1. Set yourself targets. Good targets
I believe the main reason why I was displeased with my GCSEs was that I didn’t set myself high targets, I started off with Bs, mainly, and I realised at the end I could have got As and perhaps A*s for subjects I didn’t think I was much good at (though English, classics, and the whole writing family will always bring me down…). When A-levels came, I aimed for As, after some hesitation about the plausibility, then I aimed for >90% for three (mainly because over time I am unlikely to improve due to the difficulty curve). Even if you think you won’t get it in a million years, work for them.
2. Know what you’re doing
For me, economics was probably of relevance here. It was a brand new subject for me and I didn’t know what connected and what was relevant, and where to draw the line between relevant queries and queries irrelevant for my exam. Get your specification, and make sure you can do what it asks you to. It sometimes diverges from the contents of your book, and sometimes your book talks about topics disproportionately (economics, again).
3. Actually do some work
I didn’t do as much work as my stereotype suggests, a lot of the days I just did my homework, and some days I left it to the morning, but I won’t deny I didn’t do work. I can’t advise you much here, you find your own method. Personally, I found fear a greater motivation than satisfaction (unfortunately the fear motivation was a late bloomer – like a week before the exam). Writing notes will help I suppose, and perhaps do brainstorms (or the politically correct version), just do whatever floats your boat.
4. Past papers and mark schemes
If you do physics, chemistry and/or economics and you haven’t seen the A-level stuff section, you’re a bit of a fool. Any relevant past papers, mark schemes, and other crap I find online I put there. Some exams repeat questions, so memorising the mark scheme could be your ticket, especially for definitions (but I guess you’re fucked in this area if you do English or something). I think they were the main helping hand for the sciences.
5. Pray for a snow day (or snow week)
Leaving most of my work to the end wasn’t wise, but without that snow day I’d have had to rely on what I hesitate to call study leave. As I’m sceptical that snow will fall during May, don’t leave your work to the end.
6. ‘Do the questions. Get them right.’
A friend told me that like a day or something before the C1 maths exam. There’s not really another way about it, don’t panic, don’t let a bad question have collateral damage on others, and work efficiently to preserve your scarce time. Finally, don’t give up. I’ve realised you can be at the height of pessimism and still get a good grade.
Don’t take this as an absolute, obviously. It might help, but some maxims are quite obvious and you probably do them. This has just worked in my experience, in the same way that my Mac has as opposed to my Windows predecessors.