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How to Choose A Level Subjects in 2024?

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A-Level exams are the stepping stones to universities and can shape your future career. This makes the selection of your A-Level subjects a pivotal decision.

Your performance in A-Levels plays a significant role in university admissions, making it imperative for you to invest your passion, dedication, and determination into achieving the best grades possible. A-Level subjects encompass a broad spectrum, classified into five principal categories – mathematics, sciences, languages, humanities, and vocational studies. With a repertoire of over 80 subjects, students customarily pick three to study in-depth.

The transition from GCSEs to A-Levels is a big step, which is why it’s crucial to choose your subjects wisely. You no longer have mandatory subjects and no longer can take 10 different ones. Your choices here can shape your future educational opportunities and career trajectory, so take the time to understand and embrace the A-Level journey fully.

Why is Choosing A-Level Subjects Important?

Your choice of A-Level subjects is a significant step in shaping your future career path. A-Levels are not just qualifications; they are a reflection of your strengths and passions. The subjects you choose now can significantly influence your career opportunities and areas of interest in the future.

Once you’ve narrowed down your subjects, you can use the A-Level calculator to see what university options you could have.

First, What A-level Subject Options Are There?

All A-Level Subjects

Here is a list of A-Level subjects commonly offered:

  • Mathematics
  • Further Mathematics
  • English Literature
  • English Language
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Computer Science
  • Economics
  • History
  • Geography
  • Politics
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Law
  • Business Studies
  • Art and Design
  • Photography
  • Drama and Theatre
  • Music
  • French
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Chinese
  • Latin
  • Greek
  • Religious Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Environmental Science
  • Physical Education
  • Media Studies
  • Film Studies
  • Textiles
  • Graphic Design
  • Food Science
  • Geology
  • Accounting

This list includes a wide range of subjects, from sciences and humanities to languages and arts. Each subject offers unique insights and skills. Choose based on your interests and future goals.

Soft A-Level Subjects

“Soft A-Level subjects” are often seen as more subjective and less specialised compared to “hard” or traditional academic subjects like Maths or Science. These subjects typically focus on broader skills and understanding, such as critical thinking, creativity, and analysis. They are valuable for a wide range of careers and university courses, especially those in the arts, social sciences, and humanities.

Here is a list of subjects commonly considered as soft A-Levels:

  • Art and Design
  • Photography
  • Media Studies
  • Film Studies
  • Drama and Theatre
  • Music
  • Textiles
  • Graphic Design
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Law
  • Business Studies
  • English Literature
  • English Language
  • Religious Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Geography
  • History
  • Politics

Remember, the distinction between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ subjects is more about the style of learning and assessment rather than the difficulty or value of the subject. Soft A-Levels can be deeply rewarding and are respected for their ability to develop critical soft skills.

Choosing Your A-Level Subjects: How Many and Which Ones?

When it comes to A-Levels, the number of subjects you choose is crucial. Typically, students select three or four A-Level subjects. Some may opt for more, but it’s important to balance your workload and ensure you can perform well in each subject.

How Many A-Levels Should You Take?

Three A-Levels?

This is the standard number for most university courses. It allows you to focus deeply on your chosen subjects.

Four A-Levels?

More ambitious, but useful if you’re undecided about your future specialisation or aiming for competitive courses.

More than Four?

Only advised if you can handle the significant workload without compromising your grades.

What is the Best A-level to Take?

Some A-Levels are often viewed as more ‘respectable’ or academically rigorous, while others are perceived as easier. However, it’s crucial to understand that there is no single ‘best A-Level’ that suits everyone. Each student’s ideal choice varies based on their unique aspirations, strengths, and interests.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that A-Levels might not be the best route for everyone. Depending on your career goals, you might benefit more from exploring alternatives to A-Levels.

Choose Your University Course Wisely

Even if you know exactly what course you want or what subjects you need to meet the university’s requirements, you still have to consider tips to avoid unforeseeable outcomes in the future. 

You should choose the subjects

  • You’ll enjoy studying 
  • You know you’ll do well at

For example, if you hate maths, but you are taking it just to meet university requirements, ask yourself the following. Does the course you chose include a lot of maths? If it does, consider thinking about finding a more suitable course. If you won’t enjoy the learning process, is it worth it? 

What Are the Best Combinations of A-Levels?

Choosing the right combination of A-Level subjects is crucial for opening doors to your desired university course or career path. While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, some combinations are particularly beneficial for certain career aspirations. Here’s a look at some effective A-Level combinations, guided by educational trends and university admission statistics:

  1. For Engineering and Physics
    • Mathematics, Physics, Further Mathematics
    • Adding Chemistry can be beneficial.
  2. For Medicine and Veterinary Science
    • Biology, Chemistry, and either Mathematics or Physics
    • Psychology can also be a supportive subject.
  3. For Law and Social Sciences
    • History, English Literature, and Law or Politics
    • Sociology or Psychology can add depth to this combination.
  4. For Economics and Business
    • Mathematics, Economics, and Further Mathematics or Business Studies
    • An essay-writing subject like English can complement this selection.
  5. For Arts and Design
    • Art, Graphic Design, and Photography or Textiles
    • English Literature or History of Art can provide valuable context.
  6. For Computer Science and IT
    • Computer Science, Mathematics, and Physics
    • Further Mathematics is often preferred for more technical courses.
  7. For Humanities (like History, English)
    • English Literature, History, and a third subject like Politics or a language
    • Geography or Religious Studies can also fit well.
  8. For Languages and International Studies
    • Two languages (like French and Spanish) and English Literature or History
    • Politics or Economics can offer a global perspective.
  9. Environmental Sciences and Geography
    • Geography, Biology, and Chemistry or Physics
    • Environmental Science, if available, is an excellent addition.

Statistics show that certain universities and courses favour students with specific subject combinations. For instance, competitive courses like Medicine or Law often look for candidates with a strong foundation in both sciences and humanities. It’s always recommended to check the specific requirements of universities and courses you’re interested in.

Remember, the best A-Level combination for you should align with your academic strengths, career aspirations, and university requirements. While these combinations are guidelines based on general trends and statistics, the final decision should be tailored to your personal goals and interests.

Some Interesting Facts About A-level Subjects

  • In 2023, Maths confirmed its status as the most popular A-Level subject in the UK, attracting over 11% of all entries.
  • We’re witnessing a significant surge in interest for subjects like Psychology, Sociology, Economics, and Business Studies. This reflects a growing fascination with understanding society, human behaviour, and the economy, essential in our rapidly changing world.
  • With a striking 16.7% increase in entries in 2023, Computing A-Levels are on a fast track, mirroring the escalating demand for tech skills in our digital era. This trend underscores the importance of technological literacy in modern careers.
  • There’s a noticeable decline in entries for languages like French, German, and Spanish. This might be attributed to the global dominance of English, but it also raises questions about the future of language skills in an increasingly interconnected world.
  • The return to pre-pandemic grading standards in 2023 saw a drop in top grades across subjects, potentially altering perceptions of difficulty. It’s important to benchmark against pre-pandemic grades to get a clear picture. Interestingly, subjects like Media Studies, Business Studies, and Sociology saw fewer top grades, though difficulty is subjective and varies with personal aptitudes.
  • heartening trend is the narrowing of the grade gap between male and female students, indicating a move towards greater academic equity.

Is Narrowing A Level Subjects Good?

How to Choose A Level - Subjects Narrowing Choices
How to Choose A Level Subjects – Narrowing Choices

Choosing subjects that will give you the opportunity to study on the course of your choice is logical. However, Education Policy Institute published a new study, which shows that narrowing your choices may impact your future career badly. A levels have 5 main categories of subjects and it is advised to choose subjects from as many as possible. EPI’s study found that after 2010, the proportion of students who choose subjects from 3 to 5 categories has halved. Students are less likely to take a mix of subjects. 

Why are Students Narrowing Their Choices?

There are several reasons for that. EPI states that governmental reforms and funding cuts are the biggest factors that contributed to students choosing less diverse A levels. In 2013, the UK’s government stated that AS levels no longer count towards a student’s final A level grades. That’s why many students don’t even take AS levels anymore. If you need a further read, read BBC’s take on this subject matter.

How Choosing Less Diverse A Level Subjects Effect Job Opportunities

EPI’s study shows that students who chose subjects from two or more categories, earn 3 to 4% more in their early careers. 

Not only does it narrows down your choice of jobs because of the requirements, but there are also studies that depict the importance of having diverse skillset. The more choices you have, the more comfortable you’ll be.

How NOT to Choose A Level Subjects?

There are many bad factors that may influence your choices badly.

Parents’ advice

Sometimes parents want their teenagers to pursue the career they are in or think that is the best fit for their child. However, if you like something else, try to not be pressured into going to the course you’ll dislike. Even if that career path looks promising, if you don’t enjoy what you are studying, it’s really hard to be good at it.

Limiting school courses

Some schools don’t have all the A level courses. If you have your mind put on the specific subjects and you are sure of it, consider changing schools or hiring a tutor. There are many options for tutoring. You can find top private tutors in your city. Or find an online tutor who studies at the university you want to get into and you not only get thorough knowledge, but also inside information about your dream university.

“It’s not a real subject”

Certain subjects are often perceived as more prestigious than others. For instance, if you’re interested in Art and Design, you might face criticism from those around you suggesting it’s not a ‘real’ subject. However, if choosing that subject aligns with your university admission goals, it’s a valid reason to pursue it.

On the other hand, selecting subjects merely because they seem like an ‘easy A’ might not be the best approach. The subjects in which you score highly matter. If you’re confident about scoring a B in Maths, that might carry more weight than scoring A’s in less challenging subjects. Here, read all about UCAS points. So, avoid picking subjects solely based on their perceived difficulty. Choose what best aligns with your academic and career goals.

You didn’t like the subject at school

Some teachers are great and can change your life for the better. However, some teachers make children dislike the subject they teach. So, if you don’t enjoy the subject, but can see that it’s really important for your course, find interesting online resources, videos, and books to try it out again. Just give it one more chance! You can also hire a tutor who can make you love the subject.

Today’s job market

Some careers are always in demand, but some jobs are temporarily on the high-demand and high-paid list. We advise you to not choose your course in the university by the possible pay in the future. Choose something you’ll love and enjoy. If you like the course you study, it’s more likely that you’ll be successful in it!

Sum Up

Remember, if you are stuck and can’t decide which subjects to choose, you can always find someone who’s one step ahead of you and ask for their advice. Go to Edumentors.co.uk and search for a tutor who has already completed their A-levels and is now studying in their dream university. They would definitely have some insights to share. You will find a lot of exceptionally talented students from Cambridge, Oxford, Warwick, etc.

Someone who has recently completed their GCSEs and A-levels and is now studying at the university will have more to share with you. They could help you ace your exams and increase your chances of getting into your dream university too. There’s no shame in having a tutor, some of the most successful students also have tutors. In fact, it might be because of their tutors that they are doing so well at school. Find someone you look up to and ask them to help you in any subject you need.


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