Some tips to guide you in selecting the right A-level subjects

Here are some tips to guide you in selecting the right A-level subjects, whether you’ve already made your decision for the upcoming year or find yourself facing a challenging choice.

Deciding which subjects to choose for your A-levels is an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. The subjects you choose now can affect your future options, such as the university courses you can apply for and which universities will consider your application. However, even if you’re unsure about your future plans, you can still make wise choices now that will benefit you in two years.

To make sure you make the right A-level choices, consider the following points and you’ll be on the right track.

1.     A-levels are much harder than GCSEs.

There are three main reasons why you choose a specific subject at A-level:

  • You need it for your chosen career.
  • You enjoy and excel in that subject.
  • You haven’t studied it before, but you believe it will be a good fit for you.

Regardless of the reason, be ready for a significant increase in difficulty when you move from GCSE to A-level or any other advanced qualification. You will also notice differences in teaching methods and expectations.

Are there easy A-levels? You shouldn’t look for A-levels to get an easy string of A* grades. Doing so may result in taking subjects you have no interest in, as well as restrict your future options. Universities and courses will have subjects they require and those they don’t accept. Keep this in mind, and choose subjects you enjoy and are good at.

2.    Some A-level subjects can be useful when it comes to choosing a university course.

If you’re not sure about your university plans yet, it’s a good idea to keep your options open by studying a variety of A-level subjects. However, if you already have a specific university course in mind, you should check the university websites to see if they require any specific A-level subjects. Some universities advise against certain combinations of subjects, especially if they are very similar, like business studies and economics. It’s important to consider this when making your A-level choices.

There are a couple of tools to help you see where the subjects you’re considering might take you at  The Russell Group and The Student Room. These are great tools that could help you choose the right A-levels for your chosen study at University and future career.

There used to be a list called “facilitating subjects” published by the Russell Group, which was meant to help students choose the subjects commonly requested by universities. However, this list was discontinued in 2019 because students started to think it was the only list of subjects that top universities would accept. So, it’s important not to assume that the subjects on that list are the only ones worth considering.

Nevertheless, here’s the list of those facilitating subjects:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • English literature
  • Geography
  • History
  • Maths and further maths
  • Modern languages
  • Classical languages

3.    Some university courses require specific A-level subjects.

This is important if you have a specific degree in mind because you may not be eligible to apply for certain degree programs unless you have taken specific A-levels and achieved the required grades.

Here are a few examples to give you an idea (some are obvious):

  • If you want to study pharmacy, you must have A-level chemistry, and at least one from biology, maths, or physics.
  • For an English literature or language degree, you usually need A-level English literature. It may also accept English literature and language or English language.
  • If you’re interested in a geology or earth sciences degree, you should have at least two A-levels from maths, physics, chemistry, or biology.
  • Sometimes, an economics degree may require A-level maths, but economics is rarely a mandatory subject.

For more guidance on which A-level subjects to study for specific degree programs, you can refer to the comprehensive list of university subjects at The Student Room and their typical A-level requirements.

It’s a good idea to review the full entry requirements for a few courses at different universities to ensure you meet all the necessary criteria for your chosen subject.

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