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Tips for choosing A Level subjects

The A-level is a subject-based, linear qualification with written examinations at the end of the two year course. Students normally study three or four subjects of their choice and they suit students who want a more academic focus to their final school years. A-levels are recognised qualifications for entry to university and employment.

If you are currently applying for sixth form and considering your A-level subjects then you may be feeling overwhelmed by the options available to you and need some guidance on how to start your selection process. Our team of education consultants are here to guide you.

Play to your strengths

To begin with, choose subjects that you are interested in and enjoy. Sixth form studies are more intense than GCSEs, so by choosing subjects that you are passionate about, you are more likely to stay motivated over the length of the course. If you are unsure about where your strengths lie or if you need advice about studying a new subject such as psychology or economics, take guidance from your teachers and Head of Sixth Form.

Work out your pathway

If you know what you want to study at university or what you might like to do as a career, certain subjects when studied together can help create your pathway to university or into work. For instance, if you are considering becoming a vet, a dentist or a doctor, then you will need to study the three sciences and math, whilst those drawn to the creative industries can develop skills in applied subjects such as photography or fine art, alongside English literature or Film Studies. You can also progress to further education with a bespoke set of subjects, depending upon the course entry requirements.

Be aware of the curriculum content

It pays to be completely on top of what the course consists of, before you make a final decision whether to study the subject. If you enjoy reading you might be drawn to study English Literature, but if your essay writing is less strong, the written demands of this subject might be very challenging for you. Equally if you enjoy the subject but you are unlikely to get the grade necessary to get that university place, reconsider studying an alternative subject where your predicted grades are higher.

Challenge yourself

Top universities often look for at least two facilitating (hard) subjects such as math, English, a science, a language, geography or history, but not exclusively these subjects. If you are keen on a subject such as economics or psychology, there is no reason not to study it at A-level, particularly if you might apply to study the subject to degree level. Equally, if you are interested in studying music or art beyond school, you will be expected to have achieved a high standard of learning in these subjects.

Watch your workload

Many universities require that your A-level qualifications are achieved in one sitting as this is a clear indication of your ability to manage a full workload. As a result, it is dangerous to rely on re-sits. A-levels require much more independent and in depth study, so give thought to if you can give the time a subject requires. For those not suited to taking written examinations, then a more applied qualification based on coursework may be preferable, or you may think about an apprenticeship, or sit fewer A-levels. For some students there may be a need to re-sit a GCSE in the Sixth Form so think about how the revision time will eat into your A level study time.

Of course, it is possible that you prefer studying a breadth of subjects in the Sixth Form, in which case make sure to read our article on the International Baccalaureate.

We can help with applying to sixth form

If you are struggling with your choices and applying to sixth form, then get in touch to benefit from the advice from one of our experienced consultants, who will help you to make the best subject choices for your university and career pathway.

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