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A Levels for Classics

I’m in year 12 and planning to apply for Classics this October. I decided to try and take Latin A Level in year 11 after looking at university courses because I wanted to study both Latin and Greek from my first year, so I’ve been studying it as a fourth A Level outside of school as it wasn’t offered at my old school at GCSE, or at my current school. Yesterday I sat the Latin AS Language exam and while it wasn’t completely awful, it definitely wasn’t amazing. I still think I could get an A if paper 2 goes well, but if it doesn’t, would it be better to withdraw from the exam rather than get a B? I had originally decided with my tutor to sit the AS as I don’t have a GCSE and a good achieved grade would legitimise a good prediction, but a strong CAT score might have the same effect. Would Oxford view a B as okay (alongside a prediction of A/A*) as I’ve been studying Latin for less than 2 years, and am primarily self taught (I have one hour a week with my tutor, who has a Classics degree but is not a qualified teacher and teaches a few local students for free), compared with others who have been taught properly since year 7? I still want to try and continue with the full A Level, and I’m attending the JACT Latin camp and plan to spend as much time as feasibly possible over the summer doing Latin so that I’m more than prepared for A2 content, and will continue seeing my tutor over the summer. However, I realise that getting the grades necessary overall should be my priority, and if I can’t realistically get an A or A* at A2 then it would be better to not do it. Would it be wiser to not continue with Latin, and would a B at AS be disastrous?

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A B at AS level is almost never going be worse than having nothing, especially since you intend to take the full A Level. Your As and A*s in other A Levels should be enough while you wait to get that Latin. My advice would be to do your application, take the exam (if there is one for classics), do your interview, and if you get an offer then that’s when your grades will matter. As long as you end up with high enough to get you where you want to go it will all have been worth it. And don’t worry about the exam! We all get rubbish ones sometimes, and I’m sure you aren’t the only one who found it bad.
Original post by Anonymous
I’m in year 12 and planning to apply for Classics this October. I decided to try and take Latin A Level in year 11 after looking at university courses because I wanted to study both Latin and Greek from my first year, so I’ve been studying it as a fourth A Level outside of school as it wasn’t offered at my old school at GCSE, or at my current school. Yesterday I sat the Latin AS Language exam and while it wasn’t completely awful, it definitely wasn’t amazing. I still think I could get an A if paper 2 goes well, but if it doesn’t, would it be better to withdraw from the exam rather than get a B? I had originally decided with my tutor to sit the AS as I don’t have a GCSE and a good achieved grade would legitimise a good prediction, but a strong CAT score might have the same effect. Would Oxford view a B as okay (alongside a prediction of A/A*) as I’ve been studying Latin for less than 2 years, and am primarily self taught (I have one hour a week with my tutor, who has a Classics degree but is not a qualified teacher and teaches a few local students for free), compared with others who have been taught properly since year 7? I still want to try and continue with the full A Level, and I’m attending the JACT Latin camp and plan to spend as much time as feasibly possible over the summer doing Latin so that I’m more than prepared for A2 content, and will continue seeing my tutor over the summer. However, I realise that getting the grades necessary overall should be my priority, and if I can’t realistically get an A or A* at A2 then it would be better to not do it. Would it be wiser to not continue with Latin, and would a B at AS be disastrous?

It's really unclear when you took what A-level in what year as I can't tell if you made typos or are just describing a really inconsistent educational background. I would just note generally for posterity that there is no benefit in taking an A-level "early" (i.e. during GCSE years) as universities do not give "bonus points" for this , and if you under-perform it will likely reflect poorly on you (whereas doing well would not generally reflect better or worse than if you did as well in the "normal" timeline of taking the qualification).

In any event I think a B in one of the classical languages at A-level is likely to be a serious issue for applying to classics at Oxford (or similar courses) as the language study is intensive and central to the course. I imagine it would signal to them that you would struggle with actually learning (and hence, using) the classical language(s) at degree level. For AS level only if taking a standalone AS (or the old modular format e.g. an IAL or studying in Wales/NI) it may still be a weakness in the application and you might be better advised to apply in a gap year with achieved results in that case. @elilast may have a better sense on how this might be seen though?

However I think you need to be honest with yourself - if you don't think you can get an A in A-level Latin, how do you think you will cope with Latin (and Greek...) at degree level? Especially for a Oxford where the course is heavily exam oriented and intensive as I understand it.
(edited 1 month ago)
Reply 3
Original post by artful_lounger
It's really unclear when you took what A-level in what year as I can't tell if you made typos or are just describing a really inconsistent educational background. I would just note generally for posterity that there is no benefit in taking an A-level "early" (i.e. during GCSE years) as universities do not give "bonus points" for this , and if you under-perform it will likely reflect poorly on you (whereas doing well would not generally reflect better or worse than if you did as well in the "normal" timeline of taking the qualification).
In any event I think a B in one of the classical languages at A-level is likely to be a serious issue for applying to classics at Oxford (or similar courses) as the language study is intensive and central to the course. I imagine it would signal to them that you would struggle with actually learning (and hence, using) the classical language(s) at degree level. For AS level only if taking a standalone AS (or the old modular format e.g. an IAL or studying in Wales/NI) it may still be a weakness in the application and you might be better advised to apply in a gap year with achieved results in that case. @elilast may have a better sense on how this might be seen though?
However I think you need to be honest with yourself - if you don't think you can get an A in A-level Latin, how do you think you will cope with Latin (and Greek...) at degree level? Especially for a Oxford where the course is heavily exam oriented and intensive as I understand it.
Sorry for confusion, I am in year 12 and sitting the AS this cycle, not the full A Level. I plan to do the full A Level next year. My doubt in my strength at Latin is because I only started learning in year 11, so I have had four less years’ experience than most people taking the A Level, and it is my fourth subject studied only with a tutor so I don’t have the normal support of a teacher and a class, however I have picked up a lot quickly so I don’t have much doubt in my aptitude, it’s just a question of whether I have bitten off more than I can chew in attempting to take a language I didn’t study at GCSE at A level.
Original post by Anonymous
Sorry for confusion, I am in year 12 and sitting the AS this cycle, not the full A Level. I plan to do the full A Level next year. My doubt in my strength at Latin is because I only started learning in year 11, so I have had four less years’ experience than most people taking the A Level, and it is my fourth subject studied only with a tutor so I don’t have the normal support of a teacher and a class, however I have picked up a lot quickly so I don’t have much doubt in my aptitude, it’s just a question of whether I have bitten off more than I can chew in attempting to take a language I didn’t study at GCSE at A level.


As above, but I think in this case while admirable pushing to do the A-level without a background in classical languages, especially as an additional subject without structured teaching, may have been an overreach. If you already had experience of learning an ancient Indo-European language then studying it more independently with a tutor support might be reasonable, but as it is (presumably) your first such language a large part of learning it is also learning the metalanguage around studying ancient languages as well as how to study one in the first place. Ancient languages require a fair bit of time investment to learn the necessary grammar (and vocab), and in my opinion you do really need someone to guide you through the process of learning to learn an ancient language in the first place, when you start off.

Of course now that you have taken the AS, getting a B in it and not completing the full A-level might be an even bigger warning sign for universities if you are aiming for classics. I would either suggest you drop one subject so you are only taking 3 (presumably including Latin) and focus more of your time on the Latin over the summer and next year to try and consolidate things as much as possible, or potentially look at withdraw from the AS exams this year and doing them only next year - as that would put you on the "usual" timescale for studying it, allow you to spend more time properly learning the material, and then if you wish you could take a gap year and finish up the "full" A-level then.
Reply 5
Original post by artful_lounger
As above, but I think in this case while admirable pushing to do the A-level without a background in classical languages, especially as an additional subject without structured teaching, may have been an overreach. If you already had experience of learning an ancient Indo-European language then studying it more independently with a tutor support might be reasonable, but as it is (presumably) your first such language a large part of learning it is also learning the metalanguage around studying ancient languages as well as how to study one in the first place. Ancient languages require a fair bit of time investment to learn the necessary grammar (and vocab), and in my opinion you do really need someone to guide you through the process of learning to learn an ancient language in the first place, when you start off.
Of course now that you have taken the AS, getting a B in it and not completing the full A-level might be an even bigger warning sign for universities if you are aiming for classics. I would either suggest you drop one subject so you are only taking 3 (presumably including Latin) and focus more of your time on the Latin over the summer and next year to try and consolidate things as much as possible, or potentially look at withdraw from the AS exams this year and doing them only next year - as that would put you on the "usual" timescale for studying it, allow you to spend more time properly learning the material, and then if you wish you could take a gap year and finish up the "full" A-level then.
Thank you for the advice, paper 2 of the AS is tomorrow so I think I’ll see what grade I think I’ve achieved afterwards, and then make decisions about withdrawal etc. and have a serious conversation with my tutor about what grade he thinks is achievable in a year’s time. If I decide to not continue Latin to A2 and maybe take the AS next year, I think I’ll just apply for the version of the course that doesn’t require an ancient language with my other 3 A levels instead of taking a gap year.
Reply 6
Original post by Anonymous
Thank you for the advice, paper 2 of the AS is tomorrow so I think I’ll see what grade I think I’ve achieved afterwards, and then make decisions about withdrawal etc. and have a serious conversation with my tutor about what grade he thinks is achievable in a year’s time. If I decide to not continue Latin to A2 and maybe take the AS next year, I think I’ll just apply for the version of the course that doesn’t require an ancient language with my other 3 A levels instead of taking a gap year.

I think getting a B at AS after only studying Latin for 2 years doesn't mean you can't do the Oxford Classics course, for sure. But in my opinion I don't think it will look great on applications unless VERY clearly explained as a mitigating circumstance on your UCAS. I would wait and see what the result is, but personally I don't think there would be any harm in dropping Latin as it's mainly self-studied, and continuing to do 3 A-Levels. It would not be bad to do beginners/intermediate Latin at Oxford - if you go straight in with all the students who have studied for 4+ years with structured teaching at school, you might find it more challenging. (Obviously not through any fault of your own - just because you haven't had the same amount of teaching).

For advice from the Faculty on this I recommend contacting [email protected]
Reply 7
Original post by elilast
I think getting a B at AS after only studying Latin for 2 years doesn't mean you can't do the Oxford Classics course, for sure. But in my opinion I don't think it will look great on applications unless VERY clearly explained as a mitigating circumstance on your UCAS. I would wait and see what the result is, but personally I don't think there would be any harm in dropping Latin as it's mainly self-studied, and continuing to do 3 A-Levels. It would not be bad to do beginners/intermediate Latin at Oxford - if you go straight in with all the students who have studied for 4+ years with structured teaching at school, you might find it more challenging. (Obviously not through any fault of your own - just because you haven't had the same amount of teaching).
For advice from the Faculty on this I recommend contacting [email protected]
Thank you, I’m considering withdrawal from the exam, although paper 2 went well so I think it’s definitely possible that I could have achieved an A, although I’m not sure if it’s worth the risk. Do you think withdrawal would be more sensible than risking a B (OCR allow withdrawal until August, so this is a possibility), especially as there is a high chance I won’t continue Latin to A2? Also, do you think there would be any point in sitting the AS alongside my A levels next year instead? I know that it wouldn’t form part of my offer, but I enjoy Latin and it would be a shame to give it up now.
Reply 8
Original post by elilast
I think getting a B at AS after only studying Latin for 2 years doesn't mean you can't do the Oxford Classics course, for sure. But in my opinion I don't think it will look great on applications unless VERY clearly explained as a mitigating circumstance on your UCAS. I would wait and see what the result is, but personally I don't think there would be any harm in dropping Latin as it's mainly self-studied, and continuing to do 3 A-Levels. It would not be bad to do beginners/intermediate Latin at Oxford - if you go straight in with all the students who have studied for 4+ years with structured teaching at school, you might find it more challenging. (Obviously not through any fault of your own - just because you haven't had the same amount of teaching).
For advice from the Faculty on this I recommend contacting [email protected]
Thank you, I’m considering withdrawal from the AS, although paper 2 went well so I do think it is possible that I’ve achieved an A. Do you think that this would be more sensible than risking a B, especially as I’m likely not going to continue with the A2? Also, do you think it would be good to do the AS next year instead? I know it wouldn’t form part of my offer (if I get one) and I would have to choose between beginning with Latin or Greek anyway, but I enjoy Latin I and I think it would be a shame to give it up.
Reply 9
Original post by elilast
I think getting a B at AS after only studying Latin for 2 years doesn't mean you can't do the Oxford Classics course, for sure. But in my opinion I don't think it will look great on applications unless VERY clearly explained as a mitigating circumstance on your UCAS. I would wait and see what the result is, but personally I don't think there would be any harm in dropping Latin as it's mainly self-studied, and continuing to do 3 A-Levels. It would not be bad to do beginners/intermediate Latin at Oxford - if you go straight in with all the students who have studied for 4+ years with structured teaching at school, you might find it more challenging. (Obviously not through any fault of your own - just because you haven't had the same amount of teaching).
For advice from the Faculty on this I recommend contacting [email protected]
Thank you, I’m considering withdrawing from the AS, but paper 2 went quite well so I think it’s possible that I have achieved an A. Do you think it would be wiser to withdraw than to risk a B? Also, do you think it would be a good idea to sit the AS next year instead? I know it wouldn’t form part of my offer (if I get one), and I would still have to choose to study Latin or Greek to begin with, but I enjoy Latin and I think it would be a shame to give it up.
Original post by Anonymous
Thank you, I’m considering withdrawal from the exam, although paper 2 went well so I think it’s definitely possible that I could have achieved an A, although I’m not sure if it’s worth the risk. Do you think withdrawal would be more sensible than risking a B (OCR allow withdrawal until August, so this is a possibility), especially as there is a high chance I won’t continue Latin to A2? Also, do you think there would be any point in sitting the AS alongside my A levels next year instead? I know that it wouldn’t form part of my offer, but I enjoy Latin and it would be a shame to give it up now.

Sorry, I'm literally in the middle of my Oxford finals right now so this isn't the best response ever from me...! I haven't really been in this position and it's somewhat unusual so I do suggest reaching out to Oxford and asking if they even look at AS grades.

I wouldn't withdraw now; I would say take a bit of time to consider it. A B really isn't bad if you've not been studying it long, but you should maybe check with your college/sixth form about if they would write a reference explaining this grade. I you enjoy Latin and feel it won't impact your other subjects you can maybe continue, but don't put too much pressure on yourself - A Levels are already hard!
Original post by Anonymous
Thank you, I’m considering withdrawing from the AS, but paper 2 went quite well so I think it’s possible that I have achieved an A. Do you think it would be wiser to withdraw than to risk a B? Also, do you think it would be a good idea to sit the AS next year instead? I know it wouldn’t form part of my offer (if I get one), and I would still have to choose to study Latin or Greek to begin with, but I enjoy Latin and I think it would be a shame to give it up.


It has just occurred to me as you sat some of the exams, I'm pretty sure under UCAS's rules you'd need to declare the attempted qualification in any case.
Original post by elilast
Sorry, I'm literally in the middle of my Oxford finals right now so this isn't the best response ever from me...! I haven't really been in this position and it's somewhat unusual so I do suggest reaching out to Oxford and asking if they even look at AS grades.
I wouldn't withdraw now; I would say take a bit of time to consider it. A B really isn't bad if you've not been studying it long, but you should maybe check with your college/sixth form about if they would write a reference explaining this grade. I you enjoy Latin and feel it won't impact your other subjects you can maybe continue, but don't put too much pressure on yourself - A Levels are already hard!
Thanks, I think I’ll reach out to the university and definitely have a word with my head of sixth form about a reference ASAP. Good luck with your finals!
Original post by artful_lounger
It has just occurred to me as you sat some of the exams, I'm pretty sure under UCAS's rules you'd need to declare the attempted qualification in any case.
Thank you, I wasn’t aware that that was how UCAS works. In that case I probably wouldn’t withdraw, but If I did do you know what I would put in place of a grade?
Original post by Anonymous
Thank you, I wasn’t aware that that was how UCAS works. In that case I probably wouldn’t withdraw, but If I did do you know what I would put in place of a grade?

I think you just have to enter what you have completed and gotten grades for and then list it as "withdrawn" otherwise, I believe. There might be a specific setting in the UCAS application for that though.
Original post by Anonymous
I’m in year 12 and planning to apply for Classics this October. I decided to try and take Latin A Level in year 11 after looking at university courses because I wanted to study both Latin and Greek from my first year, so I’ve been studying it as a fourth A Level outside of school as it wasn’t offered at my old school at GCSE, or at my current school. Yesterday I sat the Latin AS Language exam and while it wasn’t completely awful, it definitely wasn’t amazing. I still think I could get an A if paper 2 goes well, but if it doesn’t, would it be better to withdraw from the exam rather than get a B? I had originally decided with my tutor to sit the AS as I don’t have a GCSE and a good achieved grade would legitimise a good prediction, but a strong CAT score might have the same effect. Would Oxford view a B as okay (alongside a prediction of A/A*) as I’ve been studying Latin for less than 2 years, and am primarily self taught (I have one hour a week with my tutor, who has a Classics degree but is not a qualified teacher and teaches a few local students for free), compared with others who have been taught properly since year 7? I still want to try and continue with the full A Level, and I’m attending the JACT Latin camp and plan to spend as much time as feasibly possible over the summer doing Latin so that I’m more than prepared for A2 content, and will continue seeing my tutor over the summer. However, I realise that getting the grades necessary overall should be my priority, and if I can’t realistically get an A or A* at A2 then it would be better to not do it. Would it be wiser to not continue with Latin, and would a B at AS be disastrous?


I think I'm in a similar situation to you, in that I began teaching myself Latin in Year 11. I did the GCSE at the normal time after only one year of study and have continued to teach myself for the A Level, which I am sitting this exam cycle. Oxford definitely don't care that you have only been studying for a few years because I have an offer of AAA from them to study Classics next year. If I were you, I would keep going with the AS and do the A Level as planned next year. If they don't trust you'll get an A in Latin A Level they may offer you Classics II (1 language in 1st year) instead, as they have for me - I applied for Classics I (both languages in 1st year), but I believe that if I get an A or A* I would be able to email and request a transfer to Classics I (both languages in 1st year).
Original post by K3rb3r05
I think I'm in a similar situation to you, in that I began teaching myself Latin in Year 11. I did the GCSE at the normal time after only one year of study and have continued to teach myself for the A Level, which I am sitting this exam cycle. Oxford definitely don't care that you have only been studying for a few years because I have an offer of AAA from them to study Classics next year. If I were you, I would keep going with the AS and do the A Level as planned next year. If they don't trust you'll get an A in Latin A Level they may offer you Classics II (1 language in 1st year) instead, as they have for me - I applied for Classics I (both languages in 1st year), but I believe that if I get an A or A* I would be able to email and request a transfer to Classics I (both languages in 1st year).
Thanks, it’s really helpful to hear from someone in a similar situation who’s been successful, congrats on your offer! Can I ask what grade you got at GCSE, what you were predicted and whether your school mentioned your circumstances with Latin on your UCAS reference?
Original post by Anonymous
Thanks, it’s really helpful to hear from someone in a similar situation who’s been successful, congrats on your offer! Can I ask what grade you got at GCSE, what you were predicted and whether your school mentioned your circumstances with Latin on your UCAS reference?


Thank you so much! I got 9 in GCSE Latin, quite close to the grade boundary as I got 8s in both literature papers but my language grade was quite high so it made up for that. My school predicted me an A for A Level Latin after I completed a mock AS paper in September Year 13. I mentioned my self-study etc in my personal statement, and my school also mentioned it in my reference. I did a paragraph on my interest in languages and how it led me to studying Latin.
Reply 18
Could I just say what a superb effect to self teach yourself a Latin A-Level course with very little assistance. That’s quite a feat. Wish you the very best for the eventual grade. Do not withdraw.

This will look excellent on a personal statement; it’s a really powerful demonstration of many of the characteristics that Oxford uses to select.

Well done and keep at it.
Original post by elilast
Sorry, I'm literally in the middle of my Oxford finals right now so this isn't the best response ever from me...! I haven't really been in this position and it's somewhat unusual so I do suggest reaching out to Oxford and asking if they even look at AS grades.
I wouldn't withdraw now; I would say take a bit of time to consider it. A B really isn't bad if you've not been studying it long, but you should maybe check with your college/sixth form about if they would write a reference explaining this grade. I you enjoy Latin and feel it won't impact your other subjects you can maybe continue, but don't put too much pressure on yourself - A Levels are already hard!

Fortunae Dea studia tua benedicat.

Good luck!

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