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Sixth form - how tough is it? Opinions welcome

(32 Posts)
NEScribe Sat 12-Nov-16 19:09:37

DD started 6th form this term. She is really struggling - says there is too much to learn, too fast. She is having constant tests/assessments in biology and says it is threatening to take over her life.

Is this normal? I have two older daughters but they left 6th form years ago and I don't remember them getting upset/stressed - at least not until final exams.
Any experiences appreciated. DD took 9 GCSEs this year and got good grades in most. Some of her friends struggled but she seemed to keep it altogether okay so I can't understand why suddenly she feels so overwhelmed.

MsAwesomeDragon Sat 12-Nov-16 19:14:48

Lots of kids find sixth form tough. Each subject is a big step up from GCSE, but of course you have fewer subjects.

How many subjects is she doing? All A levels, or BTECH ? Is there any way she could drop a subject? That's more of a possibility if she's doing 4A levels. How much extra curricular/socialising does she do? Could she cut down on some of that to fit more study in?

Stillunexpected Sat 12-Nov-16 21:16:19

DS2 is in Yr11 this year but I have had another son through sixth form and it seems that things are getting more difficult. Most students struggle a bit with the step up in work at the beginning but both open evenings which have attended for DS2 have emphasised that the breadth and depth of the subjects at A level are getting more difficult and that the workload is going to be bigger. I feel we have to be a lot more strategic with choices for DS2 and look more closely at BTECHs, more practical A levels etc.

PurpleDaisies Sat 12-Nov-16 21:23:00

Which other subjects is she doing? There are some that are a particularly big jump from GCSE. The sciences have just had a syllabus overhaul and there's a lot more maths in biology. Did she do double or triple science GCSE? There's a bit of catch up initially for double award students.

I'd encourage her to keep going-it will get easier as she gets used to the workload and learning more independently than at GCSE. She should talk to her tutor about feeling overwhelmed. They may be able to suggest some helpful things to do. Good luck to her.

griffinsss Sat 12-Nov-16 21:27:50

My younger brother really struggled with his A Levels, he's a bright and committed lad but just couldn't handled it and ended up dropping out just after Christmas of his first year with severe anxiety and mild depression. He took the rest of the year off, worked a little once he felt up to it and then started again the following September and did much better. Sometimes they just aren't ready for the step up in the demanding nature of A Levels, just like some people aren't ready right away for the step- up involved in going to university. My brother started at UCL in September and is absolutely thriving.

A lot of teens struggle through A Levels though without taking a break and then find their stride at university or work beyond.

GnomeDePlume Sun 13-Nov-16 12:10:27

Okay, I have a DD in year 12 (Maths, FM, Physics, Chemistry). Her take is this:

A levels are very different from GCSE - A levels are about comprehension they are not a memory test in the way GCSEs are.

Your DD needs to learn independent study techniques:
- go through the text book(s) make notes from the text book and use these as the primary learning source and the teachers as an additional source.
- prepare for lessons in advance, find out which scheme the teachers are using (whose powerpoints they are using) and research that in advance of each lesson - not in depth but have got a heads up in advance
- past papers - read the mark schemes, know what examiners are looking for. Dont take the teachers word as gospel!
- make study friends - use facebook group chat etc. DD has separate study groups for Physics and Chemistry
- dont do too many subjects. Do not put any effort into things like General Studies or EPQ. Put no effort into any filler subjects done because the school was pushing 5 A levels (DD's school was trying to push 5 or even 6 A levels)
- tests: your teacher is trying to find out the best way to keep you on the course (by finding the gaps) not looking to push you off the course - unless you arent putting the effort in/attending
- be selfish, these 2 years are about getting where you want to be (apprenticeship/uni/work)
- set aside free time to do something different. This will help to make study more effective.
- do some exercise (DD is the least sporty person in the world but this was her own suggestion)

Fozzleyplum Sun 13-Nov-16 12:38:14

Watching with interest. DS is in year 10 and is planning to stay at his school (independent selective) for 6th form. They've just announced that they are dropping AS2s completely, so that pupils will do 3 subjects to A level, or 4 if they are exceptionally able. There will be no exams at the end of year 11.

Apparently universities are saying they are more interested in 3 good A Levels, than to look at AS2 grades. I think this will be helpful for DS, as he is sure of the subjects he wants to do, and doesn't need to have a 4th to choose to drop. I'm hoping it will help to reduce the pressure of the transition to the A level syllabus.

Bluntness100 Sun 13-Nov-16 12:46:11

It is a step up but normally they adjust. It's still relatively new to her. Could she speak to her siblings?

I think also a lot comes down to if they actually want to do it or not. Can you talk to her about why she will benefit if she knuckles down?

Bluntness100 Sun 13-Nov-16 12:55:18

Fizzley plum, yes this is standard now and has been introduced for a couple of years or so. I think it's only maths and a couple of others that still have the as. AS2 is the final Year basically, AS the first year.

University places are normally conditional given on predicted final a level results, then the offer is confirmed once the results are given, i.e. It's fairly simaltaeneous.

PurpleDaisies Sun 13-Nov-16 13:12:23

They've just announced that they are dropping AS2s completely, so that pupils will do 3 subjects to A level, or 4 if they are exceptionally able. There will be no exams at the end of year 11.

Do you mean ASs? This is standard now. I presume there will be internal mocks at the end of year 12 to help the school and the students with predicted grades and whether they're likely to cope with A2. Schools might sell it as a stress saving exercise but the cynic in me knows it's much more likely to be down to saving money on exam entries when they have to resit everything (even if they get too grades) for the A2 qualification.

Fozzleyplum Sun 13-Nov-16 14:43:42

Yes, I did means ASs. The school's current Y11 are still doing them but DS's year won't.

The school have said they won't be having end of Y11 internal exams, to allow for more teaching time. Having said that, they have a fairly narrow ability band and stringent entry requirements for sixth form, so that decision might have been made to suit their cohort; I can see the sense in having end of Y11 mocks.

NEScribe Sun 13-Nov-16 16:18:51

Thanks everyone. She is putting in an awful lot of work - although she goes to the gym virtually every night for an hour too.
She did separate sciences - biology/chemistry/physics at GCSE and passed them all although dropped just into C on physics when B was predicted.

She is doing three A levels (not doing AS - school is now following the new modular courses) in English language, biology and PE. She is also doing the EPQ - students weren't given a choice about that. Everyone had to do it.
Unfortunately one of the biology teachers shouts a lot - and she is finding that hard to deal with. She got a B in a test and teacher shouted at her because she said she could have achieved A with revision (She had revised - a LOT)
Parents night coming up so I definitely want to mention she feels overwhelmed - not sure how to bring up the shouting - lol.
I teach at university and I agree with DDs headteacher who said the jump from GCSE to A level is much tougher than the transition from A level to university (at least in my subjects - not sure that would apply to sciences smile
thanks again.

GnomeDePlume Sun 13-Nov-16 18:14:40

I think the move from gcse to a level for sciences can be quite confusing as things learnt for gcse are then replaced at a level. They aren't built on instead they are thrown away.

Some further tips from my DD:

- stop worrying about what the teacher says. They all seem to come out with versions of 'come on, my year 10s can do this'. It means nothing.
- your DD may need to attend EPQ lessons but that doesn't mean she has to spend any effort on it. Any uni offer will be based on 3 subjects.

aginghippy Sun 13-Nov-16 18:33:42

The teacher shouting is a sign she is not coping. Though unpleasant, it's no reflection on your dd.

My dd is in Y13 and doing sciences. Unfortunately, the constant tests are normal. She does a lot of past papers as part of her revision.

TheFrendo Mon 14-Nov-16 00:49:44

What did she get at GCSE?
If she got a B then she got about half marks.

bojorojo Mon 14-Nov-16 01:23:10

I think anyone with a B or a C in any science will not find A level sciences easy. However, PE and English Language are not the most academic A levels, so the Biology is probably stretching her more and is more challenging. I think a B at this stage is perfectly OK. I would mention to the teacher that her style of teaching is unsettling DD. Do not accuse her of shouting, but do say that your DD responds to encouragement and a calm approach to telling her where she needs to improve. Your DD would appreciate that, and so would you.

My DD didn't find the transition to A levels particularly difficlult but for some it was. University essay wriing can be a challenge for some too! As can actually getting to the lectures!

I do not think an hour at the gym every night is a good plan during A levels either. Is this necessary every day? Seems just a touch fanatical.

RedHelenB Mon 14-Nov-16 13:44:28

I disagree Bojoro an hour doing exercise should be fine if she finds it anjoyable and a way to destress.

furlinedsheepskinjacket Mon 14-Nov-16 13:52:32

ugh it is really tough

my ds told me that in his yr 12 approx half the total students didn't continue into yr 13

at his college bs and cs at gcse means you are probably in the bottom half of the year

if you feel she is working as hard as she can she will either get into the swing of it all and do well or maybe have to consider other options.its really not the end of the world - its about what is best for her smile

good luck

BackforGood Mon 14-Nov-16 14:46:08

I have heard from many people that the jump from GCSE to A -levels is the biggest jump anywhere on your education travels.
A lot of fairly able dc can get through GCSEs on ability alone, and then they move into 6th form and find they don't actually know how to study, and how to revise and ^how to cope when they don't just 'get it' straight away.
A lot of dc either leave or re-do Yr12.
Sciences and Maths are reputed to be particularly difficult a jump, and it is not uncommon for pupils to have to achieve an A or A* to be able to move to do them at A-Level.

Notyetthere Mon 14-Nov-16 16:37:41

I found the jump from GCSE to A Level rather big. I was shocked as to how much more difficult things were. I did Chemistry, Maths and Physics. I was so stressed that I practically failed (grade Ds and Us) all of them at the end of the 1st year.

I was lucky that the sixth form allowed me to repeat the 1st year. I did the same subjects, with totally new teachers and that made a big difference. The new maths teacher was brilliant with us (about 4 of us repeated that year); he never made us feel like failures but I remember one thing he said to us and it stuck with me the whole time. He said, "See this new start as that. Assume you are learning everything first time and see how it goes. I know you are all smart enough." Best thing he could have said because it all then made sense 2nd time round. I was a year older, more determined, more organised (this is very important for independent study) and the grades improved tremendously.

I got As in maths and science GCSEs but that seemed not to be enough at the beginning. A change in teachers seemed to have done the trick for me at A Level.

Tell your DD to stick with it. Does she actually love the subjects? Because even when I found the sciences difficult, I could not see myself doing anything else. I loved the subjects (and still do) so much that even when I got terrible marks during tests, my love for the subjects thrived on the challenge. That will also make a difference to how your DD puts in the effort. I probably put a lot more effort in maths because I enjoyed it slightly more than the other sciences.

I ended up with ABD and I did a STEM degree. I am also doing a STEM job. What I am trying to say, is that it is hard but she will pull through. The good thing also is that you seem to be a lovely supportive mum. I was so scared at the time when I decided to repeat the 1st year as to what my mum would say. She was ok with it but the fear of her disappointment in me made the stress worse. I could have talked to her a lot earlier in the year when things became unbearably difficult.

veiledsentiments Mon 14-Nov-16 16:44:48

My eldest really struggled with 6th form. She is now having a year out and we are still seeing the signs and stress in her that her last two years of school caused. She did ok, BCC but the days where she couldn't get out of bed for crying where awful for us all. She has agreed to resit the 2 C exams. But she hasn't been in school and refuses to step foot in the place. I am hoping time might heal wounds, but there are no guarantees.

Puzzledmum Tue 15-Nov-16 10:02:02

Watching with interest as I have a DD Y11, currently thinking of A level choices.

Scarydinosaurs Tue 15-Nov-16 10:08:29

English language has lots of theory and is very challenging- I cannot agree with PP who suggested it isn't academic.

Have you asked your DD what would help? Is she struggling to complete the assignments on her own? Would she benefit from a tutor to sit and do homework with her until she feels more confident in her own ability? Or are you able to set aside time to be with her whilst she is working so she can refer to you if she is stuck? It sounds as if she feels like she is drowning and a bit isolated in her worries; sometimes it just takes a bit of reassurance that you ARE doing the right thing and you ARE on the right track to feel better.

GnomeDePlume Tue 15-Nov-16 12:17:12

Puzzledmum something I have observed having had three DCs go down the STEM route (oldest at uni in a STEM subject, middle at college on a STEM BTEC, youngest doing 4 STEM A levels) is how different all three have reported the advanced studies are from GCSE.

Many STEM subjects change enormously between GCSE and A level. The subjects are different ( physics, maths and chemistry start to form an unholy alliance, biology turns into an essay subject). The study methods which deliver success at GCSE (memorising) wont work at A level. A level is about understanding and applying.

All three of my DCs have reported friends finding biology and psychology very different from what they expected and also far harder.

Basically, you and your DD need to read through the syllabuses for the possible A level choices. Read up about what each entails. One of my DDs decided against History for A level when she realised she would be spending an awful lot of her time looking at the Russian Revolution!

bojorojo Tue 15-Nov-16 17:34:44

Scarydinosaurs. English Language at A level is not a facilitating subject. On the Russell Group website they state English Langage without Literature is only accepted by a few universities. It is not offered by lots of schools for this reason.

If a young person is struggling with the workload, perhaps not doing one activity every night needs to be addressed in the light of the workload. De stressing it might be, revising for a test it is not. Go to the gym after the test or at school ( if it has one). In a free period for example. Most students adjust their daily routine according to the needs of the course.

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