A-levels are gateway qualifications for many degrees and careers, typically studied between the ages of 16 and 18. They usually take two years of study to complete and act as a level 3 certification between GCSEs and degrees.
There are many reasons why someone might not complete A-levels, ranging from pursuing a career to personal or health reasons. Others might find that they initially took A-levels that are less relevant to their ambitions and are now looking to explore a route back into education, or need specific qualifications to move up the career ladder.
With the popularity of online courses and other pathways opening up, it's not surprising to see that many adults are exploring taking A-levels later in life. In this blog, we’ll see how you can become a mature student and get that key A-level qualification.
Is there an age limit for taking A-levels?
In school, A-levels are usually taken between 16 and 18. However, there is no upper age limit for studying A-levels as an adult. In fact, it’s incredibly common for adults to return to study when they have a clearer picture of their careers or studies.
Eligibility to study A-levels does not come down to age. Instead, most colleges and online courses will consider previous qualifications or work experience for your admission to the course. By studying for A-levels as an adult, you’ll open up a new world of possibilities.
A-level entry requirements
The most common pre-requisite to study A-levels is a minimum number of GCSE qualifications. Traditionally, GCSEs pave the way for further study, and colleges usually insist on them for admission. While GCSEs in Maths, English and Science are important, many A-levels also require sector-specific GCSEs in a specific subject.
Another option for adult learners is taking A-levels online. While a college will have rigid requirements and term dates, online courses offer much more flexibility. That means that, for some A-levels, a rigid set of qualifications may not be needed to enrol. There’s also no set term date, making online learning ideal for mature students who have more commitments.
Benefits of studying for A-Levels as a mature student
Mature students often have much more clarity in their study goals. They will have likely thought about what they want to gain from an A-Level course and planned out how to reach those goals. Demonstrating an appetite for learning later in life shows prospective employers and universities that mature students are dedicated, serious, and willing to invest considerable effort into their studies - characteristics that can lead to rewards further down the line.
Studying A-Levels as a mature student also opens opportunities to develop skills such as researching critical subjects and IT which may not have been afforded to them during their school days. These can then be applied to other areas.
How Covid-19 has opened doors for gaining a degree as a mature student
According to figures published by UCAS, the number of mature students in undergraduate study rose by nearly a quarter. The approaches universities were forced to adopt during the Covid-19 pandemic, including distance learning, also apply to students looking at taking A-Levels or similar qualifications, enabling people to fit learning around other commitments, without necessarily having to travel to a different part of the country.
Similarly, the pandemic has inspired students of various ages, to explore alternative careers paths to either 'make a difference' as a paramedic or simply to achieve an improved work-life balance. For mature students especially, the options that have emerged are opening doors to careers that may have seemed impossible in previous years. A-Levels are more often than not where the skills to land a dream job are developed.
Which A-levels should you study?
From Biology to Sociology, when it comes to picking your A-level courses, there are many things to consider. You should take the time to consider your long-term goals and what you want from your course. On the other hand, if you’re studying for career advancement, you should know which courses fit your aims. Take a look at career paths and see which course will help most.
If you're looking at A-level study as stepping stone towards getting into university, make sure that you understand the entry requirements, especially around how many UCAS points you'll need. Some courses have strict conditions. For example, a medical degree will specifically require science-based A-levels, while others might accept a range of subjects.
The key is to do your research. If you’ve got a university in mind, check their website or brochure. Most are transparent with their conditions – this way, you’ll know that you’re selecting relevant A-level courses for your future study.
Study A-levels online
There are many reasons to study A-Levels as a mature student – from career advancement to personal interest. Whatever the reason, make sure that your course fits around your life and that it is something you believe you will have an interest in further down the line. In the 2018/19 academic year, around 85% of mature students on a full-time course continued onto their second year, eight percentage points lower than younger students.