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Which A-levels Should You Take? A Guide to Choosing Subjects

posted by Rosie on Friday, 22 January 2021

Are you intimidated by the thought of A-level selection? Perhaps you’re unsure about what your next step should be?

We know this can be a tricky decision to make. That’s why we’ve put together an in-depth resource on everything you need to know about choosing A-level subjects.

From entry requirements to key considerations, our guide is here to help you make an informed decision on the A-levels which align with your career goals and aspirations.

 

Why Choose A-levels?

Whether you’ve turned 16 and are unsure of your next steps or you’re seeking a career change in later life, making the decision to study an A-level is a big commitment. After all, A-levels are equivalent to Level 3 qualifications, so you can expect them to be much more demanding than GCSEs and Highers.

So, why should you take them? And how could they benefit your career prospects in the long term?

First and foremost, A-levels are a prerequisite for entering higher education, so if you have aspirations to go to university, you’ll need at least two or three A-levels. This isn’t the case for all subjects, though, so be sure to research entry requirements before opting for a certain qualification.

Remember, though, that A-levels aren’t just a gateway to university. They’re also viewed very favourably by employers, so if you’re not sure university is right for you, having an A-level or two under your belt could still help clinch that dream job or career opportunity.

What’s also important to consider is that A-levels do have equivalents, so if you can’t find an A-level course in a subject you want, it may be available as part of another qualification. BTEC Nationals are closest to A-levels (awarding you a Level 3 qualification), and cover a variety of subjects, from beauty therapy and electrical engineering, to music technology, applied sciences, and horticulture.

 

Studying a levels

 

What to Consider When Choosing A-levels

If you decide A-levels are right for you, the next challenge is choosing the subjects you want to study. Aside from personal interest and enjoyment, there’s a lot to consider here, which is why we’ve put together some practical advice for choosing the right A-levels below.

First, there are three main points to keep in mind when deciding on which A-level courses to study. These are:

  1. Your enjoyment of the subject – if you don’t enjoy studying a subject, it goes without saying that you won’t enjoy a career in it either. Personal enjoyment may seem like a soft consideration, but it should be at the heart of your decision-making process.
  2. How good you are at a subject – as touched on earlier, A-levels are tough, so you’ll need to pick subjects you’re good at to come out with respectable grades. This might sound like common sense, but it’s something worth remembering to guarantee study success.
  3. How the subject will help your career – enjoyment and aptitude in a subject are one thing, but it’s important to think long-term too. How will your A-level choices support your career aspirations? And how will they help propel you to the next rung of the ladder?

So, these are the three main points to bear in mind when choosing A-levels, but what else should you consider? Let’s take a look.

 

Have a specific university course in mind? Get to know entry requirements

If you aspire to study at university and are fortunate enough to have a clear vision of your future career path, it pays to plan ahead and check entry requirements at your preferred institutions. That way, you can gauge just how much work and study will be required to secure a place based on your A-level grades.

 

Friends studying a levels

 

The same goes for your future career too

What do employers in your chosen field want to see on job applications? And do they mention any specific A-levels? Researching job specifications at this early stage might sound like overkill, but it’s the perfect way to align your skillset with a particular industry, boosting your chances of success later down the line.

 

Unsure what you want to do? Consider a mix of subjects – and qualifications

Many school-leavers are unsure of what they want to do as a career, and this isn’t something to panic about. If you’re keen to sit A-levels but have no steer on the subjects to choose, consider points one and two above: your enjoyment of a subject and how good you are at it. 

If you enjoy a subject, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll also like the career that stems from it. Better still, being good at a subject is an indicator that you’ll ace the subsequent A-level, setting yourself up for a successful career.

Remember, too, that there are other routes into higher education and the workplace than A-levels. For example, some students choose to sit A-levels alongside a BTEC National in a vocational subject, effectively increasing the number of routes available to them as they look towards the next step in their education and career.

 

 

Do’s and Don’ts of A-level Selection

Choosing A-levels can feel like a hugely daunting decision, particularly if you’re a school-leaver who’s unsure of what to do with life. To help steer you towards the right decision, here are a few simple do’s and don’ts to consider as you move forward:

  • Do…research all the options. Even if you’re sure of your career path, weigh up the options, do lots of research, and talk to tutors and advisors about the appropriate path for you.
  • Don’t…always assume that you need to study maths or English at A-level. Unless they’re required in your chosen field, most employers in other sectors will be content with a GCSE or equivalent in maths and English.
  • Do…be careful about choosing new subjects to study at A-level. There’s a chance you may not enjoy them, or you may not be as strong in them as you are other subjects.
  • Don’t…choose overly similar A-levels. For example, there’s a lot of crossover between certain subjects, like economics and business studies, which can weaken your skillset and make employers think twice.
  • Do…be mindful that A-levels are much, much tougher than GCSEs. They require genuine hard work, organisation, time and effort to complete to a high standard, so make sure you know what you’re committing to before pulling the trigger.

 

What Are the Entry Requirements for Studying A-levels?

If you want to study towards an A-level (or Scottish Higher), you’ll need a minimum of five GCSEs (N5s in Scotland) at grade 4-9 (A-C in Scotland), including maths and English. If you fail to hit the grade in maths at GCSE level, you’ll need to re-sit the course while studying towards your A-levels.

 

We hope this guide helps steer you towards the right A-level courses that will help you fulfil your career aspirations. At Oxbridge, we offer a range of A-level qualifications which you can study as part of a flexible distance-learning course. For more information and to see our full range of courses, visit the homepage or call us today on 0121 630 3000.