Does taking 3 A Levels put me at a disadvantage against someone who's taking 4?

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Daniyal_Ahmed
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Hi guys

My sixth form college offer initially allowed me to take a 4th A Level if I received 8A*s or more for my GCSE's. I've ended up with 9A*s and an A, however my college has had some issues with the timetabling and can't give me, or anyone, the 4th A Level that I wanted (which was going to be Physics). I'll be taking the EPQ instead, which I've heard is equivalent to an AS Level, however I wanted to know whether not having a fourth A Level would place me at a disadvantage against someone who does have a fourth A Level. My current choices are Chemistry, Maths, Economics and EPQ and I'm looking to get into one of the Top 10-20 UNIs e.g. Oxbridge.
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Daniyal_Ahmed
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By the way I'm sorry for the poorly worded title, I don't know how to change it!
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Lkathryn08
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Yes, look at entry requirements at unis, pretty much all of them only consist of three grades, which most people tend to do.
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RayApparently
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(Original post by Daniyal_Ahmed)
By the way I'm sorry for the poorly worded title, I don't know how to change it!
Click 'edit' on your original post and then click 'preview post' to change the title.
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jazz_xox_
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Yes they accept 3 A-Levels, in many cases it would be better. I went to an Oxbridge conference last year and spoke to someone who worked at Oxford and asked him this- he said there is no disadvantage AS LONG AS you hit the criteria (typically A*AA) in THREE subjects. If you had 4 subjects and got AAAA, they usually would not give you a place.

(The example grades I gave are for medicine only btw)
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Doones
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(Original post by Daniyal_Ahmed)
Hi guys

My sixth form college offer initially allowed me to take a 4th A Level if I received 8A*s or more for my GCSE's. I've ended up with 9A*s and an A, however my college has had some issues with the timetabling and can't give me, or anyone, the 4th A Level that I wanted (which was going to be Physics). I'll be taking the EPQ instead, which I've heard is equivalent to an AS Level, however I wanted to know whether not having a fourth A Level would place me at a disadvantage against someone who does have a fourth A Level. My current choices are Chemistry, Maths, Economics and EPQ and I'm looking to get into one of the Top 10-20 UNIs e.g. Oxbridge.
3 A-levels are absolutely fine, and will not disadvantage you.

Which course are you considering?
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Abstract_Prism
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They say it doesn't, but really it does.

Look at the average UCAS points of the students at top unis. Loads of them are above 500. That's equivalent to AAAAA and higher in A-levels. Now, you've got the argument that those who do more A-levels are more likely to be accepted because they are more likely to be able to get good grades in the first 3 in the first place, and that UCAS points are generated elsewhere (such as from Grade 8 instruments) as well, but that doesn't justify why the average is so high. If 3 A-levels really didn't disadvantage you, you would see the average a lot lower.

You will be 'subconsciously' discriminated against for having done 'only' 3 A-levels, and the reason why is that universities know that average UCAS tariff scores influence their rankings, so they accept people with high UCAS points to bump their own rankings.
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Doones
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(Original post by Abstract_Prism)
They say it doesn't, but really it does.

Look at the average UCAS points of the students at top unis. Loads of them are above 500. That's equivalent to AAAAA and higher in A-levels. Now, you've got the argument that those who do more A-levels are more likely to be accepted because they are more likely to be able to get good grades in the first 3 in the first place, and that UCAS points are generated elsewhere (such as from Grade 8 instruments) as well, but that doesn't justify why the average is so high. If 3 A-levels really didn't disadvantage you, you would see the average a lot lower.

You will be 'subconsciously' discriminated against for having done 'only' 3 A-levels, and the reason why is that universities know that average UCAS tariff scores influence their rankings, so they accept people with high UCAS points to bump their own rankings.
No.
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swansea jack 1
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I attended an open day at Durham University a few years ago. The guy there said I don't care if you have 6 A levels the only things that matters is the grades you get from 3. You will not be disadvantaged as most universities make offers based on 3 A Levels. The only university I am aware of that asks for a 4th is University College London and they want a 4th at AS level grade E. I suspect if your referee outlined the timetabling problem in your reference they would consider that
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stereoashhh
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(Original post by jneill)
No.
What a fantastic, well thought out and well written argument.

And it doesn't explain why Cambridge's average entry standards are exactly 600 ucas points. That's not just a bit higher than what AAA would be. It looks like the difference is collosal.
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Doones
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(Original post by stereoashhh)
What a fantastic, well thought out and well written argument.

And it doesn't explain why Cambridge's average entry standards are exactly 600 ucas points. That's not just a bit higher than what AAA would be. It looks like the difference is collosal.
Ok, so it's a combination of many things. For example, high scores in IB generate a lot of UCAS points (45 points on IB = 720 UCAS points). Then add miscellaneous qualifications like Grade 8 in music that aren't part of an Oxbridge offer but applicants have achieved anyway.

And also, yes, most Oxbridge applicants do offer 4 A-levels (and many go on to achieve A*A*A*+), but a very significant number only offer 3 and are absolutely not disadvantaged. For Oxbridge it is all about quality not quantity.

Cambridge's entry standard is not 600. Their standard is A*AA or A*A*A (depending on the course). The points achieved are not the same as the requirement.

Just to add, the % of students "only" offering 3 A-levels is increasing. e.g. in 2013 15% of Engineering students accepted by Cambridge had 3 A-levels. In 2014 it was 20.5%.

And those percentages will be higher for arts&humanities where it is less common for applicants to do FM.
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Pinkberry_y
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If anything those who do 4 a levels are at more of a disadvantage because they have to spread themselves thinner
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Abstract_Prism
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(Original post by jneill)
Ok, so it's a combination of many things. For example, high scores in IB generate a lot of UCAS points (45 points on IB = 720 UCAS points). Then add miscellaneous qualifications like Grade 8 in music that aren't part of an Oxbridge offer but applicants have achieved anyway.
First off IB applicants are dwarfed by the number of A-level applicants, and the number of applicants getting a perfect IB score is smaller still.IB applicants do not have as big an influence over tariffs as you make them out to have.

(Original post by jneill)
And also, yes, most Oxbridge applicants do offer 4 A-levels (and many go on to achieve A*A*A*+), but a very significant number only offer 3 and are absolutely not disadvantaged. For Oxbridge it is all about quality not quantity.
(Original post by jneill)
Just to add, the % of students "only" offering 3 A-levels is increasing. e.g. in 2013 15% of Engineering students accepted by Cambridge had 3 A-levels. In 2014 it was 20.5%.
20.5% is not a 'significant number'. The very fact that this is what you consider reassuring is concerning.

(Original post by jneill)
Cambridge's entry standard is not 600. Their standard is A*AA or A*A*A (depending on the course). The points achieved are not the same as the requirement.
Now, the official minimum entry standard is A*AA/A*A*A. However, the reality is that if your UCAS points don't look like they will turn out to be at least shy off 600, you're almost certainly not getting in. No, that's true. Look at the average. If what I'm saying isn't true, then that average would not be as high as it is. The numbers speak for themselves.

(Original post by jneill)
Just to add, the % of students "only" offering 3 A-levels is increasing. e.g. in 2013 15% of Engineering students accepted by Cambridge had 3 A-levels. In 2014 it was 20.5%.

And those percentages will be higher for arts&humanities where it is less common for applicants to do FM.
That's still an embarrassingly small percentage, not reassuring at all. What we're seeing in Cambridge's case (not sure why we're focusing on Cambridge, this is the reality for most top unis) is that the overwhelming majority of successful applicants have not only done more than 3 A-levels, but have done well more.

Really though, are you not at least a little disconcerted by how an average is this high?

All the evidence is pointing towards hidden discrimination against regular applicants who do the normal number of A-levels.
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returnmigrant
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NO.

No Uk University asks for more than 3 full A levels. Not even Oxbridge. All Unis will only score you on a maximum of 3 so the 4th one is a total waste of time. There are a range of silly urban myths about this and believe me they are all total rubbish.

AAA will always look better than ABBB. Every year I see applicants miss their grades for exactly this reason - and they don't get a Uni place. 4 dodgy grades do NOT equal 3 good grades.

3 subjects with an EPQ is a very good idea!.
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redbronze1
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(Original post by returnmigrant)
NO.

No Uk University asks for more than 3 full A levels. Not even Oxbridge. All Unis will only score you on a maximum of 3 so the 4th one is a total waste of time. There are a range of silly urban myths about this and believe me they are all total rubbish.

AAA will always look better than ABBB. Every year I see applicants miss their grades for exactly this reason - and they don't get a Uni place. 4 dodgy grades do NOT equal 3 good grades.

3 subjects with an EPQ is a very good idea!.
Pretty much this. Concentrate on 3 rather than potentially spreading yourself thin on 4... something I wish I was told!
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ageshallnot
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(Original post by Abstract_Prism)
X
If you don't believe the posters who disagree with you, one of whom works in admissions at a highly-ranked university, then try asking in this thread when it re-opens on Tuesday: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show....php?t=4238242

In the nine iterations of his thread including the one above, the Christs's admissions tutor repeatedly tells applicants that a) three A-levels will not disadvantage any applicant, and b) Cambridge are looking for quality not quantity and would much prefer, say, A*A*A to AAAA. He often warns applicants against spreading themselves too thinly.
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APersonYo
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(Original post by Daniyal_Ahmed)
Hi guys

My sixth form college offer initially allowed me to take a 4th A Level if I received 8A*s or more for my GCSE's. I've ended up with 9A*s and an A, however my college has had some issues with the timetabling and can't give me, or anyone, the 4th A Level that I wanted (which was going to be Physics). I'll be taking the EPQ instead, which I've heard is equivalent to an AS Level, however I wanted to know whether not having a fourth A Level would place me at a disadvantage against someone who does have a fourth A Level. My current choices are Chemistry, Maths, Economics and EPQ and I'm looking to get into one of the Top 10-20 UNIs e.g. Oxbridge.
Hey, universities only care about 3 A levels. I know a girl who got into vet at cambridge with 3 A levels and I also know a girl who got into cambridge with 4 A levels. It really doesn't matter. Universities only care about 3 A levels, the people that do 4 or 5 A levels are just doing it to show off really.
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ageshallnot
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To conclude my point, http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/show...238242&page=53 post #1054.
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