Jojoestar
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Unfortunately there are no relevant ACCESS courses for what I want to do nor are they particularly valued by certain universities I want to apply for, I'd like to do A levels as they very much are but I can't afford the fees certain distance learning courses demand.

After a lot of lurking I've seen a lot of threads on this forum about students self teaching A levels and apparently it's just a matter of booking the exams, getting the right books and putting in a lot of time (especially if you want to do them in one year like me). Unfortunately though I'm still a bit confused and have some questions those threads did not answer

How do I go about actually booking the exams? I've looked around on the AQA website and am fine with the prices and everything but I can't for the life of me find a way to actually BOOK the things, it seems like something that would be easy to find and it's probably staring me in the face like an idiot.

Considering the changes to the A Level system would I only need to do an A2 or is an AS still required before I can sit the A2?

What about the issue of predicted grades and references?

Because of the above would I have to rely entirely on clearing? I don't mind as a lot of the Economics courses at universities I wanted to go to (QMUL, SOAS, RHUL, City in that order) were available for it this year but it feels like a huge risk.

And just are general advice; what are some good subjects to do in this situation? Maths is essential, economics would be nice and I have studied Sociology and Psychology at level 3 before so I feel I would be at a good advantage in that area.

Also has anyone done this themselves? Any more advice you can give? It would be nice to have a bit of a guide so I can get right on to things.
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*Lloydy
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Hi,

I can't offer any advice on what you've asked but have you thought about a personal tutor? if nothing more they maybe able to give you advice on learning and booking the exams?
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Carnationlilyrose
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(Original post by Jojoestar)
Unfortunately there are no relevant ACCESS courses for what I want to do nor are they particularly valued by certain universities I want to apply for, I'd like to do A levels as they very much are but I can't afford the fees certain distance learning courses demand.

After a lot of lurking I've seen a lot of threads on this forum about students self teaching A levels and apparently it's just a matter of booking the exams, getting the right books and putting in a lot of time (especially if you want to do them in one year like me). Unfortunately though I'm still a bit confused and have some questions those threads did not answer

How do I go about actually booking the exams? I've looked around on the AQA website and am fine with the prices and everything but I can't for the life of me find a way to actually BOOK the things, it seems like something that would be easy to find and it's probably staring me in the face like an idiot.

Considering the changes to the A Level system would I only need to do an A2 or is an AS still required before I can sit the A2? You have to do both, but you can do both together if you are able.

What about the issue of predicted grades and references? You will need to find someone to give you an academic reference. As far as I am aware, you predict your own and they put it into the reference section, but this hasn't ever cropped up for me, so I'm not sure.

Because of the above would I have to rely entirely on clearing? I don't mind as a lot of the Economics courses at universities I wanted to go to (QMUL, SOAS, RHUL, City in that order) were available for it this year but it feels like a huge risk. No reason why you shouldn't apply like anyone else as far as I know.

And just are general advice; what are some good subjects to do in this situation? Maths is essential, economics would be nice and I have studied Sociology and Psychology at level 3 before so I feel I would be at a good advantage in that area.

Also has anyone done this themselves? Any more advice you can give? It would be nice to have a bit of a guide so I can get right on to things.
Can't comment on much of this (I'm a teacher, so it goes without saying that I don't come into contact with self-teaching students!) but you will have to call around your local schools and colleges to find somewhere that will accept you as a private candidate. Ask to speak to the exams officer.
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Jojoestar
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(Original post by *Lloydy)
Hi,

I can't offer any advice on what you've asked but have you thought about a personal tutor? if nothing more they maybe able to give you advice on learning and booking the exams?
I'm afraid a personal tutor is a little out of my price range, especially as I would have to lower my hours at work to be able to study to the best of my ability.

(Original post by carnationlilyrose)
Can't comment on much of this (I'm a teacher, so it goes without saying that I don't come into contact with self-teaching students!) but you will have to call around your local schools and colleges to find somewhere that will accept you as a private candidate. Ask to speak to the exams officer.
Thanks, I do plan to do both at the same time if necessary but I thought as your A Levels are judged purely on A2 (with AS being used to predict results) now I wouldn't have to. I guess I was barking up the wrong tree then thinking AQA would sort it out.

I'm still very confused as to how to go about this whole thing though, I would still love to have a vague guide online or from someone who's done this themselves.
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Schadenfreude65
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I haven't sat A levels as a private candidate, but when I home-educated my son, I arranged one of his GCSEs at a private college in Southampton, and the others at an exam centre in Bristol. You book the exams through the examination centre, not through the exam board. Both centres we used were very helpful through the whole process. He sat a mock GCSE at the Bristol one a couple of weeks before the exam, and they gave us useful feedback. It might worth contacting them for advice. This is their website: http://www.3atutors.co.uk/

You may find local schools/colleges are cheaper than private centres, but many are reluctant to accommodate external candidates.
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sunnysideup12
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I'm currently studying A-levels through a distance learning company. If you have coursework on the course you want to study, you need to get this authenticated as your own work before sending for marking - this is why I chose a distance learning company as I'd have no idea how to get this done myself.

If you just have exams then it's much more straightforward. AQA have a list of private exam centres and you ring up and enquire. I was very lucky as a local school on the list agreed to have me with no additional fee - it was extremely easy to sort out.

Regarding changes to A Levels, I haven't heard anything about AS Levels being abolished? So I think the answer to that is that you still need to do an AS and then an A2.

I'm applying to Uni this year and I have no predicted grades, however I do have a full A Level and an AS (in addition to studying an AS and two A2s this year.) So I'm hoping this will be adequate. If you do a year of AS and then apply going into A2s then this may help as they will probably base it on AS grades - I'm not sure what the case is if you do them in a year, however.

Hope this helps!
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Jojoestar
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(Original post by Schadenfreude65)
I haven't sat A levels as a private candidate, but when I home-educated my son, I arranged one of his GCSEs at a private college in Southampton, and the others at an exam centre in Bristol. You book the exams through the examination centre, not through the exam board. Both centres we used were very helpful through the whole process. He sat a mock GCSE at the Bristol one a couple of weeks before the exam, and they gave us useful feedback. It might worth contacting them for advice. This is their website: http://www.3atutors.co.uk/

You may find local schools/colleges are cheaper than private centres, but many are reluctant to accommodate external candidates.
Thanks a lot, AQA have a list of places that will consider external applicants so I'll run through that at some point. The one you mentioned sounds great but I'm based in London so I'll miss out, a mock exam and feedback would go a long way.

(Original post by sunnysideup12)
I'm currently studying A-levels through a distance learning company. If you have coursework on the course you want to study, you need to get this authenticated as your own work before sending for marking - this is why I chose a distance learning company as I'd have no idea how to get this done myself.

If you just have exams then it's much more straightforward. AQA have a list of private exam centres and you ring up and enquire. I was very lucky as a local school on the list agreed to have me with no additional fee - it was extremely easy to sort out.

Regarding changes to A Levels, I haven't heard anything about AS Levels being abolished? So I think the answer to that is that you still need to do an AS and then an A2.

I'm applying to Uni this year and I have no predicted grades, however I do have a full A Level and an AS (in addition to studying an AS and two A2s this year.) So I'm hoping this will be adequate. If you do a year of AS and then apply going into A2s then this may help as they will probably base it on AS grades - I'm not sure what the case is if you do them in a year, however.

Hope this helps!
I wish I could use a distance learning site but a lot of them are about £350-£450 per course which I can't afford right now. Do they help you with personal statements, predicting grades and references as well? I could potentially just do it for one subject.

AS wasn't abolished, it's just that now your A level is made up entirely of your A2 and the AS is a standalone qualification, I'm pretty sure you still need both anyway but just wanted to know if I could cheekily get away with just the A2. I'm pretty confused about it myself so hopefully someone else can shine some light on the subject

I'm pretty annoyed that they abolished January exams though. I would've made my life so much easier in terms of creating a schedule as I could just focus on AS for the first four months and then purely A2 at the end. Very frustrating.
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Jojoestar
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Didn't know whether to start a new thread or bump this one but I suppose it's better not to clutter things up.

I'm having second thoughts about this. I neglected to mention before that I do have a place at a university starting this year but I'm not sure about it as I was unable to do what I wanted where I wanted either without A Level maths or 30 distinctions/15 merits, which I got the reverse of (I was working full time).

I'm just worrying if I would be biting off more than I can chew, even if I'll only be working 12 hours a week self-teaching 3 full a levels is a bit of an impossible task isn't it? Especially if one is maths where I've seen people on these forums have enough trouble self teaching when it was the only one they were doing.

Also there's still the issue of the personal reference, I could ask my ACCESS tutor from last year but I'm not entirely sure it's a good idea to mention I did an ACCESS course at all, would it not reflect poorly on me? I suppose they might be more lenient on results or only need certain A levels if I pair them with the ACCESS course but I feel seeing that I did it only to be doing A levels again would do more harm than good.
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Schadenfreude65
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Access teaches you skills you don't learn in A Level though. The study skills you have learned will be valued by the universities, and the fact that you are prepared to put in the extra year(s) to get A levels demonstrates your commitment to the course you are interested in. I think it's worth putting both on your application.

Three A levels is a big commitment for sure, but if they cover the same subjects you did in Access, you will have a good head start.
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Jojoestar
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(Original post by Schadenfreude65)
Access teaches you skills you don't learn in A Level though. The study skills you have learned will be valued by the universities, and the fact that you are prepared to put in the extra year(s) to get A levels demonstrates your commitment to the course you are interested in. I think it's worth putting both on your application.

Three A levels is a big commitment for sure, but if they cover the same subjects you did in Access, you will have a good head start.
Thanks. This may be a bit optimistic but hopefully they really do lower the offer based on it, I emailed QMUL and they said I would be considered depending on my ref/statement with just A Level maths on top of the access. I want to give myself the best possible chance however so I'll still do all three, plus I didn't specify my merits and distinctions just that I had a fair amount of them.

The only reason I was wondering is because LSE look down on students who did retakes so I thought it'd be a similar situation, as nice as it'd be to go there I won't be wasting a UCAS spot on them anyway but I was just wondering if it was the same for the schools I would be applying for (QMUL/SOAS/RHUL etc).

Thanks again for your help.
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Paralove
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Regarding your confusion with AS/A2. The gov are on about introducing the AS as a standalone qualification but not currently. Should you sit your A-Level in either summers of 2014/15 you will have to do both AS and A2 modules to get the full A-Level. You can sit all of these exams in one year of you so wish but you can't miss out the AS, because you won't get an A-Level, and also because you often need to grounding of AS to pursue A2, or at least make it easier. I'm doing my A2's this summer if you've any questions. I'm doing maths, geography and French all on AQA!


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knowledgecorruptz
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(Original post by Jojoestar)
Unfortunately there are no relevant ACCESS courses for what I want to do nor are they particularly valued by certain universities I want to apply for, I'd like to do A levels as they very much are but I can't afford the fees certain distance learning courses demand.

After a lot of lurking I've seen a lot of threads on this forum about students self teaching A levels and apparently it's just a matter of booking the exams, getting the right books and putting in a lot of time (especially if you want to do them in one year like me). Unfortunately though I'm still a bit confused and have some questions those threads did not answer

How do I go about actually booking the exams? I've looked around on the AQA website and am fine with the prices and everything but I can't for the life of me find a way to actually BOOK the things, it seems like something that would be easy to find and it's probably staring me in the face like an idiot.

Considering the changes to the A Level system would I only need to do an A2 or is an AS still required before I can sit the A2?

What about the issue of predicted grades and references?

Because of the above would I have to rely entirely on clearing? I don't mind as a lot of the Economics courses at universities I wanted to go to (QMUL, SOAS, RHUL, City in that order) were available for it this year but it feels like a huge risk.

And just are general advice; what are some good subjects to do in this situation? Maths is essential, economics would be nice and I have studied Sociology and Psychology at level 3 before so I feel I would be at a good advantage in that area.

Also has anyone done this themselves? Any more advice you can give? It would be nice to have a bit of a guide so I can get right on to things.
Hi, I self-taught through my A-Levels. I landed offers from Cambridge, UCL, Warwick and Bristol and I'll be starting my BSc in Economics at LSE later this month.

With maths, you need two resources: the Edexcel textbooks written by Keith Pledger, and examsolutions. I taught myself Maths and Further Maths this way and averaged 98% and 99% in them respectively. I found that teaching myself gave me an advantage over my counterparts at sixth form. I was able to truly understand what was going on while most students would just nod their heads at what the teacher would dictate without any proper understanding. They could carry out the various processes but when it came to questions that really tested understanding, they'd fail.

I did economics as well. Youtube and the revision guides totally suffice - make sure you examine the mark schemes and examiners' reports in detail, though. Can't comment on Psychology and Sociology.

I did my exams at my old school but I did ring up some local schools to see if I could sit my exams there and they all said yes, as long as they were doing the exams. Just make sure you register EARLY. One of the schools I rang were going to charge me £300+ in late fees so make sure you get that sorted early.

If you need any more help, let me know. But trust me, self-studying puts you at an advantage, you should have nothing to worry about and all the info you need is available on line.
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Jojoestar
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(Original post by Paralove)
Regarding your confusion with AS/A2. The gov are on about introducing the AS as a standalone qualification but not currently. Should you sit your A-Level in either summers of 2014/15 you will have to do both AS and A2 modules to get the full A-Level. You can sit all of these exams in one year of you so wish but you can't miss out the AS, because you won't get an A-Level, and also because you often need to grounding of AS to pursue A2, or at least make it easier. I'm doing my A2's this summer if you've any questions. I'm doing maths, geography and French all on AQA!


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Ah ok fair enough, so my AS will still contribute to my overall A

(Original post by knowledgecorruptz)
Hi, I self-taught through my A-Levels. I landed offers from Cambridge, UCL, Warwick and Bristol and I'll be starting my BSc in Economics at LSE later this month.

With maths, you need two resources: the Edexcel textbooks written by Keith Pledger, and examsolutions. I taught myself Maths and Further Maths this way and averaged 98% and 99% in them respectively. I found that teaching myself gave me an advantage over my counterparts at sixth form. I was able to truly understand what was going on while most students would just nod their heads at what the teacher would dictate without any proper understanding. They could carry out the various processes but when it came to questions that really tested understanding, they'd fail.

I did economics as well. Youtube and the revision guides totally suffice - make sure you examine the mark schemes and examiners' reports in detail, though. Can't comment on Psychology and Sociology.

I did my exams at my old school but I did ring up some local schools to see if I could sit my exams there and they all said yes, as long as they were doing the exams. Just make sure you register EARLY. One of the schools I rang were going to charge me £300+ in late fees so make sure you get that sorted early.

If you need any more help, let me know. But trust me, self-studying puts you at an advantage, you should have nothing to worry about and all the info you need is available on line.
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Jojoestar
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(Original post by Paralove)
Regarding your confusion with AS/A2. The gov are on about introducing the AS as a standalone qualification but not currently. Should you sit your A-Level in either summers of 2014/15 you will have to do both AS and A2 modules to get the full A-Level. You can sit all of these exams in one year of you so wish but you can't miss out the AS, because you won't get an A-Level, and also because you often need to grounding of AS to pursue A2, or at least make it easier. I'm doing my A2's this summer if you've any questions. I'm doing maths, geography and French all on AQA!


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Ah ok so I'll definitely need to do AS to get an overall A Level grade, I thought as much.

(Original post by knowledgecorruptz)
Hi, I self-taught through my A-Levels. I landed offers from Cambridge, UCL, Warwick and Bristol and I'll be starting my BSc in Economics at LSE later this month.

With maths, you need two resources: the Edexcel textbooks written by Keith Pledger, and examsolutions. I taught myself Maths and Further Maths this way and averaged 98% and 99% in them respectively. I found that teaching myself gave me an advantage over my counterparts at sixth form. I was able to truly understand what was going on while most students would just nod their heads at what the teacher would dictate without any proper understanding. They could carry out the various processes but when it came to questions that really tested understanding, they'd fail.

I did economics as well. Youtube and the revision guides totally suffice - make sure you examine the mark schemes and examiners' reports in detail, though. Can't comment on Psychology and Sociology.

I did my exams at my old school but I did ring up some local schools to see if I could sit my exams there and they all said yes, as long as they were doing the exams. Just make sure you register EARLY. One of the schools I rang were going to charge me £300+ in late fees so make sure you get that sorted early.

If you need any more help, let me know. But trust me, self-studying puts you at an advantage, you should have nothing to worry about and all the info you need is available on line.
That's amazing, did you do it all in one year? How did you manage to get offers from all those unis? I would love to go to LSE but considering my situation and the fact I only got average GCSE's with a B in Maths (my secondary school was really bad, failed ofsted and went into special measures) I figured I might as well not even bother.

I've decided to drop psychology for economics as a lot of the topics I covered in access aren't on the aqa exams and I figure economics would increase my chances even if it's not a requirement.
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Lazuliblue
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(Original post by Jojoestar)
Ah ok so I'll definitely need to do AS to get an overall A Level grade, I thought as much.

That's amazing, did you do it all in one year? How did you manage to get offers from all those unis? I would love to go to LSE but considering my situation and the fact I only got average GCSE's with a B in Maths (my secondary school was really bad, failed ofsted and went into special measures) I figured I might as well not even bother.

I've decided to drop psychology for economics as a lot of the topics I covered in access aren't on the aqa exams and I figure economics would increase my chances even if it's not a requirement.
I self-taught A levels (Bio, Pysch and Geog) and got 3 A grades (pre-A*) so it's perfectly possible, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! I agree with another poster who said that it actually helps you really understand the material, because you have to work everything out for yourself. Have you thought about the Open University? It doesn't have entry requirements for the majority of its courses.
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Jojoestar
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(Original post by Lazuliblue)
I self-taught A levels (Bio, Pysch and Geog) and got 3 A grades (pre-A*) so it's perfectly possible, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! I agree with another poster who said that it actually helps you really understand the material, because you have to work everything out for yourself. Have you thought about the Open University? It doesn't have entry requirements for the majority of its courses.
Thanks that's good to know, always helps to hear about other people doing it. I'm sure I can if I apply myself, it's just a bit risky because I could spend a year of my life doing this only to end up in the exact same place I'm in now; only being able to go lower ranked unis. I did look into the open university but they don't really appeal to me, I'd much rather go to the places mentioned.
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knowledgecorruptz
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(Original post by Jojoestar)
Ah ok so I'll definitely need to do AS to get an overall A Level grade, I thought as much.



That's amazing, did you do it all in one year? Well, two years, AS and A2. How did you manage to get offers from all those unis? Grades, first and foremost. But also, because I wasn't wasting so much time at school, I was able to win some academic competitions, enhance my extra-currics - plus, unis are avidly looking for students with the drive to self-teach successfully, uni is all about independent education: you'll spend maybe 10 hours a week in lectures, the rest is all you. Showing them you're capable of that already makes you a far stronger candidate than someone who's achieved the same grades coming out of a private school where things are a lot more spoon-fed (not to say private schoolers don't work hard, of course)I would love to go to LSE but considering my situation and the fact I only got average GCSE's with a B in Maths (my secondary school was really bad, failed ofsted and went into special measures) I figured I might as well not even bother. Sounds like extenuating circumstances? LSE definitely take this into account so do bother if you get sufficient grades.

I've decided to drop psychology for economics as a lot of the topics I covered in access aren't on the aqa exams and I figure economics would increase my chances even if it's not a requirement. I agree. It will help you write your Personal Statement, too, which is a significant part of your application.
Answers are in bold.
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Jojoestar
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(Original post by knowledgecorruptz)
Answers are in bold.
Thanks a lot for the advice, I was definitely going to drive home the whole "independent study" thing in my personal statement because I know unis love that. I guess there's an advantage in doing your AS and A2 separately in that you can show universities how well you're doing via your AS results, unfortunately I won't have the ability to do that and my academic skills may be judged purely on my GCSE (though I'll make sure to mention the whole ofsted thing in my statement) and sub-par access results.

If I have a spot left over I might just attempt it anyway, worth a try I guess. The one I'm really shooting for however is QMUL so while it would be amazing to go to LSE it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't get an offer.
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MrEFeynman
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(Original post by Jojoestar)
Thanks a lot for the advice, I was definitely going to drive home the whole "independent study" thing in my personal statement because I know unis love that. I guess there's an advantage in doing your AS and A2 separately in that you can show universities how well you're doing via your AS results, unfortunately I won't have the ability to do that and my academic skills may be judged purely on my GCSE (though I'll make sure to mention the whole ofsted thing in my statement) and sub-par access results.

If I have a spot left over I might just attempt it anyway, worth a try I guess. The one I'm really shooting for however is QMUL so while it would be amazing to go to LSE it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't get an offer.
It all sounds like a lot of work. Why didn't you just enrol on a course with a foundation year, or study the foundation year with one of the top Universities subsidiaries? This normally guarantees a place onto the full degree with that University as long as you score x percentage in the foundation year.
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Jojoestar
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(Original post by MrEFeynman)
It all sounds like a lot of work. Why didn't you just enrol on a course with a foundation year, or study the foundation year with one of the top Universities subsidiaries? This normally guarantees a place onto the full degree with that University as long as you score x percentage in the foundation year.
That would have been ideal but unfortunately I was unable to find any, the only ones available were Durham and Queen Mary which only accepted international students.

Plus wouldn't it be too late by now anyway?
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