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How big is the step up to A levels really?

(67 Posts)
TeenAndTween Wed 17-Dec-14 14:55:20

Everyone talks about the step up from GCSE to A levels.

So does that mean the only ones who can cope with A levels are people who sailed through GCSEs, or who weren't working at full capacity?

Trying to work out how best to advise my hard working DD, currently predicted Bs and Cs.

(Humanities not sciences if that makes a difference).

caringdad66 Wed 17-Dec-14 15:23:40

His teachers will advise you if A levels are suitable.
Remember you can't have enough qualifications,and more qualifications equals greater choice.

Sparklingbrook Wed 17-Dec-14 15:25:49

Good question Teen. The teachers all stressed this at the 6th Form Open Evening. Choices need to be in by Feb.

SlowlorisIncognito Wed 17-Dec-14 16:21:29

I think it depends. In A-levels often a level of analysis is required that isn't needed at GCSEs. Part of this comes from a deeper understanding of the subject, but sometimes a greater level of maturity is needed too, and her grades might improve as she gets older.

I would say it is easy for bright children to sail through GCSEs without much effort, but normally some effort is required at A-level.

If she follows the usual 4 AS- 3A2 route, she will have more time to focus on less subjects, so I'm not sure the working at capacity issue is always a problem.

From my own experience, the sciences, especially biology are quite content heavy compared to humanities.

Do you think a BTEC might be a better option for her? If she knows what she wants to do, this can still lead to uni, and focusing on just one area she really enjoys might make things easier?

dingit Wed 17-Dec-14 16:29:42

I worry about it too teen. My dd is predicted A and A*s, but she is not exceptionally clever, just works really hard. The subjects she is choosing seem very demanding, maths physics chemistry, and I wonder if she will cope.
I asked the sixth form college about choice changes, and they said it was fairly common, so I guess we will just have to suck it and see.

Mostlyjustaluker Wed 17-Dec-14 16:57:08

As of next year there won't be as and a2. There will be as which are half an an levels and then full a level.

TheFirstOfHerName Wed 17-Dec-14 17:17:33

I think it depends on the subject.
My sons' school gives a list of entry requirements for each subject, which has been developed from their experience of students and how well they cope.

If you want to do Maths A-level, they ask for an A in GCSE Maths.
If you want to do Chemistry A-level, they ask for an A in GCSE Chemistry.

However, if you want to do History A-level, they only ask for a B in History or a B in English language.

WittyUsername102 Wed 17-Dec-14 17:23:17

I think it depends on the subject.. DD1 said some of the courses for A Level seemed easier than GCSE shock .

TeenAndTween Wed 17-Dec-14 18:03:38

DD has 2 options at the moment.

Plan A is to do 3 A levels. One is a form of English, requiring a B at GCSE. One is an MFL requiring a B at GCSE. One is Classical Civilisation. She would have liked to have considered History but is struggling with it and currently predicted a C.

Plan B is to do a BTEC.

Plan A/B is to do the BTEC but try to do the MFL alongside.

The outcomes for students going in to do A levels on B/C grades appear to be mixed / not clear. I really wonder whether my DC working flat out and getting B/Cs will survive the step up.

( loris I do worry about analysis. She struggles to structure essays, interpret questions & expand answers.)

SecretSquirrels Wed 17-Dec-14 18:13:51

My observation is that bright youngsters who coast and get A*s at GCSE will have to work harder at A level to get A/B. To get A* even the brightest have to work very hard.

It's not just doing the work set, it's learning to self study as well which many find difficult. DS2 (A*As at GCSE) is doing 3 sciences and maths and getting good grades so far but is also finding it hard to self study (ie do additional work on the curriculum but not specifically teacher set.)
He tells me many of his classmates are regularly getting very low marks and he can't work out why because they were A graders at GCSE.

Toadsrevisited Wed 17-Dec-14 18:23:30

Honest teacher opinion- I would be worried about taking on a pupil with b/c gcses. You'd have to choose subjects very carefully and help them manage their time, wider reading etc carefully from the off for them to get reasonable grades. But it's doable- English language is easier than Lit, for example.

TeenAndTween Wed 17-Dec-14 18:23:58

I'm not looking for A* or As or even Bs.
But would hoping for CCC be unrealistic?
Is it even worth doing A levels if you are going to get less than that?

It doesn't help that DD's subjects are so opposite to mine that I really have no clue what skills / ability might be involved for A level.

dingit Wed 17-Dec-14 19:36:54

I think all you can do is have a plan A and plan B. I bet her grades surprise you!

bestofthesunshine Wed 17-Dec-14 19:45:55

I got 9 Bs at GCSE and 3 As at A level 20 years ago back in the day.

So I would say while they are harder they also give people a chance to really excel at what they are good at.

whathaveiforgottentoday Wed 17-Dec-14 22:38:25

Massive jump. However it is often those who have sailed through GCSE who struggle at A level as they aren't used to having to graft and think they can get away with doing little work outside of lessons. It also knocks their confidence as they are covering topics they they don't understand straight away.

Your DD needs to get some honest feedback from her teachers. If she is a hard worker she may find A levels ok. I teach Psychology and its not always easy to predict who will do well (unlike in my other subject - biology) as it depends on how much they like the subject, how hard they work, particularly outside of lesson as well as their intelligence.

TooHasty Wed 17-Dec-14 23:14:14

My DB who is a science teacher says that in his subject at least, very able kids do better at A level than GCSE because they know too much for the type of answer they are looking for GCSE.

Bartlebee Wed 17-Dec-14 23:24:23

My son is in y12. The sheer volume of work has been a shocker, but he seems to be coping well. He got mostly A and A* at GCSE.

He's doing 3 sciences and geography. My niece is doing 4 less academic subjects and is having a much easier time.

KittiesInsane Wed 17-Dec-14 23:25:03

DS1 found it a relief to be able to forget all the subjects he'd hated. I suppose in retrospect he must have been capable of sailing through A-levels, given the sheer amount of time he spent agonising about a girl other things when he should have been working...

DS2 (mix of A* to B at GCSE) is looking very strained after just one term of 6th, and the phrase 'essay crisis' crops up rather a lot at the moment.

MorvahRising Thu 18-Dec-14 00:14:10

It's been a big jump for DS, who is doing maths, further maths, chemistry, physics and computer sciences. The workload is phenomenal. He got 9 A*s and 3 As at GCSE and is currently panicking about Maths about which he has never had any confidence. For the first time he is getting some Bs and Cs, which I think is fine for this stage, and probably quite good for him.

His mate, whose GCSE grades were nowhere near as good, is doing arts subjects, has considerably less homework and is sailing along doing really well.

BackforGood Thu 18-Dec-14 00:22:10

Think it does depend on the subject, the school, the teacher, the number in the group, etc, but massively depends on the child.

My 2 nieces : Eldest sailed through her GCSEs, all As and A*s without doing much work at all. Ended with all Cs at A-level

Younger niece: Worked really hard for her GCSEs - got a good mix from A-C, majority Bs. Then was able to give up all the subjects she didn't like, and found a new one that she absolutely loved, and blossomed in the 6th form. Ended up with all As

stareatthetvscreen Thu 18-Dec-14 00:24:31

both of my dcs have done a levels.it is a massive step up.
if you get an a or a* at gcse you will be fine, a b will probably be ok.
generally, the children we have known who get c grade gcses end up dropping out/failing the exams.

noblegiraffe Thu 18-Dec-14 01:04:25

It's been a big jump for DS, who is doing maths, further maths, chemistry, physics and computer sciences

Bloody hell that's a lot. Please keep an eye on him as students taking that many subjects can really struggle with workload. It's possible that he is getting Bs and Cs at the moment because he has taken on too much and should seriously consider dropping a subject. A student I teach who had a similar workload underperformed at AS because of it (Bs instead of As) and is now having to resit some AS modules in Y13 having dropped to a reasonable number of A-levels to try to get his grades up for Uni.

dodo3 Thu 18-Dec-14 07:47:58

Lazy, unorganised children will struggle. DD achieved all A* and As at GCSE with no or very little revision, shes predicted As at AS but I think she will only get Bs because shes so god damn lazy.

Any ideas on how to make a 17 year old work and get off her phone?

MorvahRising Thu 18-Dec-14 07:57:04

noblegiraffe - don't worry, we will keep an eye on him! We thought that was a lot too but he absolutely insisted as he is very focussed and is desperate to do Oxbridge.

We've just had a parents' evening and all his teachers seem to thnk he's doing fine, even at maths, although we asked whether he should drop further maths. However, any suggestion of dropping one subject at this stage gets him in a stew that he won't have enough points for Oxbridge. We keep saying it's not the be-all and end-all!

Also it seems that maths and further maths are sort of intertwined and it would be tricky to drop FM without changing groups and timetables. However, for his last two maths packs he got 86% and 100% so that cheered him up a bit.

He will drop chemistry after AS, although ironically he is really enjoying it at the moment. This might be more to do with a girl in the class that he fancies though! smile

Medge68 Thu 18-Dec-14 08:00:19

My DD is a "plodder" and got b's and c' s at gcse - she took humanitie subjects at A level and coped very well - now at uni! Nephew was an A* high flyer throughout gcse and A levels, although he found it difficult, has now deferred from uni as can't cope with the maths, so I'm not sure the brightest ones always have the advantage!

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