The six worst ways to choose your A-levels

Leap into the unknown

You're probably feeling the pressure to choose the ‘right’ A levels and although it is an important decision to make you shouldn’t feel like this choice is going to define your future. 

There’s lots of reasons for choosing a particular A level subject; if you’re good at it, if it helps you with your future career goals, if you’re passionate about it (or probably a mixture of all three). 

But what if you’re completely stuck and have no idea what to select? It’s really tempting to just go with whatever subject and hope for the best. 

Here are some of the worst ways that students have selected their subjects.

Want some advice on better methods of choosing A levels? It's here.

1. You want to be with your friends in class

We know it’s tempting to just go along with what your best mate is doing so if it turns out to be a boring subject you can sit at the back of the class and gossip. However there’s no way of guaranteeing that you’ll be in the same classes; timetable means you’re unlikely to be able to be placed in the same class. 

You need to think about which subjects will help you in the long run and don’t just go along with what someone else is doing. If you have any career plans or ideas about university courses do some research and find out what’s the best subjects to suit your future plans.

Careers help

Uni application help

2. You really like a particular teacher

If you’re staying at your current school you’ll already have sussed out your teachers, which ones you like and which ones you don’t like so much. Being inspired by a teacher is great but it’ll still take motivation and perseverance to do well at the subject and that will all have to come from you. 

You shouldn’t choose a subject just because you think you’ll get to be in your favourite teacher’s class. At the end of the day your teacher won’t be there with you in the exam hall and it’ll be up to you to have learned all the stuff they’ve been teaching you. 

3. Your parents think it’s a good idea

It’s important to consult parents or carers but don’t let them dictate to you. Parents will have your best interests at heart so it’s a good idea to listen to their advice but (let’s face it) they’ve been out of education for a while and times have changed. You should also get the opinions of your teachers, they know your learning strengths and weaknesses and will be able to give you honest, impartial advice.

Remember - no one should be making this decision for you, get guidance from everyone and anyone but you’ll need to make this decision based on your own preferences and hopes for the future. 

4. You think a subject isn't prestigious or difficult enough

There are some 'facilitating subjects' that some courses and Russell Group universities may prefer but this shouldn’t stop you taking a subject you’re really passionate about. 

All universities will be upfront and honest about which subjects they do and don’t accept so if you have your heart set on a particular university or course check out their website for the specific criteria. 

5. You think it’ll be a bit of a doss

Similarly, you shouldn’t choose a subject based on how easy you’ve been told it is. Each subject has its own challenges and just because a subject has a reputation for being easy doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to get an A*. 

Take time to think carefully about what subjects play to your strengths and which subjects might be challenging for you. 

6. You don’t know anything about the subject

It’s time to get researching! Not sure what Biblical Hebrew or Environmental Science might consist of? (Why would you- you’ve probably never studied anything similar before). There’s no need to be daunted by new subjects - everyone else will be starting from scratch as well and your teacher will start you off gently. 

Don’t dismiss a subject just because you haven’t studied it before. Find out as much as you can on college open evenings, ask questions and get to know what you’ll be studying and how you’ll be assessed. Checkout the specifications on the exam board’s website or ask other TSR members what they think.

Here's some sensible and helpful advice for anyone in year 11 and looking to the future.

How to choose A levels

Making the most of a sixth form open evening

Writing a sixth form personal statement

Chat with other year 11s

Are you choosing your A levels? Post below and let us know how you're finding it.


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