The 10 Most Popular A-Level Subjects – Ranked for 2024

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Choosing your A-Level subjects is a key time, signalling the start of a new part of your education. However, choosing the right subjects for you can be extremely difficult, particularly if you are interested in subjects you have not tried before. In this article we will explain the popularity ratings for A-Levels in 2024, to help you understand where each subject stands, and key information about them such as the pass rates. We will also suggest how they might help you in a future career, with tips from current students studying these subjects.

Be advised: The ranking is based off our research on A-Level entries. This data was collected from the government website.

Most popular A-Levels based off entry rates.

Below you can find the visualisation of A-Level subject popularity (top – most popular, bottom – 15ᵗʰ most popular). Displayed on the chart is A-Level popularity decided by number of entrants in the UK.

You may also find the articles below helpful in selecting your A-Level subjects.

Walkthrough of the A-Level popularity rankings

The A-Level popularity rankings are based on data collected by the UK government and OFQUAL (the UK exams regulator). These are based on the number of students entered for that subject across all exam boards, and then what grades they gained on average.

Subjects such as mathematics, business and psychology are among the most popular A-Levels in the UK, with their popularity increasing year on year since the introduction of A-Levels.

Please note that the entry requirements stated for each subject are suggested based on typical requirements published by sixth forms around the UK. Therefore there may be variation in what subjects are required and the grades you need in them. Make sure to check with your college or sixth form about what you would need, as it may differ from what is suggested here.

The number of exams and content studied is based on the AQA specification for that A-Level. Again, it is important to check with your college about what board you may study, and what content will be included.

If you are interested in tips on which subject combinations are good for universities at A-Level, please read this Think Student article.

10. A-Level Economics

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level Economics

Pass Rate (grades C and above) 86%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 13.5%
Number of exams 2
Entry requirements 6+ in English and Mathematics GCSEs

AQA A-Level Economics has 2 exams, each lasting 1 hour 30 minutes. Each exam counts for 50% of the A-Level, and is a written exam involving some essay writing, and some data analysis and maths.

The A-Level Economics specification has 2 main parts: operation of markets, and the national economy. The markets paper studies business practices such as pricing and competition. The national economy paper studies issues such as macroeconomics, policy and flow of income.

A-Level Economics students often go on to study business management or economics at university. Politics and law are also common choices. An A-Level in Economics is a great start for a career in finance or law, such as in accounting, as a barrister, or starting your own business.

9. A-Level Physics

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level Physics

Pass Rate (grades C and above) 77%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 16.4%
Number of exams 3
Entry requirements 6+ in English and 7+ Mathematics GCSEs

7+ in Physics or 7/7 in Double Award Science GCSEs

AQA A-Level Physics has 3 exams, each lasting 2 hours. Each exam counts for around 30% of the A-Level. The exams involve a mixture of long and short answer questions, based on knowledge and problem solving as well as maths skills using equations.

Physics A-Levels also has a key practical element, which is directly assessed by the teacher during practical lessons. This tests how students perform their experiments and their methods/abilities to use equipment. This does not count towards the A-Level but is presented on your certificate as a pass or fail at the end of the course.

The A-Level Physics specification has required modules in particles, electricity and nuclear physics, as well as some options which are usually chosen by your school. These could include modules such as astrophysics, medical physics, and engineering. You will study 1 of these options in the A-Level, which is assessed in the third exam.

A-Level Physics students often go on to study physics or other sciences at university. Students often also move into engineering degrees, as the A-Level gives you many of the needed skills. Physics students can also go on to study mathematics. A career as an engineer or researcher is an excellent choice after a physics a-level, but teaching or work in a trade such as building and surveying is also common.

8. A-Level Business Studies

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level Business

Pass Rate 83.2%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 7.3%
Number of exams 3
Entry requirements 6+ in English and Mathematics GCSEs

7+ in Business (if taken at GCSE)

AQA A-Level Business has 3 exams, each lasting 2 hours. Each exam counts for around 33% of the A-Level. The exams involve a mixture of essay questions and multiple choice, including data analysis and work on a case study.

The A-Level Business specification gives students an introduction to key parts of business, through management and decision making to human resources and strategic methods. The content is focussed on case studies of existing businesses and examples, which means that learning is always done in a current events focussed environment.

A-Level Business students often go on to study business management or economics. Studying science or project management is also a common choice. However, many business students leave school to start their own businesses or take on entrepreneurial roles, based on the skills developed in the a-level. Some business students may also go into management or human resources roles in existing businesses.

7. A-Level Art & Design Subjects

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level Art and Design.

Pass Rate 90.3%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 18.7%
Number of exams 2 coursework sections, 15 hours supervised work (in exam conditions)
Entry requirements 6+ in English GCSE and 4+ in Mathematics

6+ in Art (if taken for GCSE)

AQA A-Level Art and Design course is focussed on coursework (known as NEA, non-examined assessment) rather than exams. Section 1 is worth 60% of the A-Level and is an extended exploration of a theme chosen by students represented in a piece of art or design, accompanied by writing explaining it. Section 2 is a response to a question set by the exam board, with 15 hours preparatory work, then 15 hours supervised time to create the piece.

A-Level Art and Design students can choose from 6 areas of study to focus on, choosing 1 for their whole period. These include art and craft, fine art, graphic communication, textiles, 3D design, and photography. This dictates the style of piece that you will create in response to the NEA areas.

A-Level Art and Design students often go on to study art at university, or architecture. However, the course lends itself well to engineering studies when combined with other scientific A-Levels, as well as working well for students studying art history, or fashion. Many students will go on to start businesses in photography or interior design, or to become artists, or to design and make fashion.

6. A-Level History

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level History.

Pass Rate 87.5%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 12.1%
Number of exams 2 exams + 1 NEA
Entry requirements 7+ in English GCSE and 4+ in Mathematics

7+ in History (if taken for GCSE)

AQA A-Level History course has 2 exams, one based on breadth study of a whole period of history and the other on an in-depth study of a smaller unit of time. It also has a coursework essay of 3500-4500 words which is focussed on an area of history of the student’s own choice, which is worth 20% of the A-Level.

Through the A-Level students will study both British and world history. There are many options, including the Tudors, the British Empire, religious conflict and the Church in England, Wars in Britain, and lots more.

A-Level History students often go on to study history or politics at university, as well as studying more specific areas of these subjects such as classics or art history. History students also often go on to study Journalism, which many continue to further careers. History is also a great subject for those aspiring to be teachers, and to careers such as archaeology or museum conservatorship.

If you would like to find out more about A-Level History, please read this helpful Think Student article.

5. A-Level Sociology

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level Sociology.

Pass Rate 82.1%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 9%
Number of exams 3
Entry requirements 6+ in English GCSE and 4+ in Mathematics

AQA A-Level Sociology course has 3 exams, each focussed on different units in the course. They involve both essay writing and short answer questions and are all 2 hours long.

Through the A-Level, sociology students study units on education and crime as compulsory modules. They also have 2 optional modules, one generally themed around life in culture and family, and the other around society and the media.

A-Level Sociology students often go on to study sociology, psychology, or politics at university, and many also go on to study criminology or law. Sociology students can be found in careers such as law, journalism, politics, policing, and social work, as well as often working in education. This wide range of careers is due to the vast range in content studied.

4. A-Level Chemistry

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level Chemistry

Pass Rate 75.4%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 13.6%
Number of exams 3
Entry requirements 6+ in English GCSE and 7+ in Mathematics

7+ in Chemistry GCSE or 7/7 in Double Award Science GCSEs

AQA A-Level Chemistry course involves 3 exams, each lasting 2 hours and focussed on a different area of the specification. They involve both written and mathematical questions, requiring students to apply their knowledge from the course.

A-Level chemistry has is made up of units ranging from atomic structure to thermodynamics and bonding. These cover a large amount of content and are required for all students with no optional modules.

Chemistry A-Levels also have the key practical element, which are directly assessed by the teacher during practical lessons. These test how students perform their experiments and their methods/abilities to use equipment. This does not count towards the A-Level but is presented on your certificate as a pass or fail at the end of the course.

A-Level Chemistry students often go on to further studies in chemistry at university levels, and many also take on degrees in engineering or other scientific fields. Chemistry students also work well in apprenticeships for trades, such as plumbing or surveying. Research is another common career pathway for Chemistry students.

3. A-Level Biology

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level Biology

Pass Rate 75%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 12.8%
Number of exams 3
Entry requirements 6+ in English GCSE and 7+ in Mathematics

7+ in Biology GCSE or 7/7 in Double Award Science GCSEs

AQA A-Level Biology course involves 3 exams, each lasting 2 hours and worth around 30% of the A-Level qualification. They involve both written and mathematical questions, as well as in in-depth critical analysis of data.

During the A-Level, Biology students will study key areas from the field. These include molecules, cells, genetics and population, and evolution. As mentioned earlier with Chemistry and Physics, the practical component is also examined in this A-Level.

A-Level Biology students often go on to further studies in biology, and medicine is another extremely popular choice. Biology students can often be found in healthcare professions, working in conservation and zoology, or in agriculture and farming. Many also go into research, with climate science being a key field for study due to the effects of climate change on the environment.

To find out more about A-Level Biology check out this Think Student article.

2. A-Level Psychology

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level Psychology

Pass Rate 79.3%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 12.4%
Number of exams 3
Entry requirements 6+ in English GCSE and 6+ in Mathematics

6+ in Science GCSEs

AQA A-Level Psychology course involves 3 exams, each lasting 2 hours and worth around 30% of the A-Level qualification. The exams are focussed on mainly written questions, although there is some maths and data analysis needed, particularly in paper 2.

Psychology A-Level students study compulsory units in areas of social influence, memory, attachment, and psychopathology. They also study research methods, as well as optional units in, for example, forensics, schizophrenia and gender.

A-Level Psychology students often go on to further studies in psychology or sociology, otherwise known as social sciences, and medicine/therapy is another extremely popular choice. Psychology students often work in research, human resources in businesses, or of course as psychologists or psychiatrists.

1.   A-Level Maths

Below is a table illustrating some key data about A-Level Maths

Pass Rate 78.5%
Percentage of students achieving A* grades 22.8%
Number of exams 3
Entry requirements 4+ in English GCSE and 7+ in Mathematics GCSE

The AQA A-Level Mathematics course involves 3 exams, each lasting 2 hours and worth around 33% of the A-Level qualification. The exams are based on maths, using problem solving skills and multi-step questions to assess application of mathematical methods. Students are allowed a calculator in all exams.

The Mathematics A-Level course is more applied than GCSE studies, with work on Newton’s laws, and forces included, however algebraic proofs, geometry and statistics are also key parts of the specification studied.

A-Level Mathematics students often go on to further studies in maths or sciences, with some also going on to study engineering. Maths students often look to careers in architecture and business, economics, or research, as well as engineering. Maths is also a good subject for those wishing to become teachers or to do research in the future.

If you want to find out more about A-Level Maths check out one of our many Think Student articles below:

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