Choosing A-levels - The best for History, History of Art, and Classics

January 4, 2018

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

What are the best subjects to pick for your A-Levels?

The best A-levels for specific degree subjects – History, History of Art, and Classics


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).


Let’s look at recommended A-level subjects for those who know what subject they want to take a degree in.


Typically Universities differentiate between subjects that are essential for studying a particular course and subjects that are merely useful.


Therefore, in the lists that follow each subject, those in bold are widely deemed essential for studying the subject; those in italics are often seen as useful but not necessarily required.


The rest are subjects that complement the course (i.e. with transferrable skills or useful background knowledge), and suggestions based on ideas offered by a selection of university admissions pages.


History focuses on the analysis and evaluation of sources, requiring a lot of reading and critical appraisal. A-level history isn’t usually a requirement to take the subject to degree level, but it’s highly desirable, and you’ll probably find it easier to cope with the course if you’ve had some experience of studying it.


Essay-based subjects are useful, so it’s a good idea to choose at least one other in addition to history. Foreign languages, meanwhile, develop your memory of large amounts of information; this may help you to memorise dates.


·         History

·         Classical Civilisations

·         English Literature

·         Government and Politics

·         History of Art

·         Foreign Language

History of Art

There aren’t usually any required subjects for the study of Art History, though there are A-levels that provide a good foundation for a degree in this field. You won’t necessarily be at an advantage with History of Art at A-level; although, if your school offers it and you think it might be what you want to study at university, it’s definitely worth taking.


Academic, essay-based subjects are useful preparation for this degree.


·         History of Art

·         Art History

·         Foreign Language (ancient or modern)

·         English Literature

·         Classical Civilisations

·         Religious Studies


A-levels in Latin and Classical Greek are highly desirable if you want to study classics; they are a requirement for many Classics courses. However, not all schools offer these subjects at A-level, and many universities also offer ab initio (‘from the beginning’) courses for those who haven’t studied classical languages.


If you choose this option, you may be required to attend a summer school or progress your Latin and Greek to a minimum standard in some other way during the summer preceding the start of your university course.


·         Latin

·         Classical Greek

·         Foreign Language, e.g. French or Italian

·         Classical Civilisations – Classics courses usually contain some element of studying the

history and archaeology of the time, so grounding in the basics will prove helpful if this option is open to you.

·         History

·         History of Art

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