Mature Students


If you are a mature student taking your A-levels, you might find some of the information below useful:


Which exam board should I take?


I would suggest using the AQA Biology and the AQA Chemistry exam board wherever possible. AQA Biology and OCR A Chemistry is also a good combination. The papers for the above exam boards are well-structured and have a clearly defined mark scheme, so it is possible to get good marks with proper planning.


How many hours will I need to devote to study each week to cover the syllabus?


If you plan to take the entire A-level in one year, then you will need to devote at least six hours a week per subject per module. From 2015 onwards, A-levels will only be taken once a year in the summer, so it is essential that you start your preparations by September in order to revise  the entire syllabus and leave enough time to practice past papers.


How many exams do I need to sit?


New specification (first exams 2017): You will need to sit three 2 h papers that cover the entire A-level module. In addition you will also be expected to complete a non-exam assessment on practical skills. You will only be graded for the papers, with the NEA graded as ‘pass’ or ‘unclassified’


Old specification (last exam 2017): You need to take four core written modules for every subject, together these make up 80% of the A-level. In addition to this, you will need to pass a practical element of the course. These are usually held in April for external candidates (called EMPA), and each practical element is worth 10% of the overall score. Passing the practical element is necessary if you wish to obtain an A or B on the course.


Where can I register as an external candidate?


I know of two places in Bristol that register external candidates – Bristol Cathedral Choir School and 3A tutors. Both use the AQA exam board. Bristol Cathedral Choir School will let you take the papers. 3A offers both papers and registration for the practical NEA for external students.


Bristol Cathedral Choir School
Contact: Mr. Colin Bretherton at
Cost: £12.90 per paper (correct in 2015)


3A tutors (correct in 2016)
Papers + NEA = £1195
Papers only = £445


If you have left school within the last two years, it might be worth contacting your school to see if they let you register as an external candidate.



How do I apply to University?


You will have to apply to University via UCAS as an external candidate. This means registering for UCAS youself, and sending the relevant link of the form to your teacher/referee to obtain a reference and a predicted grade. If you are re-taking your A-levels then please make sure that you put ‘pending’ next to your results, so the Universities know you are retaking exams. The UCAS helpline will be able to advise you on how to fill the form so that you can declare results as ‘pending’.