Thursday, 2 February 2012

Retakes

Hello everyone! Sorry for the extended gap between this latest update and my last post. Things have been busy, with a retake, full blown Christmas holiday relaxation (a very time consuming thing, you know), coursework and all that, but I've been planning lots of content for down the road which hopefully I'll be able to share soon.

I'm going to be interviewing two careers/uni applications advisers and will be posting their responses on here as soon as I am able. So, if you have any questions for them, feel free to let rip in the comments section below! They're absolutely lovely and give the best advice, I've certainly benefitted from it, so don't hesitate to ask them anything you want to know.

The most notable thing I did in the last month was my Philosophy AS Unit 1 retake. I did unquestionably awfully in this paper the first time around, and hadn't had foreknowledge of this awfulness until I opened up my results in August last year. However, I didn't let it (and the low overall AS grade) dissuade me from applying to all the universities I would have applied to if I hadn't done badly. At one point I considered withdrawing my application to my dream uni as I was pretty sure the low AS grade in Philosophy (a vital subject for PPE..) was going to mean an inevitable rejection, but I didn't do that, and I got a place. Essentially, I got the grade, decided I didn't want to drop the subject and was committed to do better, so that meant a retake.

To any Year 12s reading this who don't already know this stuff - one of the best things about A levels is that you receive the final A level grade as a compilation of your best mark in each unit. This means you can technically retake any unit in any subject multiple times if you want, with papers issued in January and June every year. Universities vary in terms of how they look at retakes, with some more open to lots of them than others, but pretty much any uni won't mind if you've retaken one paper. When retaking, for example if you can't do it in school as people don't typically sit papers in January, it's important to register with another institution in your area several months in advance. So, I did this, and towards the end of December, with the heady cheer of the holidays fading into the distant past, I started trying to revise.

If you think it's hard trying to remember everything you've been studying over the last year, it's definitely worse trying to remember something you first started studying 18 months ago and haven't looked at in the last 6. Therefore - start revising early, earlier than for normal exams if possible. Think about exactly what caused you to mess up your first paper, and try and hone those skills by doing lots of practice papers. Different revision methods work for different people, but I changed my revision method slightly for the retake, and found it to be much more successful in terms of my understanding. First time around, I typed out the textbook like a madman for hours at a time, then read and reread my notes, highlighting bits I felt I didn't understand, before making a further list of the bits within the bits I didn't understand that I REALLY didn't understand. Second time around, I read and reread the textbook itself, before making concise notes. I felt this was much more productive as I was focussing on understanding the thing, rather than simply finishing typing up 20 pages in an hour. This, coupled with plans for past questions, meant I felt like I grasped some of the ideas properly for the very first time, and meant I was much more focused on the correct topics and knew much more accurate information. With that out of the way, it's back to preparing for the second (or third, fourth, depending how you look at it) hurdle of Year 13... mocks!

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