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Choosing A-Levels in general

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      21.07.2009 17:45
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      Can be daunting, but always do what is best for you.

      Choosing which subjects to take at A level can be a daunting experience. With schools and colleges offering more and more subjects for students to chose from, narrowing it down to four or five can be extremely difficult. It is important though to consider certain things when picking which subjects you wish to study.

      1. Where The Subjects Can Lead You
      There is no point choosing to take all art, language and humanity subjects (such as English, History, Philosophy and French) if you are planning to study a Science subject at University or to go into a science based employment area. Many people think that it doesn't matter which A levels you pick with regards to your future, but it does. Universities will be much more inclinded to take students who have studied topics linked to the one they are applying to, rather than ones that have absolutely no function or link in the University subject. For example, if you are hoping to study Computer Science, take subjects such as Maths, Further Maths, Computing and Physics. An art, language or humanity being thrown in won't hinder your application, but a full set of A levels based around them may well do. Pick wisely, and check to see what employers and Universities look for when choosing your subjects.

      2. What You Enjoy
      If you don't know what you want to do, one of the best pieces of advice is to take subjects which you already enjoy from previous study, or have looked into and have a general interest in. There is little point taking a subject you hate if it is of no use to you. You are less likely to do wel in a subject you don't enjoy than in one you do. I know that from personal experience that subjects I enjoyed less, I always did less well in. Just think, you may be spending up to 2 years (maybe more) studying these subjects, and do you really want to be sat there for hours mulling over work you hate and find boring?

      3. Your Ability
      My friend wanted to be a doctor, and took Biology, Chemistry, Maths and History. Although he is very good at History and is quite good at Biology he struggles so much in Maths and Chemistry. As a result his grades have not been high enough to secure him a place in University. My advice is to try to take subjects you know you are good at. I had hoped to be a Vet at one stage, but knew that I was incapable of achiving the necessary grades in science subjects and maths, so took arts and humanities instead, which I enjoy and am good at. There is also no point taking s subject such as Sport if you have never played it in your life. You are unlikely to pick up the necessary skills quick enough to achieve a good grade. It is much better to have a mixture of As and Bs in subjects you are good at, than lower grades in ones you are not, but felt you should or had to take.

      4. Time
      Some students aren't cut out for 4 ,5 or even more A levels. It is best to take the number that you feel you can cope with and have enough time for. My friends have taken a mixture of between 2 and 4 up to their last year. My friend who takes 4 has really struggled, and his exam time table has been hell. Really he should've only taken 3 onto A level, like most students do. It is also worth nothing that although 4 AS levels are beneficial, you only need THREE full A levels to apply to any Univesities you like. Some will even be happy with Two. Research this though before deciding how many to take.

      5. Coursework or Exam Based?
      Some students are unable to cope with the stress that exams bring about. I know that I fall to pieces during exam time, and usually end up in tears the night before having one. Although I can just about cope, other students cannot, and if possible it is always worth looking into subjects which are primarily based on coursework, or ones which exams matter very little to. Others may find that they hate coursework, and do far better in exams, so it maybe worth looking into subjects which are mainly exam based.

      Overall A level choices are always going to be difficult for some, whilst others will know straight away what they want to do. But at the end of the day it is your choice, and don't feel pressured to do certain subjects because of other people. Dont take subjects tobe in the same classes as your friends. They probably won't be around 24/7 after school/college so you should be doing what's best for you long term.

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        01.02.2009 16:46
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        Your future can depend on your choice of A level

        Choosing A Levels is a tricky business - I know I've done it myself and had two children who have had to do it.

        Firstly; do you know what you want to do when you leave school?

        If you don't then I think the best course of action is to take a broad spectrum of A Levels or subjects that you enjoyed at GCSE (O Level). In my case I knew that I wanted to teach music (I don't but thats another story!) so I did A levels in Music, Maths and Physics - a strange combination but for the Music degree that I wanted to take it was essential to have an undertanding about sound.

        Secondly; If you are thinking about University - do you know what course and what the course requirements are?

        This is really important!! Both my children knew what they wanted to do and so researched the University requirements. It is no good wanting to be a doctor or dentist and not taking at least two sciences. My daughter wants to do Interior Architecture and all of the universities that run this asked for an Art Portfolio and a good pass in Mathematics. Not a lot of good applying if you have done History, Geography and English !!!

        Thirdly; Do you know what the syllabus is for your choosen A Level?

        Not as daft as it sounds - but picture this; a student chooses A level History thinking it will be covering the First and Second World Wars and maybe the Cold War - he starts the course only to find that this particular History A level is based around Medieval Medicine, The Tudors and The Black Death (extreme example but you get the picture). This is of no use or interest to him what so ever and he feels that he has wasted a subject. Check that what is being covered in mathematics is going to be what you need for University - no good doing Biology if you want to be a Sports Scientist and the syllabus only covers stuff to do with plants and nothing to do with human Biology!!!

        If you really don't have a clue what to do after leaving school then a good all round education is the best - I have friends (and so do my children) who did a one subject from each of science, humanities, arts, languages and then maybe English or Maths - rather like taking the IB. In fact my son did just that - he studied French, Biology, Music and History. Now he has always wanted to be a History teacher but thought that a broad spread of A levels would be for the best.

        It is a hard decision to make but I believe that employers really want to see that you can study and achieve a good grade across the board. At the end of the day only you know what you enjoy doing - so don't choose to study Latin because Great Uncle Tommy did - choose it because you enjoy it and its going to be of help to you!

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          07.01.2009 16:33

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          Select ones you think are interesting and will serve you well in the future!

          When choosing my A Levels I took a realistic approach. I got 13 higher grades in the GCSE's so I thought it best to select A Levels which I was good at, but would also be interesting, and useful when applying for a job. There are a vast number of subjects to study, ranging from your typical English, Maths and Sciences - right up to more specialist subjects such as Law, Physcology and Media Studies.
          In most schools and some colleges, it is common for each student to have to study and sit and exam for General Studies. This usually consists of several modules including Politics and Scientific Maths. This subject usually only requires on lesson a week of study time, but you must remember to not over strech yourself when selecting subjects to study, as you will still have several exams to sit for this General Studies course!
          In short, pick what subjects you find interesting, you enjoy, and that you think will serve you well in the future. And you should be fine.

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          04.09.2008 02:25
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          So, go for A-levels that benefit you in the long run, rather the ones thats 'easy'

          Britain does not have the best education system in the world and it shows its flaws quite obviously in A-levels and GCSE's. The flaw that in A-levels is that 25% of A-level students have at least one A in their subjects and 10% have at least 3 A's. This should not be possible at all with the exam board way of marking the papers. There should be a certain number of people having achieved the raw UMS marks and above, marking the threshold of A grade for example. Why has it gone wrong? This has become such a big problem that exam boards will be implementing the A* grade which is 90% and above in a few years time.

          I suspect that the rising number of A's is due to the type of subject people take nowadays. When selecting A-levels at GCSE's, typical teenagers will always try to go for the subjects that they perceive to be easier for example Media Studies or Communication Studies. The creation of these new subjects is solely responsible for the decline in people studying science or 'traditional' subjects. It even could explain why the science economy is in trouble in this country due to a fall in Physicists and Chemists!

          People today do not research their subjects thoroughly, most may not even realise that there are blacklisted subjects for such as Media Studies, Communication Studies, etc. (Proof- see on University of Cambridge website) These are deemed to be as worthless as General Studies. A real life example, a person at my college did Communication Studies, Business Studies, Media Studies and she applied to universities. She received no offers purely on the basis that she had no traditional subjects. She was angry that she had not been told about these subjects and how universities do not regard them as well as traditional subjects.

          When choosing my A-levels, I did purely no research and chose subjects that I performed the best at GCSE which was science which I had two A*s for. So I took up Chemistry, Biology, Physics and Geography A-levels, the last two subjects were taken up purely by chance. I am very glad I did those four subjects. However, I do wish I did more research into Chemistry and Physics A-level in which Mathematics A-level would have helped the two and I could have possibly got higher grades in both of them. The choices I made at A-level have affected me greatly already before starting university. I am due to start my chemistry degree next month and I'm not relishing at the prospect of learning an entire Mathematics A-level in a year which I should have done two years ago.

          I always intended to take on Biology and Chemistry as I enjoyed them a lot at GCSE. But Geography, I was not too sure if I could cope with it as I only got a B at GCSE but I was proven to be wrong and got the highest mark for Geography in the entire geography department which proved to be a good choice after all! I did not do mathematics A-level due to lack of information and my own insecurity about Maths as my old school made me do Intermediate GCSE instead of Higher, but got a high B in the end. This is the one mistake I made.

          The subjects I did were very demanding in depth of knowledge and understanding. Without understanding, you haven't got a chance in hell in passing the science subjects. My workload for these subjects was not particularly high, which is due to the type of college I went to that never handed out homework. Which shouldn't matter anyway as A-level is meant to help you to start learning how to do independent work which is very vital for university.

          In Geography, you have to memorise or recall an extraordinary amount of knowledge for case studies and have got to be able to write eloquent and understandable essays for in the exam.

          Chemistry is quite interesting at A-level and you have to memorise every single small detail, no matter how unimportant they seem, they will come up in the exam! The best thing about this was the exam board I did it with (AQA) had many past papers and it was very easy to get used to the style of the papers. This style of working can help you to pass with a high percentage, provided that you have learnt the material first before tackling the papers. Or there is no point. I quite liked the mathematics in this subject, it seems to flow very well together. For example, I could use the log button on my calculator to find the pH of a particular compound (acid/alkali) using only the concentrations! I found this quite fascinating.

          Biology has to be one of the most tedious A-level in the world, it is nothing like GCSE. It took me quite an effort to be interested in this and doing any work at all! This may be due to additions to Biochemistry to the Biology syllabus which I did not particularly enjoy. I got a B overall for this, indicating how easy it is to get a grade in this as long you do regurgitate information through your head, no matter how much you don't enjoy it!

          Physics in the AS year was completely fascinating. I loved Quantum Physics, which has simple equations and mathematics to use. I passed the AS year with an A, ( as I did with the rest of the subjects) but it then went down to a C due to a fatal mistake I made with my A-level choices. I had no mathematics A-level and it was required to do A2 level with Mathematics Alevel knowledge. So my grade suffered.

          If you do plan to do sciences A-levels, do try to do English Literature to AS-Level at least, universities have said to me that they look favourably upon those with English Literature so that they can write well in their thesis/articles. Evidently, my English isn't good enough to do an AS in this! However, if you're not a science person, always stick to the traditional ones if you want success in applying to the top universities. Traditional non-sciences are such as follows; Languages, English Lang, English Lit, Politics, Economics and History. (I may have missed out a few more subjects, let me know if I have then, I'll rectify this.)

          I know there is very well no point in doing a subject in which you do not enjoy; you won't have passion for it thus will do no work for it. Choose carefully, choose what you think you would enjoy but please, for the love of god, and always stick to the traditional subjects if you wish to excel at top universities.

          If you have a certain career in mind, always do the subjects that are linked to it.
          Accountant- Mathematics A-level may be required.
          Doctor- Chemistry and Biology required.
          Police Officer....dont need Alevels to do this! :p

          In my opinion, Mathematics A-level opens so many doors for you, everyone should take this! I should have taken this.


          So in summary, always try to do a subject that is traditional and it is a subject that you know you will excel very well in it and of course, the career prospects of the A-levels you have chosen.

          If you have any problems with this article, please leave a comment.

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            16.08.2008 13:56
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            My A level choices, and my advice for you

            Well everybody, after spending two years studying A levels, I finally found out my results this week, and I'm delighted to say that I got 3 As. I did work hard for them, and spent a lot of time revising for exams and doing coursework, and I was lucky enough to have very good teachers, but I do think that part of the reason why I did so well is down to my A Level choices. There are a lot of people who feel that they haven't done as well as they should have for the effort they put in, and it seems to me that that may be largely down to the subjects they chose to study in the first place.

            Of course, there are lots of choices that you have to make while in education that are very important, and can affect the rest of your life. Choosing GCSEs, for example, should not be taken lightly, nor should deciding which school or college to go to. However, to me it seems your choice of A level is the most important decision that you'll make, at least until it comes to deciding which course to study at which University, or whether you'll go to University at all.

            For me, I have to say that it was fairly easy to decide the majority of what subjects to take. At my school, most students study four subjects in Year 12 up to AS standard, and then drop one subject and take three full A Levels. I like this system, as it does mean that if you realise during Year 12 that you've made the wrong decision, and shouldn't have taken up Chemistry for example, you don't have to keep it for the full two years. I decided to take two languages as half of my choices, as I'd been very interested in foreign languages for a few years, and took five languages to GCSE and did well in them. I finally decided on Spanish and German (French was the other possibility), as I preferred the teachers of those subjects, and felt that I could do better in them than if I'd done French. For my third subject, I chose History, as after languages it was the subject I enjoyed most, and my History teacher was enthusiastic for me to carry it on to A Level. The fourth choice for me was more tricky, as I was certain that I didn't want to do a science, or Latin, Greek, IT or Business Studies or Economics, which were 'new' subjects for A level. I considered doing Maths, as I'd always been good at it, and could probably do very well in it, but unfortunately I hated it with a passion, and couldn't stand the thought of doing it for another two years. I considered doing English Language, but my teacher told me that I probably wouldn't enjoy it very much, as the aspects of English that I found interesting and easy weren't covered very much in that A Level. I finally decided on Psychology, which I'd disregarded at first because of worries that universities don't count it as highly as other A Levels. However, after speaking to teachers, I found out that that actually wasn't true at all, and that I wouldn't be disadvantaged by doing Psychology, and so gleefully took it up, as I thought it would be interesting.

            I am very happy with the subjects that I chose, partly because I got good results in the end, but also because they were subjects which I enjoyed studying. I knew before I started that I would enjoy Spanish and German, as I already liked them, but I still found them interesting when they got increasingly difficult. The great thing about language A Levels is the opportunity to go on trips abroad as part of the course, as going to the countries where the language is spoken is a huge help in improving language skills. During my A level course I went to Barcelona, Santiago de Compostela, Rostock and Stuttgart (two of which were exchanges, and one was work experience in a German department store), and both helped me become more fluent. However, not all schools and colleges will give you the opportunity to go abroad as part of your A Level, so it's best to find out.

            I found History interesting, but mainly because the three topics we did were things I knew little about in the first place, so I actually wanted to find things out, rather than just learning it to get a good grade. We studied the Civil Rights Movement in America, Votes for Women in Britain, and Hitler and Nazi Germany before the start of the war. Although the subject matter was interesting, I chose to drop the subject after AS level, as there was a huge amount to learn and masses of essays to write, and writing essays has never been my strongpoint.

            I have to say that Psychology was my favourite, although I had come very close to not choosing it. It was very interesting to find out why people behave the way they do, and theories behind mental illness and animal behaviour. The exam papers were also better for me than History, as it involved more shorter answers, rather than one huge one. It also wasn't as easy as most people think, and I did have to work hard and revise a lot, but it was worth it and something I enjoyed greatly.

            Well, that's what I chose for my A levels, and I felt that they worked out well. I have decided to go to University to do German and Spanish, so I definitely picked the right subjects for A level, as I needed two language A levels in order to be accepted onto this course. A level choices are especially important if you plan on going to University, as many courses specify which A levels they want their students to have before they would offer them a place. For example, if you want to do medicine, then you have to do three sciences (inc Maths), one of which must be Chemistry, so if you know that you want to be a doctor, you have to choose these A levels. However, if you think that you want to do History at University, then choose History A level, but the other two are pretty much up to you. Most law degrees require students to have an English A level, but not all of them (some are happy with History or Philosophy), so it's a good idea to research potential university courses and ask your careers advisor before deciding on your A levels.

            So, in short, I would revise to really research the A levels before you choose them: will they help you to get onto the course you want to do, does the syllabus include the type of things you're interested in, and is it something that you think you have the chance of doing well in. Listen to your teachers' and family members' advice, though don't let anybody talk you into doing a subject that you're not happy with, and if you have your heart set on doing a subject, then go for it, as long as you're 100% sure that it's what you think it is.

            I hope that this review has been helpful to you, though since I only studied four subjects, if you're not interested in doing any of the ones I did, there's not much that I can say about other ones.

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              12.07.2008 17:39
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              An article advising how to choose your a-levels by someone who've been there, done that.

              The biggest advice I could ever give out when choosing A-levels is Research, Research, Research! I can't count how many times that one of my friends picked out certain set of subjects to study for A-level only to be told by the university that their subjects are not accepted for the course they wanted to do. This is especially important for people thinking of taking subjects like media studies or business studies as they've now been blacklisted by many elite universities such as Oxbridge and London school of economics. Your best friend in regard to this is the internet, career advisor and possibly a sixth former or a school leaver.

              One of the first things to do when deciding on an A-level subject is to think of what subject area you want to get on to. When choosing my a-levels I made the mistake of choosing only one career - engineering. However, when I actually started doing my A-levels I decided that engineering wasn't for me but luckily I knew that I definitely wanted to work in the sciences, so the a-levels that I chose, Maths, Physics, Biology and Chemistry, still allowed me to get a job in this area and enabled me to get into a university course in Pharmacy easily. One advice I must give out is that if you're definitely want to get into a science subject or related you'll need to study maths at least to AS level otherwise you'll find it really hard.

              Another thing is not to be influenced by family or friends. I still remembered when I was coerced by my parents to take French over German and ended up absolutely regretting it. Furthermore, just because you choose the same subject as your friend doesn't mean you'll be placed in the same class. In fact, I've found out that sitting next to a close friend can act as a distraction when concentrating in lessons. However, do pick subjects you are interested in as you're more likely to enjoy it and hence put in more work in it to achieve better grades.

              Don't pick a subject just because it's "easy". In life, nothing is "easy". I had friends that picked psychology because they thought it would be easy, only to be given textbooks that weight a tonne!

              Take considerations of your natural ability. If you're good at maths, consider taking subjects that have high maths contents such as Physics, Maths and perhaps Chemistry. If you're good at writing essays and English, psychology would be good.

              Lastly, even if you followed all the steps outlined above and done your research till you're blue in the face it's still possible to arrive halfway through your course and suddenly realise that you picked the wrong subject. Don't panic! Panic will make you skip lessons and exacerbate a bad situation (Especially if your university acceptance depends upon achieving a certain grade in this subject). Talk with your subject tutor, attend after school lessons if necessary and put in twice as much work on the subject and if you need motivation, think about that university place and how much you want it.

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                23.08.2006 17:33
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                You should choose the ones you enjoy

                In my opinion one should choose the A-levels they most enjoy and not for the following reason:

                - Because they are good at it
                - Because their friends are doing it
                - Because they like the teacher
                - Because you need it to get into university

                This is due to the fact when you enjoy something you are more curious about it and therefore you are more likely to put the extra hours in and it will act as a motivator!

                n.b. This is only a matter of opinion

                Thanks for looking!

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                  19.02.2006 23:07
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                  Choose Wisely

                  Now I am the first to admit that I made the wrong choices when it came to my A levels and although they have worked out ok for me and I have done quite well with what I chose, if I could go back and choose them all over again and if I had actually listened to what people had told me then I may have chosen the right subjects to study.

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                  My Experience:

                  When I chose my A levels the only bit of advice my school offered me was a quick chat to the teachers about which subjects I may be interested in. the only problem with the teachers at my school is that they encouraged everyone to choose the subjects that we enjoyed the most and just do those. We were told that we would have to do General studies as an A level and we had no choice in the matter but then we had to choose three others.

                  At GCSE you are stuck to the obvious school subjects such as Maths, English and Science but at A level you are given a few more choices such as health and social care but we were not shown much about these new subjects and to be honest I didn’t even realise there were so many other subjects I could have chosen.

                  My choices in the end were Biology and English Literature because I enjoyed them and then Maths because I was encouraged by my parents because it would look good for Universities. While doing my A levels I enjoyed them as much as I could and to be honest it is only since completing my degree and realising that I could have made better choices if I only knew and realised what I do now.

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                  What I wish I had done:

                  Research;
                  Maybe the most obvious of things would have been to do more research into the actual subjects that were on offer. A Levels follow a certain exam board and a certain syllabus so a little bit of research into it can make a great deal of difference. For instance you can find out how the subject is assessed so how much weighting is put on exams and coursework so me being so scared of exams that I had to use the stress drops it would have done me well to be more prepared. Also if you can see the type of topics you will be discussing so with my Literature course I could have found out what books would be studied.

                  The second part of the research would be to think and ask about every single A level that was on offer. At the time I did not realise that a Business A level was on offer and if I had known that I probably would have done it.

                  Careers advice:
                  There was a person at our school who did offer careers advice when we made an appointment with them but there were not many that did. At sixteen I did not want to think my career for the rest of my life. For one I had another two years at school and then three at university to look forward to so I would leave my life choices till the time was a bit nearer. What I should have done is spoke to the careers advisor about what my thoughts were about careers at that point in my life and just see what they had said so I recommend it to anybody at any age.

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                  What I should not have done:

                  Friends:
                  As much as I loved my school friends I should not have let them influence what subjects I took for my A levels. I think that most people do though to a certain point take subjects because their friends are and this is the worse thing you can do. I did English because my fiends did and although the subject was ok, I think I would have done a lot better if I had taken music or IT but because nobody I knew were doing those subjects I decided against it.

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                  Other things to think about:

                  Where to study:
                  The thing I did when I was choosing my A levels was dismiss any idea of going anywhere else than school to study so I didn’t even take into consideration going to college. School may seem like the easy option at the time but it is good to look into other options just in case. Many of my friends who did go to college have come out with good jobs and some great friends and because they stayed in touch with all of us school friends then they did not miss much not being at school. Looking back I loved doing my A levels at school and would not change it but it is good to know there are other options.

                  Teachers:
                  Just because you have a favourite teacher at school it is not a good idea to stick with that subject. It is just the subject you should be thinking about doing because it is the subject that is going to give you the A level qualification. The reason I have brought up this point is because one of my friends did Chemistry because they thought the teacher was good to work with and although the teacher was fun, she did not really enjoy doing the actual subject so now she sees it as a wasted A level.

                  -----

                  There you go that has hopefully helped those who are choosing their A levels right now and if you are not then if you know anybody who are going to have to make those decisions then please tell them about my points. I wish that dooyoo had been in my life back when I was choosing mine so I could have made a few more informed decisions.

                  In my opinions I think that A levels are a very important decision in anybody’s life and they put you in a great position for university so I do think that if you make the wrong decisions then you will regret it. Remember this is two years of your life that you spend doing your A levels and although it is great to enjoy it with you friends, remember that you can see your friends all day around your lessons so just make sure that the subjects you choose are ones you will enjoy and actually find useful.

                  In conclusion the message is chose the subjects for yourself and not for anyone else.

                  If you need me to add any more advice into my review then let me know and I will edit it in.

                  Thanks for reading.

                  xxx

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                    08.08.2005 11:53
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                    Some basic advice for making big decisions

                    Well, it's August again, and I'll soon be in school with my pupils as they get their GCSE and A level results - almost as nervous as them, sometimes, I can assure you of that! And, they only have to do it a couple of times - I'm stuck in this never ending Groundhog Day loop of results days every year! Anyway, with that in mind, I thought a review on choosing A level subjects might be useful. This is written very much from a teacher's point of view, from what I've seen over the years, from what I've seen that works and what really doesn't. But it's also very much based on what my students tell me - that's one of the joys of teaching at A level - you have a much more adult relationship with your students in many ways. So here are a few top tips...


                    Don't...

                    ....do it because your friends are.
                    Yes, no one wants to be on their own with a bunch of people they don't like for 5 hours a week, but if it's a subject you want to do, do it anyway. Otherwise you'll end up bored stiff or worse still behind as your A level class becomes a social occasion rather than a lesson. In most classes you'll find someone you get along with, anyway, so go with your own feelings. You'd be surprised how often students make a mistake like this!

                    ...do it because you like the teacher.
                    Different teaching teams do different things from year to year, and just because your favourite teacher has done English for the last 5 years, that doesn't mean they'll carry on, or teach your group or not go off and get a new job half way through the course. Choose the subject not the staff. The times students ask 'who'll be teaching it, though?'

                    ...do it because your parents want you to do it.
                    Listen to them, of course - they have a wealth of life experience behind them, and bear in mind that they've seen people's careers develop or crash and they may have good reasons for wanting you to do one thing. But if your mind is set on something else, it's nearly always right to do that. But when you break the news to them, make it clear that you are prepared to take the consequences of your decision, good or bad.

                    ...do it just because your subject teacher wants you to do it.
                    This is especially a problem if you're a good student in a range of subjects, because all of your subject staff will be trying to persuade you. Don't be afraid to turn them down - a good formulation is 'I would have loved to, but it just doesn't fit in with the subjects I need'. Lets us down gently, we're only human.

                    Do...

                    ....take proper careers advice.
                    Connexions are an excellent place to start, or your head of sixth form, or your local library. This is especially important if you have an idea of a career in mind, as I’ve seen lots of students get to year 13 only to realise that they haven’t done the correct subjects for what they want to do at university. Get it sorted before you start and you can save an awful lot of hassle later.

                    ....do subjects you actually enjoy.
                    You may be good at it, but do you actually enjoy it? So many students have a really unsettled start to their sixth form career because they end up swapping subjects a few weeks in -just being good at a subject is never going to be enough. Also make sure that you’ve properly researched what the content of the course is going to be, as often they are very different to GCSE - does it sound like something you’ll enjoy doing?

                    ....research new subjects carefully.
                    One of the excitements of sixth form is that there are often new subjects to be taken that haven’t been on offer before, but students often moan that it ‘wasn’t what they were expecting’ - do you really understand what Business Studies is? Or Sociology? Find out what exam board your school does and download the syllabus from their website and find out. Make a nuisance of yourself - go to any taster sessions (either at you school or a sixth form college), ask if you can speak to students who are already following the course - make informed choices.

                    ....be prepared to change your mind after the GCSE results.

                    Most A level courses need a reasonably high grade for you to stand a decent chance of success (the actual entry requirements vary from school to school and department to department), so if you’ve got a D, for instance, think long and hard. Was it just an off day in the exam or are you setting yourself up to struggle? If your results are generally disappointing, talk to staff about swapping to a GNVQ or AVCE course instead, as it may be a better prospect in the long run. If you start in September and need to swap, do it as quickly as possible - AS level courses go forward really fast and if you leave it half a term, you may never really catch up.

                    ....be careful about your subject combinations.

                    How much coursework will you have to do? And reading? And essay writing? Is History, English , Geography and French going to be manageable? Again, try to take advice from current students and ask the teachers about quantities of homework, reading and coursework. You do want some time off over the next couple of years!

                    Well, I hope that’s of some use to you. If it’s of any comfort the vast majority of students sail through their sixth form choices and on to university with no problems at all. One final word about sixth forms, though. If you’re planning on not going to your school’s sixth form in favour of a sixth form college, think carefully. If it’s because they offer a different course, fair enough. But every year we get a steady stream of students who come back to school from sixth form college because they actually don’t like the high degree of independence which they suddenly get. Are you going to be able to cope starting somewhere new? Is the journey going to be a hassle? I know I’m biased, but think about it.


                    Anyway, all the best on results day and I wish you well whatever you decide to do!

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                      27.11.2004 13:01
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                      ~Introduction~

                      I am now in the second year (Year 13) of studying my A-levels and only have a few months study remaining. The four subjects that I chose to study were: Business Studies, Physical Education, Geography and General Studies. They have so far proved to be pretty justified choices, but making those initial decisions takes careful thought and a lot of consideration.


                      ~Making the Choice~

                      There are a number of things that you should take into account when you are picking which A-level courses to take on. The order of importance of some of the points I am going to raise may differ from person to person, but they are all vital factors that you must consider.


                      ~Enjoyment~

                      The most important thing, in my opinion, is that the majority of subjects that you choose are those that you enjoy and are good at. There is no worse feeling than not looking forward to attending a lesson because you don't enjoy and really can't cope with the work. I had that experience at GCSE level, with the two languages that I had to study and it really got me stressed out and all worked up. I can honestly say that I look forward to all of my lessons and approach them all feeling very confident and ready for work and to learn.


                      ~Usefulness~

                      If you have anticipations to go onto university to study a particular subject or to get a particular job, you must consider this when making your choices. There is no point picking random courses if you have aspirations to go on and study sports science for example. It would be a good idea to study physical education and biology/physics if you want to get into that. I am not going to university and I don't have any particular job in mind so I did have a pretty free choice of subjects.


                      ~School Standards~

                      The school that you attend may specialise in one particular subject. The school that I am currently studying at, specialises in arts and media studies which is of no real use to me. It is a good idea to take advantage of good facilities that are at you disposal and to avoid the subjects that don't tend to be so good at the school. That way you should get the best possible results from the subjects that you study.


                      ~Friends~

                      I have found it very useful not to have too many close friends studying the same courses that I am. It helps you concentrate on the work and makes you focus on getting the job done. There are other groups of friends in my classes that really disrupt each other during lessons and they often fall behind. It is good to have somebody to talk to at certain times because you can feel a little bit isolated and left out if you are not careful. The lessons may then become less motivating and you may not look forward to attending.


                      ~Parents~

                      If you are the parent of a child that has to make these tough decisions now or in the new future, the best advice that I can give is that you support whatever their choices are. At the end of the day it gets dark, and at the end of the day it should be up to the pupil what subjects they want to do. The only time that I would possibly say that the parent should step in, is if the child chooses to sit a particular course solely because their friend(s) are doing it as well. That is a silly way to make a decision and you should question the motives of the choice.


                      ~Workload~

                      It does help to be honest with yourself from time to time. If you are a bit lazy, poorly organised or just not very good at meeting deadlines then you should take that into consideration. There are two main subjects that have many essays and deadlines that you have to meet and they are English and History. You have to put an awful lot of work into these two subjects to get a good grade so it may be worth considering other areas if you don't think that you are suited to a lot of work.


                      ~Conclusion~

                      There may be many different ways that you come to the final decision about what subjects to study and at the end of the day you must do what you think is best. I was going to study English off the back of pressure from my dad, but I quit it after a couple of weeks and took up general studies. I got a B on that for my AS level so I was over the moon. The main thing is to ensure that you will enjoy your time at A-level and ensure that you get the maximum yield out of it at the end of the two years.


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                        26.09.2002 20:31
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                        Choosing A Levels can be a bit daunting, if you go to a further education college there is often a much a wider range of subjects available than you will have been used to at school. So how do you choose what subject to take. The subjects that you have previously studied at GCSE level (National Curriculum subjects) will obviously be available and an advantage of taking these subjects would be that you will have an existing knowledge on which to base your studies. You will also have an idea of how good you are at these subjects and therefore you will be able to make an informed decision. Colleges often also offer other subjects, which you will probably not have been given the opportunity to study before (i.e. Psychology, Sociology, Law, Politics). Choosing a subject that is new to you may mean that you will have to work harder at it, but you may find a subject that really interests you and that you are good at. I took an A Level in Law, which was a subject that I hadn’t studied before and hadn’t really considered as an option. I found it far more interesting than the other subject that I had chosen (English) and later went on to take a degree in it. If I hadn’t taken a chance and been brave enough to choose a subject that was new to me, I would never have found that I enjoyed law and was good at it. On the other side of the coin, I also at one point decided to try my hand at sociology and I thoroughly hated it. I found it confusing and did not enjoy it at all. Still at least I know that now. When choosing A Levels it is a good idea to try and think ahead to what you will use them for when you have achieved them. Do you want to go to university? If so, what do you want to study? If you already have an idea, then try and build on that, find out which A Level subjects would benefit you in your future study. If you don’t know what you want to do afterwards, then try and choose subjects that you enjoy as you ar
                        e more likely to stick at them. A Levels are also a wonderful opportunity to try out subjects to try and find one that you would like to study at a higher level. The only way of finding out if a subject is for you is to try it. AS Levels give you an opportunity to try out a variety of subjects before choosing which ones you want to carry on to A Level. This is one benefit of the new system, as you do not need to study a subject you don’t like for two years in order to get a qualification. If hate it you can drop it after one year and provided you have passed that year you will get an AS Level in that subject. Remember you do not have to make these decisions entirely on your own. Talk to friends who have taken the courses you are interested in. If you are going to college visit their student services department who will give you advice on all of the courses offered and help you decide which ones will best suit your abilities and ambitions. If you are taking A Levels at school you will probably already be familiar with the people who will teach the various courses, take advantage of this, go and see them and ask them about the course’s contents, assessment methods, etc. Finally, don’t choose a subject just because your friends are doing it, a friend of mine chose to do an A Level in Human Biology because her best mate had enrolled the course. Her friend was really interested in science but she wasn’t. She ended up having to switch subjects a few weeks into term and struggling to catch up on the new subject because she had missed the first few lectures. Remember that you will spend two years studying these subjects, so pick ones that you are interested in. Do your research first, to find out what is on the syllabus, make sure that you will be able to remain interested throughout the course. If in doubt about what a course involves, go and talk to someone who can help you. Make sure you make
                        an in formed choice. Good Luck!!!

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                          26.08.2002 20:22
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                          I am currently choosing my as options for next year, (yes yes i know i only have a week to go) and it is a highly difficult and painful task. At this level, I know that not choosing a subject means never studying a subject again. I'm 16- how can I make that sort of choice?? Many say that it's great giving up so many subjects at this stage as they know exactly what they want to do and don't want to bother with the others. But what about us pour souls who havent got the foggiest about what we want to do next weekend- let alone as a lifelong career. And isn't it nice to do things purely because you enjoy them and not because you HAVE to do them in order to qualify for a degree. If we continue lowering the stage at which you decide your future, we will all end up deciding our fate as toddlers. Next week I will basically be deciding whether I become a doctor or the suchlike or become a journalist/similar. I think I will be choosing this using paper and a hat. Not because I want to but because I have no choice.

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                            30.07.2002 18:02
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                            Now i know that most people here will be wanting to choose A Levels and not sure what to do. My opinion is given the choice (in other words if the school/college teach this) i would do the International Baccalaureate Diploma any time. Most of you will be thinking-what?! I started my A levels when i lived in Italy and was at an English school. I chose French, English,Art and Italian as i was good at them and Art i enjoyed. Howerver overall pretty pointless when you have no idea what you want to do-i mean who does? Im 24 and still don't have a clue! After starting 6th form, 4 months down the line i moved to the UK. Long story but i ended up going to 6th form college hoping to resume where i left off after the Christmas break. I hated it! I didn't know anyone which didn't help but the books being read were all different, art was more arty farty than i expected and generally i was wasting my time. Thankfully the college offered the International Baccaulareate-IB for short. It is based on the French system of study (yes i know its french but for once this is actually a good system!) and actually its similar to most european schooling systems as well as the Irish. It allows you to take 6 subjects-3 at higher level (A level equivalent) and 3 at lower level (As equivalent). That may sound scary when you think your doing the equivalent of 4 and a half A levels! But in actual fact it gives you such a range of subjects to study that its a great way of keeping your options open. You have to do a science and you have to do Math (which was the down side as i hate maths!) but even that is divided into 2 areas-for those that are rubbish at it and those that aren't! Well that was not the technical term but basically what it meant. You also have to do English. I did English, Geography,French at higher level and Italian (cos it was easy for me!),Maths and Biology at lower level. Grades are awarded in points so the max
                            you can get is 7 (which is like an A star) then 6( A) 5 (B) etc. On top of this you also do a Philosophy class which was interesting and to gain extra bonus points (yes i know it sounds like a lottery but then again so are our lives at this stage!) you have to do an extended essay in the summer of your first year. This is like a mini thesis on a topic of your choice. It was hard work but if your planning on going to uni anyway its good practice Also when it came to choosing Uni and courses i had such a range of courses that i had studied to back me up. As it happened i ended up doing an animal science degree which quite frankly i could not have done with English, French, Art and Italian A levels! All in all i would recommend this course if you want to keep your options open, you want to gain an allround knowledge, are prepared to work hard-but if you want an easy time in 6th form this won't be for you.

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                              07.07.2002 23:23
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                              For most students, A-levels choices will be the hardest decisions they will ever have to make in their academic career simply because it sets the path for the rest of their academic career or even life if they choose to leave school. After GCSE, A-levels will give students their first real choice of subjects and inevitably career, the decisions that the students make at this point will undoubtedly affect the rest of their lives. The first choice to consider is whether or not to even undertake A-levels. I'm not going to rule out either possibility because both have their drawbacks but also their benefits. If you choose to leave without undertaking an A-level course and go into employment then you will find it very difficult in many cases to find employment especially in specified fields such as medicine where it is near impossible. So consequently many doors are closed, however you could be taken under the wing of a relative or experienced executive who sees talent in you, and although such cases are rare it could result in you learning a trade and ensures almost guaranteed employment. On the other hand you may choose to stay and complete you're A-level course, now although there is not a guaranteed job there is no doubt that more opportunities are opened up which generally pay better as well. So this is better in the long run rather than just a quick fix. However, there is no point at staying in school if you feel you are weak at academics or you are particularly good at sports and want to pursue a career in this area. In this case I would recommend leaving and taking part time training courses in things that you like rather than staying and getting nothing out of your course just for the sake of it. In saying this, even if you were to get a D at A-level you are still favoured over someone for a job than someone who has no A-level's at all. The choices at A-level today are immense and I advise any young person to
                              seriously get the most out of the courses available, however the problem is choosing the correct course so I have compiled this guide and hope it will assist you: 1. You must first look at the grades that you achieved for GCSE, there is no point in taking A-level further Maths if you got a D or even a C at GCSE at this is strongly advised against because you will find the course tremendously difficult. In saying this don't just choose the subjects, which you did the best in because you may find them dreary although you are achieving well. Simply look at the GCSE's as a starting point for your selection. 2. A no-no for choosing A-levels is the teachers, don't simply choose a course because you feel that it was taught particularly well, or you want to even be like the teacher because these are not valid reasons and subject teachers are often continuously switched around. 3. Look at any information that the school has to offer, also look for yourself at the facilities and what activities the course involves. This will help you appreciate how the course will help you grow as an individual. 4. Definitely consult with last years subject teachers asking questions to see if they believe that you have the attributes necessary to succeed in a particular field. 5. A course consultant is often available at most colleges, ask the head teacher for details of when he/she is coming in, I can't recommend this enough and the rewards are sound. 6. Don't be misled by friends. I know that it is tempting but don't simply follow what your friends have chosen or are even pressurising you into doing because the truth is that you will probably be split up in 2/3 years and you will make new friends on your new course. Besides, there is no rule that bans you from keeping in touch with each other. Finally the last piece of advice I would give for choosing A-levels is to have self-belief and confidence. Be confident that you have cho
                              sen the correct course because a change of heart mid way through the course could prove fatal later on. Be organised and make sure you consult with family and friends before making any rash decis

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                                20.06.2002 02:42
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                                I like many other teens today decided to stay on at school to do A levels, with the plan of going to uni and get a doodie job out of it in the end, one year earlier and this would have been a great idea one year later the same but no I had to be one of those lucky lucky people (feel the sarcasm!!) who ended up being a guinea pig for curiculum 2000 (no doubt some of you who are reading this did too so you can relate.) I felt the above passage in necessary to put into context my reviews on life and subjects so here we go: At the school I go to we were made to do 4AS levels in the first year (which they say every other school was too) which would have been fine if there where four I actually wanted to do but due to AS's being in there first year choice was limited so I did 3 I sorta wanted to (English Lit, Math and Business Studies.) and one figured would be easy (geography). English Lit: this as I said was a subject I wanted to take, basically because(well before I took the course) I enjoyed reading and as by looking at the sylibus I saw I involved a wide range of books I decided to give it a whirl. WARNING If your teachers are anything like mine they pick the books they like. However you could see this a plus as they should know a lot about them (and yes I guess this is true although when reading a poem/section of prose when your English teacher does not like the author is also quite amusing.) So I did the AS and later the A and generally the subject was quite enjoyable with relativly kind exams (in the sense they offer you a choice of 2 questions in most of them.) Math: In the school I attend this was never a good choice, but I looked at Uni courses before I made my decisions and for Software Engineering (the degree course I want to do.) most Uni's said they wanted either maths or a science, at GCSE I got B's at both of these but deciding (after some email enquiry) that my double science grade was good en
                                ough to be considered without the A level I decided to do math. The course lulled me into a false sense of security as I found the first term of P1 and M1 easy these however got harder and mixed in with not finishing P2 by the end of the year meant me and the rest of my math class (and many others up and down the country apparently) FAILED. Yup was a glum day of us all cracking up (ok so this wasn't the correct responce but what would you have done??.). So I guess my recomendation for this subject is not to go into it thinking its going to be the 2+2 stuff that GCSE is made of, the gap here was huge......too huge and mixed with the fact we didn't have time to finish the course (thankyou MR/s government type person.) just meant a compleate waste of a year. Business Studies: This subject was new to me but looked interesting so I took it knowing that I could drop and change anything up to six weeks in, I actually found the first year quite easy with most of the information being common sense with a few formula's that my math brain helped me to cope with, the second year however was slightly harder (or maybe its because we have the most boring teacher imaginable reading notes to us for an hour in his monotone voice so its really hard to pay attention.) Have to say this is quiet a good course but takes real stamina sometimes to stick with it but the coursework option in the second year really lifted some of the straign off and turned in into an okay subject. (Helped by some great mates in the class to amuse and study with.) Geography: do not make the same mistake I did and choose this just to make up the 4, because its not as easy as it looks (or maybe its because I absolutly hated it by Christmas of the first year and subsiquently dropped it at AS.) I guess this is one of those subjects you either love or lothe as indifference (as I had at the end of GCSE) turns nasty. The range of subject is nice though covering both human a physical aspec
                                ts of the subject meaning that is a varied subject which in theory would suggest it wouldn't get dull, okay you get to go away with your mates for a weekend to do some measuring in sunny Dorsey (unfortunatly it was for course work so we had to go in early March) which if its anything like our field trip 50% work 50% holiday, dam me for not doing at A level due to the element of pub being opened up after September of my second year. This girls verdict YAWN!! (wow to Geography not to element pub sheesh.) Roundup: I could not imagine doing my A levels anywhere else except for the school I was at yrs9-11, basically because if you pick your subjects like I did you will not see some of your mates in the lessons but hey thats what frees are for, yes year 12 the year I learnt about 20 different card games in one year. BEWARE while in year 12 I noticed all the year 13 working (during there frees ha sacrilidge) and I thought ha thats never going to be me but this year the teachers found homeworks for us to do (dam them) and due to bad planning and a attempt at a social life on my part my frees became more a more filled with horrible work stuff (which for someone with a low attention span, means the work in frees takes 4 times as long as theres always someone doing of saying something that deserves a sarcastic comment enter me.) So basically hunt around at unis BEFORE you go into 6th form (this may seem a bit stupid due to uni being a whole 2yrs away but its not.) so you make the best decisions you can, make sure you are surrounded by great mates to take the mick out of have a laugh with a make the days go quicker. And most of all don't let work rule your life take well needed nights off from study to write opinions on 'dooyoo'(ping)

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