After year 11: What’s your next step?

We asked some of our students about their experiences of A levels, BTECs and Access Diplomas so you can get the inside track on your post-GCSE options.

A-Level

Alice Williams: A levels in Economics, Geography, Government and Policy

My A levels were slightly complicated. In year 12, I studied Biology, Chemistry, Economics and Psychology, but then I got sick and didn't do as well as expected. In year 13, I carried on Economics into A2, did an entire Geography A level in a year, and then did an additional year in which I gained Government and Politics A level. I wasn't aware of any BTECs in the areas I wanted to study. I found learning my A levels in a single year more enjoyable to an extent, because despite being far more full on, it meant I didn't get bored or tired of the subject.

Amran Mohamed: A levels in Biology, Psychology and Economics, AS level in Chemistry

My experience during A levels was a bit of a rollercoaster. I did quite a mix of subjects and originally chose Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Psychology. But by the end of the first week of AS I found it really challenging, so opted out of Maths and switched to Economics instead. I picked those subjects to get into the field of science, and Maths was recommended particularly if I wanted to go into medical sciences.

The transition from GCSE to A level is not to be underestimated; the style of answers and marking is very different and so a different approach may have to be adopted. Studying throughout the year is key, which I finally understood once I started my second year of A levels. That’s when you’ll know your strengths and weaknesses; Chemistry was my weakness so I dropped it. I had no coursework during the course of my A levels so I had to master exam technique.

BTECParth

Parth Kachhia: BTEC in IT, Geography AS, RE A level

Personally, I found the BTEC most useful, thanks to all the hands-on experience across the subject, from networking and databasing to hardware and software configuration. With my A levels I felt it was more about how much I could memorise. The BTEC was all coursework, no exams.

Amina Ouaret: BTEC Level Three Extended Diploma in Travel and Tourism

I wanted a change from standard study, as I’ve never been very good at exams and fancied a more vocational style of learning. BTECs have no exams involved, but you learn just as much as you would from an A level. I’d already achieved a Science BTEC in year 11 so knew roughly what to expect, but the Extended Diploma was quite different. I enjoyed it very much and learnt a lot of new skills which have shaped me into the person I am at today.

Access to Higher Education Diploma

YasminYasmin Pena: Access to Higher Education

I completed an Access to HE course for over 19s at college to gain entry into university. It was an alternative to sixth form and it was for one year, three days a week, which allowed me to work part time and save a bit of money before going to university.

John Welsh: Access to Higher Education (Teacher Training)

I studied History and Government & Politcs at A level. I then took a few years out of education and went on to do an Access course at college before going to study BA Primary Education Middlesex.

Apprenticeship

Dane Mumford: Foundation degree Professional Practice in Construction Operations Management

I have gained the knowledge and understanding of my responsibilities in my role as an assistant site manager through my studies with the modules set out through the foundation degree. The modules have demonstrated to me how we must support our actions in our career by way of reference, research and it's improved my academic approach with peers in the work place.

Vanessa Stidever: QA apprenticeship in Business Administration

I’ve learnt how to organise events, network with people and deal with clients on the phone. A typical day for me involves answering emails, helping to organise events that are coming up and assisting the director and other people in the team. They’re really lovely – it’s like a family.

Read Vanessa's Apprentice Profile to learn more about her her experience at Middlesex.