GCSEs are hard enough to complete, and even harder to get a good set of results in. What A-Levels can you take with those results, and what else should you be thinking about when choosing A-Levels?
In this article I’ll be taking a look at how to pick the perfect A-Level for you, and what you should avoid basing your decision on. If you want to make sure you pick the right A-Levels for you, read through this list.
1. Think About What A-Levels You Can Do With Your GCSEs
Once you’ve finished your GCSEs, you can do a lot with them, and lots of doors are opened to you. One of those doors is A-Levels, and the A-Levels you do can depend on your GCSEs.
The better your GCSE results are, the better the A-Levels you can do. This is a general rule of thumb no matter what college you go to, so make sure you get the best GCSE results you can.
GCSEs and A-Levels are also subject specific. The better your grades are in a subject, the more chance you have of being allowed to do it at A-Level.
A good example of this is maths. At A-Level, there are two levels of maths – normal Maths, and Further Maths. You can only do Further Maths if you’re really good at GCSE Maths, at least a grade 7-9.
It’s really important that you figure out what A-Levels you can do with your GCSEs. Work out what you can do first, and then start to think about what you want to do.
Always bear in mind that you can do the A-Levels you want even if your GCSEs aren’t up to scratch, too. Just have a word with your college and see what you can sort out, exceptions can always be made.
2. Think About What A-Levels You’d Actually Enjoy
After you’ve figured out what A-Levels you can do, it’s time to start considering what A-Levels you want to do.
It’s important to choose A-Levels that you think you’ll enjoy, or you could run into some problems. If you don’t enjoy an A-Level, you’ll be less inclined to work hard for it – meaning worse exam results.
If you choose A-Levels that you enjoy, you’ll be much more motivated to work hard for them. You’ll pay more attention in class, and you’ll engage with the content better.
Not only will your exam results benefit, but you’ll also just have a much better time at college. You’ll be a lot happier, and that will help you overcome that intense exam stress.
I’m doing A-Levels that I really enjoy in college, and it’s helping me to stay focused and motivated on my goals. I can stay more positive in lesson, and I’m more inclined to study outside of lesson.
An easy way to find out what A-Levels you’d enjoy is by thinking about what your favourite GCSEs were. Not because of teachers or friends in your class, but because you actually enjoyed the content you were taught.
Once you’ve worked that out, it’s easy – just pick the A-Levels that relate to what you enjoyed. There are other A-Levels that don’t relate to any GCSEs you will have done, though, so make sure you look at all the options you can before deciding what A-Levels to take.
3. Think About What You’re Good At
Everyone has their special subject that they excel in, or are good at. It’s a good idea to take that skill set into consideration when deciding what A-Levels you’re going to take.
More often than not, the GCSEs you enjoy will also be the GCSEs you’re good at. As I’ve said, the more you enjoy a subject, the more likely you are to work for it and stay focused – meaning better results.
But there are always exceptions to that rule. Many students have subjects that they don’t particularly like, but have a certain aptitude for.
These subjects, if you take them at A-Level, will give you a higher chance of success. You’ll already have a natural talent for the course, and that means you’ll find it easier to grasp the more difficult parts of the content.
It’s all about finding the balance between what you enjoy and what you’re actually good at. For many people these two are the same, but when they’re not it’s a bit trickier.
That’s why colleges let you take more than one A-Level. That way you can mix the subjects you enjoy and the subjects you’re good at, and get a healthy mix of both.
If you don’t know what you’re good at, that’s fine too. Just take a look at the other factors on this list to help you decide what A-Levels to take.
4. Think About Where Your A-Levels Will Take You
It may feel like it sometimes, but college is not the be-all and end-all of your life. The A-Levels you do at college can take you to many places – if you get good grades.
That’s why it’s so important you make the right choice when thinking about A-Levels. If you don’t make the right choice, you may not go very far once you finish college.
Perhaps the most obvious place your A-Levels can take you after college is university. University can take you deeper into the understanding of a subject, and you need good A-Levels to get there.
Different universities specialise in different subjects, and have different requirements. Depending on what A-Levels you take, it may be easier/more difficult for you to meet those requirements.
For example, to get into the London School of Economics, you’d have to have related A-Levels (Economics, Business Studies, Accounting, etc). You’d also have to have good grades in these subjects too.
If you don’t know what A-Levels you should pick for a good chance of getting into university, there are lots of resources that can help you. Take a look at this article on the 17 best A-Level combinations that universities love for some pointers.
You can also use your A-Levels to go straight into work. Professions related to your courses often don’t require university degrees for you to get started.
5. Think About Which A-Levels Work Best With The College You Are Going To
More often than not, there are a few A-Levels that a college is better at teaching compared to the rest of them. There are a few reasons this could be the case, but you’ll want to focus on those A-Levels regardless.
One major factor is the facilities the college provides. If the college doesn’t have the right facilities for an A-Level, then the likelihood is that they won’t be efficient at teaching it.
It sounds harsh, but it’s true. If the college you want to go to doesn’t have what you need, it may be time to start looking for a different college.
Another good indicator of how well your chosen A-Levels could go is a college’s results. Look at a college’s results and you’ll see how the majority of students do in their final exams, and what results you’ll most likely get.
If the results aren’t looking too great, then I’d suggest switching your A-Levels or switching college. Bear in mind though, you can always change what results you’ll get – if you’re a good student, you may not necessarily get bad grades just because of the college.
Here’s a list of the things you should take into consideration when choosing a sixth form college. Take a look if you’re thinking about A-Levels but need a good college to support you.
I’d also have a think about the location of the college. If it’s far away, you’re not going to have as much time to revise – so you’ll want to choose A-Levels that don’t have as much coursework.
6. Consider What Facilitating A-Levels You Might Want To Take
Facilitating A-Levels are the most respected A-Levels in the working world, and that’s why they’re the most popular among students. If you want a good chance of getting into university, these are the A-Levels for you.
Here’s a quick list of the facilitating A-Levels:
- Mathematics and Further Mathematics
- English Literature
- Languages (Classical and Modern)
Facilitating A-Levels are also the hardest A-Levels, but the ones universities are always on the lookout for. Usually, if you’ve got at least two of these A-Levels, you have a higher chance of being accepted into university.
As I said, they are quite hard, so you may want to combine them with other, easier (or more enjoyable) A-Levels. Here’s that list again for A-Level combinations universities love.
If you don’t think you can do these A-Levels (or just don’t want to) that’s alright, because there are other A-Levels you can take that will still get you into university.
A great path of A-Levels to take are the arts. A-Levels like Art, Drama and Theatre Studies, and Graphics all can lead to specialised courses at university, and in turn some very highly paying jobs.
7. Pick A-Levels You Think You’ll Be Able To Do
When choosing your A-Levels, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of overestimating your abilities. You get excited about the prospect of college, and next thing you know, you’re in over your head.
Make sure you know your strengths and weaknesses when deciding on your A-Levels. I’ve already talked about knowing what you’re good at, but you’ll also need to know what your weaknesses are.
Knowing what A-Levels not to take makes it a whole lot easier to figure what you are going to take. In the end, you’ll have to choose 3-4 A-Levels that you want to do, and if you’re stuck, you can work it out by process of elimination.
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, so don’t feel as if you have to take an A-Level because it has good prospects. You might just want to play it safe and take some A-Levels that you know you can succeed in, to guarantee an easier path after college.
Many of my friends took slightly unorthodox A-Levels just because they knew they’d be able to do them. It’s much safer to do that than to take an A-Level you can’t do and find yourself stuck halfway through your course.
8. Pick A-Levels That Have The Highest Pass Rate
Pass rates are one of the most important factors, both when choosing A-Levels and choosing the actual college you want to go to.
Pass rates of a course show you how likely you are to achieve the same grades, provided you put in the work. Previous students have been through the course so that you can see how difficult it might be.
Of course, this will only be of use to you if you put in the hours and do what’s required. College will take you far, but it’s a lot more independent than school and requires a lot more independent work.
By picking the A-Levels with the highest pass rates, you guarantee a more successful time in college. You’ll find that the teachers will be better for your course, and you’ll also have good facilities too.
Looking at A-Level pass rates also gives you an edge over most other students, too. It’s not a very common thing to look at when deciding what A-Levels you want to do, and so taking advantage of it gives you a better insight compared to other, less prepared students.
To find out A-Level pass rates, just ask the course teacher at any open day or evening. They should know what the pass rate of their subject is – if they don’t it might be time to start looking for another college.
9. Don’t Pick A-Levels Based On What Your Friends Are Doing
A-Levels are tricky, and probably the hardest thing you’ll have to do in life. It may be tempting to go with your friends to help ease the stress, but that is a bad idea.
Having friends on your course can actually be a hindrance rather than help. They can be distracting, and stop you from working as hard as you should do – as you need to do.
In addition to that, you may also end up being on a course that you won’t succeed in. Choosing A-Levels because your friends are doing them means that you may not fulfil your potential as a student.
You could even end up being on a course you don’t enjoy, too. If you don’t enjoy the course, you won’t focus. If you don’t focus, you won’t work hard. If you don’t work hard, you won’t pass.
Having said this, it’s not necessarily a bad thing if you end up on a course with your friend. If you choose your A-Levels completely independently and it turns out that you chose the same as your friend, it can be a good thing.
Having a friend on the same A-Level course as you is helpful, if you can both balance the workload and social time. Sharing your course with someone you know eases stress, makes you happier, and can actually increase your productivity and efficiency.
10. Don’t Pick A-Levels Based On How Easy They Are
A-Levels are hard, but some of them are definitely a little easier than others. Depending on what kind of a person you are, you may find that a certain subject is easy.
Whatever you do, don’t pick an A-Level based on this factor alone. It may be easy for you, but it might not necessarily have the best outcome once you finish college.
Employers can see your GCSE results as well as your A-Level results, and they’ll be able to see what subjects you carried through into college. If they see that you took subjects that you found easy, then they won’t be as likely to employ you.
Taking A-Levels is about pushing your limits and challenging yourself. If you’re taking easy A-Levels, you’re not going to have the same experience.
If you don’t have that experience of college and working hard, you’ll be worse off after you finish. University (and even work) will come less naturally to you because you won’t have had practice working independently on something that challenges you.
Therefore, you need to choose A-Levels that aren’t easy. You can take A-Levels that turn out easier than expected, but do not base your decision on how easy they may be.
11. Consider The A-Levels That Your School Teachers Recommend
The school you go to before college can determine what college you go to, but it can also help to show you what A-Levels to take. Your teachers have a good understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, and can recommend career paths for you.
Your teachers have more knowledge of college than you, and can recommend A-Levels suited to your abilities. All those parents evenings where they evaluated you as a student? You can use that to your advantage when looking at A-Levels.
Be careful though, as teachers are only human. All they can give you is their opinion, and it can sometimes be biased.
I’d suggest asking some college teachers, too. Go around on open days/evenings, tell them what your results are looking like, and they can give you some pointers on what A-Levels you should take.