Choosing A-levels - How many A-levels should I take

December 18, 2017

Choosing A-levels: A Guide for GCSE Students, Part I

How can you choose the right A-Levels?



How many A-levels should I take?


Choosing the right A-levels can be a huge dilemma, particularly for those of you who are unsure of what you’d like to do at university and beyond.


However, the decisions you make will set you on a course that can be difficult to change; it’s important to make the right subject choices at this early stage.


This guide aims to help you see things more clearly, and to get a good impression of your options, whether you’re set on a particular career path or not. We’ll consider the best A-levels to take for a variety of popular university subjects, then give you some more general advice (if you remain unsure regarding your options).


Each university requires you to take three A-levels (excluding General Studies); these will be the basis of your offer. Some students choose to take on additional AS or full A-level subjects, giving them a total of four or five A-levels with which to apply to university. 


With the possible exception of the Oxbridge colleges, you won’t be disadvantaged by taking just three; indeed, it’s better to take three and get good results in these than to take on too much and have your results suffer.


Adopt a workload you think can manage, being realistic, and talk to your teachers about the workload you can expect from the subjects you’re considering selecting.


Students usually choose at least four AS-level subjects, one of which is dropped at A2. General Studies is a compulsory fifth AS or even A2 subject at many schools, but it doesn’t usually count towards university admissions. It also doesn’t require much extra study, however.


A general yet important piece of advice is: Don’t take courses that are too similar. For instance, Biology is very similar to Human Biology. While it’s good to be reasonably focused, it’s better to demonstrate a wider breadth of knowledge and skills by picking complementary if different fields, such as Biology and Chemistry.


Also, exam boards differ. For instance, OCR is reputed to be harder for Maths than AQA or Edexcel. While you probably won’t have any choice regarding the exam board you’re assessed by unless you’re self-taught in the relevant subject, it is worth researching the exam board your school uses so you can be sure the assessments will suit you.

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