Should I take four A-levels to get into Oxbridge?

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MonkeyBananaPie
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I want to take English Lit, Spanish, and Geography for A-level and either an EPQ or Economics as a fourth. My school doesn't offer AS levels so I would have to do Economics for the full two years, which is obviously a lot of work. Economics is a subject that really interests me, and although I don't want to study it at university (I want to do something related to politics) I think the knowledge would be really useful, and it isn't really covered by my other A-Levels. I'm predicted all 8-9s at GCSE, and a 9 in all the subjects I'm taking (other than Economics since I didn't take it at GCSE) and I am aiming to get into Oxbridge. I also have quite a few extra curriculars, I play two instruments, I am on a debating team and in a choir and orchestra. Do you think taking four A-levels will be more beneficial than three and an EPQ, or will it be too much work?
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Reality Check
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(Original post by MonkeyBananaPie)
Do you think taking four A-levels will be more beneficial than three and an EPQ, or will it be too much work?
What do you want to read at university? Your offer will be for three A levels, not four, and it's usually best to do three superbly than four excellently. In other words, A*A*A is significantly better than AAAA from an admissions point of view.

There are the odd exceptions where a fourth A level can be useful, but not in the combinations you're proposing. You don't seem hugely driven to do four, apart from if there was some mythical application benefit to it (which there isn't), so I'd stick with three.
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leviticus.
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(Original post by MonkeyBananaPie)
I want to take English Lit, Spanish, and Geography for A-level and either an EPQ or Economics as a fourth. My school doesn't offer AS levels so I would have to do Economics for the full two years, which is obviously a lot of work. Economics is a subject that really interests me, and although I don't want to study it at university (I want to do something related to politics) I think the knowledge would be really useful, and it isn't really covered by my other A-Levels. I'm predicted all 8-9s at GCSE, and a 9 in all the subjects I'm taking (other than Economics since I didn't take it at GCSE) and I am aiming to get into Oxbridge. I also have quite a few extra curriculars, I play two instruments, I am on a debating team and in a choir and orchestra. Do you think taking four A-levels will be more beneficial than three and an EPQ, or will it be too much work?
Oxbridge don't care at all about your extracurriculars however the debating stuff might be useful for politics. I'm unsure what you want to apply to so I can't comment on whether or not 4 will be useful or not. Without A-level maths you can't really do PPE at Oxford though.
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McGinger
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No UK University wants more than 3 A levels - and you wont get an extra credit for taking more than 3.
Four A levels is hard work and it isnt worth the risk of messing up the grades in your other subjects - AAA will always look better than ABBB.

An EP is worth doing. It gives you an obvious topic to discuss in your PS, gives you experience of doing independent work, and will help your self-confidence.
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Reality Check
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(Original post by leviticus.)
Oxbridge don't care at all about your extracurriculars however the debating stuff might be useful for politics. I'm unsure what you want to apply to so I can't comment on whether or not 4 will be useful or not. Without A-level maths you can't really do PPE at Oxford though.
This isn't quite right. Oxford and Cambridge do care about extra-curriculars when they're clearly relevant to the course you want to study. As you say yourself, debating is an extra curricular which could be relevant.

Oxbridge doesn't care about extra-curriculars where they're done a mechanistic, treadmill approach purely to gain more perceived extra 'points' - think DofE, digging wells in Africa etc etc. Above all, you need to demonstrate deep and wide interest in your subject - that can be done by typical extra-curriculars, or by other pursuits.
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leviticus.
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(Original post by Reality Check)
This isn't quite right. Oxford and Cambridge do care about extra-curriculars when they're clearly relevant to the course you want to study. As you say yourself, debating is an extra curricular which could be relevant.

Oxbridge doesn't care about extra-curriculars where they're done a mechanistic, treadmill approach purely to gain more perceived extra 'points' - think DofE, digging wells in Africa etc etc. Above all, you need to demonstrate deep and wide interest in your subject - that can be done by typical extra-curriculars, or by other pursuits.
yeah I'm pretty sure we refer to those as supercurriculars now. At least that's what Oxbridge does.
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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Not worth the risk when it's a humanities subject you wanna study at Oxbridge: as has been said it's better to do fewer subjects and get the highest grades possible (for you), rather than spread too thinly unnecessarily and get lower grades :yep:

Music-related activities on an Oxbridge PS are only of interest when applying for music :fyi:
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McGinger
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(Original post by leviticus.)
yeah I'm pretty sure we refer to those as supercurriculars now. At least that's what Oxbridge does.
Supercurriculars = extra study beyond the A level syllabus - see https://www.undergraduate.study.cam....uggestions.pdf

Extracurriculars = hobbies. Not worth including in an Oxbridge PS - they want academic above all else.
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leviticus.
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(Original post by McGinger)
Supercurriculars = extra study beyond the A level syllabus - see https://www.undergraduate.study.cam....uggestions.pdf

Extracurriculars = hobbies. Not worth including in an Oxbridge PS - they want academic above all else.
yes...that is precisely what I'm saying, is it not?
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littlealexhorne
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Just thought I'd mention that I added a little bit at the end of my personal statement about the music I've been involved in (instruments, choirs+orchestras etc) despite being a Modern Languages applicant and I still got an offer - in fact, I was asked in one of my interviews to explain, in French, why I had chosen to play the viola instead of the violin! My reasoning was that I wanted to demonstrate that I would be an active member of the musical life of the college; maybe this was a mistake on my part but my interviewers definitely didn't seem to mind.
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MonkeyBananaPie
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(Original post by McGinger)
No UK University wants more than 3 A levels - and you wont get an extra credit for taking more than 3.
Four A levels is hard work and it isnt worth the risk of messing up the grades in your other subjects - AAA will always look better than ABBB.

An EP is worth doing. It gives you an obvious topic to discuss in your PS, gives you experience of doing independent work, and will help your self-confidence.
I think I'll do an EPQ then, it does sound really interesting
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MonkeyBananaPie
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(Original post by littlealexhorne)
Just thought I'd mention that I added a little bit at the end of my personal statement about the music I've been involved in (instruments, choirs+orchestras etc) despite being a Modern Languages applicant and I still got an offer - in fact, I was asked in one of my interviews to explain, in French, why I had chosen to play the viola instead of the violin! My reasoning was that I wanted to demonstrate that I would be an active member of the musical life of the college; maybe this was a mistake on my part but my interviewers definitely didn't seem to mind.
Thanks for that, I guess I should still mention the music that I've been involved in but put more emphasis on any other extra-curriculars that directly relate to my degree
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The_Lonely_Goatherd
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(Original post by MonkeyBananaPie)
Thanks for that, I guess I should still mention the music that I've been involved in but put more emphasis on any other extra-curriculars that directly relate to my degree
Since my post appears to have caused confusion: I never said leave music activities off your PS :nah: All my post was saying is that music ECs are not going to help you for a non-music Oxbridge application, in the way you appeared to be thinking (going by the wording in your original post) :fyi:
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eeeli
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As someone who did 4 A-Levels and an EPQ (don’t do that trust me lol) the EPQ was much more useful with regards to my Oxford application - I did it on a topic relevant to my intended degree subject, talked about it in my personal statement, and I had a discussion about it in my interview as well. My 4th A-level felt a bit irrelevant, and my offer was only for 3 A-levels anyway. EPQ is really useful for other unis too - a lot of them, including some Russell Group unis, will give you a lower offer if you get a good grade (eg an A) in EPQ. It is also excellent preparation for university study - extended writing, referencing, reading academic sources directly, managing your time etc. - I’d say my EPQ was probably the most useful thing I did in terms of being prepared for uni! As a side note, don’t give up on your extra-curriculars. Although Oxbridge don’t place much emphasis on them you will need that outlet and a chance to do something different as A-levels and Oxbridge admissions are a pretty intense time. Keeping those up will probably be much better for you than using the time on a 4th A-level.
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