Is it even possible to do 28 A-levels – and what’s the cost?

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Mahnoor said her mother Tayyaba Cheema was her role model and inspiration
By Nathan Standley
BBC News

Most students dedicate two years to studying for three A-levels – so how is it even possible to do 28?

That’s how many Mahnoor Cheema, who made headlines this week, says she is studying for.

The 17-year-old sixth former, whose 161 IQ is about that of Einstein and Stephen Hawking, already has 34 GCSEs.

But can anyone do it? How much will it cost you? And what is the point in doing so many?

The first thing to say is that you’ll never be able to do all of them at school.

Mike Davies tutored A-level maths students for five years after teaching at a secondary school and now works for Owl Tutors in south London.

He says schools will only put students through a maximum of four A-levels – five at a push – because no university will ever ask for that many as an entry requirement.

That is the case for Mahnoor, who is doing four of her subjects at school and the rest at home with her study partner, mum Tayyaba.

How much it would cost?

A lot.

The exam papers alone can cost upwards of £50 each to sit, so with multiple papers per subject, doing 28 A-levels could see you paying thousands just to sit the exams.

That’s not to mention the textbooks and other resources you’ll need, which could also include private tutors, who tend to charge around £30 per hour.

Your school, sixth form or college will pay for the four you might need to get to university, but rarely any more than that.

Doing extras will mean you have to register as a private candidate – and you will have to foot the bill.

But cost isn’t the only thing you will need to consider.

‘We have a few clashes’

If your eyes aren’t already watering looking at the costs of sitting your exam papers, they might do when you work out your exam timetable.

“Money is one issue – but you’d have clashes as well,” Mike says.

In order to fit in the dozens of exam papers you will have to sit, you will need to fill almost all of the available morning and afternoon sessions in each exam season – including the domestic summer session and the international exams sat in November – across your two years of study.

“When I did A-levels I had to get locked in a room for a few hours when my exams clashed, and I only had four – so I can’t imagine what would happen with 28,” Mike adds.

Mahnoor’s mum Tayyaba has since given BBC News an insight into the military-precision logistical plan they will have to deploy this summer to allow Mahnoor, from Slough, to sit all her exams.

Mahnoor Cheema is taking 28 A-levels after passing 34 GCSEs

“We have a few clashes, and we can’t skip the school papers,” she says.

She has been working with multiple exam boards and speaking with different examination centres for Mahnoor to sit her exam papers in German, French, religious education, film studies, maths, further maths, statistics and psychology in May and June.

That will often mean darting between exam centres, and in one case sitting two exam papers within five minutes of each other.

That will tick off eight subjects, before Mahnoor tackles another five in the November exams session. She has already received A* grades for each of the four subjects she sat last November, her mum says.

But what are the benefits?

Mahnoor says it’s all for the “academic challenge”.

As far as Mike is concerned, the most he has heard of students taking “to prove their academic capabilities” is five – and even then it is rare for them to divert from common subject clusters like maths, further maths and physics.

“No university is asking for that many,” Mike says.

“Universities work with Ucas points, so I’m not sure they’d know what to do with you with 28 A-levels.”

Of course, exams do not count for everything when it comes to education – hobbies and a life outside the classroom are important to maintain.

Doing three or four A-levels is stressful enough, so always make sure to look after your mental health.

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