OL350
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Hi everyone,


I have recently received my GCSE results and begun my sixth form life. After a pretty happy set of results consisting of A*s and As I opted to take 4 A-levels, maths (GCSE grade = A) history (A*), biology (A) and geography (A). However, after my first week of studies I am in two minds whether or not I should continue biology or exchange it for A-level chemistry. In both GCSEs I attained A grades, however I have heard the step up to A-level chemistry is a step much greater than the transition from GCSE to A-level biology. For those who have selected both A-level biology and chemistry what would you recommend? And for those that have completed either of the two A-levels how did you find them? If I were to stick with biology would I be losing and closing doors to certain career opportunities? Let me know what you guys think, any comments are more than welcomed.


OL
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Stiff Little Fingers
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(Original post by OL350)
Hi everyone,


I have recently received my GCSE results and begun my sixth form life. After a pretty happy set of results consisting of A*s and As I opted to take 4 A-levels, maths (GCSE grade = A) history (A*), biology (A) and geography (A). However, after my first week of studies I am in two minds whether or not I should continue biology or exchange it for A-level chemistry. In both GCSEs I attained A grades, however I have heard the step up to A-level chemistry is a step much greater than the transition from GCSE to A-level biology. For those who have selected both A-level biology and chemistry what would you recommend? And for those that have completed either of the two A-levels how did you find them? If I were to stick with biology would I be losing and closing doors to certain career opportunities? Let me know what you guys think, any comments are more than welcomed.


OL
It's been a little while since I finished A-levels, so this might not be as accurate as someone whose just started A2's or just started university, but when I did them, I found Biology to be possibly a tiny bit easier than chemistry - certainly it was closer to GCSE level than the chemistry a-level (in part because with chemistry you pretty much tore up everything you knew and started over - the octet idea taught at GCSE is woefully inadequate: it's enough for that level, but when you start A-level, you have to knock that down and start over with a slightly more accurate version).

As for careers - I've just finished a BSc in chemistry (starting my masters at the end of the month) and both my A-level chemistry teacher and the introductory lectures at university focused heavily on how many fields a pure chemistry degree would leave open to you - I've not got the experience to say if that's the same with biology, but chemistry definitely opens up a lot of different career paths.
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Nymthae
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Different styles of learning involved, imo.

Biology - lot of content, mostly memorising gets you a long way, only bits of understanding required. I was lazy, didn't like to sit and eat textbooks, so I found it harder. Some areas quite interesting though, just the ones that aren't so interesting become tedious with the level of stuff you need to remember (that they then don't always examine)

Chemistry - first unit can be a bit content heavy [exam board dependent] as it's laying the foundations, but after that it uses all this to start building an understanding, so a lot of questions can be worked through with a bit of logic and that understanding. I didn't like GCSE Chemistry, didn't want to do A-level, so when I actually turned around to really enjoy it it did surprise me. Some students just get panicked when they see a question they've never seen before, and perhaps didn't understand why the one in class worked, so they had nothing to apply it to. Once you get into the mindset, I think it's more interesting to study as a subject than biology. Now going into my fourth year of a chemistry degree, so excuse the bias, but I didn't intend to do this when I picked the A-level :P

I think for you, chemistry is probably slightly better in terms of doing geography. It won't cross over much, but there might be some things you can take in later on that do connect the dots. Anything further with biology is underpinned heavily by chemistry, so they tend to work well together. For entry to biology though, they only ask for another science usually, which you have. Maths is good for chemistry, less relevant for biology.

Either A-level isn't going to rule out that many areas, just check potential degrees for anything you might want to do (right from geography and geology, to things like history). I don't think you can go wrong with either, so just check any route you may want to take doesn't favour one in particular. What you enjoy/think you will do better in is the better one.
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OL350
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Thank you both for replying to my post, I really do appreciate you giving up your time.

I couldn't agree more, after studying both chemistry and biology for three consecutive years at GCSE level I feel that chemistry is the more interesting of the two sciences. I feel it requires less memorising and a slightly softer workload than biology, and in addition to this I found that once the concepts were grasped (the hard part) you could simply apply your knowledge to several areas of the subject. However, taking that into account I still decided to chose biology over chemistry, simply because of this so called 'step up' which peers have told me is fairly difficult. In my opinion though one of my strengths would be the commitment and effort I put into my studies, so maybe taking a subject that requires slightly more time and a heavier workload isn't such a bad thing for me. But I'd like to hear more from yourselves and your opinions on the situation. Have I been foolish by selecting a science that is considered 'slightly easier' and also one that appears to narrow career opportunities? Would I be suited to chemistry A-level after achieving a high A at GCSE level? May I ask you both what A-levels you opted to chose on the back of your GCSE grades and what careers routes you are hoping pursue in the future. Look forward to hearing from yourselves.


OL
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Emma:-)
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(Original post by OL350)
Thank you both for replying to my post, I really do appreciate you giving up your time.

I couldn't agree more, after studying both chemistry and biology for three consecutive years at GCSE level I feel that chemistry is the more interesting of the two sciences. I feel it requires less memorising and a slightly softer workload than biology, and in addition to this I found that once the concepts were grasped (the hard part) you could simply apply your knowledge to several areas of the subject. However, taking that into account I still decided to chose biology over chemistry, simply because of this so called 'step up' which peers have told me is fairly difficult. In my opinion though one of my strengths would be the commitment and effort I put into my studies, so maybe taking a subject that requires slightly more time and a heavier workload isn't such a bad thing for me. But I'd like to hear more from yourselves and your opinions on the situation. Have I been foolish by selecting a science that is considered 'slightly easier' and also one that appears to narrow career opportunities? Would I be suited to chemistry A-level after achieving a high A at GCSE level? May I ask you both what A-levels you opted to chose on the back of your GCSE grades and what careers routes you are hoping pursue in the future. Look forward to hearing from yourselves.


OL
What are you thinking of doing at uni?
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OL350
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I genuinely have no idea what course I will study at Uni, hence why I am considering taking chemistry over biology as it supposedly leaves more career options open. Would I be right in saying most University science courses require two science A-levels? Would they consider maths as a science or is it just the core sciences (biology/chemistry/physics) that they accept as being sciences?

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OL350
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Any help/advice would be much appreciated.

OL
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Nymthae
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(Original post by OL350)
I genuinely have no idea what course I will study at Uni, hence why I am considering taking chemistry over biology as it supposedly leaves more career options open. Would I be right in saying most University science courses require two science A-levels? Would they consider maths as a science or is it just the core sciences (biology/chemistry/physics) that they accept as being sciences?

OL
Maths is also considered a science, so you're fine., you don't need to take extra.

I loved biology in school, so that's why I took it at A-level. I just got disenchanted with it as a subject because it sucked the fun out of it for me a bit. Chemistry I only took because I thought I wanted to do a biology degree, and a professor at Leeds University told me quite frankly if I wanted to do well at degree level, and gain entry to potentially top universities, it would be in my advantage to do it now. I did maths, because I liked it, found it easy, and thought it was useful. Spanish was my other subject, just for "fun".

GCSE: A* (Maths), A (Biology), A (Chemistry)
AS: BBB [biol/chem very close to A border, so not too difficult to make back, UMS is important at AS not necessarily the grade]
A2: AAA

It does just come down to what area you want to be in. Technically, both would be ideal for the biosciences, but primarily you'll need biology first, and they'll take maths as a second science for entry. If you fancy more chemistry/physical sciences then that's the choice. I think chemistry degrees leave more options open, but I don't think your A-levels are restricting too much. It does just depend on the area of interest! Biology isn't looked down on or anything, so nobody is going to reject you for not doing a "harder science". They're just all important in different ways.
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OL350
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Other than bioscience what courses are based around a biology A-level and would I be right in saying it is in fact chemistry that is the necessary science to gain entry to a medicine based course? Obviously a chemistry A-level opens up lots of career opportunities, but other than medicine and chemical engineering degrees what are these other opportunities it provides? You said you studied both biology and chemistry, how did you find each course and which would you recommend?

OL
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OL350
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Would you be able to go into the medicine world with just biology & maths as a supporting science or is chemistry essential?
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FireFreak
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(Original post by OL350)
Hi everyone,


I have recently received my GCSE results and begun my sixth form life. After a pretty happy set of results consisting of A*s and As I opted to take 4 A-levels, maths (GCSE grade = A) history (A*), biology (A) and geography (A). However, after my first week of studies I am in two minds whether or not I should continue biology or exchange it for A-level chemistry. In both GCSEs I attained A grades, however I have heard the step up to A-level chemistry is a step much greater than the transition from GCSE to A-level biology. For those who have selected both A-level biology and chemistry what would you recommend? And for those that have completed either of the two A-levels how did you find them? If I were to stick with biology would I be losing and closing doors to certain career opportunities? Let me know what you guys think, any comments are more than welcomed.


OL
Hello! So I am currently doing A2 Chemistry as well as Biology .

So biology hurm... This takes up a lot of time! No joke. The amount of content that you have to learn for biology is a lot. I achieved an A grade for biology at AS, which of course i am thankful of, and i was among 2 people of a class of 25 people to achieve an A-Grade. To be fairly honest i done about 16 hours of revision for biology a week, 2 hours on weekdays and a lot more on weekends, this included making notes, attempting past papers and of course the lovely old memorizing business! That's just an overview of how biology is, an oh before i forget, you have heard wrong. The step between GCSE biology and AS-Biology is far more greater than from GCSE Chemistry to AS-Chemistry, that is my opinion tho.

Chemistry - Well chemistry in my opinion is a lot easier than biology. I done about 8 hours revision a week for chemistry, which is half the amount i spent on biology. I achieved a B-Grade for chemistry this year, 3 marks of an A, which is not to bad since i done better in the harder unit and can just retake the easier unit, if i did spend more time on chemistry then i would have got an A. Chemistry involves a lot of maths. If you like maths this is great fun, if not then not very pleasing. It also involves a lot of practical work, WAYYY more than biology, which is pretty cool and fun. Notes on chemistry are easier to make on biology and the notes are not very content heavy.

As to your question about whether to carry on with bio or exchange for chemistry, i personally in your position would exchange biology for chemistry reasons for this are:
1) Universities value Chemistry more than biology.
2) Chemistry does not involve a lot of stress like biology.
3) Chemistry is more fun to learn.
4) You can pick from a wider range of course with chemistry.

However you have an opposite argument, if you stick with biology then:
1) You are more likely to get into a course which involves more human anatomy. But generally speaking you need A-level chemistry along with A-level biology to get into these type of courses. This is a very important point which you should consider.

Anyway, Those are just brief outlines. However the decision ultimately lies with you.
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OL350
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(Original post by FireFreak)
Hello! So I am currently doing A2 Chemistry as well as Biology .

So biology hurm... This takes up a lot of time! No joke. The amount of content that you have to learn for biology is a lot. I achieved an A grade for biology at AS, which of course i am thankful of, and i was among 2 people of a class of 25 people to achieve an A-Grade. To be fairly honest i done about 16 hours of revision for biology a week, 2 hours on weekdays and a lot more on weekends, this included making notes, attempting past papers and of course the lovely old memorizing business! That's just an overview of how biology is, an oh before i forget, you have heard wrong. The step between GCSE biology and AS-Biology is far more greater than from GCSE Chemistry to AS-Chemistry, that is my opinion tho.

Chemistry - Well chemistry in my opinion is a lot easier than biology. I done about 8 hours revision a week for chemistry, which is half the amount i spent on biology. I achieved a B-Grade for chemistry this year, 3 marks of an A, which is not to bad since i done better in the harder unit and can just retake the easier unit, if i did spend more time on chemistry then i would have got an A. Chemistry involves a lot of maths. If you like maths this is great fun, if not then not very pleasing. It also involves a lot of practical work, WAYYY more than biology, which is pretty cool and fun. Notes on chemistry are easier to make on biology and the notes are not very content heavy.

As to your question about whether to carry on with bio or exchange for chemistry, i personally in your position would exchange biology for chemistry reasons for this are:
1) Universities value Chemistry more than biology.
2) Chemistry does not involve a lot of stress like biology.
3) Chemistry is more fun to learn.
4) You can pick from a wider range of course with chemistry.

However you have an opposite argument, if you stick with biology then:
1) You are more likely to get into a course which involves more human anatomy. But generally speaking you need A-level chemistry along with A-level biology to get into these type of courses. This is a very important point which you should consider.

Anyway, Those are just brief outlines. However the decision ultimately lies with you.
Thanks for the response. May I ask what grades you achieved at GCSE biology & chemistry? In addition to this, what are the main degrees/areas of work open to those who take chemistry alone with no other core science but a maths A-level, and what are the main degrees available for those who take biology alone with no other core science but a maths A-level?

OL
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Nymthae
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(Original post by OL350)
Other than bioscience what courses are based around a biology A-level and would I be right in saying it is in fact chemistry that is the necessary science to gain entry to a medicine based course? Obviously a chemistry A-level opens up lots of career opportunities, but other than medicine and chemical engineering degrees what are these other opportunities it provides? You said you studied both biology and chemistry, how did you find each course and which would you recommend?

OL
For medicine you need chemistry, and biology if you want options (for instance, if UKCAT doesn't go well). A-level requirements for medical schools is a very useful table to check.

Chemistry itself is involved in a lot of industries. Pretty much every chemical company will have an analytical department or personnel, who analyse compounds and identify them. Similar sort of skills for forensics work, so that could be with the police etc. but straight chemistry is better than a forensic science degree because you can do other stuff with it. I've been involved in developing a certain type of plastic over the last year, which is cool, so the materials sector uses chemistry to make more advanced materials. Oil & gas industries rely on new chemical technology for oil retrieval, and the huge consumer companies (Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, RB, Mars, Cadbury, Kellogg's...) that make foods, or household products, have teams of chemists formulating new products. Drug development and research in a pharmaceutical company is another option. So you can veer towards the biological side (proteins synthesis, for instance) or you can completely steer clear of it. Some chemists go into more programming and computational work, doing theoretical modelling. Techniques for modelling and screening potential drugs may pick up a lot of pace if they can be refined enough to provide reliable results.

Outside of chemistry it's a decent degree for anything that requires a degree, and particularly anything that wants a numerate degree, because of the mathematical content of it. The A-level is a stepping stone to it all, as for a scientific industry you'll need a degree. It just depends which area you want to target as to which subject you should choose. It's not the easiest of degrees.
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I'mNoSuperman
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(Original post by OL350)
Hi everyone,


I have recently received my GCSE results and begun my sixth form life. After a pretty happy set of results consisting of A*s and As I opted to take 4 A-levels, maths (GCSE grade = A) history (A*), biology (A) and geography (A). However, after my first week of studies I am in two minds whether or not I should continue biology or exchange it for A-level chemistry. In both GCSEs I attained A grades, however I have heard the step up to A-level chemistry is a step much greater than the transition from GCSE to A-level biology. For those who have selected both A-level biology and chemistry what would you recommend? And for those that have completed either of the two A-levels how did you find them? If I were to stick with biology would I be losing and closing doors to certain career opportunities? Let me know what you guys think, any comments are more than welcomed.


OL
Congratulations on your grades.
I've found Biology to be more essay-style whilst Chemistry has a lot more calculations involved. Whilst I liked the chemistry exams most, I didn't particularly enjoy the coursework. Either way I worked for both and got the grades I needed. If you're willing to put the effort in, neither should pose too much of a challenge.

I can't recommend a subject without an idea of what sort of university course you're looking at.
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Ana:)
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(Original post by OL350)
Hi everyone,


I have recently received my GCSE results and begun my sixth form life. After a pretty happy set of results consisting of A*s and As I opted to take 4 A-levels, maths (GCSE grade = A) history (A*), biology (A) and geography (A). However, after my first week of studies I am in two minds whether or not I should continue biology or exchange it for A-level chemistry. In both GCSEs I attained A grades, however I have heard the step up to A-level chemistry is a step much greater than the transition from GCSE to A-level biology. For those who have selected both A-level biology and chemistry what would you recommend? And for those that have completed either of the two A-levels how did you find them? If I were to stick with biology would I be losing and closing doors to certain career opportunities? Let me know what you guys think, any comments are more than welcomed.


OL
I'm in my second year of sixth form so I can only speak about AS,but neither of them are easy. However I got an A at GCSE in both, and I struggled with chemistry, and I think that's due to the fact, as previous users have said it starts off with "everything you've been taught is wrong" but I only got a B at GCSE maths so I struggled with the maths in chemistry (I wasn't great with revision either, but that's a different story). I got a high B at AS in Bio and a high D in chem. (My friend also got a B in biology and a C in chemistry and had the same grades at GCSE, and he worked his butt off). I rambled a bit, but in conclusion, yes biology is slightly easier.
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OL350
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(Original post by I'mNoSuperman)
Congratulations on your grades.
I've found Biology to be more essay-style whilst Chemistry has a lot more calculations involved. Whilst I liked the chemistry exams most, I didn't particularly enjoy the coursework. Either way I worked for both and got the grades I needed. If you're willing to put the effort in, neither should pose too much of a challenge.

I can't recommend a subject without an idea of what sort of university course you're looking at.
What was it about the coursework that you didn't seem to enjoy? May I ask what grades you achieved in both your chemistry/biology GCSEs and A-levels? As for Uni I have no specific course in mind at this point in time, hence why I am trying to keep my options open and most likely opt to change to chemistry. From what I have been told a single biology A-level combined with maths opens relatively few career paths compared to a chemistry A-level accompanied with maths.

OL
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I'mNoSuperman
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(Original post by OL350)
What was it about the coursework that you didn't seem to enjoy? May I ask what grades you achieved in both your chemistry/biology GCSEs and A-levels? As for Uni I have no specific course in mind at this point in time, hence why I am trying to keep my options open and most likely opt to change to chemistry. From what I have been told a single biology A-level combined with maths opens relatively few career paths compared to a chemistry A-level accompanied with maths.

OL
I got A*s in GCSE and As at A-level. As for the coursework, looking back on my comment, it wasn't so much that I didn't enjoy it as I didn't believe the marks we were given were worth the amount of effort we put in ("we" referring to my class mates).

Yes, go for chemistry. Chemistry +maths would allow you to do sciences as well as (I believe) finance (things like accounting and so forth).
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OL350
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(Original post by Nymthae)
For medicine you need chemistry, and biology if you want options (for instance, if UKCAT doesn't go well). A-level requirements for medical schools is a very useful table to check.

Chemistry itself is involved in a lot of industries. Pretty much every chemical company will have an analytical department or personnel, who analyse compounds and identify them. Similar sort of skills for forensics work, so that could be with the police etc. but straight chemistry is better than a forensic science degree because you can do other stuff with it. I've been involved in developing a certain type of plastic over the last year, which is cool, so the materials sector uses chemistry to make more advanced materials. Oil & gas industries rely on new chemical technology for oil retrieval, and the huge consumer companies (Unilever, Proctor & Gamble, RB, Mars, Cadbury, Kellogg's...) that make foods, or household products, have teams of chemists formulating new products. Drug development and research in a pharmaceutical company is another option. So you can veer towards the biological side (proteins synthesis, for instance) or you can completely steer clear of it. Some chemists go into more programming and computational work, doing theoretical modelling. Techniques for modelling and screening potential drugs may pick up a lot of pace if they can be refined enough to provide reliable results.

Outside of chemistry it's a decent degree for anything that requires a degree, and particularly anything that wants a numerate degree, because of the mathematical content of it. The A-level is a stepping stone to it all, as for a scientific industry you'll need a degree. It just depends which area you want to target as to which subject you should choose. It's not the easiest of degrees.
Chemistry seems to be the better rounded out of the two subjects, clearly offering more compared to biology.

As to the link you've provided me with, wow! It really does appear that almost any medicine course requires a reasonable grade in chemistry A-level, that was something I really wasn't expecting. In addition to this many of the also request a grade in AS/A2 biology, but maths also suits many of them. As for biology accompanied with a grade in maths, what career paths does this really open up as it appears to me to be very few.

OL
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2en1
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Seriously GCSE grades are irrelevant, A level grades depends on how much work you put in! I got As in all my sciences at GCSE and did AS bio and chem and personally found the content for both not too difficult, and achieved Bs in both AS subjects. Bear in mind though, chem is basic memorisation and stating the facts, but with biology there's a lot of application questions in the exam, so you have to memorise the facts and be good at answering exam questions in order to excel.

Also the jump from GCSE to AS level is pretty much the same or both subjects, don't base your decision on some peoples opinions! Both subjects required the same amount of revision as well and I personally found biology more interesting but will be continuing with both at A2.

Ultimately it's your decision but don't over think it or stress out!
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OL350
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(Original post by I'mNoSuperman)
I got A*s in GCSE and As at A-level. As for the coursework, looking back on my comment, it wasn't so much that I didn't enjoy it as I didn't believe the marks we were given were worth the amount of effort we put in ("we" referring to my class mates).

Yes, go for chemistry. Chemistry +maths would allow you to do sciences as well as (I believe) finance (things like accounting and so forth).
Thanks for the help and it seems I've come to the decision of taking chemistry, simply because of the numerous opportunities it opens compared to biology. May I ask you about your personal experiences on the course and how you found it in general, some people seem to suggest it is a major step up compared to alternative A-levels, is this the case? In addition to this, you say you attained a grade A at A-level chemistry, were you happy with this and looking back at it did that grade justify the hours you put into the subject? Just out of interest what other A-levels did you take and what area of work are you currently studying/working in at this moment in time?

OL
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