The Student Room Group

A - level subject choices

I'm currently a year 11 (UK) student and considering A level subject choices as well as which school to attend.
I currently attend a local comprehensive (Outstanding Rated) but am also considering a grammar school about 50 mins away, which is one of the top 10 rated state schools in the country. I really enjoy the school I currently attend but was also very excited by the prospect of the grammar school on the open day. Any advice for making a decision?

Also, with regard to A levels, I've got a shortlist of 5. History, Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Spanish. I plan to study four but am slightly unsure which. There are a few main career/degree paths I'm interested in: medicine (career and degree); law (career and degree); history and Spanish (joint degree although could just study history). I'm definitely considering Oxbridge/Russell Group but that's for later on.
Does anybody have any advice on which to choose. History and Chemistry are essentials for me, but obviously Biology is often required for med degrees. I also don't like the idea of dropping maths. Do note that I enjoy all of these subjects a lot and also am strong at them, this is largely a choice of choosing subjects that allow me to maintain as many paths as possible. For instance Chemistry, Biology, History, Spanish would allow me to do all of the degrees that I'm interested in, but as I say, not sure about dropping maths. Advice around which subjects are necessary for medicine would be appreciated as well.
Thank you.
(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 1
Original post by DylanJShah
I'm currently a year 11 (UK) student and considering A level subject choices as well as which school to attend.
I currently attend a local comprehensive (Outstanding Rated) but am also considering a grammar school about 50 mins away, which is one of the top 10 rated state schools in the country. I really enjoy the school I currently attend but was also very excited by the prospect of the grammar school on the open day. Any advice for making a decision?

Also, with regard to A levels, I've got a shortlist of 5. History, Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Spanish. I plan to study four but am slightly unsure which. There are a few main career/degree paths I'm interested in: medicine (career and degree); law (career and degree); history and Spanish (joint degree although could just study history). I'm definitely considering Oxbridge/Russell Group but that's for later on.
Does anybody have any advice on which to choose. History and Chemistry are essentials for me, but obviously Biology is often required for med degrees. I also don't like the idea of dropping maths. Do note that I enjoy all of these subjects a lot and also am strong at them, this is largely a choice of choosing subjects that allow me to maintain as many paths as possible. For instance Chemistry, Biology, History, Spanish would allow me to do all of the degrees that I'm interested in, but as I say, not sure about dropping maths. Advice around which subjects are necessary for medicine would be appreciated as well.
Thank you.

I was lucky enough to get into a grammar school for my A-levels and if you think you are capable 100% go for it. The quality of teaching as well as the overall environment is so much better then in an average state school. I'm currently in yr 13 and getting much better grades then I would've done at my old school. If you are academically good, you will be pushed much further and achieve much more of your potential in a grammar school, so if you have the opportunity, go for it!

As for the subjects, I believe for medicine it is highly advised to take Bio, Chem and Maths. Although not 100% necessary to take all three. With A-Levels, they are so significantly harder than GCSEs, nothing will prepare you for how much extra work will go into it. Getting 7s, 8s and 9s at GCSE definitely doesn't mean you will get As at A level. Taking four subjects as well as applying for medicine is a lot to take on. It sounds like you are a very motivated individual, which will take you far in terms of academia, but don't bite off more then you can chew. I would agree with taking your four subjects Chemistry, Biology, History and Spanish as that way you are keeping your options open. Just be sure that if you feel it is too much it isn't the end of the world to drop one. Doing three A-Levels is hard enough - especially Science and Languages!

I'm curious as to what kind of career you would be interested in coming out of a History and Spanish degree? Sounds fascinating, although extremely difficult.

If you are in doubt with what subjects to take, I would recommend talking a teacher you like at school, who knows you. They will be able to give much more valuable advice then someone over the internet.

Wish you the best. Good Luck!
Original post by Amberose06
I was lucky enough to get into a grammar school for my A-levels and if you think you are capable 100% go for it. The quality of teaching as well as the overall environment is so much better then in an average state school. I'm currently in yr 13 and getting much better grades then I would've done at my old school. If you are academically good, you will be pushed much further and achieve much more of your potential in a grammar school, so if you have the opportunity, go for it!

As for the subjects, I believe for medicine it is highly advised to take Bio, Chem and Maths. Although not 100% necessary to take all three. With A-Levels, they are so significantly harder than GCSEs, nothing will prepare you for how much extra work will go into it. Getting 7s, 8s and 9s at GCSE definitely doesn't mean you will get As at A level. Taking four subjects as well as applying for medicine is a lot to take on. It sounds like you are a very motivated individual, which will take you far in terms of academia, but don't bite off more then you can chew. I would agree with taking your four subjects Chemistry, Biology, History and Spanish as that way you are keeping your options open. Just be sure that if you feel it is too much it isn't the end of the world to drop one. Doing three A-Levels is hard enough - especially Science and Languages!

I'm curious as to what kind of career you would be interested in coming out of a History and Spanish degree? Sounds fascinating, although extremely difficult.

If you are in doubt with what subjects to take, I would recommend talking a teacher you like at school, who knows you. They will be able to give much more valuable advice then someone over the internet.

Wish you the best. Good Luck!

The evidence on here is that teachers and careers advisers often give very bad advice. The result has been students havent got onto the appropriate courses because of it.

There isnt a definite choice that covers all your options. There is a huge sticky on the medicine about what each university requires for Medicine. Some require Chemistry and other Biology and some both. A few require Maths but generally Chemistry and Biology will cover you for most Medicine schools. Have a look on the medicine forum and go through the multiple pages. That will help you.

As far as Maths is concerned it probably keeps open the widest possible range of careers. It is required in many places for things like Economics and Computer Science.

Taking 4 A levels isnt advisable. All universities make offers on 3. The few that make offers on 4 require grade A in the 4th subject. The issue with taking 4 subjects is that it spreads the load and because of that sometimes student miss their offers. Some grammar schools insist on the 4th subject. This is because it looks good on the rather than benefits students. They can use this to claim their students had x amounts of points so they can use it for marketing. It doesnt alter the fact universities dont require them.

Law does not require any specific subject but a written subject does look good and History is a common subject for Law.

It is very difficult to cover all options but sciences are also accepted for Law nearly everywhere so a mix of Chem, Biol and History will cover most options.
The following reply above is true however going to a grammar school will also restrict you from taking part in programs that other schools would allow you to participate in. Also, not many students manage to get into medicine from grammar schools because of how competitive it is. For my school only two people managed to make it last year out of 60 so the stakes are high. So do your research and find out whether the schools you are applying to are really worth it or not because being honest with you there isn’t a huge difference between the teaching as far as I’m concerned as I used to attend a secondary school where the average was always below national and local average. For me the only difference is you are expected to be scoring above average and you are surrounded by people that are all “academic” in their own ways.

I currently take maths, biology and chemistry and want to do med as someone who took combined science it is a huge jump and even those in my class that took triple science find it hard to keep up with organic chemistry so I would not recommend 4 subjects unless you truly know you can keep up with the workload as it could result in you having to drop one as it’s quite demanding as you get further along in the course where you have to start ucat and interview prep whilst trying to build your portfolio with extracurricular.

I originally wanted to take 4 however I watched my sisters grades drop due to the 4 despite being someone with a high work ethic. It’s very hard to take 4 a levels especially with the mix you’ve chosen as three are stem based and then the other is written whereas most people take 4 (phy,chem,maths and fm) which collide within each other so it’s not as hard to keep up with. Taking 4 a levels will not make your life any simpler being honest with you especially within your chosen career paths however when it comes to making the choices of 4 or three the first step would be to choose one career path. As for medicine your three best options would be bio,chem and maths as maths would also be useful for alternative options however when you throw in the options of law then you would only have the choice of taking 4 realistically. I would drop the thought of taking Spanish as an a level and instead if you are interested in it do it as a hobby as it will be impressive if you practice it yourself.
Reply 4
I applied for med this year with chem, maths and music - it's definitely not essential to have both bio and chem but it does limit your options for where you can apply to. I also didn't know that I was going to apply for medicine until after finishing A levels, I was originally going to do music but didn't get on with the course and decided to reapply so I would argue that if at this point you are not sure what you want to do (as I wasn't) it's far better to keep options open rather than focusing on one path and regretting it later.

I would also say while it is a lot of work to take 4 A levels for the two years, it is worth finding out if your school (whichever you end up at) would allow you to drop down to 3 after year 12 it might actually be worth starting with 4 if you think you can manage it because it gives you the chance to work out which A levels you actually enjoy. When I chose my subjects I pretty much chose maths thinking it would be the one I was going to drop but by the end of y12 I was actually really enjoying it (also it's usually much easier to drop an A level you don't enjoy rather than pick up one/swap one further along the line when you've missed some teaching and have to do more work to catch up).
Reply 5
Original post by DylanJShah
I'm currently a year 11 (UK) student and considering A level subject choices as well as which school to attend.
I currently attend a local comprehensive (Outstanding Rated) but am also considering a grammar school about 50 mins away, which is one of the top 10 rated state schools in the country. I really enjoy the school I currently attend but was also very excited by the prospect of the grammar school on the open day. Any advice for making a decision?

Also, with regard to A levels, I've got a shortlist of 5. History, Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Spanish. I plan to study four but am slightly unsure which. There are a few main career/degree paths I'm interested in: medicine (career and degree); law (career and degree); history and Spanish (joint degree although could just study history). I'm definitely considering Oxbridge/Russell Group but that's for later on.
Does anybody have any advice on which to choose. History and Chemistry are essentials for me, but obviously Biology is often required for med degrees. I also don't like the idea of dropping maths. Do note that I enjoy all of these subjects a lot and also am strong at them, this is largely a choice of choosing subjects that allow me to maintain as many paths as possible. For instance Chemistry, Biology, History, Spanish would allow me to do all of the degrees that I'm interested in, but as I say, not sure about dropping maths. Advice around which subjects are necessary for medicine would be appreciated as well.
Thank you.

I have taken Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Welsh Baccalaureate for my A Levels, and I wish I didnt take 3 sciences. If I could go back I would replace Chemistry with Computer Science.

They are demanding subjects, and the wjec exams at least are pretty harsh.
I only took them because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do.

For medicine, you need A-A-A, in physics/maths, biology and chemistry. (thats what i would aim for)

If you really want to do medicine, go for it, but it will be a lot of learning and stress, for an environment which is extremely competitive, understaffed, underpaid, and you will always have the ban thing over your head, where if you do something wrong, in the fast paced environment, you could get a ban, and then you can throw away everything you studied.

I dont want to put you off medicine, if its what you want to do, but yea
Original post by DylanJShah
I'm currently a year 11 (UK) student and considering A level subject choices as well as which school to attend.
I currently attend a local comprehensive (Outstanding Rated) but am also considering a grammar school about 50 mins away, which is one of the top 10 rated state schools in the country. I really enjoy the school I currently attend but was also very excited by the prospect of the grammar school on the open day. Any advice for making a decision?

Also, with regard to A levels, I've got a shortlist of 5. History, Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Spanish. I plan to study four but am slightly unsure which. There are a few main career/degree paths I'm interested in: medicine (career and degree); law (career and degree); history and Spanish (joint degree although could just study history). I'm definitely considering Oxbridge/Russell Group but that's for later on.
Does anybody have any advice on which to choose. History and Chemistry are essentials for me, but obviously Biology is often required for med degrees. I also don't like the idea of dropping maths. Do note that I enjoy all of these subjects a lot and also am strong at them, this is largely a choice of choosing subjects that allow me to maintain as many paths as possible. For instance Chemistry, Biology, History, Spanish would allow me to do all of the degrees that I'm interested in, but as I say, not sure about dropping maths. Advice around which subjects are necessary for medicine would be appreciated as well.
Thank you.

Hi @DylanJShah,

In terms of which school you should study out, the question really is a personal one. In terms of a career in law, there is often a process of redacting which school you went to so how they rank won't necessarily come across but equally if it is a better school, perhaps, you will obtain better grades.

For law, you do not need any particular subjects at any stage. Therefore, you are free to choose whichever you enjoy the most and go from there. I would say, if considering this route, make sure you do really enjoy the subjects as strong academics are essential in getting into a career in law (alongside other factors) and it is much easier to do better in topics you like! 🙂

I hope this helps and good luck!

Sophie
Reply 7
I'm also currently year 11. I used to go to a Grammar School but moved just before year 10. Definately take this with a grain of salt because everyone's experiences are always different but just truthfully consider what you are getting yourself into once you move to a grammar school.

In my experience, there was always an immense amount of pressure placed upon all of us to get good grades. I remember once when I was in year 8 my English teacher saying a grade 7 was the absolute lowest grade we were expected to get in our GCSEs. That was definately achievable for most of us however probably not all and would have made a lot of students put extra stress upon themselves.

I also used to not really care about my grades because there was absolutely no motivation to do well - I used to get 20% in Biology tests and fail all of my maths tests, simply because I felt as if I had no reason to revise or do well, because everyone was of the same ability.

Also it was an only girls grammar school so the girls were always incredibly horrible to each other - but that may not be the case for you if you go to grammar sixth form.

As soon as I moved to a comprehensive school I was immediately very motivated due to the sets and the fact that I wanted to be in top set. My grades in biology and maths are now 7 and 8 which would definately not be the case if I was still at my old school.

For sixth form I initially wanted to move to a different grammar schooll and was very motivated to do that, however when I toured around the school and listened to the headteacher's speech, I simply hated it. It felt exactly like my old school. Cold, and all about grades, not on the individual student. So, I have opted to stay at my current school for sixth form, as it is very friendly and caters to individual student abilities, whilst still having quite high grade boundaries.

Overall, what I am trying to get across is that the idea of a grammar school sounds amazing and an ideal place to be, however I think it is very suited to a particular type of student.
But also take with a grain of salt because the sixth form you wish to go to may be completely different from my old one, and could definately be a good route if you want to pursue medicine.

If it is a top 10 school it might be highly grades focused though.

Hope this was helpful
Original post by DylanJShah
I'm currently a year 11 (UK) student and considering A level subject choices as well as which school to attend.
I currently attend a local comprehensive (Outstanding Rated) but am also considering a grammar school about 50 mins away, which is one of the top 10 rated state schools in the country. I really enjoy the school I currently attend but was also very excited by the prospect of the grammar school on the open day. Any advice for making a decision?
Also, with regard to A levels, I've got a shortlist of 5. History, Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Spanish. I plan to study four but am slightly unsure which. There are a few main career/degree paths I'm interested in: medicine (career and degree); law (career and degree); history and Spanish (joint degree although could just study history). I'm definitely considering Oxbridge/Russell Group but that's for later on.
Does anybody have any advice on which to choose. History and Chemistry are essentials for me, but obviously Biology is often required for med degrees. I also don't like the idea of dropping maths. Do note that I enjoy all of these subjects a lot and also am strong at them, this is largely a choice of choosing subjects that allow me to maintain as many paths as possible. For instance Chemistry, Biology, History, Spanish would allow me to do all of the degrees that I'm interested in, but as I say, not sure about dropping maths. Advice around which subjects are necessary for medicine would be appreciated as well.
Thank you.

Hi Dylan. I would suggest you doing Bio Chem, History and Spanish as you seem to be interested in them the most. It will open your oppurtunities for law and for medicine, sometimes you don't even need anything for a law degree and essay-based subjects are only useful.

I am currently in year 11 and I go to a Girls Grammar school, and there are loads of benefits to going to a grammar school Firstly, you are motivated and encouraged to get the best grades possible and be the best version of yourself, and also when you are surrounded by students that are like/ better than you, you get motivated by yourself. However, sometimes it is not the best as there is a lot of pressure. A lot of people from my year dont want to continue to sixth form due to the pressure.

Whatever your decision is, good look 🙂
Original post by DylanJShah
I'm currently a year 11 (UK) student and considering A level subject choices as well as which school to attend.
I currently attend a local comprehensive (Outstanding Rated) but am also considering a grammar school about 50 mins away, which is one of the top 10 rated state schools in the country. I really enjoy the school I currently attend but was also very excited by the prospect of the grammar school on the open day. Any advice for making a decision?

Also, with regard to A levels, I've got a shortlist of 5. History, Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Spanish. I plan to study four but am slightly unsure which. There are a few main career/degree paths I'm interested in: medicine (career and degree); law (career and degree); history and Spanish (joint degree although could just study history). I'm definitely considering Oxbridge/Russell Group but that's for later on.
Does anybody have any advice on which to choose. History and Chemistry are essentials for me, but obviously Biology is often required for med degrees. I also don't like the idea of dropping maths. Do note that I enjoy all of these subjects a lot and also am strong at them, this is largely a choice of choosing subjects that allow me to maintain as many paths as possible. For instance Chemistry, Biology, History, Spanish would allow me to do all of the degrees that I'm interested in, but as I say, not sure about dropping maths. Advice around which subjects are necessary for medicine would be appreciated as well.
Thank you.


Id go to the open days of the grammar school and see what you think. If you like the look of it and think that you will enjoy it/do well there then id deffo seriously consider going there. But id also apply for your current school as well as a back up.
I went to my secondary schools 6th form (then to a local college after that) and although i enjoyed 6th form, i think it would have done me better to have a clean break from secondary school and go elsewhere.
Subject wise- although you dont want to drop maths, id go for biology, chemistry, history and spanish. That subject combination seems to keep your options open the most.

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