A-Levels without coursework or practicals for private candidates Watch

daveyeah
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If you've ever tried to sit exams as a private external candidate, you know how hard it is to find a school prepared to help. It's even harder if you need them to deal with practical exams, and coursework is pretty much impossible when they have nothing else of yours to compare against. If it works for you, exam-only is the way to go.

There used to be a sticky on exam-only A-Levels, but it was wrong and out of date, so here's my list. Up to date as of spring 2012. Taken directly from the syllabus (aka specification) pdfs on the exam board sites.

The zeros. Subjects you can't do at all, at least in England, by just writing a traditional exam paper.
  • The sciences. Biology, Chemistry and Physics all have lab practicals.
  • Most popular foreign languages. French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Russian, Urdu all have speaking & listening tests, but there are some less popular languages which are written-only. See below.
  • History, English Language, English Literature, Geology, Archaeology, ICT/Computing, Human Biology, Electronics. All have fieldwork, projects or research assignments.
  • Art, Design, D&T, Food Technology, Media Studies. All require portfolios.
  • Music, Drama, Dance, PE. All include performance work.
  • Most if not all "applied" specifications, which will have projects and groupwork. Any school that does them should also be able to do the normal spec, so it shouldn't be a big deal.


Language oral tests are often possible at schools which teach that language, but they take place well before the written exam season so early registration is essential. A lot of the less popular languages can be taken without an oral exam anyway.

History, English and Biology are available as distance learning courses, with a tutor to mark your coursework, but you still have to find an exam centre for your written papers. There's a wide choice of providers so google them up. National Extension College is the one to beat: http://www.nec.ac.uk/courses/categor...tegory_id=3305

The CCEA History spec is exam-only, but might be hard to find outside Northern Ireland.

There are international specifications for Edexcel Biology, Chemistry and Physics that allow you to take extra written exams instead of the practicals. They aren't normally available in this country, but Pembrokeshire College does them as distance learning courses (and unlike most distance learning schemes, they provide exam sittings at cost if you need them). Not sure how much use that will be in terms of uni admissions, when all other applicants will have lab experience, but check it out here:
http://online.pembrokeshire.ac.uk/courses.html

The heroes. These subjects never include assessed coursework of any sort and all the exam boards offer them.
  • Business Studies
  • Economics
  • Government & Politics
  • Maths (okay, there are coursework options with some boards, but you would never be forced to do them)
  • Further Maths
  • Philosophy
  • Psychology
  • Religious Studies


And the weirdos. These subjects are only available from some or one exam board, but they can be taken as exam-only. Schools are less likely to be entering their own candidates for these exams, so you might be charged invigilation fees (and be all alone in a massive echoing exam hall) if they accept you at all.

  • Accounting (AQA & OCR)
  • Anthropology (AQA)
  • Arabic (Edexcel)
  • Bengali (AQA)
  • Classics/Classical Civilisation (AQA & OCR)
  • Dutch (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
  • Environmental Studies (AQA)
  • Geography (AQA option B, and Edexcel)
  • Global Development (Edexcel, AS-only)
  • Ancient Greek (OCR; route pathway within Classical Civilisation A-Level)
  • Modern Greek (Edexcel)
  • Gujurati (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
  • Biblical Hebrew (OCR)
  • Modern Hebrew (AQA)
  • Hinduism (CIE, mostly overseas centres)
  • History (CCEA, mainly in Northern Ireland)
  • History of Art (AQA & CCEA)
  • Islamic Studies (CIE, mostly overseas centres)
  • Japanese (Edexcel)
  • Latin (OCR; route pathway within Classical Civilisation A-Level)
  • Law (AQA, OCR & WJEC)
  • Panjabi (AQA)
  • Persian (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
  • Polish (AQA)
  • Portugese (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)
  • Sociology (AQA, OCR & WJEC)
  • Statistics (AQA, option B)
  • Statistics (OCR, AS-only)
  • Turkish (OCR; requires listening comprehension from a CD)


General Studies and Critical Thinking can also be done without coursework.... but I assume you're doing A-Levels to get into uni, so do yourself a favour and take something that gets more respect. I did GenStu myself, found out the hard way it doesn't count for anything at a redbrick uni, and had to waste a year taking another subject instead.

I've done exams as a private candidate over several years, in different places, and I always found private fee-paying schools much more willing to help. They have no league tables to worry about.

Hope this helps someone :cool:

Davey
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Data
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Thanks Davey, this is a really helpful list, but I have a few things to add, comments to make.

(Original post by daveyeah)
The zeros. Subjects you can't do at all, at least in England, by just sitting exams. Some of them are still possible as distance learning courses, with a tutor to mark your coursework.
  • Modern foreign languages. They all have speaking & listening tests.
  • History, English Language and English Literature. All have written coursework projects.
History only has coursework at A2, so if you only want to take the AS it is fine.

For languages, there are some places (e.g. the Brasshouse Centre in Birmingham) that welcomes private candidates for orals and offers 20 languages (some only to GCSE). Edexcel also runs languages orals for some languages directly in London for private candidates so don't give up on languages straight away.

(Original post by daveyeah)
The heroes. These subjects never include assessed coursework of any sort and all the exam boards offer them.
  • Maths
There are some Maths syllabuses that involve coursework (AQA and OCR both have options for them) but they are easy enough to avoid.



(Original post by daveyeah)
And the weirdos. These subjects are only available from some or one exam board, but they can be taken as exam-only. Schools are less likely to be entering their own candidates for these exams, so you might be charged invigilation fees (and be all alone in a massive echoing exam hall) if they accept you at all.
Just because you aren't doing the same subject as the other candidates doesn't mean you won't go in the same room as them. It's not uncommon for 7 or 8 different exams to be taking place in the same room at the same time - saving on invigilation costs.

(Original post by daveyeah)
  • Hinduism (CIE)
  • Islamic Studies (CIE)
CIE is an international, not a domestic, exam board and very few centres (virtually no state schools) are registered with them in the UK so think very carefully before signing up to take a subject with them.

However, you can add Latin and Greek to this list as subjects offered by OCR which are 100% assessed by exam.

(Original post by daveyeah)
I've done exams as a private candidate over several years, in different places, and I always found private fee-paying schools much more willing to help. They have no league tables to worry about.
While relatively more private schools take private candidates they also tend to charge significantly more, so if you can find a state school it is likely to be cheaper. Your taking exams with a school makes no difference to their league table position; if they say this they either don't know what they are talking about or are just using it as a handy excuse.
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daveyeah
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Thanks for the tip. When I checked the OCR site, Latin and Greek seemed to have been folded into the Classics A-Level as route options. If it's still possible to sit a named A-Level in them, I do apologise.
(Original post by Data)
However, you can add Latin and Greek to this list as subjects offered by OCR which are 100% assessed by exam.
Some private schools charge a big markup, but so do some state schools. I've heard the league table excuse quite a few times and it sounded sincere, for what that's worth. There isn't really much point in arguing with an exams officer.
(Original post by Data)
While relatively more private schools take private candidates they also tend to charge significantly more, so if you can find a state school it is likely to be cheaper. Your taking exams with a school makes no difference to their league table position; if they say this they either don't know what they are talking about or are just using it as a handy excuse.
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daveyeah
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The exam board fee varies a bit per subject, but roughly £20-£25 per module, or more like £15 in six-module subjects like Maths. Plus whatever the outside invigilators charge, at least £30 per hour, if it's a sitting where the school won't have any other candidates. Those are the actual costs; some schools just charge that and some add an enormous markup.
(Original post by ThatsJustTooBad)
How much can you expect to pay per exam at a fee paying school?
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hhh123
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Maths does have coursework.
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Data
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(Original post by ThatsJustTooBad)
How much can you expect to pay per exam at a fee paying school?
It varies wildly. Also, some centres charge a registration fee of up to £100, before you get the chance to pay to take exams. If you get away with £25 or less for a 6 unit GCE or £30 or less for a 4 unit GCE you have a bargain. Anything up to £50 is entirely normal.
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Revd. Mike
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(Original post by daveyeah)
The heroes. These subjects never include assessed coursework of any sort and all the exam boards offer them.
  • Psychology
Psychology has coursework.
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Data
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(Original post by Revd. Mike)
Psychology has coursework.
Which exam board? As far as I can see, both AQA specifications, Edexcel, OCR and WJEC specifications all have 4 exams which suggests they have no coursework (though I haven't bothered to read the specs).
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Revd. Mike
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(Original post by Data)
Which exam board? As far as I can see, both AQA specifications, Edexcel, OCR and WJEC specifications all have 4 exams which suggests they have no coursework (though I haven't bothered to read the specs).
I did AQA spec B, which had coursework, both at AS and A level. I know other people on different boards/specs that also had coursework too. If you look in the Psychology help forum, you'll see people discussing their coursework too!
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Aijin
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OCR didn't have coursework, it was just an exam.
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Data
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(Original post by Revd. Mike)
I did AQA spec B, which had coursework, both at AS and A level. I know other people on different boards/specs that also had coursework too. If you look in the Psychology help forum, you'll see people discussing their coursework too!
I think you must be referring to the old pre-2008 specifications. AQA Spec B doesn't have coursework now, and, as I said, none of the other A level specs seem to either.
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Revd. Mike
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(Original post by Data)
I think you must be referring to the old pre-2008 specifications. AQA Spec B doesn't have coursework now, and, as I said, none of the other A level specs seem to either.
My bad, it seems you're right. That seems very strange to me.
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daveyeah
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I just added quite a few less popular languages to the list, which can actually be taken without an oral exam. The OCR specs involve listening to a CD so might require a separate room, but there is no need for the school to find a native-speaker teacher.
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Data
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(Original post by daveyeah)
If you've ever tried to sit exams as a private external candidate, you know how hard it is to find a school prepared to help. It's even harder if you need them to deal with practical exams, and coursework is pretty much impossible when they have nothing else of yours to compare against. If it works for you, exam-only is the way to go.

There used to be a sticky on exam-only A-Levels, but it was wrong and out of date, so here's my list. Up to date as of spring 2012. Taken directly from the syllabus (aka specification) pdfs on the exam board sites.


Hope this helps someone :cool:

Davey
You've not mentioned ICT or Computing. I imagine ICT is not possible as it is mostly coursework, but AS Computing with OCR is probably feasible (AQA says it will not accept private candidates for Computing).

I think there are a few other subjects you missed off, such as Geology, but the only one that appears to be coursework free is Citizenship (with AQA) but I'm not sure how much credibility it has as a subject.
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Stripes23
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(Original post by daveyeah)
The heroes. These subjects never include assessed coursework of any sort and all the exam boards offer them.
  • Geography
Great list, but my geography course (WJEC) has a controlled assessment for A2, so I don't know if that would be considered coursework or not. AS is assessed only on exams though.
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FloydRix
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History A2 for me does not have coursework.
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daveyeah
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What board, and do you know the spec number? Every history spec I looked at has three final exams (two AS and one A2) and a research assignment marked within school for the rest of the A2 marks.

Davey

(Original post by FloydRix)
History A2 for me does not have coursework.
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FloydRix
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(Original post by daveyeah)
What board, and do you know the spec number? Every history spec I looked at has three final exams (two AS and one A2) and a research assignment marked within school for the rest of the A2 marks.

Davey
CCEA. We have two A2 exams.

http://www.rewardinglearning.org.uk/...&f=0&q=185&d=d
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daveyeah
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Thanks, I forgot to check. Edexcel is exam-only and AQA has a non-coursework option, but OCR and WJEC require fieldwork. I'll update the list.

Davey

(Original post by Stripes23)
Great list, but my geography course (WJEC) has a controlled assessment for A2, so I don't know if that would be considered coursework or not. AS is assessed only on exams though.
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daveyeah
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Good shout. I've never been to NI in my life so it never occurred to me to check. Now added. I'll go thru the list, but do you know of any other subjects?

Davey

(Original post by FloydRix)
CCEA. We have two A2 exams.

http://www.rewardinglearning.org.uk/...&f=0&q=185&d=d
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