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Choosing your A Levels - what you need to consider

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If you are thinking about taking A Levels you need to choose subjects:

  • you will enjoy;
  • you believe that you will do well in;
  • that will help you get to where you want to go in the future.

Many A Level students go on to higher education at 18/19 either full time or part time, whilst others look for an Apprenticeship or a job, or a combination of these. You need to make sure that your choice of A level subjects allows you to keep all of your options open.

Studential ofers tips on choosing your A Level subjects

Which Uni has a wide range of articles on choosing your A Levels which you may find helpful.

Choosing your A Levels needs careful research to think through your possibilities. Take advice from family, friends and teachers so you can make an informed decision, based on accurate up-to-date information - but remember, the final choice is yours as you are the one that will have to put the hard work in!

Things to consider:

  • A Levels are a big step up from GCSEs – they are harder! So choose your subjects wisely. Your career or degree ideas may change so make sure you choose subjects which you like and can do well in.
  • If you are taking a science A Level, you should consider whether you need to look at taking another science or maths, particularly if you are interested in scientific careers or courses.

If you have a career or future degree in mind:

  • If you have a specific career in mind, check to see if you will need specific A Level subjects. Look at the job profiles on The National Careers Service site to find out more.
  • If you have a specific degree course in mind, you need to check the entry requirements. Some university courses are very specific about the A Level subjects required – other degree subjects are very flexible. Check entry requirements on the UCAS website or on individual university's websites.

If you do not have a career or degree in mind:

  • If you have no idea about your choice of career or choice of degree subject at this stage, (many students are in this position!), then make sure you choose a combination of subjects that will keep your preferred options open.
  • Some A Level subjects are regarded by virtually all universities as being acceptable. These are sometimes known as ‘facilitating‘ subjects such as maths, English, physics, biology or chemistry, history or geography or a language. Some universities are stricter than others on this issue, but this article may help.
  • Look at the Careers4utv site which has information about choosing A Levels.
  • Download the bestCourse4me app This will allow you to see the most popular degrees that specific A Level subjects lead to.
  • Don’t be afraid to email the universities during Y11 to ask for their advice about the subjects required for a course you are interested in– either email the Admissions Tutor or the Course Tutor.
  • If you are unsure of your career choice or degree choice, then think carefully about your combination of subjects. It is hard to pick up 3 or 4 new subjects that you have never studied before.

A few dos and don’ts when choosing A Levels

  • Do research each A Level thoroughly – talk to your teachers to find out what is involved in the course. Talk to students who are already taking that subject. Find out how the course will be assessed and whether this will this suit you and your strengths. Ask for some honest feedback from your teachers as to how they think you would do at A Level.
  • Don’t assume you will like the subject at A Level just because you liked it at GCSE, – it could be really different!
  • Do be careful with your combination choices – some universities might not like a combination of subject that they feel are too similar, such as Business and Economics, etc.
  • Don’t take all new subjects – it’s often too much for anyone to cope with 3 or 4 new areas of study.
  • Don’t take English and maths at A Level because you think this is what employers want or because they are good subjects to fall back on. Take them if you are good at them and really interested in studying them further – most employers are happy with them at GCSE level.
  • Don’t take subjects because you need them for your chosen career if you don’t really like the subject or it is not one of your stronger subjects.