Opinion and advice on taking 5 A-levels

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Tuplata Baja
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Hi all,

I have recently finished year 11 with good grades and I am now going Sixth Form.
For my options, I initially picked Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Computer Science.

However, a quick taster session of Further Maths has convinced me to pick it. I have done Further Maths in GCSE and gotten a 9 so the idea of doing it for A-level only scares me a little, unlike most people who say it's one of the hardest A-levels.

So I am now asking for your advice and opinion on if I should do these 5 A-levels or not.
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IBkidinthecorner
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What do you want to study at university?
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TCL
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A lot of schools would not allow you to do 5. Maths/FM is sometimes timetabled as 1.5 subject blocks, so 4 including those is the most manageable combination of 4 A levels. If your school allow it, you could start Y12 with all 5 and drop one off you find it too much. If you are thinking about medicine (as you are doing Bio and Chem), a lot of universities will only count 1 of your Maths A levels.
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Sinnoh
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Opinion: it's a bad idea
Advice: Don't

Regardless of what you might want to do at uni, computer science A-level is never required. So if you want to do further maths and you like all the subjects equally, don't do CS.

4 A-levels to include maths and further maths is less work than 4 distinct subjects. Really you'd only ever need 3.
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jemima0103
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5 seems too many. I've seen a lot of people on here say only take 4 if the 4th one is further maths as well.
You only need 3 and if you want to get top grades in A Level it could be better to focus on those 3 subjects.
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Interea
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My school allowed us to do 5 (provided one of them was further maths) - I think about 6 of us started out with 5, but only 2 people stuck it out the whole way through. It's not that the rest of us couldn't have done 5, we just had no reason to once we worked out which subject we liked the least. Universities very rarely even give 4 A level offers (let alone 5), and it's much better to get 3 good grades than 4 or 5 mediocre grades. Also with 5 subjects we only got 1 free period a fortnight, which meant a lot of work to do in the evenings after full days of lessons.

If you want to do further maths (and I would recommend it, it was a lot of fun ), I'd say you're better off dropping one of your other subjects instead of adding it on top. By all means start out with the 5 if you don't know which one to drop, but aim to be down to 4 by October half term at the latest so you have enough free time to keep on top of everything and have some time left to relax!
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artful_lounger
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It's not beneficial in the slightest to take 5 A-levels (universities do not award "bonus points" for taking additional A-levels, except one medical school), and it is not advisable because you run the very real risk of spreading yourself too thinly across your subjects and not doing as well. Universities up to and including Oxford and Cambridge have stated time and again 3 very strong A-level grades is preferable to 4+ more mediocre A-level grades - A*A*A is much better than A*AABC as far as universities are concerned. It's not even advisable to do 4 A-levels unless two are maths and FM normally for the same reason.

In terms of your subject choices, A-level Computer Science is not normally required as a prerequisite for any degree programme (including CS - the major exception is Cardiff that I'm aware of) and so seems an obvious candidate to drop, since you don't lose anything in terms of potential degree options by dropping it.
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justlearning1469
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For 5 A-levels, there is a huge thread
https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/sho...7067042&page=9 and a huge reply from Tessa Moltres that gives tips on how to tackle most of the subjects you're taking (except Computer Science). I'd say take Physics instead of Computer Science to broaden more options. 5 A-levels could be useful, for instance taking all three sciences plus maths, with English Lit because having an appreciation for writing is actually essential in science. It's a jarring workload but it is possible, and it's not even that extreme compared to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haroon_Tariq who has gotten 30 A grades in A-level.
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Reality Check
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04MR17 - here we go again (do you have perms here?)
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04MR17
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Discussion of banning / other moderation doesn't belong here please folks. Focus on giving the advice that other people need.
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Tessa Moltres
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(Original post by Tuplata Baja)
Hi all,

I have recently finished year 11 with good grades and I am now going Sixth Form.
For my options, I initially picked Chemistry, Biology, Maths and Computer Science.

However, a quick taster session of Further Maths has convinced me to pick it. I have done Further Maths in GCSE and gotten a 9 so the idea of doing it for A-level only scares me a little, unlike most people who say it's one of the hardest A-levels.

So I am now asking for your advice and opinion on if I should do these 5 A-levels or not.
Hiya! I see I've already been mentioned in this thread (which is very lovely to see!) so thought I'd give my tuppence

I took chemistry, biology, maths, further maths and history at A level in 2017. Honestly I cannot recommend doing 5 A-levels enough if you're unsure of the exact route you want to go in life because you can drop subjects as you decide what you actually enjoy and are particularly good at. And if you're happy taking all 5 A-levels, more power to you! I dropped history pretty quickly, and I don't know anyone who completed 5 A-levels. I feel there is a big misunderstanding the taking so many A-levels is superfluous but I think it's a good idea if you don't know what you want to focus on yet. It's okay to drop them and I recommend taking on what you think you can handle, as long as you keep in mind that there's no shame dropping subjects when you know what you want. The whole point of A-levels is to learn, it's wonderful there's so much you want to learn about!

With regards to the subjects you're taking, chemistry and biology are a very heavy workload! Chemistry was the most difficult A-level I chose, and the biggest tip I can recommend is to make sure you understand the underlying theories in chemistry (i.e. always link everything back to electrons and the patterns across the periodic table, it makes learning reactions and equations so much easier!)

Maths and further maths were slightly different for my A-levels compared to how they're done now, but I believe the content is the same. So I 100% recommend taking maths and further maths if you enjoy it! Further maths is just more wonderful calculations <3 and again, most people I know ended up dropping further maths (there were only about 20 of us in the year who took the final exams) because they decided it wasn't for them, and that's no problem. Further maths is hard, but for me it was certainly a lot easier than chemistry. Further maths was also so much more enjoyable for me than core maths, if you like maths (and don't mind shedding a few tears over homework) then it actually is a lot of fun! It's all about what you're good at, and as you say you're a pretty competent mathematician so I think it's a good idea.

If you decide that 5 A levels is too much work, and you're unsure what to do at university, then as other users said you don't need computer science to study computer science at university. Additionally, I would recommend taking at least biology, chemistry and maths because they work amazingly together and are a classic combination for applying to university. I would then recommend the further maths on top of this, because statistics (which you should learn in both maths and further) is vital to biology! However, I love the choices you're thinking of, they work amazingly well together.

- PhD toxicology student
Last edited by Tessa Moltres; 1 month ago
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Reality Check
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(Original post by 04MR17)
Discussion of banning / other moderation doesn't belong here please folks. Focus on giving the advice that other people need.
Thanks
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justlearning1469
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(Original post by Tessa Moltres)
Hiya! I see I've already been mentioned in this thread (which is very lovely to see!) so thought I'd give my tuppence

I took chemistry, biology, maths, further maths and history at A level in 2017. Honestly I cannot recommend doing 5 A-levels enough if you're unsure of the exact route you want to go in life because you can drop subjects as you decide what you actually enjoy and are particularly good at. And if you're happy taking all 5 A-levels, more power to you! I dropped history pretty quickly, and I don't know anyone who completed 5 A-levels. I feel there is a big misunderstanding the taking so many A-levels is superfluous but I think it's a good idea if you don't know what you want to focus on yet. It's okay to drop them and I recommend taking on what you think you can handle, as long as you keep in mind that there's no shame dropping subjects when you know what you want. The whole point of A-levels is to learn, it's wonderful there's so much you want to learn about!

With regards to the subjects you're taking, chemistry and biology are a very heavy workload! Chemistry was the most difficult A-level I chose, and the biggest tip I can recommend is to make sure you understand the underlying theories in chemistry (i.e. always link everything back to electrons and the patterns across the periodic table, it makes learning reactions and equations so much easier!)

Maths and further maths were slightly different for my A-levels compared to how they're done now, but I believe the content is the same. So I 100% recommend taking maths and further maths if you enjoy it! Further maths is just more wonderful calculations <3 and again, most people I know ended up dropping further maths (there were only about 20 of us in the year who took the final exams) because they decided it wasn't for them, and that's no problem. Further maths is hard, but for me it was certainly a lot easier than chemistry. Further maths was also so much more enjoyable for me than core maths, if you like maths (and don't mind shedding a few tears over homework) then it actually is a lot of fun! It's all about what you're good at, and as you say you're a pretty competent mathematician so I think it's a good idea.

If you decide that 5 A levels is too much work, and you're unsure what to do at university, then as other users said you don't need computer science to study computer science at university. Additionally, I would recommend taking at least biology, chemistry and maths because they work amazingly together and are a classic combination for applying to university. I would then recommend the further maths on top of this, because statistics (which you should learn in both maths and further) is vital to biology! However, I love the choices you're thinking of, they work amazingly well together.

- PhD toxicology student
You're actually the only person here who advocates so passionately for 5 A-levels, I do like that, you're based. Plus you love supporting further maths. Now for these 5 A-level threads there might be a reform in terms of attitude thanks to you.
Last edited by justlearning1469; 1 month ago
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Wibble04
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I have a friend in my year (about to go into Year 13) who is taking: Classics, Latin, Spanish, RS and an EPQ currently, and she has said cause she originally had to swap music for Latin for the course she wants to do at uni. Due to this, she now wants to re-take up the music alevel course etc. this summer - ie. 5.5 altogether. She is super stressed all the time and never really has time for anything other than doing her work. Even taking 4 alevels is stressful enough (I take 3 and an EPQ). I recommend against it!!! Especially cause the ones you are looking at are all content-heavy subjects.
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justlearning1469
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(Original post by Wibble04)
I have a friend in my year (about to go into Year 13) who is taking: Classics, Latin, Spanish, RS and an EPQ currently, and she has said cause she originally had to swap music for Latin for the course she wants to do at uni. Due to this, she now wants to re-take up the music alevel course etc. this summer - ie. 5.5 altogether. She is super stressed all the time and never really has time for anything other than doing her work. Even taking 4 alevels is stressful enough (I take 3 and an EPQ). I recommend against it!!! Especially cause the ones you are looking at are all content-heavy subjects.
Okay if you think that taking an extra subject at sixth form is 'stressful enough' wait until you attempt to go to university, and don't forget postgraduate studies. Tessa Moltres is surprisingly correct, I mean come on her PhD is exponentially more difficult than one extra A-level.

More context, GCSE to A-level is large but it's not overwhelming. From A2 to uni is quite a bit larger. You can even skip from bachelors to a PhD, in that case it'll be an exponentially wider jump. Even from masters to PhD is already extremely large.

If you think things are difficult now, wait until later for real difficulty.
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Wibble04
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(Original post by justlearning1469)
Okay if you think that taking an extra subject at sixth form is 'stressful enough' wait until you attempt to go to university, and don't forget postgraduate studies. Tessa Moltres is surprisingly correct, I mean come on her PhD is exponentially more difficult than one extra A-level.

More context, GCSE to A-level is large but it's not overwhelming. From A2 to uni is quite a bit larger. You can even skip from bachelors to a PhD, in that case it'll be an exponentially wider jump. Even from masters to PhD is already extremely large.

If you think things are difficult now, wait until later for real difficulty.
she's gonna love that then. she is honestly just a workaholic and musician soo...
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SyedN
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(Original post by justlearning1469)
Okay if you think that taking an extra subject at sixth form is 'stressful enough' wait until you attempt to go to university, and don't forget postgraduate studies. Tessa Moltres is surprisingly correct, I mean come on her PhD is exponentially more difficult than one extra A-level.

More context, GCSE to A-level is large but it's not overwhelming. From A2 to uni is quite a bit larger. You can even skip from bachelors to a PhD, in that case it'll be an exponentially wider jump. Even from masters to PhD is already extremely large.

If you think things are difficult now, wait until later for real difficulty.
For me and the people I know, the largest jump was from GCSEs to A Levels. The jump between A Levels and University was pretty easy if I'm being honest and even now I would still say the hardest thing was A Levels for me and I only did 4 but dropped history to do Bio, Chem and Maths only.

One of my relatives is also doing their DClinPsych at Oxford and they said they found A Levels the biggest and hardest jump so far and they only went with 3 A Levels as well.
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Tuplata Baja
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Thank you all for your advice. I really appreciate it. I will of course spend some time deciding my options since all of you guys have influenced my thoughts, believe it or not )
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