Year 13 – Zara

17 Dec 2014

31st August

Year 13 induction day

On the 28th of August, my summer ended prematurely – I was to go into school from 9:00am to 12 noon for an induction day. (What exactly this would entail, I did not know) With my beautifully crisp new uniform and shiny shoes, I walked into the Assembly hall for an HOUR long assembly! The headmaster swiftly congratulated us on our GCSE results and then told us how important this year was, how we should set goals and start working immediately. The thing is, he says that every year! Then, our form classes were called out. I was a bit nervous that I would not be in the same form class as my friends, but thankfully our form class remained much the same. Then we confirmed our A-Level choices (I chose Chemistry,  Biology, Maths and English Literature). The rest of the day was spent in form class catching up with my friends, which I enjoyed but I would have much rather met up outside of school! The day was a bit disappointing as we didn’t even get our timetables, which is something I’m worrying about because, let’s face it, every school has teachers that aren’t great! So, I’m eagerly awaiting my timetable on my first ‘real’ day at school on Monday 1st September.

7th Sept

On Monday, my first full day at school, we spent 6 periods in our form class, setting targets for the year ahead. We were discussing extra curricular activities that we could take part in to boost our personal statement like Young Enterprise, Choir and Duke of Edinburgh. I finally got to see my timetable! There was really nothing to worry about – my teachers are good and I have 10 free periods a week, which should be useful for studying! I was worrying about my Biology teacher because I had heard that they weren’t great. However, when I went to their classes during the week, I was really impressed with the way that they explained the topics! I learnt not to rely on other people’s opinions of teachers – a method that that works for one student may not work for another. In fact, I enjoyed all of my classes over the week – I find that you are treated much more like an adult. I thought that it would be much easier studying four subjects rather than ten at GCSE but I can already see the jump from GCSE to A Level! I’m hoping that I will be able to cope with this jump more as the year goes on. Another thing that I was worrying about was doing A-Level Maths without doing Additional Maths GCSE but on Thursday, there was a very helpful support class which will run every week for the whole year. Again, there was no need to worry! I’m finding the study periods very helpful – I’m able to complete my homework and even start some revision notes during school, so that I have less to do at home.

 14th Sept

Last week was a busy one! There was a heavy workload but I’m getting more used to this as I get back into the ‘swing of things’. However, I was still tired so I went to bed at around 9pm each night! I even survived through triple Chemistry on a Thursday morning – we had a break for juice and biscuits halfway through. In Biology, we also had a tea and coffee morning – like I said before  you are treated so much more like an adult! I find that I’m starting to understand better the things that I’m learning, now that I’ve remembered everything that I forgot during the summer. Admittedly, Biology is quite tricky at the moment,due to all the new vocabulary – ‘oligosaccharides’ or ‘glycosidic bonds’, anyone? However, during study periods, I am able to use the Biology textbooks in school to help make my revision notes, which is a great help. On Wednesday, we have three free periods, where we were able to go spinning at the leisure centre, which was exhausting but great exercise. That day, I distinctly remember spending AGES on one question in my Maths homework. I decided to do something else and came back to it later only to find that the only mistake I had made was writing a plus sign instead of a minus sign at the start of the answer. I had wasted all this time because of that tiny error! I will definitely be more careful next time – GRR!


20th Sept


Last week was really fun! All my extra-curricular activities have started back, so I’m more busy but I feel like I have more of a purpose. I’m trying to do as many things as I can to boost my personal statement, so I am about to start my Silver Duke of Edinburgh and I’m volunteering in the junior science club at school. Another exciting opportunity that has come my way in school is a Bioscience Olympiad run by Queens University which consists of seven biology related questions designed to make you think. We have one week to research and come with as many possible answers to the questions which are quite strange, with one being about creatures called Yzargs on an imaginary planet! A level Maths is not as hard as I though it would be, which I am really grateful for – I know that it will get harder but I feel like I can manage, despite not having done Additional Maths for GCSE. Chemistry is the same; we are being eased in gently to the course and we are mostly covering topics that we did at GCSE. I am loving English Literature at the moment – I have two teachers which adds a bit of variety to the week. It also helps that I really enjoy the play that we are studying, ‘The Death of A Salesman’ and the poems by Robert Frost. Although I would love to go into the science field, I think that studying English Literature as a fourth A-Level is good as it is completely different from my other subjects. All my friends seem to be coping well too – everyone is now used to being in lower sixth and enjoying their subjects. Overall, it was a much better week!



28th Sept


Wow, last week was crazy! We only had two days in school to prepare for the Bioscience  Olympiad and there was so much information to be found on the topics, you could have researched forever! So, after spending most of my weekend researching, I also spent all my study periods and my time after school on the Bioscience Olympiad – our group even stayed in school until 5:30 – that shouldn’t be legal! However, I managed to prioritise my homework and now we’re eagerly waiting for the results of the competition. In Chemistry, we found out that we had been lied to all our school lives about electrons and we were taught some really complicated Chemistry that the teacher had to go over three times! I was completely bamboozled at first but was able to read over our notes at home a few times, which helped me to understand what we were doing in class. The homework has definitely increased – I have a maths homework every day, an English essay for next week, a second biology essay for tomorrow, a maths test tomorrow… I could go on! However, I have been trying to be productive during our study periods – it is very tempting to talk to my friends or just have a rest, but using the study periods wisely has helped me to keep on top of my homework. Again, I am really enjoying the Spinning classes that we go to every Wednesday – I have not been blessed with sporting ability and for years was forced to play netball and hockey. I say ‘play’, but really all I did was fall over and drop the ball! Anyway, now I have found an activity that I enjoy and keeps me active, so for any fellow non-sporty people; it gets better!


5th October


This week went really quickly! I had a biology test on Friday which I think went well and is the first of probably many tracking tests. I’m trying to keep up with my revision notes as we go through the year so I hopefully have less to do nearer to exam time! Biology is going well and now I’ve gone through all the information during revision, I understand the concepts much better! Maths is fine too – we have just started polynomial division which is very complicated but I eventually got the hang of it after practising the questions over and over again. As I didn’t do add maths for GCSE, I decided to buy a CCEA AS textbook, which was £20 well spent! I really like my Maths teacher, but like all Maths teachers, for our notes he mostly gives us examples with very little explanation, which is fine at the time, but I often find that when I look back over the notes, I don’t understand them. The AS textbook explains all the concepts very well. Also, I would recommend the CCEA revision guides for Chemistry and Biology – I have used them already and they are great for a solid understanding of the basics.


12th Oct


I think it’s safe to say that I’ve got the hang of being in Lower Sixth! We are going through the topics in Maths very quickly because the teacher says that classes often don’t have enough time to complete the last module, M1. So I’m trying to do extra questions on each topic from the CCEA textbook that I bought to make sure I understand every topic before we move on. Also, when I’m studying subjects, I like to make sure that I have as many resources as possible, which is why I ask my friends who do the same subjects what they have covered – if it seems that my teacher has missed anything out, I ask to photocopy their work – this has worked for me in the past! Thankfully I have friends who do the same subjects as me but have different teachers. As I’m thinking about doing either Dentistry or Medicine at university, I bought a book on the UKCAT, on the advice of a 4th year medical student. To prepare for the rest which I will probably sit next August, I have decided to do a little revision every week to familiarise myself with the questions! Sometimes if I have nothing else to do in study, this is what I’ll do! I’m trying to be as productive as possible during study periods, but I never seem to get all I need to do completed! Next week I’ll try to prioritise and be more efficient, and I’ll let you know how that gets on!


20th October


Another week has flown in! I’m really excited for half term break and I think I’m ready for a holiday! However, it might not be much of a break considering how much homework I have to do over the break… At the minute I have two essays to write and another Biology test, and undoubtedly there will be some Chemistry and Maths homework thrown in there too! So my aim this week is to get all this homework done and Biology notes made, so I can have more of a rest over the holiday! I’m also looking forward to this week because Prize Day is on Friday, which means only a half day at school and the day before that there are Prize Day rehearsals all day! Though I am worried that I will miss a lot of class work or homework, so I’ll have to talk to my teachers before Thursday and ask my friends to keep me any work. I am getting more work done in Study periods by planning what I will work on each day and putting the sheets that I will use into a special folder. I have found that this saves me about ten minutes of each study period, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but you would be surprised at how much you can get done!

26 October

This week I only had three ‘proper days’ at school because Thursday was a rehearsal and Friday was Prize Day so I’m not sure that I’ll have a lot to talk about! Most of my week was just spent trying to do all my homework set for over half term! Sadly I have not finished it but today (Saturday), I’m going to take 2 hours with no distractions (no TV!) to finish all my work so I can have a real rest over the Halloween holidays! I love using the app ’30/30′ when I’m working because you can set how long you want to take to complete a task and it times each task, telling you how long you have left. It sounds simple but it really motivates you to keep going! (I promise I’m not being paid to say this!)  I also have a Biology test on Enzymes when I get back so I want to finish my revision notes so I can start learning next weekend. I always make sure my notes are colourful, making them more memorable and more exciting to read! Using narrow ruled paper works for me too, as it looks like there is less information on the page. Sometimes I make flash cards which are great for learning definitions as you can take them anywhere. (Although you may look strange in public places). Then the last, and probably most important thing that I do to revise is past papers, past papers, past papers! Before the exam, do every one you can get your hands on as you get used to the style of questions and test your knowledge. Then I mark them and write down any of the questions that I got wrong so I never make the same mistake again. Happy revising!

2nd November

I had a great week off school last week! I definitely needed a break from school to refresh me although with the amount of homework I got, I would hardly consider it a rest! The teachers always think that because you’re off school, you’ll have plenty of time to do school work but for me, it the the opposite! From Monday to Friday I was in Berlin so I tried to get all my homework done before hand. I procrastinated too much so I didn’t do that and I had that work hanging over me all of the holiday! So I would really recommend getting your homework over and done with so you can completely forget about school. . I managed to finish the rest of my homework this weekend but it put a dampener on my holiday! I had a lovely time in Berlin, and I loved  all the history there. I did History for GCSE and still love the subject even though I don’t study it. Going to Berlin really showed me how you can carry on your interest in other subjects outside school.

To be honest, half term wasn’t really a rest for me because I was so busy – I wouldn’t have minded some lie-ins. After all, I am a teenager! However, I’m not complaining and I hope that this term I can carry on working hard and not procrastinate as much!

9th November

This week was quite tiring, as I think most weeks after a holiday are! Most of this week was taken up by desperately trying to get some work experience! I want to shadow some GPs and so into a hospital, as well as a dentist’s surgery, so that I get a taste for these jobs but getting work experience for Medicine is almost impossible! I signed up for Charter which is an organisation that organises work placements, but there were only four places so I missed out! So then, I desperately tried to think of anybody I knew that could help me. For most of the week, I didn’t make much progress, but on Friday, I was told that I may be able to go into Paediatrics for a few days in December, thanks to my dad’s contact and a few GPs! To be honest, anything hospital related will do now I’ve realised how difficult it is to get work experience! Tomorrow afternoon, I’m going to shadow my dentist which is very exciting! I found that it is much easier to get Dentistry work experience than Medicine. Also, I’m thinking of volunteering at a care home which should give me an idea of whether a career in Health is for me! I phoned up a local nursing home and asked about volunteering, and they said that it would be a great help, especially in the lead-up to Christmas, where there will be a lot of crafts going on. However, I need to make sure that all these extra-curricular activities don’t eat into my studies… The January exams are fast approaching and I want to make sure that I have all my revision notes made in good time, as I know from last year that the mocks are so important!

17th November

This week was mostly taken up by me revising for tests and doing Biology coursework… I had a Maths test and a Chemistry test which both went well I think. For Maths, I just made one of my usual to do lists (I can’t live without them!) and then I went through my CCEA textbook that I bought. I also did some past paper questions that I printed out from the CCEA website, although I try not to do many in case the same questions turn up on the test! I want the test to show me what I’m good at and what I need to improve. As much as I complain about tracking tests, they are good for ‘tracking’ your progress… I think the key to Maths is practice, practice, practice and I suppose that the tests are a good way of doing this. Also, because of the Chemistry test, I was finally motivated to finish my notes on Atomic Structure! I guess every cloud has a silver lining… As I said, we started our Biology coursework on Enzymes this week. I was really stressed because it counts towards my final AS result and I didn’t have much time to do it with all the revision. We were given our questions and were told that we were only allowed to do it it school – but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare for it outside of school. So that’s what I’ve been doing all week!

23rd November

I’m so happy because this week, my work experience placements were finalised! Next week I’m going to Antrim to shadow a doctor in Paediatrics and in February, I’m going to a GP in Annalong. I feel a lot more organised now! I still haven’t made a final decision about university but I think that doing this work experience should help. I’m struggling to find clothes to wear to work experience, as I need to find something that’s formal, age-appropriate and comfortable. I want to make a good first impression! I also want to think about the questions I will ask on my placement and do a bit of reading around the subject area. This week I seemed to get a lot of homework! I have a Biology test and an essay due for Friday, as well as Maths and Chemistry homeworks… My Biology coursework is almost done although it has taken a long time to complete! I’m hoping to get to bed early this week because I was tired all last week and I think I work better when I’ve had more sleep.

30th November

On Friday, I finally handed in my Biology Coursework! It took a lot of effort but it was worth it. I tried to follow the mark scheme exactly and I did a lot of research so I could include as much scientific knowledge as possible. I don’t know if I will get the marks or not hit hopefully everything will be fine. Also, my insurance from Charter came through that allows me to go into the hospital next week – I was really worried that I wouldn’t be insured and that my placement would be cancelled. I’m going on my work experience in Paediatrics next Wednesday and Thursday and I’m really excited but nervous at the same time! How much am I meant to know? How do I make a good impression? What will I doing? This sounds a bit stalkerish but I googled the Doctor’s name and found that she has a special interest in diabetes, so I’ve been reading up on that as well as Paediatrics and the NHS. Also, I managed to sort out my clothes – I found a navy and green dress that has pockets for my notebook and pen, and is a suitable length, and I also bought a black and white blouse and some formal trousers. I went to Clarks and bought some brogues that look smart, as well as being comfortable, because I have heard that you do a lot of standing around! I bought a Yankee Candle for the doctor that I will be shadowing and I’ll write her a thank you letter as well. Overall, I’m nervous but I’m feeling a little more prepared than I was last week – I’ll ask some of my friends who have been on similar placements!

7th December

Wow! After all this stress about work experience, I was told on Friday that Charter’s policy had changed and I have five days work experience in the Mater Hospital in Belfast! I was so excited and I accepted it straight away. Then I had to start thinking about the travel arrangements – that was more difficult. It turned out that I needed to get up at 5:45 to get the Belfast express at 7:05. The. I need to walk to the City Hall and get a bus to the Mater there. To tell you the truth, I was petrified! I have never done anything like this on my own and even though it is silly, I kept thinking that I would get lost in Belfast. It will be worth it, though, and I think once I have the first day over, I will be more confident with the travel arrangements. I feel so lucky to get this work experience, especially because last week, I had two days in Paediatrics. I really enjoyed it, despite my initial nerves, and I got to chat to 4th year medical students, which was a really useful insight into University life – in fourth year they are still shadowing doctors and their hours aren’t bad at all! (Mostly 9:00am to 2:00pm with an hour for lunch). Even though most of the patients just had coughs and sneezes (I don’t know how I didn’t get a cold), Paediatrics was great! I got to see handovers, university teaching and some minor operations. I took notes in a small notebook when the patient had left, which is really helpful so that I can remember everything for my UCAS application. My advice would be to get as much work experience as you can because it is great fun and really helpful!