username4667400
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Hi, I am currently studying A-levels in Biology, Psychology and English Literature. At the moment, I am gravitating towards a Liberal Arts degree because I like the idea of acquiring an overall education and knowledge. However, my concern is the depth of the information I would be studying. Considering it is such a broad degree, would the concepts I am learning be more challenging and detailed than if I were to learn it at A level? For example, I haven't learnt Latin before but, If I were to take 'an introduction to Latin' module, would I just be acquiring general knowledge or would it be an in-depth and detailed course. Thank you!
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artful_lounger
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There's no real way to answer that generally other than noting usually at university material is covered faster and more through independent study than in school, and it is a little bit "sink or swim" in that regard. For specific subject areas it will depend entirely on how the particular module is taught as to how much it will compare to the public exams taken in school (if at all).

For e.g. UCL the classical language modules are 30 credit modules where you study only the language and cover roughly one "stage" per year - GCSE equivalent in one year, A-level in the next, and so on, in theory (at the least, those with GCSE Latin would start the Intermediate Latin course at UCL the same as those who had no Latin and did the Beginners Latin course the year before - however none of them probably will specifically prepare you to take an A-level exam in that subject as the texts and vocab will probably be different). The Open University on the other hand teaches language and literature together for the classical languages, and are 60 credit modules only teaching the language in one stage - they skew perhaps a little to the lit side and so probably come just shy of GCSE level language, but the expectations of sophistication of the lit study will be at a higher level (certainly higher than GCSE level, and to get the highest marks beyond A-level literary analysis too).

This difference in approach by each university illustrates (perhaps) the fallacy in this equivalence- university modules are not preparing you for public GCSE or A-level exams, and the aims and objectives of the course will be set internally, rather than following a general proscription with slight variations between exam boards. Every single university and module will be wholly different. The end goal is to not meet some external moderation requirements to be "equivalent to" a bunch of A-level courses (or not), but to learn the language insofar as you can use that to study the texts yourself in the original language. How far you manage to develop or indeed use that is dependent on you - you certainly can go far beyond the absolute requirements of the course and learn much more vocab and grammar than necessary, and you certainly probably should go beyond at least the minimal reading and exercises set at uni in any module. Basically, the focus should be on the process of learning the material, not the end result, at uni.

This principle does apply to any subject, and not just Latin. At uni you get out of the course what you put into it - very often for e.g. humanities areas, lectures are just a starting point to introduce you to some key themes and concepts, and the bulk of the learning is done by yourself when you go off and use that starting point to dive into your own wider reading around those themes and concepts. The lectures are usually not maximal teaching of all topics for the exam, like you are used to in school (this is somewhat less the case for STEM subjects at uni, but even then often a lot of the detail is left for you to study independently. They might sort of handwave a derivation and tell you to go through it yourself, or start a proof and tell you to finish it as an exercise - not infrequently for nontrivial things as well!).

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Something that has been noted before is that most of the "canonical" translations of various classical texts would fail if presented as a translation in a GCSE or A-level exam, because they aren't literal enough in the translation - as overly literal translations can be clunky to read for people not familiar with the language. However the point of those GCSE /school exams is to test your grasp of the language so they require you to show this by using such over literal translations to make abundantly clear to examiners that you fully grasp the grammar involved in a particular passage. At university the lecturer marking you will usually have more leeway to give you the benefit of the doubt and so a translation balancing being literal and being fluent may well score as much or better than a purely literal one. The goalposts are in a different place, essentially.

Last edited by artful_lounger; 1 year ago
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A Rolling Stone
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(Original post by username4667400)
Hi, I am currently studying A-levels in Biology, Psychology and English Literature. At the moment, I am gravitating towards a Liberal Arts degree because I like the idea of acquiring an overall education and knowledge. However, my concern is the depth of the information I would be studying. Considering it is such a broad degree, would the concepts I am learning be more challenging and detailed than if I were to learn it at A level? For example, I haven't learnt Latin before but, If I were to take 'an introduction to Latin' module, would I just be acquiring general knowledge or would it be an in-depth and detailed course. Thank you!
have you considered a degree in Scotland? you study 3 subjects in your first year, up to 3 subjects in your second year, and your grades only start to count from third year onwards where you will study either only your degree subject or two if you do a Joint Honours. i 100% recommend it - i did biology, psychology and economics in my first year
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