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Need help with my A level combination

I got A* in most of my GCSE's (all but 2 out of 14), but my favourite subjects were maths and history. For A level, I originally thought I wanted to do an englishy sort of job so I chose English, History, and Maths. I'm doing good in them but along the way but I've now picked up Extra Maths as recommended by my maths teacher because she thinks I'm capable of doing the a level well. Now I'm not sure what to do, I'm doing these 4 a levels which I don't think match and I'm 3 months in and doing well in them all but second guessing if my combination will give me a low chance to get for example an engineering course at university if I wanted to pursue maths. I'm predicted A-A* in these A levels, but will this combination let me down? Thanks
Original post by TakeTheLC
I got A* in most of my GCSE's (all but 2 out of 14), but my favourite subjects were maths and history. For A level, I originally thought I wanted to do an englishy sort of job so I chose English, History, and Maths. I'm doing good in them but along the way but I've now picked up Extra Maths as recommended by my maths teacher because she thinks I'm capable of doing the a level well. Now I'm not sure what to do, I'm doing these 4 a levels which I don't think match and I'm 3 months in and doing well in them all but second guessing if my combination will give me a low chance to get for example an engineering course at university if I wanted to pursue maths. I'm predicted A-A* in these A levels, but will this combination let me down? Thanks


If you want to go into engineering, your combination will likely let you down. With only maths, you can go into software engineering, computer science, civil engineering only as far as I know.

English is only a required subject for English and Literature degree courses. The degree won't help you get writing jobs per se, because you don't need a degree to go into a writing job e.g. journalism, writer, screenwriter, etc. won't require you to have any specific qualifications.

History is a required subject for history degrees. However, other than becoming a history teacher and a historian, I struggle to find a job where they specifically require a history degree (you won't need it to become a museum curator either); you can apply for jobs that asks for any degree, but then you can do the same jobs with any degree.

Maths is probably the most versatile A Level out there, and is a required subject for degrees in: engineering, maths, computer science, economics, financial mathematics and actuarial science, physics. Essentially anything in STEM that doesn't involve life sciences or chemistry and a few social science subjects will require maths. It's also the most respected A Level as far as I am aware.

To get an engineering degree, other than maths, you would need to specify which area of engineering. If you are going into biotech for example, you're not likely required to have maths but you will need a lot of biology and possibly chemistry. For chemical engineering, you will need chemistry as well as maths. The only engineering disciplines that I know of where maths alone is sufficient are civil and software/computer. For most other sub-disciplines in engineering, you would need physics as well as maths (emphasis on "as well as", not "either" ).
The top areas in engineering that people go for (according to various sources on YouTube) are mechanical, electrical/electronic, civil, and chemistry/computer (the last sub-discipline is up for debate). Mechanical is the most versatile, and electrical/electronic is the hardest (due to the maths involved).

There aren't that many jobs where degrees in specific subjects are useful. If you intend to do a degree and you intend to stay in the UK, I would look at the following areas where having a degree can be useful/appreciated:

Engineering

Economics

Law

Building related

Architecture

Science

Academics

Anything related to healthcare

Teaching/Education


With the former 6, you can get away without having to do a degree in the subjects via apprenticeships or professional qualifications like CILEx. For the latter 3, you cannot get into those fields without specific degrees (you might be able to find some apprenticeships for healthcare related roles e.g. medicine apprenticeships, but they're rare). And yes, you can still go for an Englishy writing jobs with a degree in any of the above subjects despite the lack of relevance.

Unless you suddenly want to completely change tracks, I would recommend trying to do physics as an extra A Level (ideally with practical assessment) to cover the most bases. Further maths is optional, but physics if you want to have the option of doing almost anything in engineering.
If you intend to work in healthcare, then biology and chemistry are the other subjects that you should be particularly wary of. If healthcare based careers is of no concern to you, then chances are biology and chemistry won't be much of an issue.
(edited 1 year ago)
Reply 2
How about if I were to go into economics? Or maybe mathematics? Would my combination let me down? I was researching and I could maybe do a joint-honours in mathematics-economics because again I love maths and working with numbers and also writing essays is important for economics which my a levels (hopefully) will show I also have the skill set to do so. I've thought over it and I'm not so fussed on engineering. If for example I was trying to be an accountant, a banker, or along that sort of line would my combination let me down? Thank you for the long reply, you really helped me with my decisions I am so grateful 😄👍
Original post by TakeTheLC
How about if I were to go into economics? Or maybe mathematics? Would my combination let me down? I was researching and I could maybe do a joint-honours in mathematics-economics because again I love maths and working with numbers and also writing essays is important for economics which my a levels (hopefully) will show I also have the skill set to do so. I've thought over it and I'm not so fussed on engineering. If for example I was trying to be an accountant, a banker, or along that sort of line would my combination let me down? Thank you for the long reply, you really helped me with my decisions I am so grateful 😄👍


If you want to go into economics, maths is probably the key A Level that I would focus on. I would personally include further maths in the mix, btu that's if you intend to go into top end universities doing top end economic courses. If further maths isn't available at your college, you should be OK on most parts.

For maths degrees, again I would try to do further maths as well. None of the other A Levels really help that much.
Do note that maths degrees talk more about producing proofs than solving math problems. If you want to do a degree that involves math problems, then you want something with applied maths e.g. applied maths degrees, engineering degrees, physics degrees, data science degrees, mathematical economics degrees, possibly computer science degrees.

Your essay writing skills mean very little in economics and maths. It's more important that you have the numerate skills. If you have got a reasonably high grade in English Language at GCSE, you're more than fine. A GCSE Maths alone won't help much in these 2 disciplines.

If you want to go into economics history, I suppose history might be of some use but I don't think that many course directors in economics history are that fussed. You should check the entry requirements for each individual degree courses just to double check.

Do note, there are some economics degrees that do not require maths at A Level. Whilst you can opt to do these degrees, you will not there are no challenging maths questions involved. These economic degrees are usually OK for application to graduate jobs that accept any degree, but you may have problems getting jobs that require economics degrees e.g. economist (I don't know the full details, so you will need to ask someone working in the field). To play things safe, always go for the quantiative economics degrees.

Oh, don't get me started with being an accountant, banker, or anything in the finance sector. It's a-whole-nother can of worms.

Firstly, you need next to bugger all to get into banking and finance in the UK. Don't get me wrong, you would need specific professional certifications (need to be specific to the role e.g. getting a stockbroker qualification will very unlikely help you to get jobs selling in insurance or mortgages) to get into the sector, but you don't usually need any specific prior qualifications to start getting these professional certifications. I could waltz in from a completely foreign country, have all my qualifications invalidated for any wierd reasons, and still study for the professional certifications in the UK with no issues. If you were heading to another country like the US, Australia, or Canada, then you might have a few issues. In the UK (and most likely most other countries), you're usually more than fine.
The possible exceptions are the CFA and CQF. The CFA requires a bachelor's degree, but that could be in any subject. The CQF will strongly recommend a mathematical background, which is very ambiguous (I would usually assume a quantiative degree, but you will have to check). Beyond that, you're dandy.

Qualifications that require something at A Level standard may include accounting qualifications and the UK's actuary qualification.
For accounting qualifications, you need at least 2 passes at A Level (or equivalent e.g. BTEC, Access, IB, whatever) + a few GCSEs at level 2 (including the bog standard English and Maths); your A Levels can be in any subject, academic or not. Do remember, a pass is the equivalent of an E or higher at A Level.
In the UK, I would recommend going for the ACA qualification for accounting (which can be used in some countries as well due to the MRA between foreign accounting bodies and ICAEW) instead of ACCA. However, you can have both if you want to cover more countries (I would recommend finishing all the exams in one accounting qualification before looking to do the other if this is what you want; you would get more exemptions from accounting papers that way). You should do CIMA if you want to go into management accounting.
For the acutary qualification, you used to require an A Level in maths (most candidates enter with a quantiative degree e.g. maths, physics, engineering) for an apprenticeship, but I think the professional body (IFoA) might have changed that requirement (you will need to check). They still do emphasise a background in maths though.

To become a retail banker, you need something close to zero professional qualifications. In other words, you can go into the field as you are now. For something like investment banking, whilst you can technically go in with zero qualifications, it's usually recommended to get something like the CFA or CISI in Corporate Finance depending on the specific area of investment banking.

Having said all that, just because you can pretty much waltz into any job in banking and finance with bugger all, it doesn't necessarily mean the employer would appreciate you having bad grades. It's a cut throat industry, and they can oftern use grades as a way of shortlisting candidates, even though they care more about things beyond your education.
Also, whislt it's technically not necessary depending on the role, a maths degree is often appreciated in the finance industry according to some sources. I would definitely say it's appreciated if you're going into quants or become an actuary. There would be a whole hoard of graduates heading into banking and finance with an (quantiative) economics degree.

So yeah, your combination of A Levels are more than fine for most roles in banking and finance. You should be fine for economics and maths degrees, although I would prefer if you did further maths to help your chances of getting into top end universities.
If you insist on doing History and English for A Levels, then I would recommend doing them if you are confident in getting high grades in them and that you really want to do them. They are not likely to help with your degree application other than fillers for getting the right grades.

If you want to look into other industries or sectors for jobs and degrees, I may be able to give you a few pointers, depending on the industry and degree.
Reply 4
Original post by MindMax2000
If you want to go into economics, maths is probably the key A Level that I would focus on. I would personally include further maths in the mix, btu that's if you intend to go into top end universities doing top end economic courses. If further maths isn't available at your college, you should be OK on most parts.

For maths degrees, again I would try to do further maths as well. None of the other A Levels really help that much.
Do note that maths degrees talk more about producing proofs than solving math problems. If you want to do a degree that involves math problems, then you want something with applied maths e.g. applied maths degrees, engineering degrees, physics degrees, data science degrees, mathematical economics degrees, possibly computer science degrees.

Your essay writing skills mean very little in economics and maths. It's more important that you have the numerate skills. If you have got a reasonably high grade in English Language at GCSE, you're more than fine. A GCSE Maths alone won't help much in these 2 disciplines.

If you want to go into economics history, I suppose history might be of some use but I don't think that many course directors in economics history are that fussed. You should check the entry requirements for each individual degree courses just to double check.

Do note, there are some economics degrees that do not require maths at A Level. Whilst you can opt to do these degrees, you will not there are no challenging maths questions involved. These economic degrees are usually OK for application to graduate jobs that accept any degree, but you may have problems getting jobs that require economics degrees e.g. economist (I don't know the full details, so you will need to ask someone working in the field). To play things safe, always go for the quantiative economics degrees.

Oh, don't get me started with being an accountant, banker, or anything in the finance sector. It's a-whole-nother can of worms.

Firstly, you need next to bugger all to get into banking and finance in the UK. Don't get me wrong, you would need specific professional certifications (need to be specific to the role e.g. getting a stockbroker qualification will very unlikely help you to get jobs selling in insurance or mortgages) to get into the sector, but you don't usually need any specific prior qualifications to start getting these professional certifications. I could waltz in from a completely foreign country, have all my qualifications invalidated for any wierd reasons, and still study for the professional certifications in the UK with no issues. If you were heading to another country like the US, Australia, or Canada, then you might have a few issues. In the UK (and most likely most other countries), you're usually more than fine.
The possible exceptions are the CFA and CQF. The CFA requires a bachelor's degree, but that could be in any subject. The CQF will strongly recommend a mathematical background, which is very ambiguous (I would usually assume a quantiative degree, but you will have to check). Beyond that, you're dandy.

Qualifications that require something at A Level standard may include accounting qualifications and the UK's actuary qualification.
For accounting qualifications, you need at least 2 passes at A Level (or equivalent e.g. BTEC, Access, IB, whatever) + a few GCSEs at level 2 (including the bog standard English and Maths); your A Levels can be in any subject, academic or not. Do remember, a pass is the equivalent of an E or higher at A Level.
In the UK, I would recommend going for the ACA qualification for accounting (which can be used in some countries as well due to the MRA between foreign accounting bodies and ICAEW) instead of ACCA. However, you can have both if you want to cover more countries (I would recommend finishing all the exams in one accounting qualification before looking to do the other if this is what you want; you would get more exemptions from accounting papers that way). You should do CIMA if you want to go into management accounting.
For the acutary qualification, you used to require an A Level in maths (most candidates enter with a quantiative degree e.g. maths, physics, engineering) for an apprenticeship, but I think the professional body (IFoA) might have changed that requirement (you will need to check). They still do emphasise a background in maths though.

To become a retail banker, you need something close to zero professional qualifications. In other words, you can go into the field as you are now. For something like investment banking, whilst you can technically go in with zero qualifications, it's usually recommended to get something like the CFA or CISI in Corporate Finance depending on the specific area of investment banking.

Having said all that, just because you can pretty much waltz into any job in banking and finance with bugger all, it doesn't necessarily mean the employer would appreciate you having bad grades. It's a cut throat industry, and they can oftern use grades as a way of shortlisting candidates, even though they care more about things beyond your education.
Also, whislt it's technically not necessary depending on the role, a maths degree is often appreciated in the finance industry according to some sources. I would definitely say it's appreciated if you're going into quants or become an actuary. There would be a whole hoard of graduates heading into banking and finance with an (quantiative) economics degree.

So yeah, your combination of A Levels are more than fine for most roles in banking and finance. You should be fine for economics and maths degrees, although I would prefer if you did further maths to help your chances of getting into top end universities.
If you insist on doing History and English for A Levels, then I would recommend doing them if you are confident in getting high grades in them and that you really want to do them. They are not likely to help with your degree application other than fillers for getting the right grades.

If you want to look into other industries or sectors for jobs and degrees, I may be able to give you a few pointers, depending on the industry and degree.

Thanks, yeah I'm very confident I'll get A-A* in English history and maths, and although I've only done like 3 months of extra maths I'm doing good in it so far, so I'm quite content with my options because I can go into a broad range of fields, although right now I think economics. Thanks for letting me know about English and history being good filler grades, I was worried if I hadn't took like chemistry and physics I wouldn't be allowed in but because English and history are facilitating subjects I'm sure the high grades will be worth something if I need 3 A-A*s to get into a good uni, even if they're not so relevant to my uni course. Not that I'm going for a top 10 uni, I could try but they're not very local to me.

One more question, if I get A-A* in maths and further maths, and get A-A* in history and English will I be able to take maths in uni? If it's like an AAA uni and I get A* maths A extra maths A* history A English for example I'll be fine right? Just wondering if facilitating subject A levels are good even if they're not relevant to the degree that I'll be taking.
Thanks again!
Original post by TakeTheLC
Thanks, yeah I'm very confident I'll get A-A* in English history and maths, and although I've only done like 3 months of extra maths I'm doing good in it so far, so I'm quite content with my options because I can go into a broad range of fields, although right now I think economics. Thanks for letting me know about English and history being good filler grades, I was worried if I hadn't took like chemistry and physics I wouldn't be allowed in but because English and history are facilitating subjects I'm sure the high grades will be worth something if I need 3 A-A*s to get into a good uni, even if they're not so relevant to my uni course. Not that I'm going for a top 10 uni, I could try but they're not very local to me.

One more question, if I get A-A* in maths and further maths, and get A-A* in history and English will I be able to take maths in uni? If it's like an AAA uni and I get A* maths A extra maths A* history A English for example I'll be fine right? Just wondering if facilitating subject A levels are good even if they're not relevant to the degree that I'll be taking.
Thanks again!


I would be concerned if you are thinking of going into STEM without chemistry and physics, but if you're not intending of doing that, then you should be fine.

I would try to aim to get into the top 5 unis if you can hit the A* grades. It's a horrible feeling knowing that you're potentially able to get into a high end university, but you have stopped short because you don't want to stretch as far or you can be bothered to put in the effort.

You would be fine getting into a maths degree in a mid-tier uni with just A Level maths (ideally at A grade or above) + 2 A Levels in any subjects (including history and English). For the top end courses, I would try to do further maths and getting it to at least A grade as well.
I don't know the specific entry requirements for individual courses, but they vary widely depending on the uni. You can get some with grade requirements as low as BCC (some might be lower still), and some as high as A*A*A.
In addition to the grade requirements, if you're applying for certain universities, you might also be asked to do a maths admissions test just to help further shortlist candidates. See the following: https://www.admissionstesting.org/blog/maths-admissions-tests-explained/
You will need to check the individual degree course page to see which tests are applicable, if at all.

I once got into a bit of snag with someone quoting me 'facilitating subjects' isn't a term we should be using. I think the term is currently should be deemed required or preferred subjects (to me they mean the same thing and I don't really care what they call it).
History and English are the more academic subjects, but unless you intend to apply for a history related or English related degree, I doubt they would mean very much to the admissions office . The more respected A Level I have found that is appreciated by universities in almost any subject is Maths, which you are already doing. If maths is the only required subject for the degree course that you're applying for, I would very much doubt having History and English would help that much unless you're using them to help with grade requirements, as previously stated.
Having said that, I wouldn't go for less academic subjects as fillers when applying for math degrees. I hate to say it, but having something like Media Studies and Thinking Skills as your other 2 subjects is not likely going to go down well. You might want a second opinion from math students and graduates on this though.
Would you prefer to do a maths degree or one in economics?
Original post by TakeTheLC
I got A* in most of my GCSE's (all but 2 out of 14), but my favourite subjects were maths and history. For A level, I originally thought I wanted to do an englishy sort of job so I chose English, History, and Maths. I'm doing good in them but along the way but I've now picked up Extra Maths as recommended by my maths teacher because she thinks I'm capable of doing the a level well. Now I'm not sure what to do, I'm doing these 4 a levels which I don't think match and I'm 3 months in and doing well in them all but second guessing if my combination will give me a low chance to get for example an engineering course at university if I wanted to pursue maths. I'm predicted A-A* in these A levels, but will this combination let me down? Thanks

Heya!
Unfortunately, if you want to do engineering, you would also need physics. Your combination would still be good for CS, maths and economics as usually those courses require maths (and possibly FM). The 3rd requirement for them is usually not specific so you can have any a-level (like English). I recommend checking out Unicompare to find some unis and what courses they offer. Look at the entry requirements and make sure your selection fits the criteria :h:

I hope this helps!
Milena
UCL PFE
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