ETHOS : COPING WITH THE TRANSITION FROM IGCSE
Managing time effectively and learning how to use private study periods sensibly and productively are among the most significant challenges confronting Sixth Formers – especially when they first enter Year 12 after becoming accustomed to a more structured IGCSE regimen. The changes upon joining a Sixth Form in academic level and style, intellectual expectations, personal responsibility etc should not be taken lightly: Bloomsbury’s Sixth Form teaching team offer students in this position a range of pastoral and advisory services to help them understand, manage and deal with the effects of these changes (especially in the early days at the inception of their AS/A Level studies when the differences will be most stark and thus potentially most disorienting).
Among the skills Sixth Formers are trained to cultivate in this regard are:
- How to relate as a Sixth Former to - and liaise with - teachers and other school staff in an appropriate, respectful, mature and adult way;
- Making and adhering to a personal Study Plan;
- How to contribute effectively to Sixth Form classes (given the latter’s generally smaller sizes than IGCSE classes and their encouragement of independent thinking and learning);
- Analytical skills;
- Time and workload management skills;
- Independent studying – its nature, practicalities, challenges & benefits;
- Engagement with the spirit and letter of AS and A Level studies;
- Note taking skills (mind mapping, bullet points, concept lining etc);
- Revision techniques (flash cards etc);
- Essay writing skills (planning, structuring, anchoring, linking introduction, body and conclusion etc; balancing word count and quality);
- Arguing coherently, structuring arguments effectively, citing authorities & marshalling evidence; considering alternative points of view;
- Advocacy skills;
- Citing sources and avoiding plagiarism;
- Self-organisation (using ‘post-it’ notes, highlighting felt tip pens, folders and dividers, diaries, weekly plans etc);
- Lesson preparation skills (refining & updating notes, preparing contributions, questions and answers etc);
- Accelerated reading skills (skimming, scanning, reading for gist etc);
- Gathering data from the Internet or media (using keyword searches etc; smart use of keywords in different combinations when sourcing data; using Sweetsearch and similar search engine resources; smart web navigation; smart organisation of web research results – evaluation, sifting and arrangement of relevant data; thinking while browsing; intelligent surfing; critical analysis of web sources (determining authorship, authors qualifications, authority, reliability or credibility, sites blending content with advertisements), consideration of how websites return results; determining helpful web sources; checking the currency of web articles, data; formulating sound web search queries; how to deal with poor search results; looking beyond initial search results; using student-friendly tools for aggregating favourite sites (e.g. Symbaloo, Diigo etc), smart use of meta-search engines (e.g. Zuula), adopting critical attitudes towards web search results or conventional engines, SEO generated (e.g. Google’s ‘fresher is better’ approach), smart browsing of search results in context without opening sites using Yolink);
- Revision, stress management and action planning skills;
- Coping with tests and examinations.
The development of skills such as those listed above represents a sensible and worthwhile investment not just in aptitudes conducive to success with AS and A Level examinations but also in abilities students will continue to refine and apply in their higher education studies and later careers.