Advanced level qualifications, or A Levels, are further education programmes that bridge the gap between GCSE and higher-level study.
Studying one of these nationally recognised and regulated qualifications can create new opportunities that can shape your future.
They are required for entry into university and can even help you access certain careers, apprenticeships and training routes. As such, A Levels are gateway qualifications.
A Levels are traditionally taken prior to students leaving education at the age of 18. Their chosen subjects help them to decide what to do next, be that higher education or employment.
Therefore, if you left education before sitting yours, you may think that A Levels are off-limits to you. However, it’s not too late to qualify and change your life.
If you want to take A Levels as an adult, you have two options. Either return to college as a mature student or study online via distance learning.
Traditional Education vs Distance Learning
Online A Level courses and those offered by bricks and mortar colleges offer the same quality of qualification. The syllabus will be the same (exam board-dependent), as will be your learning outcomes.
The only way in which these options differ is in the route you take to qualify.
Studying A Levels at college means returning to a physical classroom setting, whilst online learning can be completed from anywhere in the world.
Both options have their advantages and there is no ‘right way to learn’, just the right way for you. However, there are some things to consider when choosing your A Level course.
If you opt for a college-run course, you will be required to attend set classes throughout the week, at certain times of the year. You will be taught and given support in-line with term times, with little contact outside of these hours.
This is perfect for you if you like your time to be structured or you study best with a fixed timetable. It’s also ideal if you have the time to travel to your place of education and prefer to separate your home life from your studies.
However, if you have work commitments or a family to look after, studying at a physical college isn’t necessarily a viable option. This can also be the case if you have a disability that prevents you from easily accessing traditional education.
Online education, on the other hand, allows you to study from the comfort of your own home, whenever suits you best.
There are no physical classes to attend or timetables to stick to. With 24-hour online access to your course, you can study whenever you have free time.
This means that you can learn around your commitments and simply ‘pause’ your studies if you’re busy at work or have had a particularly hectic week.
College A Level courses are teacher-led. This means that your tutor will decide the pace of your studies and determine how the syllabus is taught.
Although this allows you to study with the support of your fellow students and tutor, it’s not necessarily the best way of learning for everyone.
If you’ve been out of education for a while you may worry that you’ll hold up the rest of the class. Or conversely you might find the material straight forward and get frustrated if the class isn’t progressing quickly enough. Both these feelings can negatively impact your studies.
Distance learning eliminates such issues. When you take your A Levels online, you will have constant access to your course. And there will be no deadlines.
This means that you can spend as little or as much time on each module as you need. You can return to certain subjects with the click of a button and speed through the ones that you find easier.
What’s more, because online learning can be done at your pace and in your own time, you can complete your qualification in as little as 6 months.
Traditional college A Level courses can take longer to complete. The average programme requires 2 years of study.
Therefore, if you’re looking to gain your qualification as quickly as possible, online education could be the right route for you.
Colleges and sixth forms work to specific term dates. Because of this, students tend to start their studies at the same time in September. You will need to submit your details for enrolment a few months before this to secure a place on your course.
To enrol on an A Level course at college, you generally need 5 GCSEs at grade 9-4/A*-C, along with at least a B in the subject you want to study.
A Level course tend to build on what you have learnt at GCSE. So, it’s advantageous to have strong GCSEs under your belt before you enrol on your A Level, although not essential.
If you haven’t got the right grades to apply, you can either take your GCSEs online or enrol straight onto your A Level programme via a distance learning provider.
There are no entry requirements for an online A Level course. All you need is a Wi-Fi-enabled device and you’re ready to go!
Plus, with distance learning, there are no term or enrolment dates to restrict your learning. You can enrol whenever you’re ready to and commence your studies right away.
So, if you’re planning your studies and next steps in advance, a college programme may appeal. However, if you want to start your A Levels now, without needing to achieve any qualifications beforehand, online learning may suit you better.
Choosing Your A Levels
Finding the right fit for you depends on what you wish to gain from your A Levels. It also depends on the steps you want to take after completing your qualification.
If you wish to study at university, you will need 3 specific A Levels or a combination of subjects. This depends on whether you want a degree that leads to a specific profession or one that furthers your academic knowledge and love of a specific subject.
For example, if you want to enter medical school to become a doctor, biology and chemistry A Levels are required. You’ll also need either A Level physics or maths. This combination of A Levels provides the foundational knowledge you need to progress your studies in medicine.
Alternatively, if you want to study a degree that covers a larger scope and is less specialised – such as history or business management – specific subject A Levels aren’t always required. You will need the right amount of A Levels and the right grades to apply, although getting a university place can be easier if your A Levels are relevant to your area of study.
If you want to achieve your A Levels to better your career prospects, a selection of A Level subjects will keep your options open. This is also the case for securing higher apprenticeships and vocational or work-based qualifications that train you on the job.
As these training programmes equip you with the skills for success in a certain industry, A Levels in specific subjects aren’t always necessary.
A Levels in any subject are valuable to employers as they demonstrate that you have a good level of education. They also prove to employers that you:
- Can learn and grasp information quickly
- Have excellent communication skills, as well as great literacy and numeracy
- Are a problem-solver with strong research skills and the ability to analyse information and organise your workload.
When picking your A Levels, you should also keep in mind what subjects you love and are passionate about. You should consider which subjects you’re already good at too.
There’s a big jump in difficulty from GCSE to A Levels, so it’s important to take out some of the hard work by studying a subject you already like and know you’ll be successful in.
Taking Your A Levels Online
Whichever A Level programme you choose, Stonebridge Associated Colleges can help you achieve your qualification online.
We offer 12 exciting A Level courses that can all be studied from your home.
From the minute of enrolment, you will have immediate access to your course so you can start learning right away. Everything you need to prepare for your A Level exam will be included in your course, along with specialised tutor support and guidance.
This means that you can enjoy the support you would receive in a normal class setting, without the worry of being the oldest in the class. Or returning to a classroom environment: you will be a class of one and you can learn in whatever environment suits you best.
To find out more about our A Level courses, call us on 0121 392 8288 today or click below to browse the courses we offer.