First time A-Levels

"My A-Level results were brilliant; I achieved three straight As in Mathematics, Computing and Economics. Thanks are due to Oxford Tutorial College, in which I studied Economics intensively, this is shown in my result for Unit 2 of 100%. I have obtained my place in Bath University to read Economics."
Harry Ridley

A-level courses normally take between three and six terms to complete. The choice of subjects is an important decision, depending upon a variety of factors including aptitude, interest, skills required and previous examination performance.

It is worth considering that some A-levels are more manageable than others and can therefore be covered more quickly. Subject choice and proposed course length are discussed at interview; all the relevant factors should be taken into account before course choices are finalised. The proposed degree course may also be an issue.

Most students join the college at the beginning of the academic year in September and take their courses over one or two years; a smaller number start at the beginning of the Hilary or Trinity terms, taking courses over a period of between one and five terms. A few students join once term is underway; the flexibility of the tutorial system means that it is usually possible to enrol at the college outside the main September and January start dates.

One-on-One TuitionA-level material is taught in a clear and direct way, checking understanding by careful review and continual practice from previous examination questions in order to develop answering skills. Tutors ensure that students develop a good set of revision notes and materials and encourage systematic and well-focused revision. Time is allowed for an overall subject review as the examinations approach, to check recall and understanding and enable further practice with essential examination techniques.

Two-Year Courses

"...it has made a substantial difference knowing that you have been there for him so effectively this year. Indeed, I really wish we had found OTC two years ago! He has come out of his shell, as you put it, a bit more - and I think that is because he has had more confidence in those around him than ever before.
With best wishes and profound thanks..."  
 Evelyn Somerville

Two-Year A-level courses normally lead to AS examinations at the end of the first year, followed by A2 examinations at the end of the second year. The pace of a two-year course suits most students, especially if they are making the transition to A-level. Learning, revision and answering skills need to be developed as well as powers of interpretation and analysis, a process which takes time. The steady acquisition of sound study techniques, including reading skills, note-taking and essay writing can be carefully encouraged and monitored on a two-year course. The time frame also allows the student the opportunity to explore a subject in depth and develop a firm understanding of the material.

Subject material is taught at a carefully-measured pace and in some detail; basic understanding is re-inforced and given greater depth, with the student gaining confidence through extensive practice in examination-style answers.    A final review of subject material allows students to focus on the entire syllabus and helps them to organise their revision during the final weeks before the examination.

Course Structure

"Thank you very much indeed for all you have done for Robin.
He got working, made excellent notes and revised...You have done a splendid job with him and I am truly grateful."
Angela Knight

The teaching structure is dependent upon the specific needs of each student, the subject being studied and the preferred approach of the tutor. In some subjects a study group meets for six hours weekly, with individual tuition arranged within that time. A popular alternative is the study group which meets for four hours weekly with each student receiving a separate one-hour individual tutorial. For some students, however, the approach of entirely one-to-one tuition is the most appropriate and this can be discussed, if preferred.

Teaching comprises a combination of small groups, tutorials or possible individual tuition, enabling thorough and effective dissemination of subject topics with student feedback and discussion, whilst ensuring that individual understanding is complete, preparation work is satisfactory and writing skills are being mastered. Individual tuition allows for re-explanation of topics that are not clearly understood and for careful appraisal of each student's response and written work.

Individual Tuition

This encourages an active involvement in the learning process, with the student taking more direct responsibility for the development of understanding. It is an excellent preparation for the more self-motivated approach required at university. It is also an extremely flexible method which allows students to work at their own pace; with the more able student a considerable amount of material may be covered in each one-hour session, whilst one with less natural aptitude is able to cover material thoroughly, until understood. The informal setting of the tutorial allows the student to express ideas freely and confidently, with the tutor's undivided attention, and enables the tutor to deal directly with any difficulties that are being experienced. A good output of preparation and written work is essential if a satisfactory rate of progress is to be maintained and students are expected to put in a substantial amount of work in their own time to support the tutorials.

Seminar Groups

Group TuitionSystematic presentation of subject material with accompanying handouts and/or students taking notes, followed by guidance with the interpretation, manipulation and analysis of the material according to the demands of the examination, form the basis of the teaching in seminar groups. Teaching groups consist of no more than seven students and the small group size enables close discussion of each topic in the light of specific examination questions, under the guidance of the tutor. An active learning dynamic is encouraged, in which each student may be asked to consider and present material and exchange views with others, whilst still allowing for a high degree of personal attention. Most students find the small group environment stimulating and productive. Preparation is required in the form of preview reading for fresh topics, reinforcement reading, note-taking and practice questions.

Practicals

Courses in the practical sciences normally involve laboratory work as a practical assessment is required by most science syllabuses. Practical experience also reinforces theory and allows students to develop a better grasp of the scientific process. Laboratory sessions are therefore included in the standard course. In this way students are given a thorough grounding in the laboratory methods and techniques needed to satisfy this part of the examination. In subjects such as Art, Design & Technology, Photography and Music Technology practical work is an essential part of the course and there is a strong practical bias within the seminar teaching, as well as additional practical sessions as required.

Mock ExamMock Examinations

These are of the same format and length as the actual examination and are taken several weeks beforehand. As with progress tests, they familiarise students with the examination environment in order to create an air of security. They serve as a full rehearsal, giving students a foretaste of what will be required of them and enabling tutors to give invaluable final guidance, based on the student's performance.

Intensive Accelerated One-Year Courses
The intensive style of teaching and the efficiency of the tutorial method enable us to prepare students for A-level examinations in one year, assuming that they possess the required academic skills and, especially in the sciences, prior knowledge of the subject. Evidence of success at GCSE, or equivalent, is an important pre-requisite for many subjects. However, a one-year course places a greater onus on the student to undertake additional reading, careful note-taking and practice from examination-style questions. A substantial amount of preparation, to re-inforce and develop the material covered in class, is required. A one-year course should not be contemplated unless the student is willing and able to put in the necessary work.

Students proposing to undertake a one-year A-level should consider their choice carefully. The natural sciences, for example, involve a considerable amount of material, building on students' prior knowledge of the subject, whereas most social science subjects can be covered more easily and do not necessarily assume any prior knowledge. As with the two-year course, we prepare students for the board that best suits individual aptitudes.

One-year A-level courses are particularly intensive and require a strict adherence to the precise subject specification. Topics are taught in broad outline, with a subsequent review to check and develop understanding.

Other Options
Some students decide to take their A-level examinations in stages, for example taking one subject over one year and two more over two years. Such strategies can be useful to relieve exam pressure, allowing more time for the subjects which a student finds more demanding, whilst accelerating the pace for those which are more straightforward. Modular courses also allow for final examination pressure to be eased, as some parts of the course may be examined early.

A student joining the college during Hilary or Trinity terms will take courses over a period of up to five terms. These courses can begin with individual tuition; as appropriate the student then joins a study group. Beginning a course during the academic year may be an option for someone who has already covered all or part of the subject and who needs an intensive review prior to sitting the examination. It may also be appropriate for a genuine first-time student; the flexibility allowed by the tutorial method makes it possible to start a course at any time.

Combining Retake and First-time Courses

A student who needs to improve existing grades should carefully consider the likelihood of success. It is only worth retaking a subject if there is a good hope of an improved grade; you should be certain the existing grade is not a realistic one. It may be better to begin a new subject, rather than persevere with one which has not been a success. Taking a combination of retake and first-time subjects is a feasible option given that some A-level subjects may be successfully taught over one year. Subject choice will depend upon background knowledge, interest, compatibility with other subjects being studied, likely workload and relevance to the planned degree course. Please contact us for advice and information. We are happy to help you select suitable subjects for first-time study. A list of subjects taught at the college is available here.