Choosing my A Levels

When you are thinking about which A Level subjects to choose there are a range of factors you may wish to consider: Which subjects do you enjoy? Which subjects do you do best in? What would you like to study at university? What kind of career would you like?  You may even have thought about questions like:  Which university would you like to study at? Which course would you like to apply for?

If you know what you want to do, for example a career in medicine, it is easier.  Research the universities that offer the subject, look at the entrance requirements for the courses that interest you and make your choice accordingly.  However, most 15 and16 year-olds are uncertain...you feel the need to keep your options open. That is why we at Waldegrave will be encouraging you to consider taking at least two facilitating subjects like maths, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history or languages. 

The Russell Group and Oxbridge

The prestigious Russell Group of universities published a guide called "Informed Choices" which explains in detail which A Levels they are looking for. To view the guide, please click here.  Universities in the Russell Group are often referred to as competitive universities or top universities.  If you know you want to apply for a competitive university course you should check to make sure that the subject combination you have chosen would be acceptable. More Russell Group information

What else do I need to think about?

It is important to recognize that there are many excellent universities with wonderful reputations and highly respected and sometimes specialist courses (i.e. Bournemouth is considered the best for Digital Media) that you might want to explore.  These universities often have direct links with the employment sector and have courses that are feeding into the industries and employment streams of the future.  In these cases universities are looking for a passion and enthusiasm for the subject and an indication that you can cope with academic study at undergraduate level.  These courses are more likely to be interested in your overall UCAS point score (which is the way you add up your total ‘points’ for both AS and A2 rather than the grades).

Which subjects go well together?

Remember that breadth of subjects is valued, and therefore subjects with a significant curriculum overlap might be avoided (i.e. economics and business studies or sociology and psychology). However there are subjects and careers, perhaps the Arts, where closely related subjects like Art, photography, media and fashion, or drama, music, dance and English literature might be seen as really attractive for specific careers or degree choices. So you need to be clear about what you want! You need to be sure there is coherence in the subjects you have chosen.  Mixing media, maths and chemistry might be perfect if you would like to develop a career in science journalism?

For anyone who's still unsure about their future career I would always advise a mixture of A Levels. A passion for a non-degree related subject is highly valued by admission tutors. It shows you are a well rounded candidate.

Some Top Tips

  • Choose subjects which interest you and can hold your attention for at least two years... and possibly a lifetime!
  • Research your next steps and career choices. Do your subjects link well?
  • Research your university choices and entrance requirements carefully.
  • Consider what being a ‘top’ university means to you.
  • Try to be broad and balanced in your choices and keep your options open.
  • If you are unsure, call the admissions office of the universities you might consider and ask for feedback on your A Levels choices and their grade entry requirements.
  • Remember getting a higher grade in a subject you love may open more doors in the future than a lower grade in a subject you tried your best in but just couldn’t sustain for two years. Choose carefully which A Levels you can achieve!