How to get an A* - (Without Going Insane. Or Breaking a Nail. Mostly)
What I did (in Month 1)
Three months ago, on the 15th August 2013, I found out that after months of working towards my dream grades, I'd failed.
(Oh, the joys of Results Day).
But I decided "heck, I refuse to wallow in my own pity. I didn't achieve what I'd set out to do, fine..."
(And let's face it, I was the only one to blame *ehm, and every Jeremy Kyle show on for that year* - OK fine. Just me).
"But I will turn this into an opportunity to do better."
And so the 'A* Grade Challenge' was born.
I essentially set out to push myself and think bigger, work harder and achieve more.
But rather than simply aiming for A's, I decided that I wanted to be even more ambitious and score 100% in all of my exams.
And so here's what I did to start achieving those 100%'s (1 month in), and the ups and downs I've experienced and learnt from so far:
What went well:
1) Mindmapping my class notes
Rather than making looooong written notes for every class, I decided to start mindmapping everything with bright colours and pictures.
I've found that this has served me really well, because making mindmaps allows me to:
- Condense and simplify the information I get in class
- I can find links between the information MUCH easier
- My notes just look so HAPPY thanks to all the colour (which by the way, has been proven to make us students more motivated to do our work, and helps us retain the information in our memory for longer *double points*)
- It also means that I can use these notes straightaway as revision material when exam season comes knocking on the door
Plus, it beats the notes that I used to make - which were a huge bunch of hundreds of words listed in dull black ink on lined paper (snore.)
2) Starting exam practise early
I've already started getting tested in all of my subjects (and doing a few voluntary tests too - yes, that is a number 10 on the Geek-O-Meter you see there).
I think this is crucially important though, as it allows me to see how I'm doing in each subject, and which ones I need to work harder in.
Here's the grades I've been generally scoring so far:
Physics: (I'll just turn away and cover my eyes here) D
By doing this I can tell straightaway that Physics is where I want to improve, and so I've started boosting my revision for it already.
I've covered all the material we've studied so far in class and have even gone further ahead independently.
I'm also making sure that I do practise questions on each topic I cover, and I'm making a note of the things that I don't understand yet as I go along (so that I can get help from my teachers).
3) Getting an 'accountability buddy'
After a few weeks into the challenge, I could tell that my motivation was slipping and I was falling back into my dreaded 'Oh hey, I'll just watch TV all day' stage.
So I called a friend of mine, who's also in the same situation as me (redoing the year) and is aiming for the same grades (straight A's), and we made a pact to call each other EVERY Friday to discuss our progress, support each other, and issue out cyber slaps when we're slacking.
Our weekly conversations normally revolve around these 3 questions:
- "What have you done this week academically (to reach those A's)?"
- "How did it go - what worked and what didn't?"
- "What are you going to do next week?"
We then check that we're both getting the work done, and turn evil if it's not completed (by taking a prized possession from each other).
(I steal her phone for the day - yes, she may die without it, and she'll take my lunch - and - wait for it - THROW IT IN THE BIN. EURGH. THE WASTE. THE WASTE!).
*ehm - pulling myself together*
So far the peer pressure has been brilliant, and we're both getting our work done and making sure neither of us strays most of the time.
(I won't lie though. Most of the straying is being done by yours truly. Please issue cyber slaps this way).
4) Expanding my learning outside of the class
So seeing as English and History are my CHILDREN, I really want to make sure that I'm a good candidate for the English and History joint degree at Oxford (yep. This dream will just never die).
So I've started preparing for my Uni applications and the course by:
1. Listening to University lectures by Oxford and Yale. They have a brilliant online collection of their lectures for SO many subjects (you can check out the Oxford lectures here, and the Yale ones too).
2. Reading more widely - In order to become a History-English academic badass (hey, it's a thing), I've begun reading more than simply what's required in my A-level courses.
So far I'm really enjoying classical epics *weirdly* (ie. giant monster tales, like Star Trek, but thousands of years ago - WHO KNEW), Victorian poetry and writers like Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde.
3. I've subscribed to the New Statesmen (a cultural, current affairs and political weekly magazine), so that I can expose myself to thought-provoking and witty commentaries and analysis' on topics we're facing in the 21st Century. It's a great way to expose myself to higher level thinking and writing.
(Ps. they also have a great subscription discount for students).
The challenges I ran into:
1) Trying to stick to a studying routine
WHY ARE STUDYING TIMETABLES SO HARD TO STICK TO.
I swear every one makes these, and then just ignores them for the rest of the year.
But I decided to give them a chance again (I mean, people, I NEED organisation in my life), and so I settled on a studying routine of 2 hours a day.
But it just isn't happening!
Every time I get home Hollyoaks or Pinterest just seems to suck me in, and then I look at the time and 'WOAH, it's 1am already'.
How I'm going to tackle this issue:
I think staying behind afterschool for an hour at least and working away from everyone else would do wonders for me.
At least this way I can't get distracted, as I have nothing else to do but work.
2) My sleeping routine is out of whack
In order to get work done consistently and feel energized in the morning, I decided to join Robin Sharma (one of my favourite motivational speakers) '5am club'.
(If you think I'm absolutely nuts and wondering why on earth I'd do that, here he is explaining the reasons behind the '5am club'):
The (*ehm* few) times that I've actually woken up at 5am to do this have been brilliant.
However my sleeping routine is so random that I have difficulty getting up at 5am regularly and making it a new habit (after all consistency is key when developing a habit - according to a study by UCL, it takes 66 days to carve a new habit into your brain *sooo, I have some work to do*).
How I'm going to tackle this issue:
I've decided to begin going to bed at 10pm (like the good old days).
This should give me enough time to rest so that I can wake up at 5am feeling refreshed.
3) My working speed
After the experiences of a few last minute exam frenzies, I know that when I REALLY push myself, I can do massive amounts of work within a few days.
(For my Psychology exams last year I managed to read and memorise the entire course in roughly 5 days!)
But without any pressure, I just seem to be getting through my work load at the speed of a turtle. That's broken it's leg. And gone blind.
How I'm going to tackle this issue:
I've scheduled weekly meetings with my schools academic mentor (who'll check that I'm making progress and completing all the tasks that I said I would).
I'll also speak to my Physics teacher (seeing as that's the area I want to concentrate on first, and then I'll move onto the other subjects) about doing weekly tests on specific topics.
Aka, I'm going to do EVERYthing I can to pile on the pressure, because that's when I really get working.
Now, I'd love to hear what you think!
- What grades are you aiming for this year?
- And what have you done so far to begin achieving them?
Let's chat in the comments below!
'A* Grade Challenge' posts so far:
Month 1 (Progress made in November 2013)
Month 2 (Progress made in December 2013)
Month 3 (Progress made in January 2014)
P.s. Freebie Alert:
A few weeks ago I created a worksheet on how to get through the first month of the challenge, which you can download for free (ps. it's exclusive to my email buddies, so if you want to join, just fill in the form below).
Oh and the Image is courtesy of Bungalow5 :)