you’re me and rely on doing exam questions as a major part of your revision). Finally, if you don’t have access to the afore-mentioned resources, look online at past papers for previous specifications, as with some subjects, at least part of the content will overlap and you’ll be able to find some relevant exam questions (especially for languages, as any practice is good practice, even if the topics aren’t entirely the same, and there will definitely be past history specifications that overlap with some of what you’re studying for the new spec).

Doing exam questions will be invaluable for your end of year 12 mocks or exams, and vital for the exams you’ll sit at the end of year 13, so it’s best you get your head round them as soon as possible. I started doing a few ast the end of each unit as we were learning them in geography, jut to consolidate the unit and with history we’ve been doing essays in class throughout the year anyway, but you can never get enough exam practice, especially with A Levels where the content is so vast and the questions can be so vague!

6. Using time effectively

This should probably be one of the first tips, but I only though of it just as I was about to hit the publish button. One advantage of doing the new linear A Levels, is that you have the summer holidays between year 12 and year 13 to sort yourself out. For the most part of year 12, you’ll just be getting used to A Levels and working out what works best, so it is sort of like an experiment as I mentioned earlier, and you may get to the end of the year and realise that you’ve missed things I out or haven’t learnt things properly, but it’s okay because you have the whole of summer to make sure you’ve got the first year’s content nailed. I know I’ll definitely be using some of my summer holidays to go over everything I learnt, check for any gaps in my knowledge and make sure I have some top notch revision resources ready for when it comes to revising for the end of year 13 exams, because you don’t want to get to March of year 13 and realise you’re not confident on all the stuff from year 1 and not have enough time to go over all of that and all of the second year content. So make sure you use your time effectively so you’re as prepared as possible for next year!

Okay, so I think that concludes my tips for the new A Level specification. If you want me to do subject-specific tips or revision ideas, let me know below and I’d be delighted to help. Also if you have any more tips to share, feel free to leave a comment. 

I hoped this may have in some way helped with the rollercoaster that is the new A Level system and given you some new ideas about how to survive it. Just remember you’re not alone and that it’s okay if you’re not hitting your target grades now, because you still have another year before the exams that count, and you’ll make so much progress between now and then! 

Best of luck to everyone embarking on the new A Level specification, and to anyone thinking about doing A Levels after college, despite the workload, I can honestly say I am loving studying the subjects I’m passionate about in more detail and taking more responsibility for your learning. Although the prospect of A Levels may seem daunting, they are definitely worth your consideration!

//That Time I Organised a Mock General Election at Scouts//

Lately my passion for politics has just come flooding back to me. As you may or amy not know, last year I stuided AS Level Government & Politics, and unexpectedly fell in love with it. Whilst studying for my A Levels this year, I’ve had to push politics to the side and focus on the subjects I’m currently studying, but I think the recent political events in the USA, France and now the UK, my love for politics has returned, as it were.

Today at dinner I was discussing the French election with my family, as you do, and suddenly remembered That Time I Organised a Mock General Election at Scouts™ with my sister. After doing a bit of digging on my old blog, I found the post I’d written about it, so I thought I’d write about it again, because it’s something I’m really proud of (and yet another sign that I was in love with politics without realising??? Seriously for the past few years I’ve been like ‘oh yeah history is my favourite subject and I want to study it at uni’ and somehow completely missed all the signs that I was actually really enthusiastic about politics WELL DONE EM). Funnily enough, I can still remember where the idea came from. Basically at my Explorer Scout group we had to take it in turns in organising the meetings, and as we met on Thursdays, our weekly meeting would fall on the 7th May 2015, which just happened to be polling day for the 2015 General Election. I noticed this when we were at the planning meeting in January to plan the meetings for the months ahead and as our Scout hut is used as the local polling stations, it meant we wouldn’t be able to meet at the hut on that night. it was n’t a problem, because as our leaders said we would just have to meet outside of the hut that night, but it got me thinking. Despite the fact that i wasn’t even studying politics in 2015, and had never studied in school, I remember being really enthused about the General Election, and the fact that our Explorer meeting coincided with polling day was just too good an opportunity to miss in my opinion!

So, I talked to my sister who was also part of my Explorer group, and we came up with the idea of holding a ‘mock’ General Election in which the explorers form their own political parties, come up with a manifesto, present their ideas to the group and then have a secret ballot. So we claimed tha evening as our night to organise and got planning!

As we couldn’t meet at the hut, we decided to meet at the local woods instead (which in hindsight wasn’t The Best™ idea because GNAT BITES ARGHH) and instead of getting the ‘parties’ to right a whole manifesto, we just asked them to come up with policies on the EU, the environment and education. I ended up being part of a party as well, because there was an odd number of Explorers there, and our party was called ‘UK Dependent on Immigration Party’ or ‘UDIP’ for short (political pun intended – I think you can probably guess our politcal standpoint). Overall, the evening went really well! I mean, we came up with some whacky policies that probably would never get us elected, but it was thrilling to feel like we were actually engaging with politics.

The result of the ballot was 6 votes to The Bush Party (don’t ask), 5 votes to UDIP and 1 vote to The Fromage Party. Instead of forming a minority government, The Bush Party opted to form a coalition with The Fromage Party.

I think organising and running this mock election is one of the things I’m most proud of doing in Scouts, because I actually felt like I as helping fellow young people to get involved in politics and to the help them understand more about the way the govenrment works in the UK. Thinking back on it now, I think this could be something I want to go into in the future – educating young people about politics. Whether that be through teaching or campaiging or what, the advocacy of politics in education is something that I’m very passionate about (you can read my post about why politics should be taught in schools here), but we shall see where the future takes me!

//My experience of educational-related stress//

​Stress. It’s something that most of us will suffer with at some point in our lives, and something that I feel we don’t talk about enough. I mean, it’s almost become something meaningless that sort of crops up in any general conversation about school or education – for example sometimes I’ll have a catch up with friends I don’t see often, and we’ll ask each other how college is going and just give a generic reply of “oh it’s okay, apart from the stress” but never elaborate on the stress, and I think it’s something that we should talk about more, because it can have huge impacts on the lives and health of young people.

It’s no secret that education has been reformed over the past 10, 20 and even 50 years, and I don’t know about other countries, but from my experience here in the UK, education has definitely become a lot harder, especially the examination system, and this has lead to a simultaneous increase in the amount of pressure and stress young people feel. 
One of the hardest things about trying to cope with educational-related stress as a young person, is that it’s hard for our parents to sympathise with us and really understand what we’re going through, because certainly in the case of my parents, education was a lot different back then, and although they still had some exams, they can’t remember having to work constantly, or revise for a prolonged period before their exams. For example, sometimes I get so stressed about the amount of work to do, that I can’t physically do it because my stress starts to affect my mental well-being, and I just don’t have the energy to work, or can’t focus on anything, and end up in a state of panic. In these times, my parents suggest to just take a break, postpone my work and tell me for the 1 billionth time that I spend far too much time working than is necessary. For me this just makes the situation worse, as postponing work just means it keeps piling up and up until I’m stuck in a situation where I just have too much to do in a the amount of time I have, and telling me I work too hard just makes me agitated, because even though I do do a lot of work, there is still so much more I need to do, I am no where near on top of my studies and the work I am doing isn’t effective as there is so much information I need to know that I can’t physically cram it into my brain – I basically forget everything five minutes after revising it, and my parents don’t understand that. 
I suffer from stress to the point where I constantly feel on edge, as if I’m about to snap at any moment, whether that be shouting at someone for no apparent reason or bursting into to tears. I’m sure I’m not alone, in fact, I know I’m not alone, because my friends and you guys are the only people who understand the stress we’re put through because of education, and we’re all too preoccupied with our own stress to help each other more than offering a few comforting words of “it’s okay, I understand”. 
I think it’s important to talk about stress more, because then maybe (it’s a long shot but we can hope) the government will realise that the pressure that the education system puts on us is not healthy. 
Honestly, I don’t know how long I can go on like this, stuck in this constant spiral of stress and fear. I don’t even know if I’ll pass this year or end up having to retake, I’m working as hard as I can, and as my parents say that’s all I can do, but the truth is it just. Isn’t. Enough. Not according to the new A Levels system anyway. And I know grades aren’t everything, but the constant fear of failing is always in the back of my head, because it’s been drilled into us for years that we need to get good grades. 

I’m not really sure what I wanted to achieve out of this post, I just wanted to let you know that if you too are suffering from stress, then you are most certainly not alone in this.