5 Things You Should Know Before Studying Cambridge A Level

Find out how you can prepare yourself for Cambridge A Level before you embark on your pre-u journey here.

After surveying all the options available post high school, you’ve decided that Cambridge A Level Malaysia is the best route for you. What now? 

As someone who’s studying Cambridge A Level, I can offer a few pieces of useful advice. These five tips will help you avoid the pit holes that I fell into during my academic semester. So buckle up, because these are insights I wish I knew and things I wish I did before starting A Level.

1. Find out how do the examinations and scoring work for A Level


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The best way you can do that is to go through the syllabus of your Cambridge A Level subject from the official Cambridge International website. You’ll discover the structure of the exam papers for different subjects, the content you’ll be studying, and how your marks will be allocated. 

You should aready know that the Cambridge A Level is separated into AS and A2, and that your final scores are accumulated from both examinations. As it’s a 100% examination scoring system, you should be aware that assignments and tests aren’t counted ― at least not as a part of your Cambridge certificate, but please complete them on time nevertheless. These tasks that your lecturers give you are essential for your learning ― I know ‘cause I learnt it the hard way

2. Find out how to choose the best A Level subjects combo for yourself


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Be aware that not all Cambridge A Level subjects are offered in colleges and that the subjects offered at different colleges can be different. Some schools don’t offer psychology, some schools don’t offer computer science; so do your research before making any definitive decisions.

Your priority should be choosing subjects that can help you become qualified for your potential undergraduate degree choices. Otherwise, please choose subjects you’re genuinely interested in. You might think that you should go for science subjects although you don’t enjoy them simply because it’s a ‘safer’ option, but you may find yourself having a hard time focusing or being productive on the subject as the programme requires a lot of determination and hardwork. 

If you’re conflicted about what subjects to choose or not to choose, you can search for the syllabus of the subject that Cambridge International provides. It contains the content of the subject syllabus, the number of topics to be studied, as well as how you’ll be tested for each topic.

3. Get advice and testimonials from others


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Ask around and hear people’s opinions for yourself to determine whether Cambridge A Level is the programme and experience that you want. You can start with alumni and seniors that you know or try out the Unibuddy system to talk to peers who’re currently studying the programme. You can also consult academic counsellors from the college you’ve your eyes on or education advisors to ensure that the programme is really for you. 

My ultimate advice would be to follow your interests and heart rather than what your parents or society deem as ‘appropriate’ or ‘so you can get a job’. As my chemistry lecturer (shout out to Miss Jhoshna!) once said, “Learning something hard is okay but learning something you hate is the real nightmare,” and I can’t agree more. 

Tip: Don’t know what to ask? Here are some questions that can guide your conversation with a counsellor.

4. Don’t erase the knowledge you gained from high school


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I’ve so many regrets with regards to this as I ‘deleted’ everything I studied for SPM from my mind once the exams were over.

What you’ve learned in high school, regardless if you studied SPM or IGCSE, will definitely be helpful when your lecturers explain the topics at an unbelievable speed. 

Those knowledge will serve as the basics for you to better and more quickly understand the Cambridge A Level content. This of course only applies if you’ve studied the same subjects as your choices in pre-u. 

5. Maintain a healthy schedule and a certain level of productivity


The Starfish Sleeping Position

One thing you’ve to keep in mind is that Cambridge A Level is extremely, and I mean extremely, content-heavy. You’ll have to fully absorb everything and be able to output them in a relatively rushed speed because the entire programme only spans for around 18 months (varies depending on your college and intake). 

That’s why maintaining a healthy lifestyle during the gap after high school and before your college semester commences can help make the transition smoother. By doing this, getting up early and staying focused during classes won’t be your part of semester one college struggles (don’t be like me). 

By maintaining a certain level of productivity, you can make the transition easier… and I don’t mean studying the entire syllabus before classes officially begin. Of course, if you’re capable of doing so, no one’s stopping you, but rest is still important after your high school exams! And by being productive I mean go learn a new skill, practise a hobby or work, instead of putting yourself on rest and play mode endlessly for weeks. This’ll help you get used to the hectic classes and the long list of homework, physically and mentally. 

Tip: If you’re fresh out of school, it might do you some good to check out what college life really entails

All in all, I hope you benefit from these tips. It’s not an easy programme but it certainly has its advantages. So when you feel unmotivated or stressed about it in the future, remember that the Cambridge A Level is widely recognised and is one of the best gateways for students to study abroad. It’s also well-known for developing the critical thinking skills of students so you’re definitely not missing out.

Lastly, I wish all of you the best of luck and be sure to make the most out of your college life! And if you are enrolling at Taylor’s, see you on campus!

Renee is currently in her second semester of Cambridge A Level at Taylor's College. She has more interests and hobbies than she should. So, she is also the Performance Director of Taylor’s dance club, committee of VOCAL, a part of ETC Magazine and the music club performance team! All of that while trying to have a social life ― kinda explains her dark eye circles.

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