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Teach yourself A-Level maths part 1 – how to be a private candidate

Teach yourself A-Level maths part 1 – how to be a private candidate

Earlier this year I was having a conversation about how I regretted doing my Maths A-Level. When I did my GCSE’s, Maths was by far my best subject. I loved problem solving and I flew ahead of most of class, studying past what was required and storming an A* in my exams. Naturally I went on to do Maths at AS Level, but herein laid my problem.

Lesson 1 of my Maths AS Level outlined the syllabus for the year, and with the exception of a few topics, I had already taught myself most of the concepts when I studied for my GCSE. Not wanting to be bored, I dropped Maths for Art, and my mum told me that if I taught myself the other bits I needed then she would pay for me to just take the exam at the end of the year.

To late I found out that my college was not prepared to let me sit the exam without taking the classes, even as an external candidate. In hindsight I should have checked this before dropping the subject, but I didn’t, and I have always lived to regret it.

Looking back now I would have made completely different subject choices, but I was young and didn’t know what I wanted, and the results of that have stuck with me ever since. But now I have decided that if I can at least put right that initial mistake of dropping Maths, I can at least have that little something for myself. So I did some research, found a school that would take me on as a private candidate and took the plunge.

On the 6th February 2015 I submitted myself for 2 Maths AS-Level exams, Edexcel Core 1 and Edexcel Core 2. I understand that you would normally do 3 subjects per year, but I’m not leaving myself a lot of time so I decided to just do 2 this year.

There are a number of exams you can sit as an private candidate, in fact most that require no coursework or practical examinations can be taken, and even some which do can be done at certain centres. The AQA website has a comprehensive list of courses available to private candidates, and I would imagine that this list applies to other exam providers also. Be sure to check thoroughly with your examination provider before committing however, and pay attention as some course can be taken at AS Level, but not at A2.

The main two things you need to do, is find a course you can take, and find a centre you can sit the exams at. I chose to do the Edexcel Maths papers, I didn’t have a particular reason for choosing Edexcel other than it seemed to be the most prominent, and so had the most resources available for me to learn from.

The cost of sitting exams as an external candidate varies from centre to centre. I sat my exams at Oldham Hulme Grammar School, and I paid £50 per exam, meaning a full A-Level will cost £300 (providing I don’t resit anything).

So here we are, I’m now officially a private candidate for A-Level Mathematics!


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4 thoughts on “Teach yourself A-Level maths part 1 – how to be a private candidate”

  • Hi, Thank you for sharing your valuable experience. It has been very useful. I am sure it has guided a lot of individuals who experience the same.

  • Hello, I’ve just come across your blog in my search for other mature students that have taken up A-Level maths a little later. Same situation – I breezed through GCSE maths but thought I’d exit on a high and pursue the arts and humanities for my A-Levels. I’m now wanting to prove to myself I can do it and get my brain working again. How long did it take you to study for the A-Level and did you manage it all via self-study?

    • Hi Becky!

      That’s awesome! Be sure to check on changes in curriculum. I’ve stopped studying for this now as they were going to completely change everything before I could finish, meaning I would have to start all over again!

      I didn’t study as much as I would have liked to. If these resources still apply to the new curriculum, I would definitely use them – https://girlgeekupnorth.co.uk/teach-yourself-a-level-maths-part-2-online-resources/

      I probably spent 2-3 weeks solid studying almost every evening, and 4 – 6 hours each weekend day for two modules. I’m a bit of a crammer, but I wasn’t comfortable by the time exams came around, I wish I had started sooner.

      The best way I found to learn was to watch the video explaining the concept, then read the corresponding chapter in my textbook, and do all the practice examples I can find. THEN, I pulled out all the relating questions from past papers.

      After I had covered all topics for that exam I re-did all past papers starting with the earliest, scored them and went over anything I got wrong before moving on to the next one.

      Hope this helps, and best of luck!

  • ha, i thought i was the only person silly enough to only do an AS in maths! what astounds me nowadays is that my school let me do it, given how i was also physics and how useless the AS was when trying to get into uni! the cream on the cake was being told i didn’t have to turn up to the second maths lesson of the week, as i was only doing AS; then finding out i did and having to teach myself the content i’d missed!

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