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Number of A levels watch

    • Thread Starter

    My daughter is in year 13 and after getting 11 GCSE's at A grade or above and having a good start to her AS levels is hoping to study maths at university.She is studying Maths,Geography,Spanish and Psycology at AS level and hoped to continue with them all to full A level.Her school are advising her that even the best universities are only interested in three A levels and as such are encouraging her to drop one subject after AS level.This seems odd to me,but as she will be the first person from our family to reach university I would appreciate any insights you could give me into how universities would view three A levels as opposed to four.

    many thanks,


    I have personally never seen that combination of subjects chosen by my friends who want to do Maths at degree level at (any top) university. That being said, I will recommend she does Further Maths as it counts as two subjects (Maths and Further maths) and she can add another subject of her choice. Why I recommend Further Mathematics at A levels is so, when she does go to university, she'd be on the same mathematics level as her peers and some top universities actually state further maths as a course requirement.

    Anyways, universities ask for 3.5 subjects. Meaning, 3 full a level grades and one AS grades but majority of universities just ask for 3 A level grades or even, in rare cases, 2 subjects. The reason they ask for 3 is because of the workload A2 brings and some student can't handle the workload. Some students prefer to take 4 subjects, so if they do slip in one grade, they would still have the 3 solid grades enabling them to still go to their preferred university.

    Good luck to your daughter and family. I hope I was of help Do not hesitate to ask further questions as I am currently an A2 student, sitting on 5 offers for engineering courses at top uni's in UK, so I am familiar with this process.

    Unis would obviously be impressed by four A levels - but only if they are high grades. It goes without saying that they won't care much for someone with four poor A levels. Your daughter would be wise to drop one subject - the workload gets very heavy, and she'll have less time to revise for each subject as opposed to if she did three A levels. Since unis only really require three grades, it's a little risky to do four A levels than do three and be able to dedicate more time to acing them.

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    I applied this year with four A levels and they said to me at interview I should really have dropped one down to an AS. I think for Maths, it's definitely a good idea to do further maths (I did!)- it just gets you in the right mindset and the further maths modules are where the real degree foundation comes in, with complex numbers and polar coordinates and such.

    Four A levels only seem to be more impressive than 3.5 when they're all in really seperate subjects. It can actually make it harder taking four A levels- whilst most universities will only as for 3 in the offer, some will ask for 4 if they know that you're taking them, in order to show clearly balanced time and effort.

    Whilst a university may look slightly more favourably on a student with 4 full A levels compared to an otherwise identical student with 3.5 equally good A levels, they are likely to be far more harsh on a student with 4 A levels with less-than-amazing grades who should've just taken 3 as it indicates that they have taken on too much and may not cope well with a heavy workload at university.

    Overall I don't think the risk is worth it, it's much better to end up with A*AA than ABBB if your offer was going to be AAB, for instance!

    For maths specifically, I would say Further Maths AS (taken in the A2 year after dropping the fourth AS subject) is almost a requirement. Universities can't really say that you MUST have it because it would be unfair to students from state schools which don't have the facilities to teach it, but if it's at all possible to take it I think it's really important to prepare for a maths degree.
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