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Is your child finding A-Levels hard?

Should you be worried? Short answer - no, you should feel reassured.

If your child doesn't find A Level a big step up from GCSEs, it is likely they are blissfully unaware of how much work will be involved and will risk feeling out of control as their exams approach.

If you've come across the competency matrix before, this absolutely applies here. To explain this, let me tell you a little about my university experience.

At Oxford University, tutors expect students to complete questions on a subject before attending lectures. This means that you are quizzed on something before you have been exposed to it. As a student, I therefore had to take my learning into my own hands and accept that lectures would be a means to consolidate, not learn.

Every week, a worksheet of questions would be given out on a new topic and I would have to go on a journey around this competency matrix on my own:

Competency matrix

Competency matrix

  1. I'd become conscious of my own incompetence;
  2. I'd learn how to be competent;
  3. I'd make my competency second nature.

To put it into context: The first thing I would realise when given a worksheet on a Monday morning is that I knew absolutely nothing about the topic. This was a scary feeling but I had to accept my incompetence - only then could I work out what I needed to do to understand a topic properly. I'd study the theory, learn the steps, practice, practice and practice again. If I practiced enough it would become second nature; the weeks I did this best were the ones where I got to Sunday and wondered how I ever didn't understand it. 

For the first year, I found this an extremely tiring process week to week; elation on a Sunday followed by deflation on a Monday morning. But after some time, you start to crave the feeling of satisfaction that hard work gives you. I started to seek out things I was incompetent at to fix.

My reason for telling this anecdote is to convince you that the acknowledgement of incompetence by a student is a good thing! You can't make big advancements without first stepping outside your comfort zone or to put it more simply, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

A process I use with my students is the following:

Realise there is a step change -> Find the right resources to use -> Learn the right habits -> Make them second nature

Students will rarely get to the last stage unless they fully take on-board the first: realise there is a step change - A Levels aren’t easy.

Be reassured if your child says they are finding A Levels difficult. It means they acknowledge the advancement of what they're learning - they're not cradling unbroken eggs expecting an omelette to magically appear.

The next step of finding the right resources is something I am passionate about and will address next week.

MarkIt makes clear to students what they don't know, provides resources covering the full syllabus, instills the right habits and lets students know when they've got it!

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