It’s a new year – which opens up the opportunity to take new perspectives about learning, education and your experience at sixth form. Namely, how you can go beyond the curriculum and enhance your (A-level) studies. An important part of the UCAS process is demonstrating a passion for your subject, including having evidence of extended knowledge which goes beyond the curriculum. I’m going to give you a breakdown of how you can start to explore your subjects, allowing you to develop both your interest and your subject knowledge.
I’m surprised about how FEW people are aware of super-curriculars. I first came across the phrase about 2 or 3 years ago, while reading an article about what top unis like Cambridge look for in potential offer holders. So, what are they?
Super-curriculars are things you can do to enhance your knowledge of a particular subject/topic beyond the curriculum. It shouldn’t be confused with extracurriculars, which are activities that you do outside of lessons that are unrelated to what you’re studying.
Examples of super-curriculars include:
Let’s Take a closer look at some of these:
This is probably the most common / most advised super-curricular, and for good reason! Reading is one of the best ways to increase your knowledge and one of the most readily available forms of information: you can borrow books from libraries, friends, departments in your school, you can get them within a few days via amazon – or within seconds if you use eBooks.
So how to make the most of reading?
First, I’d recommend getting a reading list, either by asking a teacher, searching one up online or curating your own. Then, make sure to adapt the reading list as you read more books (it’ll become more streamlined the more you read) and add a summary of each book once you’ve finished. If you’re not enjoying a book – it's okay to stop reading it – this is meant to be fun!
Films are often associated with their ability to enhance your study of MFLs as foreign films expose you to colloquial phrases and the flow of conversation in a naturalistic manner – but their ability to enhance your learning goes far beyond this. Films are a great way to introduce you to concepts and monumental events in history, without having to do hardcore research and studying. An example of this is the movie the Big Short, which provides context to the financial crash of 2008 – enhancing an economics students learning. Another example could be watching a documentary about space or the ocean as a science student. There are plenty of documentaries available on BBC iPlayer and YouTube, which cover practically every subject whether it’s art, maths, or geography. This is one of my personal favourites as it provides much needed context which is often left out of classroom discussions and helps to build up your general knowledge.
This may be the most effective super-curricular on the list. Nothing says “I’m passionate about X, and know a lot about it” like a project. Why is this? Well, projects force you to do research – and the chances are, if you’re project is any good, you’ve done a fair amount of research. Research takes many forms, this could be: reading, films, museums, the list goes on. So, you wind up combining a lot of the super-curriculars on the list. Finally, at the end of a project, you have something that you’ve made, proving that you can synthesize information and create something of it. It shows you have a deep understanding of your subject – and are beginning to form your own opinions about popular concepts/theories.
In summary, if you set a goal to start implementing some of the techniques listed above – by the time you get around to applying to uni, you’ll have plenty to talk about on your UCAS and in an interview – and you’ll feel more prepared when it comes to taking your A level too! It’ll also make the whole process a lot more fun, as you’ll develop a real interest in your subject.
Tiffany Igharoro is a sixth form student. One of her favourite pastimes is writing as it helps her organise her thoughts creatively and dynamically. She has won awards and prizes for poetry, academic and scientific writing and short stories. Recently, she won a nationwide historical essay competition that opened her eyes to the importance of how things are told, and the impact ordinary people have on the world. She studied art GCSE and believes there is something incredible about finding links between drama, art and maths.
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