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Subject Choices in Sixth Form

For those of you who have just received your GCSE results, your mind will probably now be turning to the start of Term and the new academic year.

Most of you will have finalised your subject choices for the next two years, but some of you about to take A-Levels (as opposed to the IB or other qualifications), especially if you had any surprises in your GCSE results, will still be deciding which three, four, or in some cases, five subjects are right for you to pursue.

Everyone wants to enjoy Sixth Form, especially as it’s really the first opportunity you have had to focus more fully on the subjects you love. Perhaps you are even considering a subject that you may not have studied formally at GCSE, such as A-Level Economics, Law, or Psychology. These subjects can seem attractive, especially if you are considering pursuing a degree which encompasses one of those areas.

A number of you may have decided which degree course is right for you, and others may still be deciding between a few different options. It is important that you go on the websites of any universities you are considering to see if there are any compulsory subjects you need to take at A-Level to be eligible to apply for the degree. Every year, we see a few students who have their heart set on a degree path, but they didn’t realise that their first choice university required a subject, or in some cases, subjects, that they were not taking formally in school or college. This is always really disappointing for them, and they have to make a decision as to whether they will apply to different institutions, or take additional qualifications before they can apply to their dream university.

This is particularly important if you are choosing to apply for Oxbridge, or competitive degree courses such as Medicine or Law. It is also worth thinking about what preparation you might be able to do in Year 12 to ensure that you don’t have to rush your university application preparation next summer. For example, if you are thinking about applying to Oxbridge for a science based degree, and your school does not offer Further Maths, you might like to start working through additional Maths topics independently, to ensure that your application is as strong as possible. Similarly, for those students who are interested in, say, applying to Cambridge for Medicine but don’t have a modern language at GCSE/equivalent, this is something you might want to learn over the coming year.

If your degree course doesn’t have any compulsory subjects, you might like to pursue subjects based on enjoyment alone, but you might like to take into consideration some of the following points:

  • There is a fair overlap in terms of Mechanics style questions in A-Level Physics and A-Level Maths (Mechanics modules). If you can choose the modules you sit in Maths, you can opt for modules that give you some “overlap”.

  • Some universities like students to show that they perform well in both science and arts subjects. If you feel that this reflects your strengths, you might like to select your subjects to achieve a more even split.

  • If you are choosing a mathematical degree and you have the opportunity of taking Further Maths, we would strongly encourage you to pursue that.

You should take all of the subjects that are relevant to your degree unless you have an extremely compelling reason for not doing so. As an example, if you are considering applying for Classics, and your school offers both Latin and Ancient Greek at A-Level, you should take them both. If you don’t, the university in question may ask why, if you are passionate about your subject, you have not decided to prepare for it in the best way you can, given that the opportunity was presented to you.

You can always ask your school or college for advice regarding your preparation and what you can do to maximise your chances to perform well. If you are unsure, or have any questions, you are very welcome to get in touch with us for advice- we are always happy to talk to students!

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