The subjects you take at A-level can have a major impact on your future direction so before embarking on two years’ hard work it’s well worth doing your research. Here’s our five-point guide to making your choices.
1. Ability and enjoyment
Thinking about the subjects you are good at, like and enjoy is a useful starting point.If you enjoy your studies, you are likely to be more motivated. Similarly, having a natural ability in your chosen subjects can increase your chances of success. For this reason you often need a certain grade at GCSE to study a subject at A-level, so you’ll need to check what subjects are open to you.But beware, there can be significant differences from studying subjects at GCSE to A-level, so it doesn’t always follow that choosing a subject you enjoyed before will be a safe bet. It still pays to do your research, even if you feel you’re on familiar ground.
2. New subjects
Streetly Academy and other educational establishments offer A-levels in subjects that you’ve not studied before.If any new subjects appeal to you, it’s worth taking some time to find out what’s involved to avoid disappointment later.Keep a balance in mind. Choosing a couple of familiar subjects alongside one new one for example, can help leave your options open.If you want to study certain subjects at university, it is not always necessary – or indeed helpful – to have studied them at A-level. This generally applies to new subjects at A-level, such as law or business studies (whereas for more traditional subjects an A-level in that subject is usually essential for university study).
3. Subject combinations
Some universities discourage students from taking certain combinations of A-level subjects, especially where there may be an overlap in content, such as with business studies and economics.The issue of subject combinations can be particularly important if you’re studying science subjects.
4. Course content, assessment and workload
You may find it helpful to look at your course syllabus, sometimes called the specifications, which sets out course content and requirements.Find out which exam board your school or college uses for your chosen subject, as both the content of the course (modules or topics) and the way it is marked (ratio of coursework to exams, amount of exams) can vary. Check with teachers about this. You may also want to think about the likely workload of your choices. Find out what’s required in terms of essay writing, independent reading or extended projects and consider what this may mean in terms of your chosen subjects.
5. Future plans
If you have a particular career in mind, you may need to choose certain A-levels in order to meet entry requirements for degree courses or further study.If you don’t yet have any career ideas, then keeping your options open can be just as important. Top universities usually require three academic A-levels, not including general studies or critical thinking. The Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, has produced a guide which sets out how the subjects you study at A-level can determine which degree courses will be open to you in future. You can also check entry requirements for university courses on UCAS.
Changing your mind
Making decision about the unknown is difficult. Whilst things often don’t turn out how you expect, it’s worth noting you can be surprised in a positive way – modules with the least appeal at the outset can end up being the most enjoyable.
There’s no failsafe solution here but if you do feel you’ve made the wrong decision after starting your course, speak to your tutor as it’s often possible to change subjects.
Speak to your current school teachers, A-level subject teachers, and current course students to get an idea of what the course involves and what’s likely to suit you.
Your parents, family and friends can help shape your views but remember you are the one who will be doing the work, and it’s your future that will be affected, so it’s important to be happy with the choices you make.
You can also speak to a careers advisor for help – visit the National Careers Service for contact information or see Mrs O'Connor
Information about The Streetly Academy sixth form courses are available on the sixth form website
Q: Will my GCSE grades affect the courses I can apply for?
Enrolment upon courses is conditional on meeting both the Minimum Entry Criteria and Individual Subject Criteria. Each centre would have its own individual entry criteria. For entry to the Streetly Academy Sixth Form, criteria for individual subjects are outlined on pages 3-4 of the Sixth Form Curriculum 2018-20 document.
|Total point score 37 or higher from best 7 GCSEs including English Language and Mathematics graded 5 or higher
||1. A levels
|Total point score of 31 or higher from best 7 GCSEs including English Language and Mathematics graded 4 or higher
2. Mixed programme: vocational and A Levels
(A resit is required in either English Language and/or Mathematics where a grade 4 is achieved)
Q: I want to study A Levels, which ones should I take?
A. Reasons for choosing A levels include being good at a subject, enjoying a subject and needing it for a future option/career.
To make an informed choice you need to do your research. Check what you will be studying (especially important if it’s a subject you have not studied before) and make sure your A level subjects keep open any career ideas you have.
Advice about choosing A levels from the Russell Group Universities (they represent 24 UK universities) is that some university courses may require you to have studied a specific subject or subjects prior to entry, others may not. However, there are some subjects that are required more often than others. These subjects are known as “facilitating subjects”. These include maths (and further maths), English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and languages (classical/modern). You don’t necessarily need to have studied 3 facilitating subjects; some courses may require 1 or 2, whilst for other courses there are no specific subject requirements. If you don’t know what you want to study at university then it’s a really good rule of thumb that taking 2 facilitating subjects will keep open a wide range of degree courses. Other subjects that provide suitable preparation for university include economics and religious studies.
You can also see Mrs Phillips in the sixth form study room.
Q: Can you tell me more about BTEC courses?
A. BTECs are general work-related qualifications which can lead to further study at college or university, apprenticeships or employment.
They do not train you for a specific job, but they focus you on a particular vocational area, so you need to have decided on the general area of work you would like to do.
A wide range of subjects are available, such as art and design, engineering, business studies, travel & tourism, public services and health & social care.
BTECs can be taken on their own or with GCSEs and A Levels.
Level 3 BTECs are equivalent to A levels and can lead to university. You will need 4/5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above to do a level 3 BTEC.
Q: What BTEC levels are available?
. There are 3 levels:
|BTEC Level 3
|BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma
||3 A levels
|BTEC Level 3 National Diploma
||2 A levels
|BTEC Level 3 National Extended Certificate
||1 A level
|BTEC Level 2
|BTEC Level 2 Diploma
||4 GCSEs A* to C (9-4)
|BTEC Level 2 Extended Certificate
||2 GCSEs A* to C (9-4)
|BTEC Level 2 Certificate
||1 GCSE A* to C (9-4)
|BTEC Level 1
BTEC Level 1 Certificates, Awards and Diplomas
|GCSE D to G (3-1)
|Entry level BTEC Certificates, Awards and Diplomas are also available
Q: I'm not sure what course to take or where to do it, is any advice availble?
A. If you need 1:1 careers advice, see Mrs O'Connor, the school’s careers adviser. She can help you decide what to study and where.
If you are thinking of joining the Streetly Academy sixth form please speak to Mrs Phillips in the study centre.