The Student Room Group

4 a levels

im considering taking 4 a levels as i cant decide between 2 a levels id like to do.

my definite ones are: RS and Psychology
POSSIBLE OTHERS: english and biology

reason for this is id like to study PPL at oxford, (psychology and philosophy) as a bipartite degree. ive asked for a lot of advice on here regarding the question but im still stuck. some context, english is my best subject at gcse level and i believe i could achieve an A/A*, however i am not doing linguistics at uni so idk why this would be useful, my teachers and mother also are really keen on me doing english as they think im gifted at it. on the other hand, biology would be very useful at uni in the psychology category i hear and i dont want to struggle. im not as good at biology as i am english, but im predicted an 8 at gcse level, but im unsure if id be able to get an A*/A at a level. i am unsure whether i should swap out english for biology for this reason. tbf, if i did 3 a levels with bio instead of english, i may be able to achieve an A, but if i did 4 id genuinely have no idea.

my questions are: is doing 4 a levels extremely difficult, and what kind of work ethic must I maintain?
should i swap out english for biology?
can i still do psych and philosophy with english instead of bio at a level? will it make my application less competitive as usually people will take bio if they do psych in PPL.

i know a very intelligent girl taking maths, bio and psych at a level going to pursue PPL like me in psyc and philosophy. will this make me disadvantaged?
thank you.
Reply 1
Original post by s1enn5
im considering taking 4 a levels as i cant decide between 2 a levels id like to do.
my definite ones are: RS and Psychology
POSSIBLE OTHERS: english and biology
reason for this is id like to study PPL at oxford, (psychology and philosophy) as a bipartite degree. ive asked for a lot of advice on here regarding the question but im still stuck. some context, english is my best subject at gcse level and i believe i could achieve an A/A*, however i am not doing linguistics at uni so idk why this would be useful, my teachers and mother also are really keen on me doing english as they think im gifted at it. on the other hand, biology would be very useful at uni in the psychology category i hear and i dont want to struggle. im not as good at biology as i am english, but im predicted an 8 at gcse level, but im unsure if id be able to get an A*/A at a level. i am unsure whether i should swap out english for biology for this reason. tbf, if i did 3 a levels with bio instead of english, i may be able to achieve an A, but if i did 4 id genuinely have no idea.
my questions are: is doing 4 a levels extremely difficult, and what kind of work ethic must I maintain?
should i swap out english for biology?
can i still do psych and philosophy with english instead of bio at a level? will it make my application less competitive as usually people will take bio if they do psych in PPL.
i know a very intelligent girl taking maths, bio and psych at a level going to pursue PPL like me in psyc and philosophy. will this make me disadvantaged?
thank you.


I won't talk about swapping English for biology because I take biology so I'm incredibly biased (I love it lol)

But yes 4 a levels should not be taken on a whim. It requires serious dedication.
At the start it's ok but once you get to revising for your mocks good lord. Especially because there's always one you'll treat 'as a fourth' so it'll never get the same amount of attention as the others and if you give it attention then you feel guilty for not doing the others. Vicious cycle unfortunately, for me anyway.

Alongside all the millions of things you have to do for your personal statement you need to keep on top of your work which honestly gets really tough. Especially rn I'm spending the entire may half term revising which sucks when everyone else is going out or going on holiday. Taking 3 allows you to have more of a life and they have more free periods too.

Nevertheless, if you have 4 you genuinely love it's doable. The entire process is doable but you have to stay dedicated and committed.

My older sister did 4 and an epq and she told me not to do 4 as it didn't make any difference. Not every uni will give you a reduced offer.
I didn't listen tho lol and whilst I am enjoying my subjects, it does take a toll on you.

This sounded very negative oops but you could always take it and try it out and drop it if it doesn't work out. For me once I started, I always felt I'd come too far to drop it, and I also just started to genuinely enjoy it.

Biology is difficult though. You need to know core concepts like the back of your hand, you can't afford to slack off. And you'll need to be doing a LOT of practice questions. Tbh it's just usually whats expected of STEM subjects.


Ok so all in all, biology is beautiful I recommend but don't go into it thinking it'll be the same as GCSE.
4 is achievable, but you need to ask yourself if it's worth the extra effort and commitment it'll take. If you don't enjoy the subject it's going to be VERY hard to stick with it.

- from a student about to finish yr12 doing bio,chem,maths and politics and on track for As/A*s ☺️.
Reply 2
Original post by Ajhdhd
I won't talk about swapping English for biology because I take biology so I'm incredibly biased (I love it lol)
But yes 4 a levels should not be taken on a whim. It requires serious dedication.
At the start it's ok but once you get to revising for your mocks good lord. Especially because there's always one you'll treat 'as a fourth' so it'll never get the same amount of attention as the others and if you give it attention then you feel guilty for not doing the others. Vicious cycle unfortunately, for me anyway.
Alongside all the millions of things you have to do for your personal statement you need to keep on top of your work which honestly gets really tough. Especially rn I'm spending the entire may half term revising which sucks when everyone else is going out or going on holiday. Taking 3 allows you to have more of a life and they have more free periods too.
Nevertheless, if you have 4 you genuinely love it's doable. The entire process is doable but you have to stay dedicated and committed.
My older sister did 4 and an epq and she told me not to do 4 as it didn't make any difference. Not every uni will give you a reduced offer.
I didn't listen tho lol and whilst I am enjoying my subjects, it does take a toll on you.
This sounded very negative oops but you could always take it and try it out and drop it if it doesn't work out. For me once I started, I always felt I'd come too far to drop it, and I also just started to genuinely enjoy it.
Biology is difficult though. You need to know core concepts like the back of your hand, you can't afford to slack off. And you'll need to be doing a LOT of practice questions. Tbh it's just usually whats expected of STEM subjects.
Ok so all in all, biology is beautiful I recommend but don't go into it thinking it'll be the same as GCSE.
4 is achievable, but you need to ask yourself if it's worth the extra effort and commitment it'll take. If you don't enjoy the subject it's going to be VERY hard to stick with it.
- from a student about to finish yr12 doing bio,chem,maths and politics and on track for As/A*s ☺️.

thank you for your input!
Reply 3
Original post by Ajhdhd
I won't talk about swapping English for biology because I take biology so I'm incredibly biased (I love it lol)
But yes 4 a levels should not be taken on a whim. It requires serious dedication.
At the start it's ok but once you get to revising for your mocks good lord. Especially because there's always one you'll treat 'as a fourth' so it'll never get the same amount of attention as the others and if you give it attention then you feel guilty for not doing the others. Vicious cycle unfortunately, for me anyway.
Alongside all the millions of things you have to do for your personal statement you need to keep on top of your work which honestly gets really tough. Especially rn I'm spending the entire may half term revising which sucks when everyone else is going out or going on holiday. Taking 3 allows you to have more of a life and they have more free periods too.
Nevertheless, if you have 4 you genuinely love it's doable. The entire process is doable but you have to stay dedicated and committed.
My older sister did 4 and an epq and she told me not to do 4 as it didn't make any difference. Not every uni will give you a reduced offer.
I didn't listen tho lol and whilst I am enjoying my subjects, it does take a toll on you.
This sounded very negative oops but you could always take it and try it out and drop it if it doesn't work out. For me once I started, I always felt I'd come too far to drop it, and I also just started to genuinely enjoy it.
Biology is difficult though. You need to know core concepts like the back of your hand, you can't afford to slack off. And you'll need to be doing a LOT of practice questions. Tbh it's just usually whats expected of STEM subjects.
Ok so all in all, biology is beautiful I recommend but don't go into it thinking it'll be the same as GCSE.
4 is achievable, but you need to ask yourself if it's worth the extra effort and commitment it'll take. If you don't enjoy the subject it's going to be VERY hard to stick with it.
- from a student about to finish yr12 doing bio,chem,maths and politics and on track for As/A*s ☺️.

how much harder would you reckon a level bio is from gcse
if you don't need to do 4 a levels to get into oxford or your degree, then don't it takes a toll on ur mh, i know lots of ppl who dropped their 4th a level during yr 12 bc they couldn't handle it or they were trying to decide between the two
Reply 5
Original post by s1enn5
how much harder would you reckon a level bio is from gcse


I genuinely enjoyed it at GCSE and got a 9 as my final grade so I didn't find it to be too complicated. It's my second easiest subject. But then again I don't take the easiest ones 🫠

The problem is you simply CANNOT just not understand a concept and think you'll come back to it because let's be real you won't come back to it until your end of yr mocks. And without this concept, so many other things don't make sense. Especially with something like genetics and protein synthesis.
So what I'm trying to say is you need to be on top of things all the time, there is no time or space to slack. You need a solid foundation. Because everything else builds on it.

I really love the subject and I'm planning on doing biotech at uni. So because of my interest I'm always thinking about how it all works. You need to make sure to ask questions if you don't understand. Ask it then and there. Don't wait.

Mark schemes are very specific but I'm sure you'll know this from GCSE.

I've also been blessed to have good teachers - if you don't this may be a lot harder.

Stay on top of your CPACs cuz they build up lol.

Grade boundaries are also constantly going up unfortunately. Used to be much easier to get an A*.

So I don't think it's super difficult it just requires constant effort. ☺️
Reply 6
Original post by kadziee
if you don't need to do 4 a levels to get into oxford or your degree, then don't it takes a toll on ur mh, i know lots of ppl who dropped their 4th a level during yr 12 bc they couldn't handle it or they were trying to decide between the two

okay ty
Reply 7
Original post by Ajhdhd
I genuinely enjoyed it at GCSE and got a 9 as my final grade so I didn't find it to be too complicated. It's my second easiest subject. But then again I don't take the easiest ones 🫠
The problem is you simply CANNOT just not understand a concept and think you'll come back to it because let's be real you won't come back to it until your end of yr mocks. And without this concept, so many other things don't make sense. Especially with something like genetics and protein synthesis.
So what I'm trying to say is you need to be on top of things all the time, there is no time or space to slack. You need a solid foundation. Because everything else builds on it.
I really love the subject and I'm planning on doing biotech at uni. So because of my interest I'm always thinking about how it all works. You need to make sure to ask questions if you don't understand. Ask it then and there. Don't wait.
Mark schemes are very specific but I'm sure you'll know this from GCSE.
I've also been blessed to have good teachers - if you don't this may be a lot harder.
Stay on top of your CPACs cuz they build up lol.
Grade boundaries are also constantly going up unfortunately. Used to be much easier to get an A*.
So I don't think it's super difficult it just requires constant effort. ☺️

omg u called me out i found protein synthesis so hard to understand and yet to come back to it.. do i need to understand everything from gcse biology 100% to do a level bio
Reply 8
Original post by s1enn5
omg u called me out i found protein synthesis so hard to understand and yet to come back to it.. do i need to understand everything from gcse biology 100% to do a level bio

haha wasn't my intention - it's something most people struggle with!

You probably don't need to be 100% confident in everything. I do edexcel A so there's a few bits I'll never have to do again. You just need a decent foundation, because it helps to be ahead. They kind of expect the decent foundation so that they can build on it, they'll cover it briefly but probably not as in depth as you'd like if you don't understand it at all. Especially because you'll need to start knowing the enzymes involved, how the lac operon affects synthesis, how methylation and acetylation affect it, how it specialises stem cells etc and you can't confuse it with DNA synthesis 😭😭. This is not to scare you lol you'll learn all this fancy stuff next year. But basically protein synthesis is the foundation for many a level concepts so you'll need to somewhat know it.

If I had to give you anything to revise over the summer it would be that! It comes up in genes and health and voice of the genome - 2 of the 4 topics in AS.
Reply 9
Original post by Ajhdhd
haha wasn't my intention - it's something most people struggle with!
You probably don't need to be 100% confident in everything. I do edexcel A so there's a few bits I'll never have to do again. You just need a decent foundation, because it helps to be ahead. They kind of expect the decent foundation so that they can build on it, they'll cover it briefly but probably not as in depth as you'd like if you don't understand it at all. Especially because you'll need to start knowing the enzymes involved, how the lac operon affects synthesis, how methylation and acetylation affect it, how it specialises stem cells etc and you can't confuse it with DNA synthesis 😭😭. This is not to scare you lol you'll learn all this fancy stuff next year. But basically protein synthesis is the foundation for many a level concepts so you'll need to somewhat know it.
If I had to give you anything to revise over the summer it would be that! It comes up in genes and health and voice of the genome - 2 of the 4 topics in AS.

just internally died reading that my least favourite topic is the foundation for many more complex topics to come wow!! ill make sure to learn it before my exam anyway but tysm for your input :smile:

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