Choosing your A-Levels is a very exciting time for many students. It is a big step towards choosing your path in life, allowing you to focus on the subjects you really love after years of mandatory choices. However, for many students this time is also very stressful. There can be a lot of pressure to make certain choices, or to aim for a specific career, even if this is not what you want for yourself. Furthermore, you may have heard that you need to do certain A-Levels in order to get into university. In this article we will explain all the necessary considerations when choosing A-Levels, as well as dispelling some common myths about A-Level choices.
It does matter which A-Levels you choose, as your A-Level choices open up your future options. If you want to go to university or into a certain career, it is important to make sure that the A-Levels you take allow you to fulfil any entry requirements. However, if you have no idea what you want to do next, choosing a range of A-Levels is a good idea as this allows you the most choice in the future.
While this should have explained on a basic level what A-Levels you should take, it is important to consider all the nuances in this topic, so please read on for the full details.
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Do you need to do certain A-Levels to get into university?
As long as you pass three subjects at A-Level you should be able to get into university, and a few will even accept two. However, some courses do have specific requirements of subjects to be taken.
This is often just one subject out of the 3 or 4 you take. STEM subjects (science and maths) tend to require science A-Levels, whereas humanities courses usually ask for at least one essay subject to be taken. The easiest way to find out what A-Levels the courses you want to do need is to look on official university websites, which will give you exact entry requirements. Check out this Think Student article to find out more about STEM subjects.
If you are unsure what course you want to do, do not panic. It is completely fine if you do not have even the slightest idea before your A-Levels what you want to do with your life! The best thing to do is choose subjects which you enjoy, as this is likely to lead to a path you want to follow in the future. Another piece of advice is to try and choose a broad range of subjects including both STEM and essay/humanities if you are undecided.
If you find you have chosen A-Levels which do not allow you to get onto your course there is still no need to panic. Many courses have a foundation year option for students who do not have the necessary qualifications to still get onto the course, and some courses do not have any subject requirements. Think Student has lots of information about foundation years, including this great guide if you are considering taking one.
The Student Room Uni Guide has a great tool which allows you to put in the A-Levels you are doing, and then suggests to you what courses at university you have the qualifications for. You could use this to test out different options, which may help you to make a choice as to which A-Levels to take. It can be found here.
Are some A-Levels seen as worse than others by universities?
You may have heard people saying that some A-Levels are “ignored” by universities, or even that universities will reject anyone who applies with certain “undesirable” A-Levels. This is very rarely the case.
The Russell Group has previously published a list which fuels many of these rumours – a list of the most common requirements for universities at A-Level, which Think Student explains further in this article. This included Biology, Chemistry, Physics, English Literature, Geography, History, Maths, and Languages. The list led to people suggesting that these were the only worthy A-Level choices, however this is absolutely not the case.
This list was intended to inform choices, but not to discount other subject options, especially as some courses require subjects not on this list!
The courses which have been suggested to be less valuable often include vocational or creative subjects, for example Music or Art, or a Health BTEC. Other courses including Economics and Law are also often called useless because they are very specific and not required by many universities.
Some universities do publish a list of preferred A-Levels, or subjects that they do not prefer. The best way to find this is by searching for your chosen university and course. However, remember that over the next 2 years your plans may change, so focus more on your interests than a specific course or university.
This rumour should not dissuade you from taking these subjects if you enjoy them! Make sure you are satisfying entry requirements with your other choices, but ultimately if you will enjoy the course, you are much more likely to get a good grade. This is better than failing a subject you hate!
Are some A-Levels easier than others?
The question of which A-Levels are easiest is completely subjective. What one A-Level student finds difficult may seem very easy to another, because we all have different academic strengths. Therefore, it is impossible to say what A-Levels you may find easiest.
Trying to choose “easy” A-Levels will almost never lead to better grades, because you may end up taking subjects that you are completely uninterested in. Also as discussed above, only taking these courses might make it harder to get into university or an apprenticeship in the future.
However, despite this there are some statistics that suggest which A-Levels may be easier than others for a lot of students. Think Student has a breakdown of these subjects available here, as well as details on why this should not be completely relied on to make your choices.
Should you choose A-Levels which you get better grades in at GCSE?
Generally, students taking A-Levels want to get the best grades possible. This will help them to achieve university offers, as well as getting the best chance at any pathway they want to take in life.
One of the best ways to work out which A-Levels will be best for you in terms of grades is to choose ones you scored well in at GCSE. This is because the content of GCSE is intended to prepare students for A-Levels and will show you how you tend to perform in exams or coursework.
GCSEs can also be a good guide to what subjects you enjoy. If you hated something at GCSE, this is a strong sign that it should not be one of your A-Level choices. Conversely, if a subject was one of your favourites at GCSE, you should consider continuing it to A-Level, even if it’s not a typical combination with your other subjects.
While students often feel a preference for either STEM or humanities, it is often best to try and take a mixture of both subjects. This means that you have more choices when it comes to applying to university or apprenticeships.
Ultimately, the most important consideration in choosing your A-Levels is what you want to do. Whether in your future or just at this point, if you choose subjects you do not enjoy then your Sixth Form experience will be miserable. Therefore, ensure that no matter how much pressure you feel to take certain things, that what you consider first and foremost are your own interests and goals for the future.