After completing their GCSEs, going on to study for A-Level qualifications is the most popular post-16 option for students in the UK. Normally, students aged 16 to 18 study for 3 or 4 A-Levels in a school or college, over two academic years – Year 12 and Year 13.
At the end of the two years, the final A-Level exams are taken, which form the majority of the grade. However, though this is the normal route through A-Levels, many people wonder about alternative options. Each year, there are plenty of students who sit these qualifications in a slightly different way. For example, you can take A-Levels at an older or younger age, or study them from home instead of in school. This article will answer a common question about alternative ways to study for this qualification: can you take A-Levels in just one year?
The short answer is yes, you can take A-Levels in a single year. However, it is not easy to do, and will require a lot of hard work and motivation. They are designed to be studied as 2-year courses, so trying to fit all the required work into half the time means a lot of intense study is involved. However, if you are confident it is the right choice for you, then it is almost certainly possible. Various colleges across the UK offer this as a specialised course, and a cohort of students take this route every year.
There is a lot to think about when considering taking A-Levels in just one year, including how difficult it is, whether it is worth doing, and where you can study this one-year course. Keep reading for plenty of information about this and more.
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Is it possible to take an A-Level in one year?
As mentioned, it is definitely possible to take an A-Level in one year. These are normally two-year qualifications, studied for by thousands of students across the UK in Year 12 and Year 13.
You may have heard of AS-Levels and A-Levels and wondered about the difference. Essentially, the AS-Level is the first year of the course, studied in Year 12, and the A-Level is the full course, including both the first year (AS) and second year (A2). For more on this, check out this article from Think Student.
This may make it sound like you have to study A-Levels for two full years. However, this is not the case. You can choose to complete the A-Level course in just one year, studying both AS and A2 content.
This is not a very popular option, as it involves a lot of concentrated study. If you are considering taking A-Levels in one year, you will need to be prepared for a lot of hard work, which also requires skills such as time management and organisation.
Although it is difficult, it is very much possible to take A-Levels in one year. You could choose to attend a new college that offers this fast-track A-Level, such as Oxford Sixth Form College or take an online course from somewhere like Open College.
You might even be able to talk to your current school and see if they will be able to facilitate a one-year course, for example, if you want to resit an A-Level. For plenty more information on how exactly to go about taking A-Levels in one year, keep reading!
How would you go about taking A-Levels in one year?
Perhaps surprisingly, there are several different routes you can take to do A-Levels in one year. Which one is best for you depends on your individual situation, and what you want to get out of the year.
The first people to talk to will always be teachers at your school or college, if you are currently attending one. There will be people, often your form tutor or head of year, that will offer you advice if you are thinking of taking this route.
Often, taking a one-year A-Level course involves switching schools, or even stopping school and studying privately or online. In any case, taking A-Levels in one year is a significant undertaking – as mentioned, it needs to be a well-researched decision. Reading this article is a great first step, but there is lots more to consider.
Make sure to discuss the decision with parents or carers, as well as teachers. Compare the pros and cons of the different paths you could take. Even if you are capable of taking all your A-Levels in a single year, it may not be worth the extra workload.
Alternatively, if you are thinking of resitting A-Levels for your preferred university course, you may also want to consider different degrees, or alternatives to higher education. You don’t want to switch schools and realise it is not the best route for you.
That being said, there are plenty of valid reasons for wanting to take A-Levels in one year, and equally, lots of places you can do this.
Where can you take a one-year A-Level course?
It may be that you can take A-Levels in one year at your school. This is usually if you want to resit A-Levels and redo just Year 13.
Occasionally, this might also be possible if you want to change a subject. However, many schools won’t be able to facilitate this due to things like timetable clashes, as you would have to attend Year 12 and Year 13 lessons.
In this case – or if you want to take all your A-Levels in one year – the best option is most likely to transfer to a college that offers one-year A-Level courses. There are many of these available, so there is a good chance you will find one near you. For example, CIFE is a group of sixth form colleges, and you can find plenty of information about their one-year A-Level schemes on their website here.
Even if there isn’t a physical college near you that offers this course, you can still do A-Levels in one year via an online course. For instance, Open College has already been mentioned as a provider of these – you can find plenty of FAQs about their one-year A-Levels on their website here.
How much does it cost to take A-Levels in one year?
Students aged 16 to 18 studying A-Levels through the normal route, in a government-funded school or college, will not need to pay for their exams or education. However, when you take a different route, there is often a cost associated with it.
There is no simple answer as to how much taking an A-Level in one year will cost. It largely depends on how you plan to study them.
One of the options discussed is studying for these exams in your existing school or college, which is a common choice for students who want to resit one or more A-Level. In this case, you are unlikely to be charged for the course.
On the other hand, if you are studying a fast-track A-Level course online, the provider will usually charge several hundred pounds per A-Level. This also means that the more A-Levels you want to study in one year, the more it will cost.
For example, Open College generally charges £415 for each A-Level you study online with them. This includes access to their course materials, as well as a tutor. To get a general idea of their prices for different courses, have a look at this page of their website.
Additionally, if you are studying for an A-Level online, you will need a physical centre to sit the exam. While these are not hard to find – most schools and colleges will accept private candidates – they will likely charge an exam entry fee, possibly with an extra administration charge.
The exam entry fees are set by exam boards and are usually about £100 per A-Level. Check out this page from AQA’s website for more about exam entries for private candidates.
When should you start studying for a one-year A-Level course?
By definition, it will take you one year to complete a one-year A-Level course. However, you can’t start this at any time. A-Level exams are only held once a year, in the May-June exam season. For more on this, check out this Think Student article.
If you are studying with a school or college, or anywhere with a structured course, this will likely start in September. You will study for the duration of that academic year, taking your exam that summer.
However, if you are studying a more flexible online course where you work at your own pace, it can be hard to know when to start so you have enough time before summer exams.
This article from Open College recommends starting a full year before the exams will take place – so, the previous May or June. You may even want to start a little earlier, to give yourself plenty of leeway in case unexpected barriers come up.
However, this may not be possible. For example, if you get A-Level results back and decide you want to retake one or more, you will not be able to make this decision until results day in August.
This is not something to worry about. Generally, starting in September will leave you enough time to cover and consolidate the A-Level content you need, particularly if you make good use of school holidays. This is even easier as a flexible online student, as you will be able to work in half-terms and holidays in the same way as term-time.
If you have left it later than this, it becomes more difficult to complete the course in the remaining time before exams. The article linked above suggests starting no later than 6 months before your exam.
However, this is a final limit, rather than an aim. Ideally, you will be able to study from September, or even a few months earlier, until your exams in May or June.
How difficult is it to complete an A-Level in a single year?
A-Levels are notoriously difficult qualifications even when you are spreading the work across two years. Of course, they only get harder when you are trying to fit this work into just one year. Not only do you have to learn all the content, but also find enough time to consolidate, revise and practise it.
This means a good work ethic is needed to successfully take A-Levels in one year. You will likely have to spend a lot more of your free time, as well as breaks between terms, studying for your A-Levels.
However, although it is certainly difficult, it isn’t an impossible undertaking. This article from Rochester College has plenty of success stories of people achieving A and A* grades after taking 3 A-Levels in a single year and going on to top universities.
Alternatively, if you are looking to take A-Levels in one year as a resit, you will already have covered much of the content. This makes the workload a lot easier, as you are mainly revising rather than learning new information.
Why would a student want to take A-Levels in one year?
Having discussed how much hard work is needed to take A-Levels in one year, you may be wondering why any student would choose this route. There are actually several different scenarios in which a one-year A-Level course can be useful.
One of the reasons people choose to do this is because they want to change subjects. For example, a student who studied Biology, Maths and Physics in Year 12 may decide they want to drop Physics and replace it with the full Chemistry A-Level.
In this case, they could take a one-year Chemistry course, which would allow them to complete all 3 A-Levels in the two-year period. This is instead of, for example, redoing Year 12 to complete A-Level Chemistry, which would take an extra year.
One-year A-Level courses are also popular for international students. For example, this article from Rochester College says their courses can be a cheaper and equally valuable alternative to a foundation course. Both of these help the student progress to a UK undergraduate degree course.
Many students also study to resit their A-Levels in one year. As mentioned, this makes the workload much easier, as you have already covered the content. Therefore, a one-year course may be a better choice than redoing both years of the course.
Finally, a few particularly talented students may simply wish to take A-Levels in one year to fast-track their path to higher education and beyond. This is certainly a possibility, and students do this every year.
However, if you are considering this, it is important to make an informed decision. There are lots of things to think about, including whether you are prepared for the workload, and if there is a real advantage to not taking the normal two-year route.
Whether you study for A-Levels in six months, or one year, or two, online or in person – they are difficult but rewarding qualifications, and I wish you the best of luck in your studies!