A-Levels could be the next step for you after you finish GCSEs, and they are significantly harder. This is reflected in the how many you’re allowed to take – but just how many are you allowed to take?
In this article, I’ll be taking a look at how many A-Levels you can take, and what to look out for when deciding. If you’re not sure what number of A-Levels is right for you, then you’ve come to the right place.
Firstly, if you’re here for the short answer here it is: The majority of students will take 3 A-Levels, and this amount is perfectly credible to universities and employers. However, a very small amount of students will take 4 A-Levels and an even fewer amount of students will take 5 A-Levels. Taking 5 A-Levels is the maximum that you can take at a sixth form college.
How Many A-Levels Should You Take?
A-Levels are commonly referred to as being the hardest thing you can do in your academic life. The question is, how many do you think you can handle?
Some of the best students I know have taken 4 A-Levels, but many have taken 3. The workload difference between 3 A-Levels and 4 is quite big, and only the best of the best will succeed.
If you’re thinking of going for 4 A-Levels, be it because you can’t whittle it down to 3 or you just like a challenge, there are some things I can suggest.
I’d recommend having at least 6 GCSEs at A grade if you want to attempt 4 A-Levels. This is a good indicator of your level of education, and what colleges will look for when looking for 4 A-Level students.
If you don’t have these grades, don’t worry – taking 4 A-Levels is still possible. Just talk to your college and see whether or not they’ll be willing to let you take 4.
There’s an article that goes a bit more in-depth into how many A-Levels you should be taking here.
Does The College You Go To Affect How Many A-Levels You Can Take?
If you’re a top student, you’ll want to be doing 4 A-Levels to ensure your best possible future after college. However, does the college you go to affect how many A-Levels you can take?
The answer is yes, to a certain extent. Colleges like students to pass their exams, as it makes them look good. Therefore, they’re likely to let you onto courses that they think you’ll succeed in.
This means that the college you go to will restrict how many A-Levels you can do based on their ability to teach you them, and their history of successful students taking 4 A-Levels.
If you go to more prestigious colleges, they’re more likely to let you do 4 A-Levels. This is because they’ll have the facilities to support you and ensure your success, unlike colleges more suited to BTEC or diploma students.
How Do You Apply To Take More Than 3 A–Levels?
So you’ve decided you want to go for more than the average 3 A-Levels, but how do you do it?
The easiest way to go for 4 A-Levels is through college open days/application days. Attending college before the new academic year starts and talking to members of staff can help your chances of enrolling with 4 A-Levels.
For me and my college, there was an application day where you brought in your GCSE results. You then could chat with teachers to try to decide what A-Levels you were going to do and how many, too.
If you want to go for 4 A-Levels, I’d suggest talking to or emailing your preferred college with a direct request. State right from the get-go that you want to take 4 A-Levels, and you’re likely to get them.
How Many A-Levels Do Universities Want You To Have?
Just like GCSEs determine your A-Levels, A-Levels determine what you do at university. However, university can be hard to get into – so how many A-Levels do they actually want you to have?
Most universities don’t like to admit it, but they prefer students with 4 A-Levels. If you manage to get some decent grades in 4 A-Levels, you’re in with a decent chance of a decent university.
But that’s the thing – you have to have good grades. Without good grades, you’ll find it hard to get into university no matter how many A-Levels you take.
And if you want to ensure your good grades, you need to start revising at the right time. Here’s a guide on when you should start revising for your A-Levels.
It’s all about the balance between number of A-Levels and good grades. For most students it’s one or the other, but the best students can pick up both.
But don’t let the preference of 4 A-Levels phase you. Universities still accept those students with 3 A-Levels, but priority is usually given to those with 4.
How Many A-Levels Do Employers Want You To Have?
Employers look at your CV when deciding whether or not to hire you, and one of the biggest features will be your A-Levels.
If you can manage to successfully pull off 4 A-Levels, employers will love it. They look for the hardest working people to employ, because they know that ethic will carry through to the workplace.
However, you need to be careful. Employers may refuse to employ you if you do 4 A-Levels because of the workload you’d be taking on.
Giving employees work on top of 4 A-Levels may mean that they don’t do the job as well because they’re just too exhausted. Employers recognise this, and that’s why some current 4 A-Level students are turned down.
It’s all about the long-term with 4 A-Levels. If you want a better job at the end of college, and not many jobs whilst attending college, go for 4 A-Levels.
If you want it the other way around, go for 3. It’s probably the safer option, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a bad career out of it either.
For more info about what A-Levels employers actually want, take a look at this article.
Does Taking An EPQ Count As Taking An A-Level?
An EPQ is a large undertaking for any student, whether they take 3 A-Levels or 4. It doesn’t technically count as an A-Level, so what’s the point in doing it?
Lots of point, actually. An EPQ will set you up nicely for life after college, and life after education as a whole. You can’t rely solely on it, but it looks good accompanied by some nice A-Level grades.
Most colleges offer support and guidance for taking an EPQ. They can assist you with taking either path, be it the ‘artefact’ path or the ‘essay’ path.
Both of these paths lead to higher chances of employment and university acceptance, but it’s not so straightforward.
You need to be able to balance the A-Levels you do with your EPQ, if you decide to do one. You’ll have to work on it in your own time, which means that for most students an extra subject in the timetable.
While it doesn’t technically count as an A-Level, it does give you another qualification to put on your CV. Usually, students with 3 A-Levels take an EPQ, but rarely students with 4 A-Levels take it too.