The Student Room Group

A-Levels for a classics degree

Hi,

One of my friends (in Y11) is having a really difficult time right now because she would like to do a classics degree but our school has stopped offering a-level classics, and doesn’t offer ancient history, latin or greek a-level either (though she has studied latin to gcse level.)

She really doesn’t want to move schools, and besides she can’t really because none of the other local schools offer classics/latin/ancient history)

She’s aiming for oxbridge, and so she’s wondering - will a-levels in philosophy, english and history be good enough? or will universities expect a classics a-level? She’s considering self teaching GCSE ancient history or greek during her sixth form years, is that a good idea?

Thanks in advance
Original post by lwbch14
Hi,

One of my friends (in Y11) is having a really difficult time right now because she would like to do a classics degree but our school has stopped offering a-level classics, and doesn’t offer ancient history, latin or greek a-level either (though she has studied latin to gcse level.)

She really doesn’t want to move schools, and besides she can’t really because none of the other local schools offer classics/latin/ancient history)

She’s aiming for oxbridge, and so she’s wondering - will a-levels in philosophy, english and history be good enough? or will universities expect a classics a-level? She’s considering self teaching GCSE ancient history or greek during her sixth form years, is that a good idea?

Thanks in advance

Cambridge require an A-level in Latin or Ancient Greek. Oxford say they "normally" require this:

https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/classics

https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses/course-listing/classics

She might be well advised to contact Oxford about her situation.
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by ageshallnot
Cambridge require an A-level in Latin or Ancient Greek. Oxford say they "normally" require this

https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/classics

https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/undergraduate/courses/course-listing/classics

She might be well advised to contact Oxford about her situation.

Cambridge don't require any language background for the 4 year classics course (classics with prelim year), and Oxford only requires it for Course I, and has Course II for those with no language background :smile:

Original post by lwbch14
Hi,

One of my friends (in Y11) is having a really difficult time right now because she would like to do a classics degree but our school has stopped offering a-level classics, and doesn’t offer ancient history, latin or greek a-level either (though she has studied latin to gcse level.)

She really doesn’t want to move schools, and besides she can’t really because none of the other local schools offer classics/latin/ancient history)

She’s aiming for oxbridge, and so she’s wondering - will a-levels in philosophy, english and history be good enough? or will universities expect a classics a-level? She’s considering self teaching GCSE ancient history or greek during her sixth form years, is that a good idea?

Thanks in advance

In terms of subjects those are fine and quite relevant subjects generally. An A-level in Classical Civilisation is not required nor expected. Language background would be extremely useful, particularly in the classical languages, but is not required as there are routes to doing a classics degree without the languages at A-level.

Aside from the Oxford and Cambridge routes above, KCL has an accelerated route for those who do very well in the language component of the Classical Civilisation degree there where they swap into the main classics course by doing summer classes in the languages intensively (note this does heavily limit options for internships and work during the summer though!). UCL has the BA Ancient World which requires no language background to start with, and BA Ancient Languages (which includes Biblical Hebrew as well as Greek and/or Latin) which in principle requires no language background (but would probably look for it ideally). Neither Bristol nor Edinburgh require background in either language for the main classics courses at those unis, I believe.

There may be some other options on top of those for a degree in "Classics" specifically beyond those, those are just the ones I found. Outside of that one would need to look into degrees in e.g. Classical Civilisation/Classical Studies/Classical Archaeology/Ancient History/etc as interests align, which normally do not require any language background and allow you to start one or both languages from scratch during the degree.

Doing a GCSE in one of the classical languages may well be useful background, but I would caution against doing so independently as they are difficult and especially if you don't have a background in other ancient Indo-European languages (which is very unlikely, unless they have a background in Sanskrit from religious/cultural background or something), or other inflected modern European languages (e.g. German, Polish, etc) then it may well be quite challenging to get to grips with the grammar without a teacher to guide you initially.

I don't think a GCSE in Ancient History would be very useful or a good way to spend time in 6th form - better to just use that time to independently do wider reading in ancient history (or whatever other field of classics is of interest) to demonstrate your interest in the course and engagement with the subject area beyond A-level studies.
^ I stand corrected! 😃
Reply 4
Original post by lwbch14
Hi,

One of my friends (in Y11) is having a really difficult time right now because she would like to do a classics degree but our school has stopped offering a-level classics, and doesn’t offer ancient history, latin or greek a-level either (though she has studied latin to gcse level.)

She really doesn’t want to move schools, and besides she can’t really because none of the other local schools offer classics/latin/ancient history)

She’s aiming for oxbridge, and so she’s wondering - will a-levels in philosophy, english and history be good enough? or will universities expect a classics a-level? She’s considering self teaching GCSE ancient history or greek during her sixth form years, is that a good idea?

Thanks in advance

Just a bit of advice for her, as I was in a similar position of not taking ancient languages at A level but wanting to study a Classicsy subject as Oxford, maybe have a look at their course for Archaeology and Ancient History. I applied for it and had several interviews, its a very lovely subject and a very similar course but without a language requirement although you can learn it as part of the course as an optional module (and you don't need to take an entrance test, just submit work). I did geography, history and Classical Civ but I don't think you are required to have a classics based A level, just a wide knowledge so lots of extra reading. It also has a very high interview rate so if that's something she is good at it can give someone with people skills a better chance :smile: Lots of schools don't offer Classics so it isn't something the University can put as a requirement unlike STEM subjects.
Reply 5
Original post by lwbch14
Hi,

One of my friends (in Y11) is having a really difficult time right now because she would like to do a classics degree but our school has stopped offering a-level classics, and doesn’t offer ancient history, latin or greek a-level either (though she has studied latin to gcse level.)

She really doesn’t want to move schools, and besides she can’t really because none of the other local schools offer classics/latin/ancient history)

She’s aiming for oxbridge, and so she’s wondering - will a-levels in philosophy, english and history be good enough? or will universities expect a classics a-level? She’s considering self teaching GCSE ancient history or greek during her sixth form years, is that a good idea?

Thanks in advance


Oxbridge don’t require A Levels in Classciv, Latin or Greek to get in! Both have course options that will take you through the language from scratch; in fact, her GCSE in Latin will be a big help for showing that she’s willing to do this.

Her A Level choices look great and are super relevant to her degree! It would be even better if she could do a modern foreign language if she has the GCSE in it. This would prove on her application that she has the ability to cope with intense language learning. Of course it’s not necessary at all but could really help.

If she doesn’t want to / can’t do a language A Level, other ways of showing language proficiency could be keeping up with a language on platforms like Duolingo. This shows independent study, self-motivation and language skill and would be more beneficial than a GCSE in Ancient History imo.

Finally, even without any classical subjects she can still show she loves the subject by other means! She can enter Classics essay competitions, read Classics-related books or even try do an EPQ on a Classical subject (even if your school doesn’t offer it you can look into it though it’s not needed). If she focusses her independent research on one or two areas that really interest her and digs deep into that, that’ll show passion way more than an A Level does.

Wish your friend good luck :biggrin:

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