5 A-Levels? Watch

NishanR
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Hi! My name's Nishan, and this is my first post here!

I want to study Medicine preferably at Oxbridge.

Choices: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths.

I'm a fairly bright lad, targeted all grade 9s (bar the two subjects that don’t use the new 9-1 system, in which I’m targeted an A* in both).

I can soak up information like a sponge too, and I really enjoy learning.

Okay, so the topic of discussion is whether or not 5 A-Levels is a bad idea, and I just wanted to speak to some people who did more than 4 A-Levels.

I've seen many people go:
  • "phwoar 5 A-Levels man just drop 2 of em cause Unis don't care cause they just look at 3"
  • "man that's too much work"
  • "waste of time"
  • too hard"
I can't disclose the main sixth form that I want to go to, but I've gotten mixed opinions from them about doing 5 A-Levels.

Personally, I feel like doing more would be more enjoyable for me as I like flicking between things.

I spoke to many teachers at the school, and the headteacher.

Some of the teachers supported it, but they said I should think about reconsidering.

Others said if I can do it and put in the work, then I should go for it.

As I said, I spoke to the headteacher. It was only a quick chat, and he didn't listen to my choices. He said that there would be timetable issues.

However, I spoke to the teachers of the subjects I want to choose, and they said it would be possible.

From what I was told by the teachers, my chosen subjects complement each other well.

Apparently, at the sixth form I want to go to if you do Maths and Further Maths you take Maths in the first year and you take Further Maths in the second year.

From my understanding, it is recommended that you do 4-6 hours of self-study a week per subject.

5 A-Levels would equate to at least 20 hours a week, but I would most likely do 25 hours per week (so 5 per subject) to do better. Not only that, but I’d have to do more at home as I’d lose out on all free periods, so I’d have to do that bit more at home.

I could manage if I do 3 hours each evening and 5 hours each day of the weekend.

Flicking through some of the textbooks I saw that a lot from GCSEs comes up to A-Level.

I can absorb information really well. If I’m told something in class, even if I’m fidgeting with a pen or something and only half listening, all I need to do is read it from a book and I can usually remember it.

The maths teacher at the sixth form did 5 himself. He said he did 4 A-Levels plus a subject like General Studies (he said it was a “noddy subject”, sort of like General Studies, yet not). Also, I know a Chinese lady who did 6 A-Levels. She had to do General Studies or Religious Studies, but she chose one as a compulsory subject, and then she just chose to do the other. Also, I think she did Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths alongside those two (but I was told this ages ago, and she didn’t really say much on the matter, so it was hard to pick up on what she had said).

From what I’ve heard, many public schools have an average of 4-5 A-Levels, whereas state schools have an average of 3-4.

I know there’s no benefit really to doing 5 A-Levels; I want to do 5 A-Levels because I enjoy each subject, I like a challenge, and I think I can do it. Also having more A-Levels and GCSEs can be a ‘wow factor’ for Uns. I plan on doing a GCSE in Statistics – possibly in September even.

I’m in year 11 at the minute, and I know many will say “well you’ve never seen, and there’s a lot to do at A-Levels”, but I have a sister who’s doing 3 A-Levels + a specialised course outside that is equivalent to an A-Level and more, and I don’t think the workload would be that horrific for me personally.

If I can’t do 5 A-Levels at the sixth form I want to go to, then I’ll just do Biology, Chemistry, Physics Maths, but do a lot of Maths revision to try and get through the syllabus early, and then say “well, look, I’ve finished the syllabus, please could you enter me in early and then that way I can still do Further Maths next year?”

So, to conclude:
  • What are your opinions on the matter?
  • What A-Levels did you do?
  • If you did 5 A-Levels, what was it like?
  • What are some tips if I do end up doing 5 A-Levels?
Thanks,

Nishan
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AuroraNyx
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  • I don't think it's worth it. I do Medicine and frankly it's not worth burning yourself out now, because Year 1 (and 0 if you do it) are brutal. You have to be extremely passionate and, honestly just stubborn, to get through it. You're going to spread yourself thin and become a master of nothing without extreme care. The ONLY things relevant to Medicine are Biology, Chemistry and potentially one of either Math/Phys. You don't need more and you're not going to get brownie points for doing so; the only thing it'd really help for is UKCAT and BMAT. And even then, not really.
  • I took English, History, Sociology, Biology and Physics, along with First Language Welsh and Irish. I did AL Chemistry by myself a year later.
  • As you can see, I did seven subjects (though only 5 were really work). It was hell. I didn't have a social life, my relationship soured extremely quickly, I was constantly tired and depressed, and felt like I was juggling a million things at once without enough hours in the day. It wasn't conducive to my mental health nor the health of anyone else I knew that did 5. You don't need to do it and I don't recommend it at all.
  • Manage your time in a schedule and stick to it RIGIDLY. Free up plenty of time to relax your brain, and I can't stress enough the importance of exercise. When exams are near draw up a table of things to cover for every single day, up to the hours you spend on each thing if need be. Keep links with friends, talk with family, do not isolate yourself under any circumstances. Have strong conviction and remind yourself every day why you're doing this. Flashcards are your best friend and mindmaps help too. Do a revision paper for each subject each week if you can. And may the gods give you strength.
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T2A
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I did 5 A levels and even though I didn’t find it hard, I don’t think it was worth the extra time consumed. Dropping one of those subjects and playing a sport or volunteering or doing an EPQ or some form of super-curricular activity related to medicine would be much more worth your time. What I’m trying to say is that there are better ways to spend the time wasted doing an extra a level (or two in our cases)
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F055il215
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I think that if you really want to do it and are prepared to put in the work, then go for it.

I am in year 12, so may not be the best person, but I am doing Chemistry, Computer science, Maths and Physics in school and I am self-teaching FM. I am also doing an EPQ.

At the moment, it is fine. I didn't do the best that I could have done at GCSE, so it took a while for me to convince my school to let me take 4. Their main concern was that doing 4 would mean that my grades would suffer, but they aren't yet - getting 100% on most maths tests, about 80% on chemistry tests and almost 90% on physics tests. So I definitely think that it is possible to do well whilst doing 5 A-levels.

Make sure you keep on top of your work, ask the teacher for help - just the same things you get advised when you start A-levels, because you just need to do the same things, but more.
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AuroraNyx
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(Original post by T2A)
Dropping one of those subjects and playing a sport or volunteering or doing an EPQ or some form of super-curricular activity related to medicine would be much more worth your time.
This is also true. And worth considering, because it doesn't matter if you get 5 A*s if you have no work experience, interview skills or BMAT practise, you won't be getting in regardless. And the work experience alone is a significant time-consumer.
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DrawTheLine
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It's not recommended. There's a risk you end up getting Cs and Ds overall instead of A*s and As because you can't spend as much time on each subject. It's much better to have 3 solid A-Levels than 5 average ones. A-Levels are very different from GCSEs, and require a whole different way of thinking and revising. It won't give you the wow factor for universities, as most only require 3 A-Levels. Science A-Levels and maths ones compliment each other well, but they are also the most demanding subjects. You seem pretty convinced about your decision anyway though, so good luck.
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Royal Oak
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Don't do it. It's great that you have interest in your subjects but if your aim is medicine, this really isn't worth it. Your A-levels form only one part of you application and having more than three won't give you any real advantage. Your application to medicine will also include extra-curriculars, admissions exams and work experience/volunteering. You most likely won't have time for you subjects and preparing for all of this if you take 5 A-levels, as well as the all important relaxation time. Not only will you likely burn out, but you'll greatly increase your chances of not getting the AAA (minimum) you'd need to get into medical school.

I strongly suggest reconsidering your plans. If you really have such a strong interest in these subjects, read about them in your free time.
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HateOCR
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Its unnecessary. You don’t know how much of a jump GCSE to A-level is which is why you’re probably being too optimistic about choosing 5 alevels. Its better if you do 4 A-levels at most if you absolutely think you can handle it.
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phosphene
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I do 5 (sort of, more like 4.5) i.e 4 A-Levels + EPQ (which is seen as more than an AS level) so I'm doing 5 subjects in year 12 (AS year) and 3 next year.

I'm without doubt dropping down to three (waving bye to French, and hopefully finishing EPQ) as the sheer amount of content wouldn't be possible. It would no doubt affect the quality of your grades.

Doing 3 A Levels + EPQ + AS Level is definitely manageable hence I have chosen that, even then it's difficult to balance a job and parties, gigs, etc

Its pointless risking compromising your A Level grades by doing too many It is difficult to see from a GCSE perspective since at GCSE it's completely manageable to do 12, 13 GCSEs (probably 2 or 3 more than most your peers) but it's a different game at A Level !
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Doc Dave
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One of my best friends (from another school) does 5 A-Levels. Same ones as you! xD. Maths, further maths, biology, physics and chemistry. He goes to the gym for like 2 hours a day plus Karate on a Saturday (he's 2nd Dan, going for 3rd Dan. Or he might be 3rd? I can't remember xD. I'll ask him when we go swimming later). I know he does loads of music, practicing his cello and is going on a tour with an Orchestra round Europe this summer (he had to pay). I don't think he's necesserily the cleverest (although, don't get me wrong, he is probably one of the most intelligent people I know) but he puts in quite a lot of hard work.

He has an offer from Cambridge to study Medicine. So, it is definitely possible to study 5 A-Levels and still stay fit, healthy and have hobbies: just realise you won't have time to watch TV (he plays computer games sometimes but I doubt he has much time for that sort of stuff).

I personally study maths, physics, biology and chemistry (also with an offer from Cambridge (for Biological Natural Sciences) ) and have liked science since I was in Infant School so I'm finding it good (just Organic Chemistry and Core Maths are very hard). I would recommend doing 4 A-Levels; maybe drop Further Maths and do the same as me if you like science, or drop physics and keep FM if you like maths just as much as science (because physics and further maths seem the most away from studying Medicine).
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ihatePE
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everyone all have the mindset and momentum to do sooooo much work, before they get into sixth form, so did i. and i did do the MOST during year 12, but now i've burnt out. you cant forget other factors like socialising, even if just a little bit at school, it will make everything too much to handle. then in year 13, you have ucas application, which takes up so MUCH of the first half of year 13, even stressed me out and i finished it in october.
you really dont want to go through sixth form all alone with your books, you need time to relax and even though i know you will underestimate the fact that you need to have ''fun'' sometimes, 5 is going to waste your time like everyone has said.
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NishanR
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(Original post by T2A)
I did 5 A levels and even though I didn’t find it hard, I don’t think it was worth the extra time consumed. Dropping one of those subjects and playing a sport or volunteering or doing an EPQ or some form of super-curricular activity related to medicine would be much more worth your time. What I’m trying to say is that there are better ways to spend the time wasted doing an extra a level (or two in our cases)
Hmm. So it's definitely possible? I'll be doing work experience this summer at at least one hospital. The sixth form I'm looking at has an excellence academy that helps with things like work experience. Yeah, they push super-curricular activities. Okay. Thanks!
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NishanR
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(Original post by HateOCR)
Its unnecessary. You don’t know how much of a jump GCSE to A-level is which is why you’re probably being too optimistic about choosing 5 alevels. Its better if you do 4 A-levels at most if you absolutely think you can handle it.
It might be unnecessary, but I'm not looking at it from a practical point of view. I'm not being optimistic at all aha, I'm just trying to grasp an understanding. I do understand how big a jump it is, as I have a sister doing A-Levels, plus numerous other people I know doing A-Levels. I can definitely handle 4. I'm very good at remembering things, so I feel like 5 would be just manageable.
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NishanR
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(Original post by ihatePE)
everyone all have the mindset and momentum to do sooooo much work, before they get into sixth form, so did i. and i did do the MOST during year 12, but now i've burnt out. you cant forget other factors like socialising, even if just a little bit at school, it will make everything too much to handle. then in year 13, you have ucas application, which takes up so MUCH of the first half of year 13, even stressed me out and i finished it in october.
you really dont want to go through sixth form all alone with your books, you need time to relax and even though i know you will underestimate the fact that you need to have ''fun'' sometimes, 5 is going to waste your time like everyone has said.
Right. I understand about the socialising bit, that's true, but at the sixth form I want to go to, they have numerous clubs on at lunch and break times for that. Nah they do the UCAS application in year 12 (or at least they do a lot of the work in year 12, if you're a part of the excellence academy).
But 25 hours revision a week, for 5 subjects? That's 3 hours each evening, and then 5 hours Saturday and 5 hours Sunday. Say I work from 5pm until 8pm, that's 3 hours done each night. Then say on each day of the weekend I do 3 hours from 10am until 1pm, do whatever else I want to do, and then from 7pm until 9pm I do another 2 hours? Surely that's manageable?
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NishanR
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(Original post by phosphene)
I do 5 (sort of, more like 4.5) i.e 4 A-Levels + EPQ (which is seen as more than an AS level) so I'm doing 5 subjects in year 12 (AS year) and 3 next year.

I'm without doubt dropping down to three (waving bye to French, and hopefully finishing EPQ) as the sheer amount of content wouldn't be possible. It would no doubt affect the quality of your grades.

Doing 3 A Levels + EPQ + AS Level is definitely manageable hence I have chosen that, even then it's difficult to balance a job and parties, gigs, etc

Its pointless risking compromising your A Level grades by doing too many It is difficult to see from a GCSE perspective since at GCSE it's completely manageable to do 12, 13 GCSEs (probably 2 or 3 more than most your peers) but it's a different game at A Level !
Right. Well, good luck!
Could I start off with Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths, and if I'm struggling I could knock it down to 4? As the place I want to go to does Maths in the first year anyway, and Further Maths in the second, so it will be like studying 4 per year.
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ralph9694
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I'm in year 12, doing the 5 you're considering, and it's going really well so far. I have 5 frees every 2 weeks which I always do work in, and stay after school Monday to Thursday for an hour to finish homework. Obviously it's a lot or work but doing further maths makes normal maths much easier, and also the mathematical parts of the sciences are easier.
Like you, I got mixed (mostly negative) feedback about doing 5 A levels from my old school and new 6th form, they gave me an offer for 4 and I added the 5th on enrolment day.
I'd say give it a go, you can always drop one if it's too difficult, and you sound like a pretty motivated person who won't take no for an answer anyway.
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NishanR
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(Original post by F055il215)
I think that if you really want to do it and are prepared to put in the work, then go for it.

I am in year 12, so may not be the best person, but I am doing Chemistry, Computer science, Maths and Physics in school and I am self-teaching FM. I am also doing an EPQ.

At the moment, it is fine. I didn't do the best that I could have done at GCSE, so it took a while for me to convince my school to let me take 4. Their main concern was that doing 4 would mean that my grades would suffer, but they aren't yet - getting 100% on most maths tests, about 80% on chemistry tests and almost 90% on physics tests. So I definitely think that it is possible to do well whilst doing 5 A-levels.

Make sure you keep on top of your work, ask the teacher for help - just the same things you get advised when you start A-levels, because you just need to do the same things, but more.
Awesome! Cause I really do want to do it, and I am prepared to put in the work!
Well, you're definitely in a better position to judge than I am!
Wow! Well done! Good luck!
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black1blade
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If you want to keep your options totally open for any science related course at uni and think you can deal with the work then go ahead. Personally I think physics, chemistry, maths and fm is enough work but there are people who do 5 and are fine.
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NishanR
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(Original post by ralph9694)
I'm in year 12, doing the 5 you're considering, and it's going really well so far. I have 5 frees every 2 weeks which I always do work in, and stay after school Monday to Thursday for an hour to finish homework. Obviously it's a lot or work but doing further maths makes normal maths much easier, and also the mathematical parts of the sciences are easier.
Like you, I got mixed (mostly negative) feedback about doing 5 A levels from my old school and new 6th form, they gave me an offer for 4 and I added the 5th on enrolment day.
I'd say give it a go, you can always drop one if it's too difficult, and you sound like a pretty motivated person who won't take no for an answer anyway.
The exact same 5? Wow! Awesome! Yay I'm glad to hear it's going really well! You do 5 subjects yet still have 5 frees every 2 weeks? I hope I'll get that too. It is! That was my thinking too, because they all complement each other well, they make each other easier.
Everyone has just been pretty damn negative about it, when in reality all things considered it seems pretty possible. Wow, I might have to try that!
Alright thanks! Exactly! Hahaha motivated, or just stubborn ahaha. Well, why should I take no for an answer?
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RedGiant
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As posted above, A Levels are pretty different to GCSEs in terms of the style of questions. I wanted to do 5 at one point during year 11, and I got the best GCSE results in my school's history, and I'm glad I didn't decide to. Have a look at the specifications for biology for example, and times that by 5. It's all well and good having the "I want to put in the extra work" attitude, but seriously, it's going to be very, very difficult to not only learn but memorize everything, including all the different exam technique. Be realistic, if you can. And remember that you'll have less than 1 year to do it, unlike GCSEs.
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