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[How to] boost your performance at A levels

    So you want to boost your performance at A levels? I have a few tips for you, but before that let me tell you a little story.

    Back in my pre-university days, I swim for the Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic (IVP) games for my school. There is a compatriot who is a butterfly specialist.

    He swims really fast. Even faster than me when I wear fins.

    Fins are like these fish like shoes you wear. It makes the leg kicking more efficient and forces you to be in the correct form. Consequently, everyone swims faster in fins.

    And he beats me without wearing these go-faster things.

    Going into the competition, he was clocking fast times. In fact, fast enough for a podium finish.

    However during competition day, another team-mate mention that there’s a national swimmer in the midst. And this swim mate of mine I believe suffered a panic attack.

    I can still remember seeing blood draining from his face.

    He end up not being on the podium. In fact, he didn’t complete the race. A 50m race.

    No seasoned swimmers cannot complete 50m! This is the shortest distances we cover.

    And my point is that everyone goes into exams hoping to do well.

    Some students in fact achieve content mastery before the exams. Showing finesse and a great memory of content.

    But why is it that these students end up getting poor grades?!

    And so I ask you this question. Do you think subject mastery is the only ingredient to exam success?

    Even though it is an important element, it is not enough to guarantee good grades.

    But a big majority of students fixate a 100% of their time on content mastery only!

    First tip to help boost your performance at A levels

    Look at what you are eating prior to exams.

    Carbohydrate rich meals produce satiety as well as induces the feeling of contentment.

    Most unfortunately, it dims alertness and makes one lethargic.

    How well do you think one can perform in exams, in situations like this?

    I write about what one can do to avoid it here.

    Second tip to help boost your performance at A levels

    Turn anxiety into excitement instead.

    Anxiety is bad because it causes the body to go into the biological fight or flight response.

    The brain shuts down and you are not able to tap on the thinking and analysis part of your brain to tackle exam challenges.

    Instead, the brain focuses on built in reflexes. You start putting down words or ideas most familiar to you, i.e. cut, copy and paste.

    This unfortunately, is the bane to exam performance because questions are usually novel with a slight twist to ensure this method of cut, copy and pasting will not work.

    And many students end up making mistakes, resulting in a lost of grades.

    Cut out these mistakes and a student can see a typical jump of 1-2 grades at the very least.

    So what can you do? Follow this simple recommendation!

    It switches the brain out of the panic mode into something a bit more gathered even though still high energy level.

    Third tip to help boost your performance at A levels

    Create a checklist prior to the exams.

    This is one that involves a step-by-step guide that you you follow in exams.

    And the checklist should be a list of If this … then that … rules.

    It codifies what you need to do, in which kind of questions.

    This helps a student under pressure to still perform at high levels in exams until the brain returns into a more controlled mode.

    This takes the pressure off and you can ensure that you do not commit avoidable mistakes.

    This is the exact same strategy implemented by airlines for pilots in their bid to reduce mistakes when flying.

    Just look at the results. Today flying is safer than the journey to the airport!

    Unfortunately, coming up with a checklist is difficult.

    It requires that you survey the past questions and identify the most common mistakes and to analyze why the mistakes are made and what is the method to curtail it.

    If you can, approach your teachers in school to generate a checklist for you.

    I routinely do that for my students and get them to practice using the checklists.


    I curate and incorporate all the exam strategies above into my classes and more. Join us!

    Finally, tell me if this has been useful.

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