Choosing the right A-levels is certainly a daunting task, especially when what you decide can have such a big impact on the options available to you in higher education. That’s why it’s so important for students to carefully consider a number of factors when choosing which subjects to study, instead of rushing and selecting the same topics as their friends. Whether you’ve already picked your A-levels for next year or you're struggling to decide, here’s a guide on how to choose the right A-levels for you. Making smart decisions has never been easier!
How Many A-levels?
The first question on your mind may be how many A-levels should I choose? For most universities it’s a minimum requirement that students take three A-levels (excluding General Studies), which will form the basis of your offer. As a minimum, students will usually choose four AS-level subjects, one of which will be dropped at A2. However, some may choose to take on additional AS or full A-level subjects in their second year, giving them a total of four or five A-levels with which to apply to university. Remember, it’s important to only take on what you think you can realistically manage. If you’re not sure on the workload from different subjects, talk to your teacher and see what’s involved.
What’s Important to Consider?
Consider Facilitating A-level Subjects
If you’re unsure about what you want to study at university or what career direction you want to go in (many students are in this position), then it might be a good idea to choose a combination of subjects that will keep your course options open. Your teachers or careers adviser may talk to you about facilitating subjects, which are commonly asked for in universities’ entry requirements, regardless of the course you’re applying to. This makes them a great choice if you want to keep your options open.
Facilitating subjects include:
- Modern languages
Avoid Taking Similar Subjects
Some universities openly discourage students from taking certain combinations of A-level subjects, especially when courses are very similar. For example, Biology is very similar to Human Biology, likewise is Business Studies and Economics. Even though it’s good to be focused, it’s often better to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge and skills by picking complementary subjects such as Biology and Chemistry.
Check University Courses for Specific A-levels
If you have clear ideas about what you want to study at university, it’s important to check whether your course requires particular A-level subjects to be studied. Even though lots of degrees are flexible, some are very specific, so make sure you do your research and take this into consideration when choosing your A-levels. You can easily check entry requirements on the UCAS website or on individual university websites. Here are some examples:
- Pharmacy degrees must have chemistry, as well as at least one A-level in biology, maths or physics.
- English degrees often require English literature, maybe English literature and language or just English language.
- Geology degrees will usually need at least two A-levels from maths, physics, chemistry or biology.
- Economics often requires maths A-level.
Choose Subjects You Enjoy
A-levels are a big step up from GCSEs, so it’s important to choose your subjects wisely. Often students pick really tricky subjects directed towards a specific university course or four brand new A-levels they’ve not studied before. Remember, your career or degree ideas may change, so it’s crucial you pick subjects that you actually enjoy and can do well in. Otherwise studying and feeling motivated may get harder, especially as A-levels have less classroom time and require a lot more independent study.
Research Subjects Thoroughly
Before you commit to your choices, remember to research each A-level thoroughly, making sure to talk to your teachers about what is involved in the course. Find out how the course will be assessed and whether this will suit you and your strengths academically. It’s also a great idea to ask for some honest feedback from your teachers about which subjects they think will play to your strengths. Speaking with other students who are already taking the subjects you’re interested in is another way to find out what’s involved and whether it’s for you.