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Not taking Physics for a level but want to pursue computer science degree

Hey everyone! I'm wondering if I might be hurting my chances of getting into a Russell Group university for a computer science degree if I go with economics instead of physics as my third A-level. I'm not really a fan of science in school, and I'm thinking of going with maths, computer science, and economics for my A-levels. Will this be a big deal? I like coding and have always been decent at maths. And i've already taught myself the OOP concepts in python and c#(c# wasn't relevant to the course but I thought it might be interesting). And alr have a small coding portfolio with like 3 projects(I plan on working on them more and adding more projects too)

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Reply 1
Original post by ben_spivak
Hey everyone! I'm wondering if I might be hurting my chances of getting into a Russell Group university for a computer science degree if I go with economics instead of physics as my third A-level. I'm not really a fan of science in school, and I'm thinking of going with maths, computer science, and economics for my A-levels. Will this be a big deal? I like coding and have always been decent at maths. And i've already taught myself the OOP concepts in python and c#(c# wasn't relevant to the course but I thought it might be interesting). And alr have a small coding portfolio with like 3 projects(I plan on working on them more and adding more projects too)

Hey Mr Computer whizz Google it!I just did and no Maths and Computer Science will get you in most places.Look up your preferred unis and check but pretty standard.
Reply 2
Should be fine - not having further maths is much more likely to be an issue for the top universities.
Reply 3
Original post by Scotney
Hey Mr Computer whizz Google it!I just did and no Maths and Computer Science will get you in most places.Look up your preferred unis and check but pretty standard.

Idk, these uni websites don't seem entirely transparent. For example imperial claims further maths a-level is not a requirement but when I dug deeper into forums they all were on the same page that it is almost a requirement. I couldn't find any forums about someone not taking physics and worrying about their cs applications so I thought it might help to ask on here.
Reply 4
Original post by ajj2000
Should be fine - not having further maths is much more likely to be an issue for the top universities.


I know it will be a problem for universities like Imperial and oxbridge but will it be a problem for slightly lower rg universities like UCL and Edinburgh?
Reply 5
Original post by ben_spivak
Idk, these uni websites don't seem entirely transparent. For example imperial claims further maths a-level is not a requirement but when I dug deeper into forums they all were on the same page that it is almost a requirement. I couldn't find any forums about someone not taking physics and worrying about their cs applications so I thought it might help to ask on here.

Are you aiming for the likes of Imperial.You can always ring admissions and ask or go visit as open days are coming up.You really need to ask yourself can I get an A in Physics.I cannot see anyone insisting on Physics for Computer Science..
Reply 6
Original post by Scotney
Are you aiming for the likes of Imperial.You can always ring admissions and ask or go visit as open days are coming up.You really need to ask yourself can I get an A in Physics.I cannot see anyone insisting on Physics for Computer Science..


No I believe Imperial and Oxbridge would be too ambitious to apply to I was thinking more; Durham, Ucl, Edinburgh ect type universities.
Reply 7
Original post by ben_spivak
I know it will be a problem for universities like Imperial and oxbridge but will it be a problem for slightly lower rg universities like UCL and Edinburgh?


I don’t think that anyone is really clear on this, and even if they were it might change in two years. Cs degrees are hugely oversubscribed which makes predicting what the universities look for rather difficult.
Reply 8
Original post by ajj2000
I don’t think that anyone is really clear on this, and even if they were it might change in two years. Cs degrees are hugely oversubscribed which makes predicting what the universities look for rather difficult.


Yes I am trying to think who we have who is an expert on CS.Edinburgh and Durham wanting as high or higher grades than Oxford .
Reply 9
Original post by Scotney
Yes I am trying to think who we have who is an expert on CS.Edinburgh and Durham wanting as high or higher grades than Oxford .


Ok @artful_lounger can you help please.I already know he says Physics does not matter.
(edited 6 months ago)
Original post by ben_spivak
Hey everyone! I'm wondering if I might be hurting my chances of getting into a Russell Group university for a computer science degree if I go with economics instead of physics as my third A-level. I'm not really a fan of science in school, and I'm thinking of going with maths, computer science, and economics for my A-levels. Will this be a big deal? I like coding and have always been decent at maths. And i've already taught myself the OOP concepts in python and c#(c# wasn't relevant to the course but I thought it might be interesting). And alr have a small coding portfolio with like 3 projects(I plan on working on them more and adding more projects too)


Physics isn't preferred or required, it's just commonly taken because a lot of students who are good at maths are also good at physics and continue taking it as a result (and/or they are unsure what direction they want to go in, e.g. CS vs engineering, and take physics to keep their options open). You're fine without physics. The only university which used to prefer an experimental science was Cambridge due to the structure of the course, but they've changed that several years ago and this is no longer preferred or required (essentially the old course required students to take 1 or 2 papers from the first year NatSci course, that is no longer the case though).

Note that the primary requirement is strong background in maths. Previous experience with CS or coding is not normally required or expected - but strong preparation in maths is. Thus A-level Further Maths is very useful background, and for a few unis is practically required to be competitive as you've noted. For Oxbridge/Imperial and maybe UCL or Warwick, if your school offers FM you should realistically be aiming to take it (bearing in mind all schools in England can offer FM through the AMSP scheme!). It's probably also especially useful for similarly mathematical courses which don't necessarily expect it in the same way (e.g. Edinburgh, Bristol, Southampton), and generally useful regardless.

Original post by Scotney
Ok @artful_lounger can you help please.I already know he says Physics does not matter.


Thanks for the tag :smile: @Blue_Cow may be able to attest more directly for Edinburgh in particular as well!
Reply 11
Original post by artful_lounger
Physics isn't preferred or required, it's just commonly taken because a lot of students who are good at maths are also good at physics and continue taking it as a result (and/or they are unsure what direction they want to go in, e.g. CS vs engineering, and take physics to keep their options open). You're fine without physics. The only university which used to prefer an experimental science was Cambridge due to the structure of the course, but they've changed that several years ago and this is no longer preferred or required (essentially the old course required students to take 1 or 2 papers from the first year NatSci course, that is no longer the case though).

Note that the primary requirement is strong background in maths. Previous experience with CS or coding is not normally required or expected - but strong preparation in maths is. Thus A-level Further Maths is very useful background, and for a few unis is practically required to be competitive as you've noted. For Oxbridge/Imperial and maybe UCL or Warwick, if your school offers FM you should realistically be aiming to take it (bearing in mind all schools in England can offer FM through the AMSP scheme!). It's probably also especially useful for similarly mathematical courses which don't necessarily expect it in the same way (e.g. Edinburgh, Bristol, Southampton), and generally useful regardless.



Thanks for the tag :smile: @Blue_Cow may be able to attest more directly for Edinburgh in particular as well!


I'd like to thank you so much for this detailed answer to my question - it has been extremely helpful! I am terribly sorry but I have a final question, will showing a lot of experience in CS and coding through an EPQ and coding portfolios give me any notable brownie points with CS unis or is it merely a waste of my time? It is something I naturally display interest in and if it gives me any edge over other applicants then it's something I'd like to pursue.
Original post by ben_spivak
I'd like to thank you so much for this detailed answer to my question - it has been extremely helpful! I am terribly sorry but I have a final question, will showing a lot of experience in CS and coding through an EPQ and coding portfolios give me any notable brownie points with CS unis or is it merely a waste of my time? It is something I naturally display interest in and if it gives me any edge over other applicants then it's something I'd like to pursue.

I mean they'll be looking to see understanding of engagement with your proposed area of study, although there are plenty of ways to do this including just wider reading. If it's something you're interested in doing then it's worth doing it for that reason, and then if it's relevant you can discuss it in your PS. If you're just doing it for the purpose of the PS and have no interest in it otherwise, consider the opportunity cost of what you could be doing instead that is of interest to you and relevance.

Also remember a degree in CS is not a degree in programming. For a lot of the unis noted that prefer A-level FM, programming is actually a relatively small part of the degree in the grand scheme of things and mainly a tool to illustrate deeper underlying concepts, not an end in of itself necessarily. You need to be interested in the fundamental science of computing, not just learning to be a code monkey. If learning to program and getting a job as a software engineer are the primary reason you are consider a CS degree, I would strongly recommend looking into apprenticeships (degree or otherwise) in the computing sector at least as well if not instead.
(edited 5 months ago)
Reply 13
Original post by ben_spivak
I'd like to thank you so much for this detailed answer to my question - it has been extremely helpful! I am terribly sorry but I have a final question, will showing a lot of experience in CS and coding through an EPQ and coding portfolios give me any notable brownie points with CS unis or is it merely a waste of my time? It is something I naturally display interest in and if it gives me any edge over other applicants then it's something I'd like to pursue.

If programming is your interest, don't go to Edinburgh. In fact, don't go to any of the 'RG' universities and attend a more vocational one like Heriot Watt.
Reply 14
In my experience the top unis aren’t the least bit interested in whether you have any passion or background in computing. They are just after the people with the top maths grades (and two other top grades in any subjects).

However, you may find that physics will help you achieve a better maths grade, as several topics complement each other.
(edited 5 months ago)
Reply 15
Original post by Blue_Cow
If programming is your interest, don't go to Edinburgh. In fact, don't go to any of the 'RG' universities and attend a more vocational one like Heriot Watt.


Surely if I want to learn just programming I should simply go on an apprenticeships. I also wanted the prestige of the degree, maths skills and ability to network as it's a very competitive field and I wanted to stand out.
Reply 16
Original post by Blue_Cow
If programming is your interest, don't go to Edinburgh. In fact, don't go to any of the 'RG' universities and attend a more vocational one like Heriot Watt.


Wait, apart from maths will they make me write loads of essays on theory as well??
Reply 17
Original post by ben_spivak
Wait, apart from maths will they make me write loads of essays on theory as well??


It's not unusual to have to write reports up - not to mention the dissertation at the end of a degree...
Reply 18
Original post by Blue_Cow
It's not unusual to have to write reports up - not to mention the dissertation at the end of a degree...

Good thing I'll have even more practise with my economics a level to not forget my essay writing skills. I thought I might be able to get rid of them for a heavy maths degree like cs but I guess not.
Reply 19
Original post by ben_spivak
Surely if I want to learn just programming I should simply go on an apprenticeships. I also wanted the prestige of the degree, maths skills and ability to network as it's a very competitive field and I wanted to stand out.


This is true about the trades, but not at all true about software engineering. In general to get an entry level SE job you need a STEM degree as a pre-requisite pretty much everywhere, otherwise you won't even get to the phone screen. That's not saying it can't happen, there are people I know who got jobs without degrees, but I also know people who went to university because despite having work experience, they were getting passed over for others who did have degrees.

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