How To Choose Your A-levels
Entering sixth form this autumn, but can’t decide which A level subjects to take?
Making the right choices can be difficult, but consideration of the following points will (hopefully) make the decision process a little easier.
You’ll be studying these subjects for the next 2 years, so choosing ones you actually enjoy will keep you motivated and help you achieve the best grades possible.
Unless the subject is an entry requirement for your degree, or necessary to other future plans you may have, there’s no point signing up for it if you don’t look forward to lessons.
You'll only start to get frustrated and stressed in the long term.
Think about the subjects you excel in and why - are you better at fieldwork than writing essays? If so, perhaps choosing Geography rather than History would be a wise move.
Talking to your teachers will give you an accurate idea of where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and guide you toward the subjects that suit you better than others.
#3 Parents and teachers
While listening to the advice of your parents and class tutors can be great for helping you choose which A levels to take, you shouldn’t feel pushed into a subject you don’t feel comfortable with.
You’re the one that has to complete the coursework, exams, or practical work for it, so only pick subjects you are confident in and don’t let anyone else decide for you.
Take a look at the syllabus for each subject you are considering, especially if they were not available to you at GCSE level, such as Politics or Psychology.
Some students take subjects they think will interest them, but quickly become disappointed when they find it’s not what they were expecting.
Reading the course content should give you an idea whether a particular A level is the right option for you.
Reading through the course syllabus will also give you an idea of the work involved. Make a note of the number of essays and practical exercises for each subject - what percentage of the final marks are these worth?
There’s a danger you could end up taking 3 or 4 subjects that require mountains of coursework, or big exams at the end of the year that are worth a majority of the marks.
If you don’t feel you could cope with either of these extremes, you may want to try and choose 1 or 2 subjects where the marks are more equally weighted.
#6 Career plans
If you’ve decided you’re going to apply to university, you need to check the entry requirements for the course(s) you are considering. There are a significant number of subjects where at least one particular A level is compulsory.
You don’t want to choose your A levels, only to find later you can’t get onto your degree course because you aren’t studying the required subjects.
Not going to university? Try to pick subjects that will be valuable to potential employers, and useful in the real world. For example, Mathematics has applications in many industries, as does Biology, Economics and Business Studies.
#7 “Soft” subjects
Some top universities in the UK have A level “blacklists”, made up of subjects they feel do not prepare students for a degree as well as more traditional ones such as Chemistry, Mathematics and History.
If you’re planning to apply to a prestigious or “red brick” university, make sure you’re not going to put yourself at a disadvantage by choosing an A level in Media Studies, Photography or Sociology.
Russell Group universities recommend you choose at least 2 traditional subjects to ensure you will be considered by their admissions tutors.
If you’re still uncertain, phone or email the university admissions team and ask for their advice.
Not sure what you want to do after your A levels? Or no career path in mind? No worries.
If you want to go travelling for a while or just get a temporary/part-time job while you think about your next step, pick subjects that keep your options open.
Go for ones you find interesting and are good at, especially if they are traditional subjects. This means you’re likely to achieve high grades, and still go to a good university if you choose to apply later on.
Finally, don’t just pick the subjects your friends are doing so you’ll always have a neighbour to natter to in class..
You’ll get bored eventually, and probably fall behind with the work because you’re too busy socialising instead of listening to the teacher.
You might not want to end up with a bunch of people you don’t know, but there’s bound to be at least one person you can strike up a conversation with.
Got any questions about choosing your A level subjects? Or any comments on my post? Please pop them below!