Explained: what A-Levels should I take?

For anyone going into sixth form in the UK, choosing what A-Levels to study is an important step. And, while many university courses and many industries do not require specific A-Level subjects, some may call for knowledge in certain areas. So, when choosing the right A-Levels, it can be important to keep future aspirations in mind.

A-Level Choices for Specific University Courses

A-level explained

If you are planning on going to university for a specific vocational course such as medicine, your A-Level options may need to reflect this. For instance, if you are thinking of studying medicine, as well as studying for the UCAT, you would probably need to take biology and chemistry A-Levels. Science subjects would also be required for any science degree, and for certain practical courses. Veterinary science degrees would, in addition, require you to take science A-Levels with results to a high standard.

However, some courses beyond sixth form are mistakenly thought to only be accessible to students who have studied particular subjects at A-Level. For instance, if you want to go on and study a law degree, you do not need to do a law A-Level. You would need to take different entrance tests, but a law A-Level would not usually be a requirement. The same goes for particular post-educational vocational courses; they may not necessarily require a specific A-Level choice. So, be sure to do your research before moving forward.

A-Level Choices for Specific Universities

A-level for specific universities

This category applies to Oxbridge universities in particular. Although you would not need to take more than three A-Levels – a common myth about Oxbridge is that, in order to get in, students have to strive for full marks in four subjects. This is not the case – particular Oxford and Cambridge colleges may prefer particular subject choices. For example, core subjects, or ‘facilitating subjects’ may be seen as stronger on an application than non-facilitating subjects. ‘Facilitating subjects’ consist of modern or classical languages, English literature, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, geography and history. Although not all of your subjects would need to consist of ones from the above list, one or two would not go unnoticed.

It is, though, still very crucial that you choose subjects that you enjoy; you would be more likely to do better in these anyway. Besides A-Levels, the important, core aspect of your application to these universities would be to show your enthusiasm and depth of knowledge about your chosen subject.

A-Level Choices for Your Personality

A-level choices for your uni

You will inevitably be studying your chosen A-Level subjects for at least two years, so it is vital that you choose options that you know you will enjoy, and that you know will fit with your personality. If you are someone who likes exams and hates coursework, suffice to say that subjects like fine art or photography would not be wise choices for your A-Levels. To help determine what will excite you the most, you do not need to necessarily stick to subjects you have previously studied. Take your time to research your school or college’s syllabuses for specific subjects and topics you are interested in, and, if you can, get in touch with previous students to find out more about what those choices are actually like. This not only involves the type and amount of work implicated, but the ways that the subjects are taught in your chosen school or college.

Remember: if you end up disliking the subjects you have picked and want to switch A-Levels, do so early on to not risk falling behind. Although it is still certainly possible to do well at something you don’t enjoy, you are more likely to excel if you are passionate about what you are learning!

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