How A-Levels work and which subjects to pick

Knowing how A-Levels work and which subjects to pick is very important to learners finishing their GCSEs. Learners are typically restricted to picking just 3-4 subjects, which in turn have a huge impact on their future university prospects and work opportunities. It’s not a light decision for most 16 year olds to make, which is why we think it’s essential to explain how A-Levels work and which subjects to pick.


How do A-Levels work?

A-Levels act as the bridge between GCSEs and University. As such over the two year course, students are expected to develop the knowledge gained at GCSE while also demonstrating new skills that will prepare them for the rigours of further education. This means that the courses themselves are slightly more challenging, and require much more in the way of independent learning and critical analysis from the learner.

Students start by picking 3-5 subjects to focus their studies on. After the first year, they’ll typically drop one of these subjects (gaining an AS-Level qualification along the way) so they can refocus all their attention on the 3-4 remaining subjects. These will be the ones that deliver the full A-Level qualification and are what universities are looking at.


Which subjects to pick?



1. What do I want to study at University?

If you know exactly what academic discipline you want to study at university, then at least a couple of your A-Level choices will be taken care of already. For example, if you want to study music then you’ll probably need a music A-Level. Basically, if the subject you want to study has an A-Level equivalent, then it’s a good idea (if not a prerequisite) to go for it.

There are some university subjects like medicine and engineering which aren’t offered at A-Level. In these cases it will make sense to go for similar subjects like science and maths.


2. Which University do I want to go to?

Choosing which subject to pick based on your preferred course at University will help you with 1 or 2 of your A-Levels. But the best universities will want to see 3 or 4 in total, which means you need to find some more!

The Russell Group is a collection of some of the best universities in the UK and they have an online tool which helps you understand the subjects their admissions staff are more excited to see. As a guide those, it’s probably best to pick one from:

– History
– English Literature
– Geography
– Chemistry
– Biology
– Physics
– Maths (and further maths)
– Classic languages
– Modern Languages


3. Am I still unsure what I want to do?

If you’re not quite sure what you want to study at university, or where you want to go, then that’s ok too. Picking your A-Level subjects doesn’t need to be a life-defining moment. If you’re at all unsure then it’s best to follow three key principles: Pick subjects you enjoy studying. Better yet ones that you got good GCSE grades in. And make sure it’s a mix of languages, humanities and science. This should ensure you have a fun two years, get grades that universities will like and have a wide range of avenues open for you to explore.

January 27, 2021, Cascais

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Author: bgacademy