FAQ's about A-levels

Did you do an EPQ?

No.

Why didn't you do an EPQ?

Generally, the advice that I have been given by teachers and some admissions tutors at Oxford and Cambridge is that if you're applying for a maths-heavy subject (like physics which I studied), then an EPQ isn't worth it when applying to Oxford or Cambridge. That said, I'm unsure how other universities perceive them.

They said that I should instead spend that improving my problem-solving skills to score higher in interviews and admissions tests.

I just started Year 13 and haven't begun making flashcards yet. What should I do?

I would recommend beginning making flashcards on the Year 13 content that you are covering in lessons because

  1. Making flashcards yourself forces you to understand the material yourself.
  2. If you find yourself confused and having to look back on the relevant Year 12 content, you can make flashcards.
  3. Later in the year, when you find yourself doing topic questions on Year 12 content, you may find yourself having forgotten some piece of information so you can easily make a flashcard on that too.

The goal is to make flashcards on the content you are struggling to remember and understand. Going back and making flashcards everything on Year 12 content can be wasted motion if you're already comfortable with many of the topics.

I have only been introduced to effective studying in Year 13. What is the most effective way to go over Year 12 content?

Remember that you are likely to know much more than you think. I have had times where it just felt like I had forgotten everything, but when I saw an exam question, all the content to do with it would come back to mind.

If you are in Year 13 and want to decide how to most effectively go over Year 12 content, I would recommend trying to do a year or two of AS Past Papers for that topic. You will likely get questions wrong due to (a) not knowing the content or (b) not being able to apply it. You will be able to tell the difference when marking the paper (but sometimes there will be a mixture of those two reasons).

For tackling (b), you often require more practice with questions. For tackling (a), you have now identified some topics you need to review. I would then recommend re-learning / refreshing yourself on the topic and making flashcards on it.

This is particularly effective for identifying the topics you have forgotten as you're forcing yourself to use active recall by doing an AS Past Paper rather than, say, passively recognising material in a textbook and asking yourself, "Do I remember this?" The answer here is likely to be yes almost all the time because you're mistaking recognition for recall.