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Choosing your A-levels? Your questions answered here! MKII watch

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    Choosing A-Levels can be a difficult decision to make so early on in life for those who choose to do them. There are many threads on A-Level choices being posted at this time of the year, so to we've created this thread for all questions about choices to help everyone to get the most effective help.

    How do I choose which A-Levels to take?

    What to do if I know which career path I would like to follow?

    The first and most effective thing to do is to have a look on the website of the university/college you wish to attend to see which A-Levels are required and which grades from each subject you need for the course. Alternatively you can search for your course on www.ucas.com and click on ‘specific course entry requirements’ to see the grades and the subjects required for a course at a university or college. Also, you can post in the subject specific sub forums in the University and University Courses forum for advice from current students and other students who are also either in the same position or would like to take the same course as you and have already chosen their options.

    Not everyone likes to go straight onto university after completing A-Levels, so if you would prefer to look into what career paths are available then make a thread in the appropriate sub forum in the Careers and Employment forum, or if you would prefer an apprenticeship, make a thread in the Apprenticeships sub forum.

    What to do if I don’t know which career path I would like to follow?

    In general, it's often good to try to take a wide range of subjects, such as a science subject (e.g. maths or physics), a humanities subject (e.g. history or English), an arts subject (e.g. a foreign language) and/or a social sciences subject (e.g. business or law). This will open up many career paths options to you. However the danger here is if you decide to go into a career which requires 2 or 3 subjects with are part of one particular area of such as 2 science subjects or 2 humanities subjects for a course then you may not be able to get a place on your desired course. We would suggest that you try and make a short list of possible courses you would be interested in doing, looking at all of the subjects they like you to take and pick your favourite ones or most suitable ones from that.


    How hard are A-Levels?

    It cannot be doubted that there is a relatively large jump between GCSEs and AS-Level. However the first module of each A-Level subject is designed to give you the basic knowledge for the rest of the A-Level, and make up for any gaps of knowledge that may be present. But it does not mean that it is impossible to do well at a subject, even if you did not achieve or are not predicted one of the top grades at GCSE for those subjects. The key is in understanding the basic knowledge of each course by doing a little bit of work or background reading each day on each subject to make sure that you know the course material well. At A-Level you can't do little work over the course of the unit then cram the night before as easily as it is claimed to be for GCSE subjects so persistent reading and extra study is required throughout A-Levels in order to gain a good grade. As a guideline it is good to try and get around 5 hours of additional independent study for each subject done each week in order to gain a good grade. This may increase to around 6-7 hours for those wanting to achieve the highest grade possible. Please remember though that this is only a guideline and it is variable for each individual.

    How will I know if I will be able to cope with a particular subject?

    The simple answer to this is that you just don’t know, and you'll never know unless you try! However if you are concerned about taking a subject on to A-Level or are considering it but are unsure, the best thing to do is to talk to your subject teacher and ask for their opinion on the matter.

    How many subjects should I take?

    The majority of A-Level students take 3 or 4 A-Level subjects. Many take 4 subjects in their AS year and drop one subject in their A2 year so that they also have an extra AS qualification on top of their full A-Levels (ASs count as a qualification on their own, and they do count for UCAS points. See www.ucas.com for more details on UCAS points, or post in the Applications and UCAS sub forum).

    Few students take 5 ASs or more and take all of their subjects onto A2. This will all depend on how much work you do and how suited to the subjects you are taking. However, in many cases you will not gain an advantage when making university applications by taking more than 3 A-Levels as most university courses only require 3 A-Levels to gain a place. If you are unsure if your chosen university course requires 4 A-Levels to gain a place on the course, contact the admissions officer for that course at your preferred universities and they will be able to provide you with this information.

    Can I change to a different subject if I don't like one that I've chosen?

    Most sixth forms and colleges would allow you to do this very early on into a course (maybe a maximum of 2 weeks) if there is a legitimate reason for you wanting to change. To do this you will have to speak to the person at your sixth form or college who deals with your A level courses. If you are unsure who this is, then speak to your tutor or subject teacher to find out. It might be a good idea to speak to your subject teacher before deciding to change as well. They won't be offended if you ask for their opinion on the matter, I'm sure.

    What do the Russel group think?

    They've just published this list on which A levels they prefer and which degrees require which A levels.

    You may have noticed references to certain A-Levels subjects being 'blacklisted' by universities as being 'easier' than others. In general, the official line from universities is that there is no such 'blacklist', but this is something that has been strongly rumoured by many in the media and can't be dismissed. It is notable that Trinity College at Cambridge University, LSE and Sheffield University have published lists of 'preferred' A-Level subjects, as linked below, but these should not be taken as a strict 'blacklist'. You should also remember that these lists are from these institutions individually and are not recognised by other universities.


    If you would like to ask other users on their opinions of a particular A-Level subject, make a thread in the appropriate sub forum. There are 3 main forums which lead to many specific subject sub forums. These are:


    TSR member Paulwhy has written up an extensive guide setting out his personal interpretation of the various publications and discussion on this issue, which you can read here if interested.

    If you have any more general questions regarding choosing A-Levels, then please post in this thread.

    Please refer back to version one of this thread here: Choosing your A-levels? Your questions answered here! MKI
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    PRSOM Amazing Thanks so much for pulling this together! :woo:
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    Thanks for the links. I agree to the general view that the jump from GCSEs
    to A levels is huge after having had 2 kids go through it and now my youngest doing IGCSEs. And definitely "cramming" for A levels too close to the date will not be too fruitful.
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    Is doing Physics a good idea for a Biotech degree? Even if I didn't particularly like it? Although I could cope...


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    (Original post by Manny_khalae)
    Is doing Physics a good idea for a Biotech degree? Even if I didn't particularly like it? Although I could cope...


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    What other subjects would you be taking?
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    (Original post by Nirgilis)
    What other subjects would you be taking?
    Bio
    Chem
    Maths


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    (Original post by Manny_khalae)
    Bio
    Chem
    Maths


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    It depends on the type of course you are after and at which institution. If you want to study a biotechnology degree with the emphasis on the biology and the chemistry, then no, physics isn't required in your current combination. However, if you want to study a biotechnology degree with the emphasis on the technology and engineering (say a bioengineering degree or a biomedical engineering degree), then yes, physics is definitely a requirement :yep:

    Have a look at some course codes on the UCAS course finder and get an idea of the type of degree you feel like you would like to study, and make the decision from there
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    (Original post by Nirgilis)
    It depends on the type of course you are after and at which institution. If you want to study a biotechnology degree with the emphasis on the biology and the chemistry, then no, physics isn't required in your current combination. However, if you want to study a biotechnology degree with the emphasis on the technology and engineering (say a bioengineering degree or a biomedical engineering degree), then yes, physics is definitely a requirement :yep:

    Have a look at some course codes on the UCAS course finder and get an idea of the type of degree you feel like you would like to study, and make the decision from there
    Thanks so much !!


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    (Original post by Sophie Kirkwood)
    I only have the option to study 3 A-Levels. My original choices, and ones which seem the most sensible, are Biology, Chemistry and Maths. I can do a fourth if I get mostly A*s and the rest As at GCSE but I do not want to rely on getting those grades and then panicking to eliminate an A-Level because I didn't get the grades. Maths is compulsory where I am planning to go and I am struggling to pick two of Further Maths, Chemistry and Biology. I guess my question is what would you do? I have also considered physics but since I do not have much of an idea of what I want to do after A-Levels it is difficult to stick with what ever decisions I make. I enjoy maths and science so I guess I can't really lose whatever I choose. My strongest subjects at GCSE (based on mocks) are Maths, then Physics, then Chemistry then Biology and I know GCSE is a lot different than A-Levels so should I even be going by my strongest subjects at GCSE?
    Hey! Yeah do your best subjects coz they only get harder. Plus if you really hate something it's no point going into A levels with it. Do maths physics and chem then! Don't pick something you hate and then regret it later.


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    (Original post by Sophie Kirkwood)
    I only have the option to study 3 A-Levels. My original choices, and ones which seem the most sensible, are Biology, Chemistry and Maths. I can do a fourth if I get mostly A*s and the rest As at GCSE but I do not want to rely on getting those grades and then panicking to eliminate an A-Level because I didn't get the grades. Maths is compulsory where I am planning to go and I am struggling to pick two of Further Maths, Chemistry and Biology. I guess my question is what would you do? I have also considered physics but since I do not have much of an idea of what I want to do after A-Levels it is difficult to stick with what ever decisions I make. I enjoy maths and science so I guess I can't really lose whatever I choose. My strongest subjects at GCSE (based on mocks) are Maths, then Physics, then Chemistry then Biology and I know GCSE is a lot different than A-Levels so should I even be going by my strongest subjects at GCSE?
    Hi Sophie.

    I know this is extremely early to do, but I would advise you to look at some of the potential universities and see what kind of A Levels they prefer. Personally doing Further Maths (and intending to do an economics-related degree at university), I understand that some universities tend to look at Further Maths as an additional (hence fourth) subject.

    Taking Maths, Further Maths and one of the sciences would be fine but I would say be careful with the Further Maths option. At my school, they allow us to take 4 so I have already fulfilled the minimum 3 grades required. I think some universities are concerned that by taking Maths, Further Maths and another subject, you might not have enough breadth/depth to your knowledge/understanding.

    All this is based on personal experience. I've noticed that LSE have stated that Further Maths is an additional, and some of my classmates in my class who are intending to do engineering at university have told me (for the time being) that they will be doing all 4 of their subjects.

    For A Levels, I narrowed my options down to the subjects I absolutely would not/did not want to do. Then I just went with the subjects I saw myself strong at, and had relatively high interest in. It's ultimately up to you what you want to do. All the best and hopefully this was helpful.
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    Hey there.

    I am wanting to study Computer Science at university. I am utterly stuck between 2 options on where to study.

    Option 1 is a large college. I will be able to study Maths, Further Maths, Computing and Politics there which is my preferred choice. However, 25 mile travelling distance, lack of bursaries and a general lack of comfortableness at going there is putting me off.

    Option 2 is my sixth form. I will be able to study Maths and Further Maths, however Computing and Politics are not available*. I can study an OCR Cambridge Technical in ICT at Level 3, which I believe is an equivalent but I am worried about Uni's not seeing it that way. Politics may be possible if I am able to persuade my head of sixth form to put it on. Otherwise, I will have to select a different subject.

    Does anybody have any ideas on what I have mentioned? My predicted GCSE grades are 4A*, 4A, 1B and I have already obtained 1A*(Maths), 1B and 1C.

    My main question, I suppose, is would OCR Cambridge Technicals ICT be enough to get into a top university for Computer Science as opposed to A Level Computing.
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    Im in year 11 and stuck on which a levels i should be doing next year, i am already certain on biology, sport and maths, yet i am unsure on whether to take physics or business studies. I predict i will get A+ in maths biology sport and phsics. I am definitey thinking of going to university, and i just want to know what you would recommend
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    (Original post by robsmith99)
    Im in year 11 and stuck on which a levels i should be doing next year, i am already certain on biology, sport and maths, yet i am unsure on whether to take physics or business studies. I predict i will get A+ in maths biology sport and phsics. I am definitey thinking of going to university, and i just want to know what you would recommend
    Hi there!

    I'd recommend you do physics instead of business studies since the latter is traditionally viewed as a "soft" subject. My line of thinking is also that physics will give you more leeway to choose what university degree you will want to do in the future, so you are more open to science-related fields. Taking business studies will likely reduce your options considerably.

    That is just my opinion though.

    Take what you want from it.
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    (Original post by robsmith99)
    Im in year 11 and stuck on which a levels i should be doing next year, i am already certain on biology, sport and maths, yet i am unsure on whether to take physics or business studies. I predict i will get A+ in maths biology sport and phsics. I am definitey thinking of going to university, and i just want to know what you would recommend
    Physics 100%
    Business doesn't gel at all with any of those other subjects and probably wont be taken as seriously by a University.
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    I can't decide on doing either Law or Medecine for a career. Can I do Chemistry and Biology (for Medecine) and English Lit and History (for Law) as a combination? That won't limit me will it?
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    (Original post by neil20143)
    I can't decide on doing either Law or Medecine for a career. Can I do Chemistry and Biology (for Medecine) and English Lit and History (for Law) as a combination? That won't limit me will it?
    Should be fine. Just note that if you're thinking about Medicine at Cambridge, they give preference to three sciences.

    P.S. It's spelt "Medicine"
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    [QUOTE=Nirgilis;55426441]Choosing A-Levels can be a difficult decision to make so early on in life for those who choose to do them. There are many threads on A-Level choices being posted at this time of the year, so to we've created this thread for all questions about choices to help everyone to get the most effective help.

    I'm choosing my A-Levels now.

    I am thinking of doing; Chemistry, English Language and Geography.
    (All A-Levels)

    Are these choices considered 'good' I'm not too sure. I'm thinking about possibly displacing English and doing Maths and Physics. I just don't want to be overloaded with with work.
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    (Original post by George_Ha)
    Choosing A-Levels can be a difficult decision to make so early on in life for those who choose to do them. There are many threads on A-Level choices being posted at this time of the year, so to we've created this thread for all questions about choices to help everyone to get the most effective help.

    I'm choosing my A-Levels now.

    I am thinking of doing; Chemistry, English Language and Geography.
    (All A-Levels)

    Are these choices considered 'good' I'm not too sure. I'm thinking about possibly displacing English and doing Maths and Physics. I just don't want to be overloaded with with work.
    Do you have any idea about what you want to do after A-levels?
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    Not exactly. I chose Chemistry as it was my best and favorite subject, and the same with the other 2 pretty much.

    I may do a Chemistry degree... some revolve around having Maths A-Level, some don't. So I guess I'll need to see which one's I want to do.
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    My college just said, do what you enjoy+have some facilitating subjects, as they're very broad and useful in later life.
 
 
 

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