Son struggling at A level

(49 Posts)
rusty100 Fri 17-May-13 17:21:47

Hi - I am new here and am hoping there might be someone who can give me some advice. Hope that's ok.

My son is 17 and in his 1st year of A levels. He seems happy, works hard, has lots of interests and friends and likes college.
The problem is that he is seriously struggling, and may drop out of college after this year. I am trying not to put pressure on him and just supporting giving advice, he is very sensible.
He failed all his exams at Christmas, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and English, and has now dropped Chemistry.

He has been a straight A student all his life and always wanted to be a vet, hence his A level choices. I am mystified about how such a successful and intelligent, and hard working person can suddently be unable to pass a single exam.

He claims everyone is struggling and that he is just not as intelligent as we always thought. This may be true but seems a bit unlikely.

I've spoken to his teachers and they say he just needs to work harder and grasp the difference in answering questions at A level as opposed to GCSE.

It is unusual to struggle this much at A level or normal? If he doesn't fail all his retakes, then I will find a tutor and see if we can help him raise his grades at least.

I am at a bit of a loss though so please do comment if you feel I Should be doing something obvious or if you think I am worrying unnecessarily.

speedology Fri 05-Jul-13 20:15:49

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amothersplaceisinthewrong Tue 28-May-13 16:16:04

My bright son struggled in the first year of A levels with Double Maths and Physics and politics because he had coasted his way to good GCSEs and you can't do that at A level. He did badly in his AS's, but his tutors predicted better grades for his UCAS form, and he turned it round and got them. The jump from GCSE to A Level is very big - maybe bigger than that from A level to first year uni for many

zamantha Tue 28-May-13 16:10:14

I do not know if critical comments were posted here but I would like to say further:

Rome was not built in a day and those of us who have Dc that reach a stage where they struggle, it is important we stick with them - success in my experience is half talent and half hard grind. Getting through tough patches is good grounding for life. I have a friend who had top marks until her final consultancy exam - she failed it 3 times but passed and is now flying high in her career. As someone said up thread - everyone reaches a tough moment to get through academically and in all areas of life.

WastedTomatoGuts Sat 25-May-13 21:48:06

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zamantha Fri 24-May-13 21:31:25

Really helpful thread. My DS is taking AS now and did not so well in Jan modules. It is an upward hike.

Feel heartened that others are finding learning key terminology difficult - my poor DS - language is not his thing.

Maths, Further Maths, Physics and History here - grades needed are so high these days and we expect 3 years at 6th form. GCSes went really well and I think my son being a summer born is also held back/disadvantaged. His brain does not seem to have quite developed to this level yet.

Fingers crossed this summer- some go well to keep his confidence going and to allow him to carry on positively!

rusty100 Fri 24-May-13 06:49:28

These responses have been really interesting. I suspect it's a combination of things really, he is bright, but has never had to struggle so it's a shock to the system. His chemistry teacher was replacing someone on maternity leave and was appaling. Most of the students failed, my son gave up completely and the teacher was gotten rid of. We thought maths might be too much of stretch when selecting subjects, in hindsight if would have helped the physics which has been his biggest struggle.
We probably picked the wrong subjects.

He is really enjoying English tho so it's ok, he loves Bio but it is a lot to learn, and physics is really hard but satisfying.

He is very happy with the chiropracter plan so we have probably had a lucky escape, had we persisted he might have decided not to be a vet at a later stage when he had invested a lot more into the idea.

musicislife Thu 23-May-13 13:45:41

Creamteas talks a lot of sense on that one my DS also struggled on Physics and Maths, swapped the Maths early on and likely to drop Physics, however doing well in Biology - I think a lot depends on the teacher in our exerience, we'll have to see on results day, stressful!

WillStringer Tue 21-May-13 22:39:17

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Mutteroo Tue 21-May-13 22:17:43

Get yourself comfy as here is the story of the Mutteroo juniors. DD attempted sixth form three times & this past year decided to give up on studies & spent her time working. The confidence she's gained is enormous & so much so that she's applying to do an access course from September at yet another college. Oh who cares, as long as she gets to where she wants to be eventually....and can work while shes doing it.

DS started his AS levels last September after sailing through his GCSEs & he's been surprised at how much harder these exams are. He's found the terminology the hardest bit to get his head around. The support offered by his (& one of DD's) college has been fantastic & I would hope your DS school are helping him through this difficult period?

I guess all I'm saying is your son is not alone. AS levels are much more challenging because in my son's words they "need to learn to jump through bigger hoops". I wish your DS all the best with his exams & hope come August, he's achieved better grades than in January.

mindgone Tue 21-May-13 12:32:09

Thanks shipwrecked, hopefully on course now smile

jellybrain Tue 21-May-13 11:14:29

Eek posted too soon. I meant 'element '.

jellybrain Tue 21-May-13 11:12:45

Thanks Shipwrecked, some good advice here. He will be doing OCR, so I'll get hold of the books you have suggested. Had to get special agreement for him to do by Biology as the requirement is for a B grade in maths and he is only taking foundation- on target for a C though. Has got A in all his science units though and really likes the Biology elect

DeWe Tue 21-May-13 11:11:23

I think others have said this, but I would have thought maths a better last subject than English. Certainly some of the physics will be almost inaccessable unless he is studies maths hard, probably to a similar standard as he'd need to get an AS in it.

Also as others have said, rather strangely Chemistry is the subject you need (not as you'd expect, Biology) for medicine types.

Sometimes people who have coasted through subjects up to a certain point, struggle when they hit a point they need to work to understand and achieve. It's very hard for them to realise that their natural brains, that they took for granted, have to now be put into gear to work. And it's a struggle if they decide to, but, unfortunately, a lot will decide it's not worth the effort and give up.

BeckAndCall Tue 21-May-13 10:23:55

Whilst its too late to change things for this year - biology exam this Afternoon for instance! - I would not be totally disheartened - it is not unknown to do really bAdly after one term and en to pick up hugely by summer.

But you must have spotted by now that he can't do vet medicine without chemistry in any case?

And he may be struggling with physics as he's not doing maths - unless his college has specific 'maths for physics' sessions.

I hope your DS is having a good exam week/fortnight so far. He'll pretty much have an idea by now of how he's getting on.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Tue 21-May-13 07:30:41

That's exactly the journey they need to make, mindgone!! I cannot understand why the press are so determined to say that A levels are easy. Science ones certainly are not.

Well done to your DS, sounds like he is on the right track now.

Jellybean, will DS be doing OCR? The lists I have are for this course. It Might be worth with seeing what his teacher give him first. There are many excellent teachers out there preparing kids very well indeed. You could him to ask for key word lists at the start of the course or contact yourself, saying you have heard it helps preparation.

I would also strongly recommend the biozone books I listed above, or getting a course book to start reading through. he needs basic maths skills (percentage calculations etc) and there are some calculations that are in the syllabus. If his maths is weak, he will need to use study periods to make sure he practices these.

Finally, google and download the syllabus, as stated above by mindgone. This is the key as to what is in the exam and should be the foundations of any study your DS does.

jellybrain Mon 20-May-13 21:54:34

Hi Shipwrecked ds1 is hoping to do Biology at AS if his Gcses go according to plan. Wouldn't mind a copy of your list grin. Should I pm you?
Also have been told there is a lot of maths( not his strong point) what sort of things can he do In the summer so it's not too much of a shock In September,

mindgone Mon 20-May-13 21:50:04

My DS is now in Y13. He is taking Biology, Chemistry and Maths. He is a really hard worker, but last year was so disappointed with his AS grades. He was expecting As and Bs, but got one B and 3Cs. Despite these grades, he managed to get his teachers to predict much better grades for his UCAS application, and got his offers for Pharmacy. He learned to work smarter, looking up the exact exam specifications, and working to those, also lots of memorising. Past paper after past paper. Anyway, this January, he did 2 resits and 4 new exams, and got 5As and a B! We were beyond thrilled for him! But it's not over yet, and he is terrified of becoming complacent, so it's head down all the way to get his place at the uni he has set his heart on. I hope this gives you some hope and encouragement.

Primenumbers Mon 20-May-13 20:32:13

Just a curious question, why did not he do Maths if he was doing 3 sciences?

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sun 19-May-13 10:31:45

Ok...workbook ref is wrong!! Instead you can a flash of Gove (ironic!)

try this one!

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sun 19-May-13 10:30:24
creamteas Sun 19-May-13 10:21:28

Mosschops a friend of DS1 did Physiotherapy at Bradford after studying a BTEC in sports science. A can't remember where else he applied, but I can't remember that he struggled to find places.

You might find that A level biology is not a requirement everywhere.

eland Sun 19-May-13 10:16:42

Shipwrecked, I've PM'd you.

Mosschops30 Sun 19-May-13 10:10:00

Unfortunately different a levels are not an option, she wants to do physiotherapy so biology is a must

creamteas Sun 19-May-13 10:06:10

Mosschops most access courses don't take under 20s, so that is unlikely to be possible straight away.

But it is usually possible to either restart your AS, take different A levels or switch to BTECs instead.

I know of quite a few DC that retook year 12 in one way or another (some still in school and some switched to FE college) and many have gone on to good unis.

ShipwreckedAndComatose Sun 19-May-13 08:26:02

I do!

I used the syllabus and the purple OCR text book that we use with them to compile lists myself after realising the direction the exams are taking. It didn't take too long and I can update with any I missed out.

However, I do know a colleague found some online from some free bio zone resources she came across

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