How I taught myself three A-levels

Blogging in the Guardian, Alexandra Kos says after failing to thrive at school she decided to find her own way to learn – and says she discovered that you don’t need teachers to succeed in exams…

…The idea of self-education formed while scouring the internet. I discovered the option of sitting exams as a private candidate. The freedom to control my studies was intriguing. But unaccustomed to such responsibility at 16, I feared making the wrong choices, or underestimating the workload…

I started with a realistic choice of subjects that I loved and was good at – Russian language, English literature, and biology. Specifications, exam papers and examiner reports, all of which I accessed online, became the backbone of my studies. When confused, especially in biology, YouTube tutorials such as Crash Course explained perplexing topics like photosynthesis in the most memorable and entertaining manner.

I religiously listened to Russian TV and radio to improve my grammar and vocabulary.

For English literature, I encouraged myself to think critically by analysing the text – before reading the York Notes.

Staying motivated was all about keeping positive. I began each day by reading a short story that put me in a good mood to learn. Approaching everything psychologically, I listened to myself, took breaks when I wanted, studied as long as I needed, never followed any timetables.

I chose to study just one subject per day which was wonderful. My schedule was gloriously disorganised.

I decided to fast-track my three A-levels, which meant studying the AS and A2 levels (normally studied over two years) in one year. To speed up the process, I learned an AS topic and then the A2 equivalent, for example; reading chapter 1 of the AS textbook, then chapter 1 of the A2.

With everything fresh in my mind, I avoided revision – a quick scan through my notes before the exams sufficed. Typing essays on my laptop helped me visualise my arguments and doing a detailed essay plan cut down on the hours spent writing. Such tactics helped manage my time within the academic deadlines of the year.

So how did I do…

More at: How I taught myself three A-levels


Reactions to this unconventional approach to A levels? Anyone else tried, or know someone who has done something similar? Please share in the comments or via Twitter…


Don’t forget you can sign up to receive our daily email bulletin every morning (around 7 am) with all the latest schools news stories. Your details will never be given to anyone else and you can unsubscribe at any stage. Just follow this link!

NI Education Minister approves Irish language school with just 15 pupils - while 2,500 teaching staff face the axe
Twelve reasons your children should watch films at Christmas
Categories: Secondary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove I believe the phrase “Where there’s a will there’s a way” is apt. Congratulations to her & this should be a message to many

  2. andrew_1910

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Always used to tell my A Level groups that those of them who would get A grades would have done it without me.

  3. Trudgeteacher

    SchoolsImprove hmm more evidence around difference between arts and science? The former can be experienced the latter taught??

Let us know what you think...