The Student Room Group

‘Facilitating’ A-level Choices

Hi. I’m applying to do 4 A-Levels at a very well respected sixth form: Maths, Psychology, Politics and Philosophy
These are subjects I really enjoy however doing further research it seems that only doing 1 ‘facilitating’ subject (Maths) may limit my chances at Oxbridge in future. I’m hoping, I think, to do a social science course at uni so there are no specific course requirements at all really.
Can anyone comment if this is the case about facilitating subjects and if it is worth me swapping in another ‘facilitating’ subject like History or Biology/Chemistry?
Thank you
(edited 2 months ago)
The RG scrapped their “facilitating” subject advice years ago because it was being misunderstood. Facilitating just meant flexible - they was recommended subjects for applicants who weren’t sure what they would be interested in at university and wanted to keep as many options open as possible.

LSE, UCL (and I think Sheffield?!) are the only universities that publish “preferred” subject lists and all 4 of your subjects are on their lists.

Your choices are fine.
Reply 2
Original post by hello543682
Hi. I’m applying to do 4 A-Levels at a very well respected sixth form: Maths, Psychology, Politics and Philosophy
These are subjects I really enjoy however doing further research it seems that only doing 1 ‘facilitating’ subject (Maths) may limit my chances at Oxbridge in future. I’m hoping, I think, to do a social science course at uni so there are no specific course requirements at all really.
Can anyone comment if this is the case about facilitating subjects and if it is worth me swapping in another ‘facilitating’ subject like History or Biology/Chemistry?
Thank you

As the Oxford Royal (in their second point) puts it:
"It is simply the case that facilitating subjects open many more doors and provide for a greater range of study possibilities than non-facilitating subjects."
Bear in mind, the source could be some geezer looking to get a quick buck by using the Oxford name on their website. Seems legit.

My personal opinion is that as someone who's currently doing all "Facilitating Subjects," (Maths, Physics, German, Geography), it only helps in terms of being able to choose the widest amount of careers. I can become an electrical engineer or a geophysicist. In terms of actual competitiveness, it does very little, if any at all. In fact, it just shows that I'm a Masochist.

From reading this post, your combination of subjects looks really strong. The three humanities link very nicely together, and Maths nicely tops it all off. Life is going to be mediocre for you! (I would say easy, but you're doing 4) maths goes especially nicely with philosophy (I have a massive bias towards maths for obvious reasons). Here's a cool paper that links the two subjects! Eugenia Chang is an amazing writer. She also wrote a handbook to the art of logic. Highly recommended. Also I'm currently reading Gödel, Escher, Bach. Also amazing.

Anyways I'm going to bed.
Original post by Saidist
As the Oxford Royal (in their second point) puts it:
"It is simply the case that facilitating subjects open many more doors and provide for a greater range of study possibilities than non-facilitating subjects."
Bear in mind, the source could be some geezer looking to get a quick buck by using the Oxford name on their website. Seems legit.

My personal opinion is that as someone who's currently doing all "Facilitating Subjects," (Maths, Physics, German, Geography), it only helps in terms of being able to choose the widest amount of careers. I can become an electrical engineer or a geophysicist. In terms of actual competitiveness, it does very little, if any at all. In fact, it just shows that I'm a Masochist.

From reading this post, your combination of subjects looks really strong. The three humanities link very nicely together, and Maths nicely tops it all off. Life is going to be mediocre for you! (I would say easy, but you're doing 4) maths goes especially nicely with philosophy (I have a massive bias towards maths for obvious reasons). Here's a cool paper that links the two subjects! Eugenia Chang is an amazing writer. She also wrote a handbook to the art of logic. Highly recommended. Also I'm currently reading Gödel, Escher, Bach. Also amazing.

Anyways I'm going to bed.

The first linked PDF dates from 2016 and is no longer reflective of current standards.
Original post by hello543682
Hi. I’m applying to do 4 A-Levels at a very well respected sixth form: Maths, Psychology, Politics and Philosophy
These are subjects I really enjoy however doing further research it seems that only doing 1 ‘facilitating’ subject (Maths) may limit my chances at Oxbridge in future. I’m hoping, I think, to do a social science course at uni so there are no specific course requirements at all really.
Can anyone comment if this is the case about facilitating subjects and if it is worth me swapping in another ‘facilitating’ subject like History or Biology/Chemistry?
Thank you


As above the concept no longer exists.

Your subjects are fine in general terms, although doing 4 subjects isn't going to get you "bonus points" when applying so wouldn't generally be recommended. Just do 3 - that's all that is required or expected.

More specifically though note that "social science" covers a broad range of subjects and it is not true that all of them have no specific course requirements. Economics (and joint schools) requires maths (FM realistically at Cambridge), and psychology will probably realistically anticipate you are doing at least one STEM subject (many will be doing 2 or 3). However for things like archaeology and/or anthropology, politics related subjects, religious studies etc, it's true that no specific subjects are normally required.

You need to look at the specific degree programmes and their requirements to ensure you understand what is required and whether or not you meet those.
Reply 5
Original post by artful_lounger


As above the concept no longer exists.

Your subjects are fine in general terms, although doing 4 subjects isn't going to get you "bonus points" when applying so wouldn't generally be recommended. Just do 3 - that's all that is required or expected.

More specifically though note that "social science" covers a broad range of subjects and it is not true that all of them have no specific course requirements. Economics (and joint schools) requires maths (FM realistically at Cambridge), and psychology will probably realistically anticipate you are doing at least one STEM subject (many will be doing 2 or 3). However for things like archaeology and/or anthropology, politics related subjects, religious studies etc, it's true that no specific subjects are normally required.

You need to look at the specific degree programmes and their requirements to ensure you understand what is required and whether or not you meet those.


Thank you everyone this is all super useful.

Some of the schools I’m applying for require you to apply and begin with 4 subjects, which is why I’m taking that path. However in the end I applied for history as my 4th subject, just on advice from some of my teachers and further research, on the understanding it will likely be the subject that I drop.
Im hoping to take a course such as PPE or Psychology and Philosophy and so it seems my maths, psychology and philosophy A levels will be enough to secure those places and still provide some other, broader pathways. Certainly all the research I’ve done for Oxbridge has said that this is ostensibly the case.
As fair I’m aware, the only university that cares about “facilitating” subjects these days is LSE (based on reading TSR) but someone correct me if I’m wrong here.
(edited 2 months ago)
Original post by Talkative Toad
As fair I’m aware, the only university that cares about “facilitating” subjects these days is LSE (based on reading TSR) but someone correct me if I’m wrong here.

It's not quite that, LSE have their own list of "preferred" and "non preferred" subjects; their preferred list is much broader than the list of facilitating subjects and encompasses basically all traditionally academic A-level subjects.

By comparison the concept of facilitating subjects were specifically just subjects which were a required prerequisite for one or more degree programmes. Therefore history wad a facilitating subject (as many history degrees require the A-level) while economics was not (as no degrees, economics or otherwise, require A-level econonics). It was not a category that passed any judgement on the content or supposed rigour of the subjects included and did not imply those subjects were "better" than others when not specifically required. Just that for students unsure of what to do, taking two or more of them would give a wider range of choices later potentially.

Unfortunately this was misconstrued as them being "hard" subjects and other subjects being "soft" subjects and that they were better even when no specific requirement for them was listed. Hence they scrapped the concept as it was unfit for purpose, but unfortunately it has crested a lasting misconception.
Original post by artful_lounger
It's not quite that, LSE have their own list of "preferred" and "non preferred" subjects; their preferred list is much broader than the list of facilitating subjects and encompasses basically all traditionally academic A-level subjects.

By comparison the concept of facilitating subjects were specifically just subjects which were a required prerequisite for one or more degree programmes. Therefore history wad a facilitating subject (as many history degrees require the A-level) while economics was not (as no degrees, economics or otherwise, require A-level econonics). It was not a category that passed any judgement on the content or supposed rigour of the subjects included and did not imply those subjects were "better" than others when not specifically required. Just that for students unsure of what to do, taking two or more of them would give a wider range of choices later potentially.

Unfortunately this was misconstrued as them being "hard" subjects and other subjects being "soft" subjects and that they were better even when no specific requirement for them was listed. Hence they scrapped the concept as it was unfit for purpose, but unfortunately it has crested a lasting misconception.


Ah yeah that’s what I meant with regards to LSE (they have a list “preferred” and “non preferred” subjects).

You’re right that there’s a lot of misconceptions when it comes to prestige of A-level subjects (bar FM).

The only time I’ve heard of issues with taking certain subject combinations is when there’s too much overlap (Business and Economics simultaneously, Biology and human biology or PE simultaneously etc), native language in some cases, FM in some cases etc.

OP I would just do subjects you enjoy as long as that meet the subject requirements for the university you want to go to.

4A* (because you enjoy the subjects) is better than AABB (because you don’t enjoy the subjects as much and are only doing them because they are “facilitating”).

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