Struggling to pick a 4th A-level

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j0eyy
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#1
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#1
I’m in my final year of GCSEs and need to finalise my A-Level application next month, but I’m struggling to pick between Further Maths and R.S as a 4th subject. I’m planning on taking Maths, Chemistry and Biology no matter what, and have predicted 8s (could easily be 9s if I put the effort in) in all aforementioned subjects. Though Further Maths and R.S are polar opposites I’m really struggling to pick between them as I love Maths but am also extremely interested in philosophy and ethics. Both could help towards my planned university course and future career path in Biochemistry/Biomedical Science (ideally at Oxford, Bath, London Imperial or St. Andrews).
If anyone could help me, either through their own experiences or just general knowledge of either subject that would be amazing.
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karmer16
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#2
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#2
Why do you feel like you NEED a 4th A level?
If you are dead set on wanting a 4th A level, and if you want a science-related degree at any of the universities you've mentioned, further maths will be more helpful - far more so than RS, it is a much more respected A level by universities. RS won't set you apart from equally talented candidates, but further maths will. I take further maths and its my favourite subject.
I take further maths as a 4th A level along with maths, physics, geography, and I will say FM takes up FAR more of my time than the others (and the others take up a big chunk anyway, especially physics).
To be honest, I'd tell you to forget the 4 a level thing and stick with the 3 you've got - further maths isn't a requirement to get into biomedical or biochem, its not even on the recommended subjects anywhere for Oxford. Take 3, get top grades, and do LOADS of wider reading, e.g. reading New Scientist. Get some work experience etc., you'd be better spending your time doing that.
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Reality Check
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#3
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#3
(Original post by j0eyy)
I’m in my final year of GCSEs and need to finalise my A-Level application next month, but I’m struggling to pick between Further Maths and R.S as a 4th subject. I’m planning on taking Maths, Chemistry and Biology no matter what, and have predicted 8s (could easily be 9s if I put the effort in) in all aforementioned subjects. Though Further Maths and R.S are polar opposites I’m really struggling to pick between them as I love Maths but am also extremely interested in philosophy and ethics. Both could help towards my planned university course and future career path in Biochemistry/Biomedical Science (ideally at Oxford, Bath, London Imperial or St. Andrews).
If anyone could help me, either through their own experiences or just general knowledge of either subject that would be amazing.
You don't actually need to do a fourth, and unless you're applying for physical NatSci at Cambridge it's completely unnecessary - all it will do is add to your workload and diminish the chances of getting A*A*A or higher in the three A levels on which any university offer will be based.

Pick the three that you are best in (=most interested in, usually) and do those excellently, rather than accumulating extra A levels which have no practical value.
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z-u-l-u
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#4
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#4
Honestly I wouldn't take a 4th A Level unless you really have to (a uni requires it). I did a fourth to AS and regret wasting the effort on it.
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j0eyy
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#5
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#5
(Original post by karmer16)
Why do you feel like you NEED a 4th A level?
If you are dead set on wanting a 4th A level, and if you want a science-related degree at any of the universities you've mentioned, further maths will be more helpful - far more so than RS, it is a much more respected A level by universities. RS won't set you apart from equally talented candidates, but further maths will. I take further maths and its my favourite subject.
I take further maths as a 4th A level along with maths, physics, geography, and I will say FM takes up FAR more of my time than the others (and the others take up a big chunk anyway, especially physics).
To be honest, I'd tell you to forget the 4 a level thing and stick with the 3 you've got - further maths isn't a requirement to get into biomedical or biochem, its not even on the recommended subjects anywhere for Oxford. Take 3, get top grades, and do LOADS of wider reading, e.g. reading New Scientist. Get some work experience etc., you'd be better spending your time doing that.
To be honest, I don't feel as much that I *need* a 4th a-level so much so as that I think I'm capable enough and I think I'd enjoy doing 4 - I've never really considered anything other than 4 a-levels for some reason. I know 4 isn't a requirement for Oxford, but I've really enjoyed Further Maths at GCSE (and I tend to find Higher Maths itself quite easy), so I thought continuing at A-level could not only give me a deeper understanding of the subject but also help with my maths and chemistry a-levels as they are very linear from what I've heard. RS I've only recently started considering after doing a taster session and so I might just forget it all-together based on your response and the responses of others.
Re. what you we're saying about my time being spent better elsewhere, just in your personal opinion do you think perhaps doing an EPQ instead of FM A-level could be a compromise, or just stick to what you've said and do more wider reading and work experience.
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z-u-l-u
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#6
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#6
(Original post by j0eyy)
To be honest, I don't feel as much that I *need* a 4th a-level so much so as that I think I'm capable enough and I think I'd enjoy doing 4 - I've never really considered anything other than 4 a-levels for some reason. I know 4 isn't a requirement for Oxford, but I've really enjoyed Further Maths at GCSE (and I tend to find Higher Maths itself quite easy), so I thought continuing at A-level could not only give me a deeper understanding of the subject but also help with my maths and chemistry a-levels as they are very linear from what I've heard. RS I've only recently started considering after doing a taster session and so I might just forget it all-together based on your response and the responses of others.
Re. what you we're saying about my time being spent better elsewhere, just in your personal opinion do you think perhaps doing an EPQ instead of FM A-level could be a compromise, or just stick to what you've said and do more wider reading and work experience.
sounds like youve made your decision about further maths over RS. you could always pick further maths and drop it later in the year if it doesn't work out. Being capable of four A Levels doesn't always mean you should actually do 4. why make life hard? use that energy for something you enjoy.
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BlueWaves
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#7
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#7
I would pick R/S
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j0eyy
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#8
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#8
(Original post by Reality Check)
You don't actually need to do a fourth, and unless you're applying for physical NatSci at Cambridge it's completely unnecessary - all it will do is add to your workload and diminish the chances of getting A*A*A or higher in the three A levels on which any university offer will be based.

Pick the three that you are best in (=most interested in, usually) and do those excellently, rather than accumulating extra A levels which have no practical value.
I think I'm going to just forget R.S as an idea (as I only became interested in it very recently), however I've been doing Further Maths at GCSE and I've really enjoyed it. I'm not considering it because I think it'll get me into Oxbridge, I've been considering it because I really enjoy it and would like to learn more about the subject and do something challenging.
I have picked the 3 I'm most interested in, though for some reason Eng Lit/Lang are actually my best subjects even though I hate English.
In all honesty, if it wasn't a requirement I'd probably drop Bio and replace it with FM and just do it that way, but I can't unfortunately.
On your point of "practical value", I wouldn't be doing FM for its practical value (though I do appreciate that it can look very good on uni applications), but because I think the extra challenge would help push me out of my comfort zone - throughout my life I've been *that* person who can somehow get top grades with 0 effort, and I don't think I've ever really revised for any exam up until recently when I've started my GCSE prep.
Recently I did find out about EPQs (a bit late, my school only mentioned anything on it this week though I suppose it's my fault for not researching), do you think doing an EPQ + 3 A-levels would be a better path to go down than 4 A-levels?
(P.S, sorry if I seem argumentative, I just need to know I am making the right decision before I make my applications).
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j0eyy
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#9
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#9
(Original post by z-u-l-u)
sounds like youve made your decision about further maths over RS. you could always pick further maths and drop it later in the year if it doesn't work out. Being capable of four A Levels doesn't always mean you should actually do 4. why make life hard? use that energy for something you enjoy.
I'm going to sound like a bit of a loser when I say this but school is really the only thing I enjoy at the moment - I love science and maths and I've always been super passionate about them ever since I was little.
I do like the idea of starting off with 4 and then dropping one if it gets too much. I was unaware you could do that as I tried to drop one of my GCSEs (I do 11 and wanted to drop business out of complete and utter boredom with the subject), but my school didn't allow it - maybe because it's a Grammar? I don't know, but I will ask about starting off with 4 and dropping to 3 if I can't handle it .
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Reality Check
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#10
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#10
(Original post by j0eyy)
I think I'm going to just forget R.S as an idea (as I only became interested in it very recently), however I've been doing Further Maths at GCSE and I've really enjoyed it. I'm not considering it because I think it'll get me into Oxbridge, I've been considering it because I really enjoy it and would like to learn more about the subject and do something challenging.
I have picked the 3 I'm most interested in, though for some reason Eng Lit/Lang are actually my best subjects even though I hate English.
In all honesty, if it wasn't a requirement I'd probably drop Bio and replace it with FM and just do it that way, but I can't unfortunately.
On your point of "practical value", I wouldn't be doing FM for its practical value (though I do appreciate that it can look very good on uni applications), but because I think the extra challenge would help push me out of my comfort zone - throughout my life I've been *that* person who can somehow get top grades with 0 effort, and I don't think I've ever really revised for any exam up until recently when I've started my GCSE prep.
Recently I did find out about EPQs (a bit late, my school only mentioned anything on it this week though I suppose it's my fault for not researching), do you think doing an EPQ + 3 A-levels would be a better path to go down than 4 A-levels?
(P.S, sorry if I seem argumentative, I just need to know I am making the right decision before I make my applications).
I don't think you seem argumentative at all: it's only right that you consider this decision carefully and question those who are giving you advice

3 A levels and an EPQ is possibly better than 4 A levels, but it again smacks of you feeling like 3 A levels somehow 'isn't enough' - and you need to do more, be that another A level or an EPQ. Why is this - do you just not believe people when they say that 3 A levels is plenty (this isn't combative: it's a genuine question)?

I don't understand the desire to be 'pushed out of your comfort zone' etc by taking unnecessary qualifications. It seems to me like you're slightly misunderstanding the point of Level 3 qualifications. They're a stepping stone, that's all - they're there to get you to university - they have very limited use in their own right. If you're the sort of person who is slightly masochistic and enjoys making things more difficult for yourself, then go ahead and do an EPQ or a further A level; just be aware that it will not help a university application. By the way, FM does not 'look very good on university applications' - there's nothing inherently special about FM.

Another option, if you're set on doing more than 3 A levels, might be to do FM as an AS level.
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parthenocarpy
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#11
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#11
If you are unsettled about what 4th a level to pick, then do not pick any. Enjoy your college life, 4 a levels is both hard and time occupying. If you were extremely enthusiastic about 4 subjects that you couldn't think of dropping any then I guess you have some reason.. Also, sometimes you might not be allowed to drop a subject.
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j0eyy
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#12
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(Original post by Reality Check)
I don't think you seem argumentative at all: it's only right that you consider this decision carefully and question those who are giving you advice

3 A levels and an EPQ is possibly better than 4 A levels, but it again smacks of you feeling like 3 A levels somehow 'isn't enough' - and you need to do more, be that another A level or an EPQ. Why is this - do you just not believe people when they say that 3 A levels is plenty (this isn't combative: it's a genuine question)?

I don't understand the desire to be 'pushed out of your comfort zone' etc by taking unnecessary qualifications. It seems to me like you're slightly misunderstanding the point of Level 3 qualifications. They're a stepping stone, that's all - they're there to get you to university - they have very limited use in their own right. If you're the sort of person who is slightly masochistic and enjoys making things more difficult for yourself, then go ahead and do an EPQ or a further A level; just be aware that it will not help a university application. By the way, FM does not 'look very good on university applications' - there's nothing inherently special about FM.

Another option, if you're set on doing more than 3 A levels, might be to do FM as an AS level.
I think part of it is that I go to a Grammar school and so taking, 4 A-Levels is seen as somewhat the norm rather than extra/additional studies, and being 'pushed out of my comfort zone' is more in reference to the fact I feel extremely bored and un-challenged by GCSEs and would hate to feel the same way at A-Levels (though of course I know I won't, but I'd just like for them to keep me as interested and occupied as possible). And as I said previously, I'm not really fussed about what does or doesn't look good on a uni application and instead want to focus on things I will find interesting and will continue to be interested in over the 2 year course.
I think I'll look into whether my school offers FM as an AS level and maybe apply to do that instead of all 4.
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Muttley79
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#13
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#13
(Original post by j0eyy)
I think part of it is that I go to a Grammar school and so taking, 4 A-Levels is seen as somewhat the norm rather than extra/additional studies, and being 'pushed out of my comfort zone' is more in reference to the fact I feel extremely bored and un-challenged by GCSEs and would hate to feel the same way at A-Levels (though of course I know I won't, but I'd just like for them to keep me as interested and occupied as possible). And as I said previously, I'm not really fussed about what does or doesn't look good on a uni application and instead want to focus on things I will find interesting and will continue to be interested in over the 2 year course.
I think I'll look into whether my school offers FM as an AS level and maybe apply to do that instead of all 4.
I teach in a selective school - the ONLY combination of 4 A level we allow [even to those with straight 9s] includes Maths/FMaths.
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z-u-l-u
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#14
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(Original post by j0eyy)
I'm going to sound like a bit of a loser when I say this but school is really the only thing I enjoy at the moment - I love science and maths and I've always been super passionate about them ever since I was little.
I do like the idea of starting off with 4 and then dropping one if it gets too much. I was unaware you could do that as I tried to drop one of my GCSEs (I do 11 and wanted to drop business out of complete and utter boredom with the subject), but my school didn't allow it - maybe because it's a Grammar? I don't know, but I will ask about starting off with 4 and dropping to 3 if I can't handle it .
yeah my school gave me a bit of hassle about dropping a subject at the time but they can't really make you do it. schools tend to be more lenient for A levels bc you have free periods anyway whereas at gcse level they are reluctant to let anyone have a gap in their timetable. if you need to drop to 3 bc of pressure it should be in their best interests to let you drop it for your other subject grades anyway. also dont let 'it's a grammar school' make you feel like you have to do anything. teachers like to pretend it means something but it doesn't really tbh. it's good that you're making an informed decision. all the best
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sototo
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#15
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#15
(Original post by j0eyy)
I’m in my final year of GCSEs and need to finalise my A-Level application next month, but I’m struggling to pick between Further Maths and R.S as a 4th subject. I’m planning on taking Maths, Chemistry and Biology no matter what, and have predicted 8s (could easily be 9s if I put the effort in) in all aforementioned subjects. Though Further Maths and R.S are polar opposites I’m really struggling to pick between them as I love Maths but am also extremely interested in philosophy and ethics. Both could help towards my planned university course and future career path in Biochemistry/Biomedical Science (ideally at Oxford, Bath, London Imperial or St. Andrews).
If anyone could help me, either through their own experiences or just general knowledge of either subject that would be amazing.
further maths 100%. will help with your science subjects to not only help your performance but also look good when applying for biology related subjects. crossover with also help
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j0eyy
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#16
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#16
(Original post by sototo)
further maths 100%. will help with your science subjects to not only help your performance but also look good when applying for biology related subjects. crossover with also help
thank you! sending off my application tonight
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thegeek888
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#17
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#17
(Original post by j0eyy)
I'm going to sound like a bit of a loser when I say this but school is really the only thing I enjoy at the moment - I love science and maths and I've always been super passionate about them ever since I was little.
I do like the idea of starting off with 4 and then dropping one if it gets too much. I was unaware you could do that as I tried to drop one of my GCSEs (I do 11 and wanted to drop business out of complete and utter boredom with the subject), but my school didn't allow it - maybe because it's a Grammar? I don't know, but I will ask about starting off with 4 and dropping to 3 if I can't handle it .
Here are the topics in CP1, CP2, FM1, FM2, FD1 and FS1. If you decide to study at Oxford or Cambridge then Further Maths will make life easier in the first year for sure.

Core Pure 1 & Core Pure 2

Paper 1: Core Pure Mathematics 1 (Paper code: 9FM0/01) & Paper 2: Core Pure Mathematics 2 (*Paper code: 9FM0/02)

• Proof
• Complex numbers
• Matrices
• Further algebra and functions
• Further calculus
• Further vectors
• Polar coordinates
• Hyperbolic functions
• Differential equations

Further Mechanics 1 (Paper code: 9FM0/3C)

• Momentum and impulse
• Work, energy and power
• Elastic strings and springs and elastic energy
• Elastic collisions in one dimension
• Elastic collisions in two dimensions

Further Mechanics 2 (Paper code: 9FM0/4C)

• Motion in a circle
• Centres of mass of plane figures
• Further centres of mass
• Further dynamics
• Further kinematics

Decision Mathematics 1 (Paper code: 9FM0/3D)

• Algorithms and graph theory
• Algorithms on graphs
• Algorithms on graphs II
• Critical path analysis
• Linear programming

Further Statistics 1 (Paper code: 9FM0/3B)

• Discrete probability distributions
• Poisson & binomial distributions
• Geometric and negative binomial distributions
• Hypothesis Testing
• Central Limit Theorem
• Chi-Squared Tests
• Probability generating functions
• Quality of tests
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CalciPharm_900
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#18
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#18
(Original post by j0eyy)
I’m in my final year of GCSEs and need to finalise my A-Level application next month, but I’m struggling to pick between Further Maths and R.S as a 4th subject. I’m planning on taking Maths, Chemistry and Biology no matter what, and have predicted 8s (could easily be 9s if I put the effort in) in all aforementioned subjects. Though Further Maths and R.S are polar opposites I’m really struggling to pick between them as I love Maths but am also extremely interested in philosophy and ethics. Both could help towards my planned university course and future career path in Biochemistry/Biomedical Science (ideally at Oxford, Bath, London Imperial or St. Andrews).
If anyone could help me, either through their own experiences or just general knowledge of either subject that would be amazing.
There's always the option to drop or swap a subject during the first 2 weeks or so of A-levels. At least that's how it is at my college. Generally, since you're thinking of going for sciencey subjects, I would take further maths (as a lot of people here have said) as universities tend to find it more respectable and useful. I picked Maths, Biology and chemistry for A-levels along with Media Studies because I was interested in films. But then I realised media studies was just extra workload (and nothing to do with my career) so I dropped it. You only take 3 or 4 A-levels, but you'll be surprised at the intensive workload of having 4 A-levels.
But, if you really really want to take a 4th A-level because you're just interested in it, you can. You can drop or swap it as I said.
What I would do is research uni courses you're thinking of taking. Is R.S really useful for these courses? I know for sure you don't need R.S for Biomed/biochem if you're already taking chem, biol and maths.
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Muttley79
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#19
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#19
(Original post by thegeek888)
Here are the topics in CP1, CP2, FM1, FM2, FD1 and FS1. If you decide to study at Oxford or Cambridge then Further Maths will make life easier in the first year for sure.
How does this help? It's not even true for every board - please remove.
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