One of our most frequently asked questions, especially at this time of year, is whether you can be ready for an A level within one year when you study online. In this blog we’ll give you an honest and practical answer to that question.

A levels can open doors to a vast range of degree and professional courses and employers value them as a qualification. If you want to get on to the next stage of your career quickly or secure a place at university and need an essential A level qualification, then of course you are motivated to get on with it quickly.

We usually recommend that you allow two years to study an A level online, especially if you are doing more than one subject. Having said that, you are in control when you enrol with NEC – you can set your own schedules and work at your own pace. Many students find this empowering but it is very different from the model in school where you are working to a timetable and being chased if you don’t keep up with the work, you need to be highly motivated.

Ask anyone who has done an A level and they will tell you that it requires a lot of hard work. If you are taking the A level at sixth form you would do it over two years and it would be timetabled, along with any other subjects you are doing. Generally one A level can take anywhere between 300-700 hours of study.

For example, to study for one A level you’ll need approximately 500 hours study time over 30 weeks, this works out to just under 17 hours a week. You’ll also need additional time to complete assignments. In our experience, if you take the time complete all of the course assignments, you are more likely to achieve a good grade.

The time it takes depends on you and your circumstances and there are several things you should consider when planning your study:

How much time do you have each week?

If you are working full-time and have a family to care for, you won’t have as much time as someone who is planning to study full time and has no other commitments.

What subject will you choose?

If it is a subject you are very familiar with, perhaps you have previously taken the A level and are hoping to improve your grade, then it is likely that you will get to grips with the content quicker.

How many subjects are you doing?

The example hours above give an idea of how many hours you’ll need to study for just one A level.

Does the subject have non-examination assessment?

If it does, you’ll have strict deadlines to meet and need to study a substantial amount of the course before you can be assessed.

Will you need to book exams?

There are deadlines for booking exams and as this carries a cost, you want to be sure you’ll be ready for the exams before committing. There is more information about exams and assessment in our Exams Handbook.

Have you planned for a break?

We suggest that you make sure you have sufficient time in your planning to account for any break you might need to take. Remember, life can be unexpected – a bout of flu, a new job, a house move can interrupt your study schedule.

So to go back to the question can I study an A level in under a year? The answer is that it depends entirely on you and the subjects that you study. If we don’t think there is enough time left for you to complete an A level, we’ll tell you. If you then go on to enrol, we will ask you to sign to say that you have understood the recommendations and are willing to take responsibility for your study plan.

One of the things our students tell us they value most is the flexibility of NEC’s courses. Your course and tutor support is available to you for up to 24 months and extensions are possible, so if you find that you can’t meet your original expectations, you can aim for the following year.

Coming soon!
We’ll be launching intensive A levels in biology, chemistry, physics and maths which are designed to be studied across one academic year. They will have a set start date at the beginning of September and have a highly-structured approach to help you to complete the course quickly, without compromising on your grade. Email us at to register your interest.

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