Choosing your A Levels - what you need to consider
If you are thinking about taking A Levels you need to choose subjects:
- you will enjoy;
- you believe you will do well in;
- that will help you get to where you want to go in the future.
After A Levels, many 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 your options open if you haven't got a specific career in mind, or will help you get the career or job you would like to do.
Tips on choosing your subjects:
Which Uni? has information on the different A levels you need to study different degrees and lots of other articles about A Levels.
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 within job sectors 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 websites. Check out the Target website's Degree Subject Guides which will show which A levels are needed for different degree courses.
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 schools and colleges offer both A levels and BTEC qualifications. You may like to consider a combination of qualifications as this might suit your learning and assessment style.
- 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, chemistry, history, geography or a foreign language. Some universities are stricter than others on this issue - the Informed Choices site is a good source of information to help you choose.
- 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 (you'll find their email details on the university's website).
- 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 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 of choices – some universities might not like a combination of subjects that they feel are too similar, such as Business and Economics etc.
- Don’t take all new subjects – it could be too much to cope with having 3 or even 2 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.
- Watch this video to find the six things you need to know before choosing A Levels or try out the Which University A Level Explorer