Falling Through the Gaps: A comparison of the study skills used by A2 students and first year undergraduates

Ann Kenny


This paper suggests that students experience transitional difficulties when moving from level three courses (‘A’ level or equivalent) to first year undergraduate study. Research was undertaken with a sample of 47 ‘A’ level students and 47 first year undergraduates. Questionnaire results were drawn on to establish the study and academic skills used by students. Analysis of quantitative data revealed differences between the two groups in their strategies to learning. Open questions encouraged students to write freely about their approach to study. Using a thematic analysis the responses revealed qualitative insights into the different approaches and attitudes of sixth form students and those studying in higher education. The overall aim of the research is an improved evidence based understanding of the differences in the academic skills used by students studying for ‘A’ levels and those required by first year undergraduates.

This preliminary study is part of the ‘Flying Start’ project, which is a multi-centre, two-year project funded by the Higher Education Academy, in which Liverpool Hope University and the University of Derby are the lead institutions. Flying Start involves a range of initiatives all aiming to improve students’ learning experiences as they progress from ‘A’ level or BTEC/AVCE courses to degree programmes at university. Further research is presently being undertaken to learn more about the transitional issues experienced by students moving from one sector to another and this piece of research will form part of a larger study. For more information about Flying Start, see www.hope.ac.uk/flyingstart

Kenny, A. (2010) Falling Through the Gaps: A comparison of the study skills used by A2 students and first year undergraduates. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 2(3). Available at: https://educationstudies.org.uk/?p=509 [Accessed 15 Apr, 2024].


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