//Royal Holloway uni open day; thoughts//

Hello! Hope you’re all loving the heat right now!!! This weekend has been so summer-y, it’s gret (although it’s hard to get in the mindset of doing school work when it just feels like the summer holidays).

Anyway, yesterday I went to my second university open day: Royal Holloway. Now, not many people have actually heard of Royal Holloway – in fact I only found it by chance because the course I’m looking into studying is very niche and not many unis actually do it – so I’ll give you a brief overview. Royal Holloway is one of the 19 (?) colleges (well…really universities) of the University of London. The main bulding – Founder’s – (a.k.a the orange castle) was built in the 1800s and is based on a French chateaux (is this fate??? I mean FRENCH). 

The building is so huge…my photography isn’t great – if you want to see better photos of this stunning building, google Royal Holloway!

It was actually one of the first univerisites in the UK to provide higher education to women (yay!!) and has notable alumni including Emily Wilding Davison, the pioneering suffragette, herself. Whilst most of the colleges of the University of London are located within (you guessed it) London, this is not true of Royal Holloway. When I was originally searching for universities, I dissmissed Royal Holloway because I thought it was in London But when all the other universities that did my course appeared to be located at the other end of the country, I decided to look into it a bit more (what can I say the orange castle is just irresistable!) and discovered that it’s actually located near to a small town called Egham in Surrey.
So, a few months later (i.e. yesterday) I embarked with my family on the two and a half hour drive down the M4 to visit Royal Holloway. The journey there was actually lovely as once we’d exited the motorway we drove through Old and New Windsor past Great Windsor Park and Windsor Castle. The local area already felt so different to where I currently live – Surrey is a suprisingly green county for somewhere so close to London, and their are woddlands everywhere! What I also loved was how close the Thames was to the uni – whilst we were driving through window we followed right by the Thames with it’s beautiful narrow boats and it looked like such a beautiful place to go for a stroll on a summers day. Also the little village of Englefield Green which we passed through just before reaching the uni was lovely. It’s mostly a student village, but all of the houses are quaint and historic – which I loved – and then there was the green itself which had a small pavillion and the local cricket team could be seen practicing on.

Our first sight of the uni itself was the stunning Founder’s building that we glimpsed through the grand gates of the uni. It was honestly overwhelming to see the building in real life after months of gazing at pictures in prospectuses. We got to drive right past Founder’s on our way to the car park. After parking we headed straight over to registration where we were greeted by friednly students who booked me in and gave me my welcome pack (seriously they gave away so many freebies?? Like I ended up with a canvas bag, jelly beans, a pen, lanyard, water bottle, four pairs of sunglasses and a polaroid photo of my family and me inforont of the staute of Jane and William Holloway by the end of the day!).

The first talk we attended was the introduction to the uni which was lead by the Principal, who seemed really appraochable and the presntation itself was really informative and encouraging, considering I hadn’t done much reading into statistics and ranking about the uni because numbers confuse me greatly. The building we were in for this talk was the really modenr Windsor Building, which looked right out onto Founder’s and was right next to the new Emily Wilding Davison building which will house a new library, study spaces, shop and bank when it opens in a few months. The new building is very modern but it doesn’t look at all out of place next to Founder’s. Plus the whole front side will be glass, so you can sit in the library studying with the amzing view of Founder’s surrounded by woodland.

The next thing we went to was a modern languages talk which was really interesting and informative and I’m so hyped about studying languages in general at uni now.  The course I’m actually looking at is called European and International Studies (French) which is essentially the same as French and Politics (the course I’m looking at elsewhere) except you just study European politics, which is pretty cool! This course is part of the School of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, so it wasn’t included on the modern languages talk I attended, but as half the course will be taught by the languages department and I’d be taking the same modules as people doing just French, I wanted to get a feel for the too.

After the talk, the temperature had reach about 27 degrees – in other words: HOT. We decided we couldn’t face sitting in another lecture theatre so we headed off to the bottom of the campus to view the accommodation. I actually fell in love with the accommodation – I’m looking for self-catered en suite accommodation, and I was really pleased with the size of the rooms and bathrooms! The accommodation was really modern and spacious with loads of big windows to let in light in the bedrooms and the hallway (there’s nothing I hate more than artificial lighting). The rooms also had massive desks and lots of storage space, as well as huge notice boards which is great because I could bring my world map poster and pretend I’m a geography student!

There were between 6-8 rooms per flat, and the shared kitchen was also huge with loads of cupboards, a large table and huge windows at either end. There was only one hob and oven though, so I’m not sure if that would be an issue between 8 people?? Can I just say though, the views from the rooms and kitchens were stunning. Not only did you get an amazing view of the beautiful campus, but of the surrounding Surrey countryside, Thorpe Park could be viewed in the distance as well as Windsor if you’re facing the right way and ofcourse you could spend hours watching planes taking off from Heathrow which – despite being very close by and all the low-flying planes – wasn’t too noisy from the rooms which is great.

I love the sort of student-village lay out of the accommodation, it felt really sociable and relaxing because you had the woodlands right on your doorstep, along with the sporting facilities and various places to eat. I was kind of sad that all the accommodation in Founder’s Building is catered – I mean who wouldn’t want to live in a castle?? But I did really, really love the self-catered flats that were on offer. 

After viewing a few different flats, we decided to head of to Founder’s Field for lunch. We took the scenic route wandering through the woods and passing my a little river then sat under the trees at the edge of the field with Founder’s in front of us in all it’s glory. The whole atmosphere of the campus felt relaxed and peaceful, although it is about half the size of Exeter Uni so I wasn’t sure if it felt a little too claustrophobic, as the academic buildings were quite tightly packed in.

At about 2pm we went into Founder’smain lecture theatre for the politics talk. The politics department is actually based in Founder’s building, so I’d have my lectures in there which is pretty cool! By this point it had reached about 31 degrees andit was stifling, so it was hard to pay complete attention during the lecture but I still took everything in that I needed to and got a good impression of the politics side of the course I’d be doing.

I must add that before we actually got the lecture, we got lost in the south and north quads in the middle of Founder’s and the many.corridors leading off of them. We ended up in the old library at one point which looked like Hogwarts library so that was pretty cool! 

The final talk we went to was last minute decision as we were hot and tired and about go home, but I thought​ it would be a good idea to go to the student life talk in the Windsor Building. This actually turned out to be the best decision ever as we’d found (probably) the only air condition room on site!

Sadly after that it was time to go as the open day was coming to an end. I have to say I was pretty sad to see Founder’s building getting smaller and smaller as we drove away from it. We did have a quick drive around Egham, the nearest town, and it looked pretty nice! It was also pretty cool because yesterday the town was celebrating Magna Carta Day as it was signed at nearby Runnymede.

So, that concludes the run down of the day. I’m still trying to price together what I thought of the uni as a whole, be wise open days are so intense they can often be overwhelming! I know I definitely liked the uni and the surrounding area has so many sites and places I want to explore. I also like it’s proximity to London, as currently I live about 4 hours drive away, so the prospect of taking a 40 minutes train journey into the city is quite exciting, as I feel like I haven’t spent enough time in London to appreciate it fully. My only worry would be that the campus would feel too claustrophobic, which I know is stupid because it is surrounded by green space and woodland. It could be just because the open day was so hectic with people milling everywhere, or maybe because I’m comparing it to Exeter too much, which felt a lot more spacious. I really loved the course though and all other aspects, so I definitely want to visit it again and see what I think in a couple of months time. Having said that, the first time I visited Exeter with my sister a few years ago I didn’t like it at all, but this time I loved it, so Royal Holloway will probably grow on me over time too!

I feel like the main differences between Exeter and Royal Holloway is that Exeter sort of feels like where I live now. I mean, it’s in the neighbouring county and I’ve spent a lot of time in Devon, so the area surrounding the uni and the city itself didn’t really stand out to me. Whilst at Royal Holloway, Egham and Engelfield Green felt completely different, even the trees and countryside and nature were different to home. I can’t work out whether I’d prefer to live somewhere completely new, or somewhere that feels like where I live now. Also, the sizes of the campuses. I think I felt more relaxed at Exeter because it was more spacious, however yesterday was extremely hot so that probably affected how claustrophobic I felt as well. I think I’m definitely going to have to visit both again next year and think carefully about what each can offer me. And of course, the grade requirements will come into it. I’ll just have to wait and see!

//Exeter Uni open day; thoughts//

Hi guys! As you may know from my countless posts rambling on about the woes of A Levels, I am currently a Year 12 students, which means that next September I will be (hopefully!) heading off to uni. As I have to apply to universities by Januray, this summer I’ll be travelling aorund the UK to look at different unis and see what they can offer me.

You may have read my rambles a while ago about me not knowing what I wanted to actually study at uni. Until a few months ago, I had my heart set on studying history and geography, but a couple of days after going to a UCAS event and speaker to some current students and uni respresentitives, I realsied that my heart wasn’t really in it. I was never really able to picture myself studying history and geography – I just had this vague wishy-washy image of myself at uni, put it was as if it would never come in to focus. Perhaps that’s because everything was put into sharp persepective and whilst I thought I was loving history and geography at A Level, I realised that I’m the sort of person who can put up with studying just about anything, because I’ll work hard at everything I do even if deep down I hate it. Hence, I discovered that my actual passion and (almost) life-long passion has been, and still is, languages. Therefore I’m know heading off down a different path, turning a different corner and opening a different set of doors.

As well as knowing I wated to carry on with my language-learning at degree level, I realised that ever since I did Government and Politics AS Level last year, my love for everything political has been growing. Alongside the imaginative, curious and creative side of my brain, I also have a really logical, analytical mind which wants to know all the intricate little details about how everything works and came to be, hence I loved the insisght into the working of govenrment and political systems that the AS Level granted me, much the same way as I find French grammar – the inner workings of the language – truly fascinating. Therefore, I hope to embark on – what I’m sure will be  – the enthralling journey of a Politics and French combined honours degree.


So today, I woke up at 7:30 am to drive down to Exeter for their university open day. Exeter is the first uni I’ll be looking at this year, and it definitely did not disappoint! I feel as if now the whole university process is beginning, I have been thrust into a whirlwind of adreniline and excitement as the next daunting chapter of my life begins to unfold.

Once we’d arrived on campus after taking the park and ride service the university had put on, we started our day with a tour of the accommodation. I have to say, I am rerally impressed. Having visted various other unis two years ago when my sister was in the same position I am in now, I have seen my fair share of good and bad accommodation. But, I found Exeter’s to be really nice and spacious, and in a prime location on campus (even if I would have to walk up a hill to get to my language lectures).

After that, we headed back up the hill (where I bumped into a friend from my geography class, then shortly after my friend from history who seemed really surprised yet happy to see me there and welcomed me with a hug) and commenced a campus tour. The student ambassador who was leading the tour was really friendly and helpful, and I had a few conversations with her as we were going around which was really useful to see things from a current students prospective. In fact, all of the student ambassadors who I encountered during the day were so freidnly and helpful, and really made the day! The campus itself is beautiful – there are so many green spaces, tress, wildlife, plants – not to mention the views over Exeter and the countryside! I also loved how the campus had a contrast between older buildings and more modern spaces, which really helped it to come together and give it more of a community feel.

Aother thing thart I really liked about the open day was the acedemic fair, which we attended after having some lunch. You could basically go around to different stalls and talk to students and faculty members for the subjects you’re interested in, as well as pick up handy booklets which broke down all the modulkes and gave you all the information you need for each degree. Again everyone was really friendly and it was a great opportunity to ask questions.

The final part of the day was based on attending subject presentations, which lasted around 45 minutes. They had subject presentations at different times throughout the day, but when I booked my ticket they only had available slots in the afternoon, and I had to pick particular times so they didn’t class as I wanted to attend both the modern languages presentation and the politics and international relations presentation. All of the staff did a really good job of explaining their course structure etc and they were clearly passionate about their subjects, which I found really encouraging. Both subject talks I went to really made me fall in love with the courses, and helped me confirm that I was making the right decision about what I wanted to do. What I loved about both courses was the fact that you have a lot of flexibility over which modules you take, and with both there is the possibility to explore a wide range of topics within the subjects themselves. Also, the variety of wayts in which the subjects are examined. Instead of just doing exam papers, you can do oral discussions, group presentations, coursework, role plays – even writing draft policies and writing texts to advise world politicians (well, not actually but you get what I mean…hopefully). Especially with the French side of the degree, the university appears to have a wealth of foreign language resources, and the prospect of spending a year in a French speaking country studying, working or teaching sounds so exciting!

Overall, I had a really enjoyable time, and Exeter uni has definitely made an impression on me! However I want to try to keep an open mind when I visit other unis over the next few months and try to form an impression of them in their own right, but I thought it would be a good idea to write down my thoughts on each uni on here so I can read back on these posts when it comes to choosing which uni to put as my firm and insurance choices.

Are you agoing to any uni open days? Or starting university soon like me? Let me know below. 🙂

//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 😂

//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!

//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.