In this short article I will be expressing how I have felt about the jump from GCSE to A-Levels in terms of Mathematics and Physics.
At GCSE, mathematics was all about remembering processes and being able to compute the right answer to spit out at the end of the question. However, at A-Level mathematics is a lot more developed and rigorous. What I mean is that you’re now expected to know why things work they way they do and why we do things in a certain way.
One example I can think of is the quadratic formula:
At GCSE you’d be expected to identify where to use the quadratic formula and to come out with values. Whereas, at A-Level you develop the idea of where the quadratic formula has come from and how the proof works for the quadratic formula. Proofs are everything!
But to be quite honest Mathematics doesn’t really have that much of a jump from GCSE to A-Level due to the way the syllabus is presented. What I mean is that you’re introduced and eased into more challenging topics. In the case of Further Mathematics I was really lucky to have been able to have done the AQA Level 2 certificate in Further Mathematics which put me in good step in order to be confident with the Further Pure 1 Module when it came around. However, if you havent done the Level 2 Further Maths, I feel that the A Level in Further Maths would present more of a challenge due to the nature of the topics within there such as matrices which first time round seem like a bizarre and baffling concept.
In the case of Physics I have found that there has been a lot of imbalance between the standards of the specifications which different exam boards provide for GCSE Physics and this is very noticeable when A Level Physics is presented. What I notice is that there are different levels development of topics throughout the different exam boards and I feel like this presents a difficult time for teachers when students arrive. This due to having studied different exam boards and have difference in knowledge in Physics due to the variance in specifications.
Overall, Physics at GCSE is quite broad and doesn’t really go into much detail but touches on a lot of concepts of essential Physics. At A-Level the Physics knowledge explodes in magnitude as concepts and knowledge develop exponentially which to some is amazing but, to others I know of at different institutions, has made them less driven on Physics due to the way the development of their knowledge has been presented, and the pace which has been set by the teacher is not what they have been used to.
Be prepared! A-Levels for some can be quite enjoyable but for others can be their worst nightmare… Stay on top of your work because a weeks lost in revision and working hours will be detrimental to your outcome at the end of the academic year.
Dont be scared of what is to come. It is expected that you may feel anxious to how your A-Level studies are going to go but if you got to a college with a good support team you’ll be just fine! Also, try to enjoy the subjects you’re studying because they will form the basis of your future and if you feel you need to change do it as early as possible.
Stay controlled, stay focused and Keep Learning!