Students who are thinking about taking A Levels should think about what they wish to do career-wise, or what they want to study at university, or what qualifications they need for a particular job. Students should also think about the subjects that they enjoy studying at school, and what areas interest them most.
In the UK, A Levels are a level 3 qualification that most students start after completing their GCSE qualifications, although individuals can study them at any age. There are secondary schools within the country that offer a sixth form and the chance to take A Levels for pupils who wish to continue after their GCSEs.
The entry requirements for A Levels can vary from the college/school to the subject itself. Typically, the institution will ask individuals to hold five grade C subjects at GCSE, and this will include English, Maths and maybe a Science subject too. If a student doesn’t hold the right GCSE grades, some schools and colleges offer them a chance to retake that GCSE (learn more – retaking GCSE exams and courses), such as Maths (A Maths degree will benefit you, if you’re considering going in this direction, too), alongside studying for their A Levels. Students should check with their local school or college to see what entry requirements are needed to take certain A Levels. These will often be worked out on a points basis, much like how you apply for university too with UCAS points (Click here, to find out more about understanding UCAS Entry points).
A Levels are studied over a two-year period, with the first year being called an Advanced Subsidiary (AS) level subject, which is equal to half an Advanced (A) level subject, or an A2 level. AS Levels are still accepted in many areas of work or higher education institutions as a qualification, but they will hold less value or less UCAS points than A Levels.
Whether an individual will be studying their A Levels at a sixth form or a further education college, the subjects available can vary from that institution, the area and what GCSEs a student has. For example, the local college may have a few varying finance courses, such as economics, accounting, banking or bookkeeping, and universities will rank you high for these if you plan on doing an Economics degree or an Accounting degree, but some of the courses will be more academically challenging than the others and require more/higher grades at GCSE level. Students are advised to check with their chosen sixth form, or college to see what is on offer for them with their predicted or completed GCSE results. These can help you if you don’t have the right A-Levels and need to know what to do next.
The majority of further education colleges and sixth form have changed how their students study their A Levels. Previously, students would take 4 AS Level subjects and then drop a subject after the first year exams – and students could choose to drop the subject they liked the least or the subject that they didn’t perform well in. However, most institutions now allow students to choose 3 A Level subjects and to stick with them throughout the two years – some students may be offered the chance to do 4, if they need certain subjects for university or a particular job, or performed extremely well at GCSE level (Which you’ll obviously find out on GCSE results day).
Students shouldn’t feel obliged to take more than 3 A Levels – especially if the idea is extremely daunting! Most universities and employers ask for 3 A Levels, as many students take this amount, therefore, there is no need to work yourself into the grave to try to achieve that extra A Level. Also, many students prefer to study 3 A Levels as it gives them a better chance to focus on their 3 subjects better and they feel they have a better chance performing well.
Listen to the advice that your family and teachers tell you from school, but don’t allow them to make the decision for you – as you’ll be the one studying that subject for 2 years, and not only did you lose out on an opportunity to study something you enjoy, but you could be stuck with a subject you hate. If the individual has their heart set on a specific career, job, or subject in mind, then they should study those subjects for a happier academic life.
Never let your friends, boyfriend or girlfriend sway your decision because they want to take the same class as you, or because they don’t want you taking a certain subject. Lessons will become a chore, and you won’t be choosing for your own decision and lose out on great opportunities because you wanted to sit with your friend.
Also, never choose a subject because your favourite teacher is teaching it this year, or because your older brother said they were a great teacher. Yes, teachers are important for inspiring and aiding students during their A Levels, but it doesn’t mean it is right for you. Furthermore, that favourite teacher could move away, change schools or stop teaching that subject the year you start, and that will ruin everything! Additionally, don’t take a subject up just because your favourite teacher expected you to study it, your future will be hurt more by this decision than their feelings – trust us!
Individuals should seek out their career advisers, or head of year teachers and discuss their ideas of what career they’d like to do. Students shouldn’t worry if they don’t have a specific career or job in mind, and should then focus on their favourite and most enjoyable subjects. Also, don’t allow the career adviser or teacher tell you what you should do as a job! Yes, suggestions can be helpful, and teachers can tell you about your strengths and weaknesses, but they shouldn’t tell you that you are only able to do one job!
Also, think about the subjects that you loved learning at school and the classes you were never bothered about attending because you found them so fascinating! Use this enjoyment factor help you choose the next range of subjects available, and inspire you at A Level! Most of the time, if a student enjoys the lesson, they will have less change feeling stressed or feeling resentful towards that subject later on.
Prospective students should read the college or sixth form prospectus’ and find out what they will study in the lessons, and how it is assessed. Some students prefer coursework, whereas others perform well under exam stress. Find out how they are assessed, and how this can affect you too – most courses at A-Level have at least one exam assessed during the summer, but some have more than others!
Students should look at their strengths and weaknesses when choosing A Level subjects, such as, whether they are good at retaining information and use it to their advantage, for example, Psychology or a History subject – it could be helpful taking our what degree should I study quiz, although this aimed at degree level, the quiz gives you two subject areas based on your answers and may just help you in the right direction in choosing your A-Levels subjects. There are many courses that are similar but do have varying aspects; therefore, understanding what you excel at, will make it easier to narrow down your choices.
At University Compare, we believe that all subjects are worth studying and aid to bring a varied society at all levels of education and within career sectors – check out the subject degree guides, they provide a basis of each subject and link what A-levels are recommended to apply, so they are worth your time to look at as it could alter what you decide to study at A- Level. However, certain universities may wish for their students to have specific prerequisites – UCAS entry requirements – to study on their degree courses, Therefore, individuals should check with their top university choices and find out their preferred subjects, such as some institutions may want their students to have an Economics A Level instead of an Accounting qualification.
The workload of each A Level course will differ to the next, with some requiring lots of coursework or essay writing, and others asking their students to complete a portfolio of work. This should be considered when choosing A Levels as students will be studying three different subjects at the same time. Even though most individuals would have studied at least 10 subjects at GCSE level, the jump from GCSE to A Level is more intense and requires more brain power, which is why students tend to study just 3 or 4. When analysing the workload of a certain subject, students can ask the college tutors, or teaching staff about the level of work that will be completed, how often they will receive assignments and homework, and if there are any extra-curricular activities that take place during the course too.
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