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    • Thread Starter

    Hello all,

    I wanted to share my experience of trying to find ways to take A-Levels as an adult. There seems to be quite a big demand for this and a lot of confusion about the process and where to start, so I thought I'd try and help out.

    A bit of an introduction: I'm 29, live in London, and am about to begin studying for my maths A-Level via distance learning. I hope to take my exams (both AS and A2) in June 2016, meaning I will have completed the course within one academic year (which runs from around September to around May). I then plan to study for my Physics A-Level the same way, sitting all the exams in June 2017.

    Choosing a learning provider

    As an adult you're most likely to be studying for your A-Levels via a distance learning provider, as these organisations give complete flexibility to fit study around work/other commitments and there are virtually no colleges that run part-time or evening classes for adults to study A-Levels. The biggest challenge you face right away is finding a reputable provider - I spent ages trawling through Google trying to find out which organisations were dodgy and which provided a high standard of course materials and tutoring.

    Eventually I came across a page on the National Careers Service website (a government body) which gave advice on distance learning, listed some reputable distance learning providers, and linked to t
    he Open and Distance Learning Quality Council (ODLQC), an independent organisation that inspects these providers. They also link to the Association of British Correspondence Colleges (ABCC), a reputable organisation that also provides details of legit distance learning providers. Hallelujah!

    I next chose my colleges from the providers listed on the ODLQC and ABCC websites. I chose ICS for maths because, at the time of writing this, they were offering a price match guarantee on the course. I did a Google search to see if I could find the course cheaper elsewhere (with any provider) and found that Oxford Learning College offered it for £315, £25 cheaper than ICS. They approved the discount

    Finding a distance learning provider who offered A-Level physics was a bit more tricky as it doesn't seem that many places run the course, probably because the exams are mostly practical (more on that in a bit). Anyhow, I chose Open Study College.

    A note on entry requirements: these are somewhat flexible, at least with Open Study College, who stated that you must have a B in GCSE maths in order to enrol on their A-Level maths course. I have a C so contacted them and they said it'd be fine to enrol but that I should call them to go through some things first. As I got the course cheaper with ICS I didn't pursue it.

    How to sit your exams

    Having found my providers I set about researching where I would be able sit my exams once I'd finished the courses. If studying with a distance learning provider you will have to sit your exams at a college as an external candidate or at an exam centre. Unfortunately there are some hefty fees attached to both of these options!

    (A lot of people seem to get confused at this point about what distance learning provider fees actually provide; many think that they are literally buying their A-Level and that assessment will be run through the provider. To be clear: when you enrol with a distance learning provider to study A-Levels you are getting tutor support (via email and sometimes phone), course and study materials prepared in a way that's suited to flexible learning, and practice assessments with tutor feedback to prepare you for your exams. For someone like me this guidance and support is necessary as my skills are rusty, however if you feel confident in your ability to pass your A-Level without this support then it might be worth simply studying the syllabus of an exam board on your own via textbooks. The main exam boards are AQA, OCR and Edexcel - check which one runs your course then contact them to ask for a list of recommended books.)

    If applying as an external candidate to colleges you will sit your exams with the students who attend that college. AQA has a list of colleges that apparently accept external candidates on their website, but it's a bit hit and miss as some of them no longer do. If you're in London it seems that the fees charged by colleges are higher than the rest of the country. Sitting with an exam centre is a more attractive option in many ways as you'll be sitting your exams with other people in the same boat as you but the fees can be eye-watering, at least in London.

    I'm planning to sit my maths exams with a college in the midlands as my parents live there and the price I was quoted was pretty cheap, around £37.50 per paper (there are 6 papers). Finding a place to sit my physics A-Level has been a massive pain as the exams have practical elements that involve working with equipment etc. Not many colleges accept external candidates for physics for this reason so you're probably going to have to do the exams at an exam centre, although the costs are astronomical (it's pun time!): around £650 per practical unit (there are two of these on the AQA syllabus, which Open Study College follow) and £90 per written paper (there are four of these). I have resigned myself to the fact that I'm just going to have to pay these fees

    So that's pretty much everything I can think of, I really hope that someone out there finds this useful and that it saves a lot of time and stress. It's true that studying your A-Levels as an adult can be expensive, especially if you're studying physics or other subjects that involve practical elements, but where there's a will there's a way - don't give up
    If you have any questions or feel that I've got something please feel free to post - I want to make this thread as helpful as possible.

    Peace out.


    If you are taking physics exams in 2017 you will be using the new specification (providing they are actually implemented). What impact will that have on practical work you need to complete and any practical assessment?

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    • Thread Starter

    (Original post by gdunne42)
    If you are taking physics exams in 2017 you will be using the new specification (providing they are actually implemented). What impact will that have on practical work you need to complete and any practical assessment?
    Yeah, I'm not sure what the impact will be tbh. Kind of planing to just wait and cross that bridge when I come to it - maths is enough for now!

    The provision for adult learning in the sciences seems to be exceptionally poor. And the cost! Hugely prohibitive. You must be an auto-didact it seems. And so I will be. This is excellent information, however. From someone thinking of doing the same (maths then physics), thank you! Time saving and up-to-date... now to attempt to understand time.
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