The 10 Most Popular A-Level Subjects – Ranked for 2021

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Are you wondering which A-levels you should choose? In this article I am going to provide you with an overview for each of the top 10 most popular A-levels so you have all the information you will need to choose the right A-levels for you. I hope this will make your decision process easier or at least give you a good insight into each of these topics and why they are so popular. 

In this article I will be going through the top ten A levels for the UK. I will be basing my popularity of topics on the exam entries for 2020. These can be found on the government website, which can be found here. This will allow you to see the detailed statistics, if this is something that you would like to look into further. 

Disclaimer: in 6th place on the government website is Art & Design subjects, but to try and keep this article as accurate as possible I have only included single subjects not groups of subjects. 

10. A-Level Economics: 30,865 Entries in 2020

At the bottom of our list of ten most popular A-Level subjects is A-Level Economics. Even though it is the 10th most popular A-Level it still had an impressive 30,865 entries in 2020 which was a 3% increase from the previous year. 

To see the numbers for yourself go to the government website page which can be found here. 

Why is A-Level Economics so Popular? 

A-Level Economics is an extremely academic subject and can be very difficult. As a result, it can lead to some high paying professions in the financial industry. 

A-Level Economics gives students both mathematical and statistical skills that they can use in most financial degrees and is likely to give them the edge over other applicants. 

What is A-Level Economics Like? 

The Purpose of A-Level Economics is to teach students the economic theory that is required to analyse economic problems and understand the relationship between microeconomics and macroeconomics. Here are some of the area topics that are involved in A-Level Economics: 

  • Operations of Markets and Market Failure 
  • National Economy in Global Context 
  • Individuals, Firms, and Markets 
  • National and International Economies. 

If you want to learn more about what A-Level Economics is like then I would advise looking at AQA’s website for a more detailed overview. We also have an article that you might find interesting: How Hard is A-Level Economics? 

A-Level Economics studies the fundamental principles of both microeconomics and macroeconomicsA-Level Economics is best suited to those students that are willing to push themselves and who are passionate about the subject. 

9. A-Level Business Studies: 33,260 Entries in 2020 

In a strong 9th place with 33,260 entries in 2020 is A-Level Business Studies, it had 2,395 more exam entries than A-Level Economics for 2020. Entries for A-Level Business Studies increased by an amazing 8% from 2019. 

To see our gov.co.uk source and learn more for yourself click here. 

Why is A-Level Business Studies so Popular? 

Business Studies is great subject for any young entrepreneurs out there, it gives a good overview of everything you would need to run a successful business and continue study at university in any business degree. 

A-Level Business Studies is very popular due to the variety of job opportunities that require an understanding of business. Businesses are a massive proportion of our society and have incredible impacts on the daily activities of most of the world. 

What is A-Level Business Studies Like? 

As business is such a broad topic, students are taught a good variety of topic areas at A-Level. Here are just some of the topic areas you may study in A-Level Business Studies: 

  • Marketing  
  • Business Operations 
  • Sources of Finance  
  • Accounting Fundamentals 
  • Economics Fundamentals  
  • Human Resources  

The full specification for AQA A-Level Business Studies can be found here. If you are interested in taking Business Studies then our article, How Hard is A-level Business Studies, might be a good read. Any extra information and insight about the subject is valuable before you choose your A-Levels! 

As you can see the amount of variety in Business Studies is immense. Over the course of the two years business students will have gained an understanding of how businesses work, as well as how they affect our society. The fact that it is so easily applicable to everyday life could be one of the many reasons that this subject is so popular! 

8. A-Level Physics: 35,740 Entries in 2020 

35,740 Entries in 2020 brings A-Level Physics down to 8th place, 2% down from its entries in 2019 which just had the edge over Sociology.  

If you would like to see how the number of entries has changed, feel free to take a look at our source, which can be found on the Government’s website. 

Why is A-Level Physics so Popular? 

Physics is a pursuit of understanding and knowledge about the world around us. It can be extremely challenging but also incredibly interesting.  

It gives students an appreciation of how things work at a fundamental level and offers the chance to learn many transferrable skills for future education. 

What is A-Level Physics Like? 

The goal of A-Level Physics is to teach passionate students the fundamentals of Physics and engage students in a practical way of learning as well as theoretical studies. Some of the core topics that are studied during an A-Level in Physics include: 

  • Particles and Radiation 
  • Waves  
  • Mechanics  
  • Electricity 
  • Nuclear Physics  
  • Thermal Physics 

These are just some of what is taught in AQA A-level Physics, to see the full specification visit the AQA page which can be found hereA-Level Physics offers students the chance to pick certain topics that are more specific and gives them the opportunity to learn subjects that suit their interests.  

If you think A-Level Physics is for you then you might find these articles noteworthy: 

Physics students are generally passionate about the topic and have a keen interest in it so if you do not like Physics then this is certainly not for you! 

7. A-Level Sociology: 36,965 Entries in 2020

In 7th place on the top ten most popular A-Levels is A-Level Sociology. For those of you who are unsure, Sociology is the study of human behaviour, it is a social science all about social interactions, patterns, and behaviours. With 36,965 Entries in 2020, A-Level Sociology is 1,345 Entries behind A-Level English Literature. 

Why is A-Level Sociology so Popular? 

Realizing the limitations and problems with society will enable students to understand the way the world works in ways that most A-Level students would not know.  

A-Level Sociology requires a great deal of research and data analysis, so students have to learn the accurate methods of research in order to gain a proper understanding of the subject. This will give students the skills that are sought after by Universities, in relation to many courses.  

What is A-Level Sociology Like? 

There are a range of extremely exciting topics that are studied in A-Level Sociology. For an idea of what a Sociology student might study at A-Level, I have included a list of the topic areas you can expect to see on the specification: 

  • Socialisation 
  • Culture and Identity  
  • Families and Households  
  • Social Differentiation 
  • The Social Construction of Health  
  • Work, Poverty and Welfare 

This is just a summary of what A-Level Sociology offers, to see the detailed specification have a look at AQA’s page which can be found here. 

A-Level Sociology allows a deeper understanding of how our society works and the problems that we face as humans, students studying this will gain a wide range of knowledge. Human interaction is an essential part of life, the study of human behaviour is very interesting and will likely give any student who undertakes sociology a new outlook on society.

6. A-Level English Literature: 38,310 Entries in 2020

Coming in at 6th place on our list is A-Level English Literature with 38,310 Entries in 2020’s exam series – this is 2% more than the previous year.  

Why is A-Level English Literature so Popular? 

English literature is a great subject to study if you are interested in English culture. It gives students a good idea of how literature has evolved over time and why the English language is so popular across the world.  

It gives students the opportunity to get into many different careers, including writing, publishing, or teaching. A-Level English Literature students gain many transferrable skills that can be very useful in a wide range of degree courses at university.  

What is A-Level English Literature Like? 

A-Level English Literature is a combination of historic and modern literature, here are some of the things that English Literature A-Level students can expect from the course: 

  • To study 1 Shakespearian play, and a 19th century novel. 
  • To be able to choose 1 modern text from a choice of 12. 
  • To study of one ‘cluster’ of poems. 
  • To analyse unseen Poetry. 

This specification will give students a good grasp of both modern and historic literature. It teaches the many methods of writing and how to analyse them. To see the full specification and the options available for each of the areas of English Literature see the AQA or Edexcel websites.

5. A-Level History: 41,645 Entries in 2020

In 5th place with 41,645 Entries in 2020 is A-Level History, 11,790 entries behind A-Level Chemistry in 4th place. 

Why is A-Level History so Popular? 

A-Level History has had the largest percentage change in the entire top ten most popular A-Level’s list. It had a reduction of entries by 13% showing that History has become less popular by the largest proportion. 

Despite this A-Level History offer students the chance to develop their analytical and writing skills. A-Level History is also a great foundation for studying certain degree courses like Politics and Law. 

What is A-Level History Like? 

A-Level History is a very tough subject, as it involves writing a lot of essays and regularly putting an analytic approach to good use. History is well suited to those students with a keen interest in the topic and who are willing to do the hard work required. 

Here are just a few topics you can expect to see studied in a History A-Level (keep in mind that you won’t get to study all of these!): 

  • The Tudors 
  • The Age of the Crusades 
  • France in Revolution 
  • Democracy and Nazism: Germany 
  • The Transformation of China  
  • The Cold War 

I have only included a few of the topics that you may study as an A-Level to see a more detailed specification see either the AQA or the Edexcel websites. 

If you are thinking about taking A-Level History then these articles could be a great help in making your decision: 

A-Level History is an interesting topic that is well respected by universities due to the skills that students must have in order to achieve a high grade in the subject. History is great subject for students who want to know more about the History of the world and how it has affected present day events and everyday life. 

4. A-Level Chemistry: 53,435 Entries in 2020 

With a total of 53,435 Entries in 2020’s exam series is A-Level Chemistry. This secures Chemistry 4th place on the top ten most popular A-Levels. You can find the full details on the Government website. 

Why is A-Level Chemistry so Popular? 

A-Level Chemistry had 2,180 less Entries than 2019, meaning that A-Level Chemistry has become less popular since 2019.  

Despite this, Chemistry is a complex and intriguing topic that interests many students. It can lead to many different career paths and opportunities for students, and allows for practical learning which gives students the ability to experiment as they learn.  

What is A-Level Chemistry Like? 

A-Level Chemistry offers students both practical and theoretical studies in a variety of intriguing topics. Some of these include: 

  • Atomic structure 
  • Kinetics 
  • Thermodynamics  
  • Acids and Bases  
  • Periodicity  
  • Transition Metals 
  • Alkenes and Alkanes 
  • Organic analysis 
  • Polymers 

These are only some of the areas that the A-Level Chemistry course allows students to explore. The course covers the main 3 areas of Chemistry: Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Organic Chemistry. To view the full specification, I would recommend that you take a look at either the AQA or Edexcel website. 

If you are serious about taking an A-Level in Chemistry, then these articles might come in handy: 

3. A-Level Biology: 61,130 Entries in 2020

A-Level Biology comes down from 2nd place to 3rd place with 61,130 Entries in 2020 5% down from 2019. To view the original source from government, take a look at this informative website. 

Why is A-Level Biology so Popular? 

Biology stems into a wide range of medical professions and experimental work. Students with a passion for Biology will gain the skills required for most scientific courses at a higher level.  

A lot of students will take more than one of the sciences if that is what they want to pursue. For example, students wishing to become Biochemists will take both Chemistry and Biology at A-Level. 

What is A-Level Biology Like? 

Biology is a fascinating topic for A-Level students to study. Here are some of the core topics you can expect to see in Biology A-Level: 

  • Biological molecules 
  • Genetic Information, Variation and Relationships Between Organisms 
  • Cells 
  • Energy Transfers Between Organisms  
  • Responses to Internal and External Environments 
  • Control of Gene Expression 

As you can see A-Level Biology certainly covers the fundamentals that you would need in order to go on to study at a higher level. To view the full AQA specification see this page and if you are looking at Edexcel qualification see here for more information.  

If you are considering Biology as one of your A-Level subjects here are some of our articles that might be worth reading: 

A-Level Biology also allows students to have practical sessions in order to experiment and learn, which can make the A-Level more exciting and engaging.  

2. A-Level Psychology: 63,490 Entries in 2020

In second place, 26,240 entries behind 1st place is A-Level Psychology with an entry total of 63,490. With a 1% change in entries from 2019 Psychology just has the edge over Biology. 

Why is A-Level Psychology so Popular? 

A-Level Psychology is popular due to the complexity and intrigue surrounding it. The human mind is a very interesting thing, and many students want to understand the way it works. 

There are also a variety of job opportunities that stem from studying Psychology. Students can become clinical psychologists, forensic psychologists, or even get into a seemingly unrelated profession like marketing! 

What is A-Level Psychology Like? 

A-Level Psychology offers students an insight into the core areas of Psychology: 

  • The different approaches to Psychology 
  • Specific areas of interest, like relationships, attachment, or memory 
  • Issues and Debates within Psychology 
  • Research Methods 

I would recommend having a look at the AQA or Edexcel website for more information if you are considering A-Level Psychology as one of your A-Levels. 

If Psychology appeals to you then the following articles might be helpful: 

Psychology is a challenging A-Level that explains the different approaches and issues involved with Psychology. As a Social Science, it teaches valuable skills that can be transferred to most degrees. 

1. A-Level Mathematics: 89,730 Entries in 2020

Coming in at number one, A-Level Mathematics was the most popular A-Level taken in 2020. With 89,730 entries last year, up from 86,185 the year before, there is no doubt that this subject has a strong lead over the others.  

To view the source for the A-Level entry numbers listed in this article, please visit this page on the Government’s website.  

Why is A-Level Maths so Popular? 

A-Level Mathematics had a lead of 26,240 entries over the second-place subject, A-Level Psychology, but why this huge lead? 

Many university courses include A-Level Maths in their course requirements. I myself decided to do A-Level Maths as an Accounting & Finance student as I knew that many universities offering my course required A-Level Maths.  

What is A-Level Mathematics Like? 

Maths is probably the most versatile subject on this list. Mathematical ability is sought after in the majority of degrees and high paying jobs. There are a wide range of topics that are studied in a Maths A-Level. Below, I have listed some of the topics that you can expect to tackle at A-Level: 

  • Algebra and Functions 
  • Trigonometry 
  • Probability 
  • Proofs 
  • Differentiation and Integration 
  • Data Presentation and Interpretation 
  • Forces and Newton’s Laws 

To learn more about the content that A-Level Mathematics students cover, it might be worth your time to check out either the AQA or Edexcel specification. 

Of course, this is just an overview of what is studied in A-Level Maths, you will have to check out our other articles on the topic if you want to learn a bit more. These can be found below, and I would recommend that you take the time to have a read through them: 

I hope now you have a brief understanding of each of these ten most popular A-Level subjects. You should now be able to understand what might be involved in each subject so you can make an educated decision on which A-Levels you should take. 

Thank you for reading this article and if you would like to get into a bit more detail on each of these topics then have a look at other articles on our website. Some of the useful examples can be found below: 

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