Students usually take 3 or 4 different subjects over a 2 year period, typically between the ages of 16 and 18. The first year ends with the Advanced Subsidiary exams while A2 exams are taken the following year, after which the successful student gains an A Level. The English educational system allows students to specialise in the subjects of their choice at AS and A Level. British universities like A Levels as they provide the depth required for UK degree courses. In nearly every other country, students have to go through a prolonged general education, and can only specialise when they go to university.
Most private sixth form colleges have a wide range of subjects to choose from in any combination of subjects, whereas many schools still force students to choose from columns of subjects to suit the timetable’s requirements rather than the student’s interests.
Making the Right Choice
Choosing the subjects to form an A Level portfolio takes time and thought. First and foremost you should consider subjects that interest you and that you know you will enjoy. You might call this ‘gut feeling’, but it is as good a guide as any, because you will be strongly committed to the subjects that you like and therefore more likely to work hard and achieve top grades.
Secondly, the subjects of your choice must suit your own particular strengths. Are you good at essay writing? Are you fond of problem solving? Do you like working with figures? Do you like working with ideas? Back your strengths – avoid your weaknesses!
Thirdly, you must consider your university or career objectives as these may mean that you have to gain passes in certain subjects. For example if you want to read Medicine or Veterinary Science, you will need at least two science subjects, including Chemistry. If you are applying for Economics or certain Business degree courses. then universities may well demand a pass in A Level Mathematics. On the other hand, you may want to keep all your options open, because many degree courses do not have any special subject requirements. It is always worth checking.
Help with your choice
If you are still unsure which subjects would best suit you, why not talk to us on 0845 226 28 20. We can also introduce you to certain colleges where the Principal will assess your strengths and ambitions before recommending appropriate courses. Note that A levels are not easy and ideally you need a minimum of grade B in the equivalent GCSE subject first. If necessary we can advise you on retaking any GCSE subjects.
Once you have made your choice, we can help you find the right college to suit you. Some colleges only offer academic courses. Some specialise in Art or Drama or Music or Media. Some have special programmes for students who want to go to Medical School. Whatever your requirements, just phone us for free advice on 0845 226 28 20 or complete an enquiry form.
Duration of Course
Students who have just completed GCSE, IGCSE or overseas equivalent should enrol for the 2 year A level course. In the first term, students are taught the language and basic terminology of the subjects studied and are given much help in bridging the considerable gap which still exists between GCSE and AS level. The remainder of the first year is spent on covering the three units of the AS level, which are taken in May/June. The A2 units are studied during the second year, when students are given the opportunity to improve the marks obtained in the AS units where appropriate.
It is possible to take both AS and A2 courses over an accelerated timeframe of one year or 18 months. However, this is a demanding programme which should only be contemplated by the best academic students. Bear in mind that universities rarely accept undergraduates below the age of 18. Additionally the process of application to university usually begins about 10 months before entry, at which point the admissions tutors are usually looking for evidence of sound progress with ASs.
Subjects which can be taken over one year, which require no previous knowledge of the subject include accounting, business studies, economics, fashion & textiles, fine art, film studies, graphic design, history, law, photography, psychology and sociology. However, you should note that top UK universities regard many of these subjects as “soft options” and you might not want to have more than one of them in your portfolio.
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