Mojza Blog

Preparing for the transition from o' to a' levels? here's all you need to know!

by Aima Qureshi | 18 June 2023

The transition from school years to college can simultaneously be an exciting and daunting experience. While the idea of an independent, vibrant college life has its unique thrill, the responsibility and risk factor increase significantly. A well-balanced routine between fun and studies is the most common advice any freshman gets. However, there is much more to how to transition into an entirely different academic setup. This article walks you through all the key elements of preparing yourself mentally, academically, and personally to ace your college years!


The first thing you will notice as soon as you start A’ Levels is the change in how you are being supervised in your studies by your teachers. Typically, during school you have class strengths of 18-28 students, where every student attends all classes daily (8-2 pm schedules). Teachers invest a lot of resources and energy in each individual student to assist their learning

However, in college, it is almost entirely the opposite. Although your attendance is monitored, you aren’t forced to sit in 8-hour schedules. It is your responsibility to be punctual and listen attentively since A’ Level teachers are on a packed schedule and rarely repeat parts of the syllabus. You are expected to put in effort independently and communicate your concerns to the teacher. Classes have strengths from 40 to 80+ students; hence, you need to step up if you require assistance from the teacher. 

Scale of difficulty

During O Levels, you get to study the syllabus content in great detail over the course of 2-3 years. Since this is your first time sitting in the CAIE exams, you usually go for extra help like academies and buying notes to be more confident. Hence, O’ level exams usually end up being way easier than A’ Level exams. 

At AS Level, you aim to cover a similar length of the syllabus around 6-7 months before the exams. Keep in mind that the syllabus is of greater depth and detail since college courses are designed to prepare you for university-style learning of these courses. So, in these months, you have to understand this relatively tough syllabus and do sufficient exam practice to ace your AS exams. 

Preparing for university applications

Soon after you join A’ Levels your college career counselors will stress the importance of maintaining a consistent, quality academic and extra-curricular profile. This is a way to express your abilities beyond the classroom and is crucial to opening doors for better education. 

During O’ Levels, this isn’t really much of a worry. You have enough opportunities within the school to participate and get awards, which you can use for applying to A-level colleges (if they require extracurriculars for scholarships). Hence, when you join a college as an AS student, be ready to explore different extracurricular activities like community service, writing, sports, music, arts, public speaking, research, and much more. Find your area of interest and be consistent in your efforts. Practice makes perfect!

Apart from extracurriculars, you can utilise your O levels/ AS Level summer break for planning ahead for your university in detail. Figure out your main career objectives and what courses can you opt for in undergrad to pursue them professionally later on. Prepare a preliminary university list (both local and international institutes) and check their websites for course contents, subject requirements and other eligibility standards. You can then also spend some time reading relevant course material or taking online courses from Coursera etc. that give you a headstart on the knowledge and skills needed for undergrad study.

Efforts outside of the classroom

As mentioned above, the most significant advantage an O-Level student has is constant supervision and assistance. If you’ve spent 3+ years in the same school, it’s likely that most teachers and batchmates already know you and you are well acquainted with the institute. Hence, you get quite a lot of individual attention since the admin-to-student ratio is low, and, as a result, the spotlight is easier to achieve. There is less competition for opportunities, student council posts, etc. 

In A’ Levels, it all depends on your efforts. You can go the entire year without visiting the admin’s block or counselor’s office. This results in you missing out on valuable opportunities like student council posts, college event host team applications or networking with seniors (which can be extremely helpful later on). The more you socialize, network, and actively participate in college, the more you develop personally. These networks and experiences are advantageous for your professional life later on. 

Time management/scheduling

And, of course, you might be thinking: how can we do all of this in just 2 years? Well, there is nothing a strong mindset and an effective schedule cannot cater to. In O’ Levels, you are accustomed to the easy allocation of time and effort. You can actually study for only a few months before the exam and get the same grades as someone who studied all year. 

However, in A’ Levels, time management is a must-have skill that gets you straight As. You need to put in consistent efforts from day one, revise regularly, clear your doubts, and practice as much as you can. Simultaneously, your schedule should accommodate extracurriculars and socializing as well. A multi-tasking mindset with mental clarity over your goals is what makes this the easiest part of your college years.

Taking time out for your mental health

Last but most definitely not the least, take care of your mental health! This simply cannot be stressed more. Entering A’ Levels brings a lot of stress regarding time management, socializing with different types of people, competing for opportunities and planning for your future. 

The drastic change in the environment can be scary, but it is not impossible to maneuver through these tense thoughts and moments. You can create a safe space for yourself outside of your previous comfort zone by making new friends, spending time in different extracurricular activities for a change, listening to personal growth podcasts, or simply reading books! Maybe join an evening art class, or music/sports club and enjoy your hobbies, or simply take out an hour for a refreshing walk in nature. 

At the end of the day, it’s never impossible. It just might be relatively difficult to what you’ve seen up till now in your academic years. Maybe one day you will look back and consider these days as the most carefree days of your life (sounds impossible, but it’s true). That’s how life is – your mindset plays a crucial role in how you view the picture and react. How you react can make or break the whole deal. These are our tips on how to be realistically well-prepared for your college years; let us know what you think!


Author: Aima Qureshi


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Mojza is a student-led organisation aiming to provide quality resources for Cambridge students.

Other than such weekly blogs, Mojza offers resources for your O levels, IGCSE, and A levels journey. We have notes from reputable teachers, our own original notes and a library of other helpful websites and resources!

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Published 18 June 2023
Last Updated: 05 July 2023
Written by Aima Qureshi