One small step to GCSE... one giant leap to A-level?

There are lots of myths and misconceptions about the change from GCSEs to A-levels and to be completely honest, it’s something that varies from person to person. Some people find it a big step and some don’t notice much difference. This applies to all subject areas too, not just languages.

We’ve been completely honest below about bridging the gap from GCSE to AS-level to A2 level so you get some unbiased viewpoints and some top advice on how to prepare the best you can for the next stage in your language learning adventure.

How big is the jump from GCSE to AS-level?

The 411:

”During the AS course, you’ll recap what you learnt at GCSE, learn tonnes of new grammar, phrases and expressions.”

This will probably feel like a huge jump at first, but probably not for the reasons you think. The move from GCSE to AS is noticeable in every subject as class sizes get smaller, learning becomes more intense and assignments get longer. Your language class is no different, but the content and format still follows the same GCSEs.

During the AS course, you’ll recap what you learnt at GCSE, learn tonnes of new grammar, phrases and expressions. You’ll learn plenty of new words, gain confidence in speaking and improve your reading, listening, speaking and writing skills. All this will take you to an advanced level - and all in a single year.

Why study languages to A2 level?

There is a lot of pressure to do well in your A-level exams, and you may be tempted to drop a subject that you have found hard at AS or one that you didn't do well in.

Top tip:

”Rather than seeing the AS to A2 change as a massive, daunting leap, think of it as the next stepping stone in the pathway towards your future.”

Your AS exam results shouldn't be the deciding factor in whether you continue or drop languages at A2. You don’t have to carry a bad result as you have two chances to resit your AS exams during your A2 year. The more dedicated you are to learning your language at A2, the more you’ll improve your final exam mark. Everything gets a bit too much sometimes but that’s why your teacher, parents, friends and we are here to lend you support and encourage you along the way.

Rather than seeing the AS to A2 change as a massive, daunting leap, think of it as the next stepping stone in the pathway towards your future. Keep on top of your work, homework and revision every week and really focus on understanding what you’re covering in class and you’ll be fine.

The one piece of advice that’ll get you through is perseverance! Everything you do in life tests and challenges you at some point, and you’ll probably feel this in other subjects too, but when this happens, seek help and share your problem. By pushing through it and gaining a language A-level you’ll be chuffed you did.

How big is the jump from AS to A2?

Good news! Moving from AS to A2 is nothing like the jump from GCSE to AS. Obviously, there will be some change as you’re now aiming for the full A-level, but the size of the change differs between people. As a rule of thumb, there really isn’t anything to worry about. The pace at A2 is similar to AS in terms of learning new grammar and topics, but you’re used to it by now. The topics are just as interesting and relevant to the world we live in and the exams follow the same format. AS may feel like a long, hard year - getting used to writing longer pieces, being disciplined with homework and having to engage more in self learning but it sets you up well for A2.

On the other hand, the A2 year will probably be the best year of your life. The A2 year is where all your previous knowledge and skills from school, sixth form/college and extra-curricular activities come together and start to make sense in all that you do. You realise what you’ve been taught really does have some relevance to the real world in addition, it's not just something to learn in order to pass the exams.

How to prepare over the summer?

You already know that it’s impossible to suddenly speak a language fluently over night; it takes a long time and a lot of dedication to be able to speak a language whatever level you’re aiming for.

Handy hint:

”Aim to do something in your foreign language once a week so you don’t forget everything you know by the time September comes around again.”

The main reason people find A-level study a big step is because they’ve gone the whole summer without speaking, listening or reading anything in the language, and it’s simply been forgotten. You're great in English because you speak, listen, read and probably write a bit of it everyday, so that’s just what you have to do in the foreign language too. Here are some tips of small things to do every few days during the summer to keep your language skills top notch:

  • Look over your vocab book
  • Watch a film with subtitles or in the foreign language
  • Go over some tenses
  • Read an article online
  • Aim to read a book in the foreign language over the holidays.
  • Listen to music

If you’ve got the travel bug you could spend some of the summer abroad. There are loads of things to do. There are language volunteer programmes and language schools. Lots of companies offer programmes and placements just for 16-19 year olds. These are perfect for improving your language, self-confidence and gaining valuable work experience. There are placements in South America and Africa - great if you are learning Spanish or French.

Another great thing to do is Au-Pairing. This is fab because you don’t have to pay for accommodation or food and you usually earn a bit of money too, all while being immersed and picking up your foreign language without even noticing!

If you don’t fancy going so far away, there are opportunities to attend a language school in Spain, France or Germany where you’ll be taught by native speakers, go on cultural trips and embrace the culture head on. Why not organise a road trip with your mates? By going abroad to places that aren’t tourist hot-spots you’ll find that English is hardly ever spoken and you’ll have to use your knowledge of the language in order to get by (maybe even survive!)

Even just a few weeks away can really boost your confidence in speaking, teach you more native sounding pronunciations and make you realise how important languages really are.