Am I choosing the the right a levels? Watch

enCermet
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I just started sixth form. I'm taking Economics, Accounting, Maths and Thinking Skills. My aim is to achieve straight A*s. I'm mathematical minded and also have a way with words. I am, however, intimidated by subjects that have too much material such as business and economics. At IGCSE level, I got an A* in Economics despite bad prep. I'm considering taking Business as well but i'm unsure. I really need guidance regarding thinking skills. How to score an A* in it? And am I choosing the right subjects? I plan to study economics at university btw. And I wanna try my shot at the Ivies as well.

Edit: I should probably add that I'm going to apply for university in Canada and the US. I'm hoping to secure merit based scholarships. Will thinking skills still be useless for me?
Moreover, my school doesn't offer subjects like history. I tried sociology but dropped it after one class.

All responses are much appreciated ♥️
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returnmigrant
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Thinking Skills isnt an A level that any sensible Uni will take seriously - its in the same basket as Critical Thinking and General Studies. Most Unis exclude it, and therefore its pretty pointless taking it, and certainly pointless wasting time and effort on it what you could be working on your 3 main subjects. (Schools love to say 'All our 6th formers take 4 A levels' - but they aren't wasting their valuable time doing it).

For Economics the most important subject is Maths. Then Economics. Accountancy wont mean much (its considered a soft subject along with things like Dance Studies), but as a '3rd subject' its fine.

Drop the Thinking Skills and concentrate on the other three. AAA is always going to look better than BBBB.
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artful_lounger
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Thinking Skills/Critical Thinking/General Studies and their ilk normally are not considered by universities when making offers. It is largely irrelevant what grade you get in it.

The combination of Economics and Business Studies is normally frowned upon due to the overlap in material. Some universities will not consider them two separate A-levels for the purposes of making an offer, and will not consider one in making said offer. Maths is usually the main consideration for the top economics courses, and at e.g. LSE, Cambridge and similar, a significant number of successful applicants (most at Cambridge in fact) have Further Maths. LSE welcomes FM but only as a 4th subject however.

Accounting is usually not considered an "academic" A-level and may impact your application to some universities, such as LSE - which indicates while taking one such course may be acceptable, they consider it worse preparation for their programmes and taking a more traditional academic subject is considered preferable. Taking two such subjects would normally prevent you from applying successfully there (and Business Studies is considered by LSE in the same vein as well, regardless if you are taking economics or not).

Economics, Maths, Further Maths, and a further academic subject would be the best preparation. You can find the subjects LSE considers academic vs non academic (or in their terms, "preferred" vs "non-preferred") here. Most other "top" universities don't publish such a list but implicitly tend to have similar views.

You may also want to refer to this document, which discusses the subjects taken and grades achieved by applicants to Oxfords PPE course last year, in particular noting which are more commonly taken by successful applicants.
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sindyscape62
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(Original post by enCermet)
I just started sixth form. I'm taking Economics, Accounting, Maths and Thinking Skills. My aim is to achieve straight A*s. I'm mathematical minded and also have a way with words. I am, however, intimidated by subjects that have too much material such as business and economics. At IGCSE level, I got an A* in Economics despite bad prep. I'm considering taking Business as well but i'm unsure. I really need guidance regarding thinking skills. How to score an A* in it? And am I choosing the right subjects? I plan to study economics at university btw. And I wanna try my shot at the Ivies as well.
Thinking skills isn't really a serious subject - many unis would completely ignore your grade in it, even if it's an A* (a bit like general studies), so I wouldn't bother with it. Accounting is also reasonably soft and I would advise you don't take it unless it's something you're really interested in/want to do for a career, and it isn't in any way necessary even then.

If you're mathematically minded and think you can get an A* in maths A level, why don't you do further maths? It would be extremely useful for an economics degree and many applicants to top unis do it.

Have you thought about an essay subject like history? It has some ties to economics, and it's also a fairly common subject for econ applicants to have.
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enCermet
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(Original post by returnmigrant)
Thinking Skills isnt an A level that any sensible Uni will take seriously - its in the same basket as Critical Thinking and General Studies. Most Unis exclude it, and therefore its pretty pointless taking it, and certainly pointless wasting time and effort on it what you could be working on your 3 main subjects. (Schools love to say 'All our 6th formers take 4 A levels' - but they aren't wasting their valuable time doing it).

For Economics the most important subject is Maths. Then Economics. Accountancy wont mean much (its considered a soft subject along with things like Dance Studies), but as a '3rd subject' its fine.

Drop the Thinking Skills and concentrate on the other three. AAA is always going to look better than BBBB.
Please read my edit!
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enCermet
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(Original post by sindyscape62)
Thinking skills isn't really a serious subject - many unis would completely ignore your grade in it, even if it's an A* (a bit like general studies), so I wouldn't bother with it. Accounting is also reasonably soft and I would advise you don't take it unless it's something you're really interested in/want to do for a career, and it isn't in any way necessary even then.

If you're mathematically minded and think you can get an A* in maths A level, why don't you do further maths? It would be extremely useful for an economics degree and many applicants to top unis do it.

Have you thought about an essay subject like history? It has some ties to economics, and it's also a fairly common subject for econ applicants to have.
Please read my edit!
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enCermet
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Thinking Skills/Critical Thinking/General Studies and their ilk normally are not considered by universities when making offers. It is largely irrelevant what grade you get in it.

The combination of Economics and Business Studies is normally frowned upon due to the overlap in material. Some universities will not consider them two separate A-levels for the purposes of making an offer, and will not consider one in making said offer. Maths is usually the main consideration for the top economics courses, and at e.g. LSE, Cambridge and similar, a significant number of successful applicants (most at Cambridge in fact) have Further Maths. LSE welcomes FM but only as a 4th subject however.

Accounting is usually not considered an "academic" A-level and may impact your application to some universities, such as LSE - which indicates while taking one such course may be acceptable, they consider it worse preparation for their programmes and taking a more traditional academic subject is considered preferable. Taking two such subjects would normally prevent you from applying successfully there (and Business Studies is considered by LSE in the same vein as well, regardless if you are taking economics or not).

Economics, Maths, Further Maths, and a further academic subject would be the best preparation. You can find the subjects LSE considers academic vs non academic (or in their terms, "preferred" vs "non-preferred" here. Most other "top" universities don't publish such a list but implicitly tend to have similar views.

You may also want to refer to this document, which discusses the subjects taken and grades achieved by applicants to Oxfords PPE course last year, in particular noting which are more commonly taken by successful applicants.
Please read my edit! Also, my school doesn't offer further maths. I don't think I'll be able able to do it on my own.
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by enCermet)
Please read my edit! Also, my school doesn't offer further maths. I don't think I'll be able able to do it on my own.
If you're applying in the US (and to an extent in Canada, as the systems are somewhat similar on the whole) it makes no difference what subjects you take - although some may be more benefit to taking certain subjects over others to "game" advanced placement/credit policies. Just take the ones that will get you the best grades, then ace the SAT/ACT and related bits.

In the US you won't declare your major until after you matriculate normally, with the exception of a few programmes that let you declare early, and more than a few engineering schools which require you to indicate if you plan to pursue an engineering major (this is mainly so they can ensure you start taking the course sequences at the correct time). Canada is often similar to this, although it varies a little and some are more similar to the European style of applying to given subject.

So none of them, including Thinking Skills, will negatively impact your application. I'm not sure to what extent any of them will positively impact it either, in terms of subject specifically. Thinking Skills may help somewhat on the ACT/SAT but you probably have suitable critical thinking ability from your GCSE and earlier education.
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enCermet
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
If you're applying in the US (and to an extent in Canada, as the systems are somewhat similar on the whole) it makes no difference what subjects you take - although some may be more benefit to taking certain subjects over others to "game" advanced placement/credit policies. Just take the ones that will get you the best grades, then ace the SAT/ACT and related bits.

In the US you won't declare your major until after you matriculate normally, with the exception of a few programmes that let you declare early, and more than a few engineering schools which require you to indicate if you plan to pursue an engineering major (this is mainly so they can ensure you start taking the course sequences at the correct time). Canada is often similar to this, although it varies a little and some are more similar to the European style of applying to given subject.

So none of them, including Thinking Skills, will negatively impact your application. I'm not sure to what extent any of them will positively impact it either, in terms of subject specifically. Thinking Skills may help somewhat on the ACT/SAT but you probably have suitable critical thinking ability from your GCSE and earlier education.
So how do I "game" them into giving me that advanced placement sort of credit?
Also, what should I do to land merit based scholarships in US and Canada?

(Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I appreciate it!)
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by enCermet)
So how do I "game" them into giving me that advanced placement sort of credit?
Also, what should I do to land merit based scholarships in US and Canada?

(Thank you for taking the time to write to me. I appreciate it!)
Well it's just knowing which subjects normally receive credit/placement and which don't. Normally Physics and Maths/Calculus will get some, and typically English Language (but not always Literature). Languages also will almost always end up in some way getting you placed into the "next" level in the sequence.

There are caveats however - if you accept placement/credit for a course which doesn't exactly match their sequence, you may find yourself in over your head once you start. In particular, I'd suggest not accepting any physics credit if you're planning to take the major's sequence (i.e. any calculus-based Physics sequence) as A-level Physics is not calculus based and you may end up having a weaker background because of it. Also you may either get not enough credit for doing Maths and FM (and end up repeating a reasonable chunk of material) or get too much and be put directly into math major level classes which may be a huge leap up from what you've been exposed to and are expecting.

Some other subjects vary a bit more - Chemistry is usually possible to get placement at the majority of universities but the "top" ones often don't allow it. Biology is pretty hit or miss, and often if there is placement/credit it's for the "non-majors" version of the course. Economics is often quite limited and unless you do specific formats (like doing both AP Microeconomics and AP Macroeconomics) you won't get placement. More vocational/applied/practical things like music, art, accounting, ICT, etc, etc, are less likely to get placement or credit. You also won't get any placement or credit for things like critical thinking or general studies, as they don't correspond to a particular subject (although unlike in the UK they may be more accepting of the courses as useful general preparation, and they might be helpful for the SAT/ACT).

Also if it's of interest, normally you shouldn't take placement or credit for any pre-medical classes you'll be taking, and if your college requires you to, you should take an equivalent number of classes at the appropriate level. Medical schools in the US can be quite choosy about this, and if you apply with less than 4 chemistry, 2 biology, 2 physics, and 1-2 maths/stats/behavioural social science classes they may well reject the application.
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