There are a few things you need to know before making your final A-level choice. Choosing a handful of subjects to take at A-level is not a decision you should take lightly. The A-levels you pick now can impact what you do later, namely the courses you can apply to at university.
If you don’t know what you want to do in the future, you can still make smart choices now, that will leave you in the best position in two years’ time.
1 Check university requirements
If you decided to go to university, the main question you should ask yourself is: ‘Do I know what I want to study?’. Your answer will dictate which subjects you should choose for A Level. So, if you have clear ideas about what you want to do in life, you should check whether your plans require specific subjects. A lot of courses will specify at least one subject you’ll need to have studied at A Level. Some examples are listed below:
- Economics: Mathematics is the only A-level subject that is required. You can take Further Mathematics in addition to Mathematics. Economics is preferred if your school offers it.
- English language and literature: English literature, English language or modern language
- Engineering / Computer science: Mathematics, Further Mathematics, and Physics or Chemistry (for an engineering course)
- Pharmaceuticals: Chemistry is a compulsory subject, in addition you can choose Mathematics, Biology or Physics
- Medicine: Chemistry and Biology are compulsory subjects
- Architecture: Physics, Mathematics and Art are the most appropriate subjects
- Law: Any subjects can be chosen, however, you will need to show that you have the skills that will enable you to be successful in your law degree (eg writing essays, analyzing facts). Subjects such as History, Law and Politics are the most appropriate for this course.
2 Choose a combination of subjects
You need to think carefully about combination of subjects. Two complementary subjects may help a great deal in your studies. For example, doing Physics without Mathematics would be difficult and is not generally recommended.
Your school have a Sixth-form Subject Guide describing the subjects on offer, which will give you an outline of the content and skills needed, details of how the subject is assessed etc. Here is a list of the most popular subjects taken at A-level:
- English language
- Modern and classical languages
3 Subjects that universities do not accept
The universities rank A-level subjects very carefully. Many universities list the subjects that are considered less significant and desirable. For example, there is a list published by the London School of Economics and Political Science. Please find non-preferred subjects here (under Subject combinations). We recommend that you check if your chosen universities have such lists.
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Elena Colquhoun, MSc, PGCE, ACIL
Director of Best Start Education, qualified teacher and examiner