Which A levels should you take?

So the time has come for you to make those crucial decisions about which A Levels to take. It’s a decision that will influence your degree choices and future career so it’s well worth getting it right first time around. Here are six top tips to help you decide:


  1. Some degree courses require certain A Level subjects

If you have a degree in mind, it’s well worth checking what the entry requirements are. Certain courses are very specific about the subjects you should take as well as the kinds of grades you need too. 

Let’s say for example that you want to study medicine. In most cases, a university will want you to have studied Chemistry, Biology, Maths or Physics at A Level. Similarly, for an English degree, you usually have to have studied English literature and/or English language at A Level.

However, this is not the case for all degree courses. It is always worth checking the entry requirements of the specific courses you are interested in. Think strategically.

Top Tip: Look at the UCAS website find a list of entry requirements.


2. Don’t know what you want to study at university?

If you’re still unsure about what to take at university then don’t worry - you are not alone! You can keep your future options open by selecting the subjects that are most commonly asked for at degree level. Known as ‘facilitating subjects’, these are:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Geography
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • History
  • Modern Languages

A clever combination of the above subjects will leave most degree courses open to you. However, it’s always worth repeating Step 1 to be sure.

Top Tip: Choose from a list of subjects that are commonly required by universities if you’re unsure.


3. A Levels are much harder than GCSEs

There’s a big task ahead, but don’t let that stress you out. Learning for your A Levels can be enjoyable and rewarding as well as tough. Answer the following questions to see if there are any subjects that stand out:

  • Which A Levels do you think you would enjoy the most?
  • What subjects would you get the best grades in?
  • Are there particular subjects you need to pursue the career you want?

Top Tip: Try to get a subject you are good at, enjoy learning about and want to carry on learning at university.


4. Check if there are any subjects a university of course doesn't accept

Particular universities or courses may have lists of “preferred” or “non-preferred” A Level subjects.  For example, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) has a list under ‘Subject Combinations’: http://www.lse.ac.uk/study-at-lse/Undergraduate/Prospective-Students/How-to-Apply/Entry-Requirements

Top Tip: Check with the university or course to see if they prefer certain subjects.


5. Don't rely on hearsay

Double check the facts and don’t always rely on what others tell you. Universities change their selection criteria every so often and what you think might be true will not always be the case. Additionally, some universities might view you differently from other candidates based on your non-academic interests or portfolios.

Top Tip: Don’t take everything you hear as gospel truth. Make sure you do your own research first!


6. Some courses are not that fussy about your A Level subjects

Courses in the following subjects tend to be much more relaxed about what you pick at A Level as long as you have good grades: anthropology, archaeology, business studies, classical civilisations, hospitality, management, marketing, media studies, philosophy, politics, psychology, public relations, religious studies. retail management, social work, sociology, surveying, television, tourism, etc.

Top Tip: Certain courses don’t mind what subjects you pick as long as the grades are there.

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