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    Hi, I'm studying humanities at access this coming year. I have AS levels although they're C's and an A. I was a straight A student until I was placed in an inpatient unit and things did not go well from there.

    What advice would you give an access student? What's the workload like- specifically how difficult. Also, do top universities accept access passes?
    • TSR Support Team

    TSR Support Team
    Yes, virtually all the top universities including Oxford and Cambridge accept Access courses. What were you hoping to study?

    I haven't done one myself but I understand students on Access courses study a new subject/topic and write an essay on it almost every week, so you need to be very organised to keep up with the pace.

    hi! I think I can help answer some of your questions.

    I was in the same boat as you, all As and A*s at GCSEs before leaving school. With that level of academic ability, it's certainly possible to get top marks on an Access course providing you manage your time well and attend all your lessons etc. Oxford and Cambridge ask for 45 units at distinction, which basically means you need top marks on all graded units. Depending on your course, most of the 'top tier' unis ask for between 15 and 30 distinctions. I'm pursuing Oriental Studies and my offers ranged from just pass the course (Oxford Brookes) to 15 distinctions/30 merits (Manchester) to 30 distinctions/15 merits (Leeds and SOAS) and 45 distinctions (Oxford). Knowing what grades you'll need and striving for the best from the beginning of the course is a great motivator.

    We did five subjects (english lit, politics, sociology, psychology, and law) and had three units for each of them, as well as three units for 'study skills' which assessed your writing ability, presentation ability, etc.

    It basically boiled down to one or two assignments for each subject per term, the first 75% of the term spent learning the material, and the rest doing the assignment. These would typically be 2500 word essays, and sometimes the units would be a 2500 word essay and a presentation, or even two 2500 essays if the unit was broad enough.

    To an A-level student this might sound super easy but the limited time spent in lessons means that it's impossible to get distinctions/merits without doing significant personal research. I'm talking at least 6 hours additional research, reading and gathering sources, before even writing the thing. You need to be quite the independent learner to do well on Access, I think.

    The year will start off quite relaxed but pick up pace in December, and from then on it only gets heavier. There won't be a single week where there won't be work that needs doing.

    My advice would be:

    Go to all the lessons, make lots of notes. Don't ever leave things until last minute: even if you can only write an introduction for an essay, do it. The more you go back to a piece of work the better it gets. Listen to what your teachers want from the work, and stick to it. If you aren't sure, ASK. They are there to help you and it shows that you're taking the course seriously.

    Do independent research, include it in your essays, and source it properly. For example, we had an essay on the civil service, and learned the basics of what they do and how it works. For evaluation in the essay, it was useful to include examples of things that have occurred within the civil service in the last ~40 years to argue my point, so news articles and opinion pieces from political writers were invaluable. You won't get told exactly what to do: just trust your instincts and do your absolute best. If you're thinking "this could be good but I don't know if it's too much", bury that thought! If it's relevant and helps you make your point, use it.

    Sorry for the wall of text!!! If you have any other questions feel free to ask

    The access course, like anything new, is difficult at first. You will find that there is a fairly steep learning curve to coming back into education at this level. I did the Humanities and Social Sciences course, achieving 45 distinctions overall in English, History and Sociology modules.

    The workload is really tough, especially if you're a perfectionist and you really want to achieve the best from the get go. I did not rely much at all on what was being taught and did most of my essays off my own research at home and the use of essay guides to learn how to structure arguments. Sadly, you can't go into these things relying on the quality of teaching (although this will help you if you get good teachers), so you really need to make progress more or less on your own. The upside of this is that, if you can pull it off, you'll be in a fantastic position at University where the environment is very much independent and self-reliant.

    I'm a firm believer that if your heart is in the right place and you give everything to this course, you'll be able to achieve a very good grade overall and apply to some of the top Universities in the country.

    I hope some of this helps, please message me or any of the other mature students if you need any more info. We all see the value in this course, and we want you to succeed just as much as you do for yourself.
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