This post has been on my list of blog posts to write for so long, but it actually seems to have a lot more relevance right now. College and Sixth form open days will be cancelled, GCSE grades are all over the place this year due to exam cancellations, and I think that will add lots of uncertainty over which A levels to pick with less support than usual. So, I thought to write a whole post about how to choose your A levels, and some things to consider and some questions to ask before you make your decision.
A levels are such an important part of your academic life, as its the first time you can narrow your focus, cut out unwanted subjects and really begin to specialise in what you enjoy, or want to study at university. For some background information, I studied my A levels between 2016-18, and I studied Geography, Economics, Business and Sociology.
What were your best subjects at GCSE?
I think that this is quite an obvious point for how to choose your A levels, but obviously this year it will be a little bit different due to no exams. I think you will know either from the grades you were given or just your general class performance what subjects that you perform better in. A levels are difficult enough, and although performing well isn’t everything that should make you pick a subject, it is definitely something you should consider. Picking something you are naturally better at will definitely help you.
What do you enjoy the most at GCSE? Is there something that you would like to study further?
I am now going to completely contradict my last piece of advice on how to choose your A levels! When I got my GCSE results most people were trying to push me into the maths and science route, because I got high marks and that is what I ‘should’ do. However, I didn’t take that route and instead took the path that I enjoyed more and was my gut instinct, and I came out with A level grades that I was super proud of and a place at university.
As much as being good at the subject does help you, you won’t be motivated to do any work if you hate the subject. And the key to success with A levels is without a doubt putting in the work. Every single A level is difficult in its own way- don’t do things you don’t enjoy or you will end up despising your A levels and hating college. Try and strike a balance between them both!
Do your subjects link?
This is something I did naturally when picking my A level subjects and I never consciously thought to pick linking subjects, but actually I would recommend it. You don’t have to do this at all, but looking back I think this is one of the things that really helped me get the grades I did. My subjects were all social sciences, and in one way or another they all overlapped. A lot of what I did in human geography could be applied to the external influences section of business, and a lot of business content can be applied to understanding microeconomics. If they all link together you feel like you have an advantage as you can draw on knowledge in other subjects to deepen your understanding more.
Have you researched the topics? Contacted some teachers?
There is so much A level content online that you could have a look into before you begin to pick your choices. You certainly won’t understand everything (and don’t try to learn it) but take a look at the topics and see if you would enjoy studying that, or any topics that really stand out to you. I can remember being unsure as to whether to take sociology as I didn’t know anything about the subject. However, I read through the topic list online before I made the choice and I was so excited to study everything on that list, and thats when I knew it was a subject I wanted to take.
I am also certain that the teachers will want to help you, even before you start. If you have any specific questions about a course then email your chosen college or sixth form, and I’m sure that they will get back to you with some more information or advice. If you don’t ask you don’t get!
Have you looked at your future choices?
I hate this tip because if you are reading this you are probably only 15/16, but it is very important to consider your future choices when thinking about how to choose your A levels. Working backwards can help you make the best decision, even though I don’t expect you to know what to do at 15! Certain university courses look for certain things, and I would hate for you to not be able to get a university place because you didn’t look in advance.
However, I think even if your subject doesn’t require specific subjects to apply to the course, it is useful to still think about linking your subjects to your university course. For example, for my course you didn’t need economics A level, but there is clearly a difference in ability between the people who have taken economics A level and those who didn’t in the economics modules. Its always worth looking and trying to link them to your degree if you can!
Do you know what a facilitating subject is?
This is definitely worth looking into if you are unsure of what your job or future will hold. The facilitating subjects are a list of 8 A levels that are deemed ‘preferred’ by the universities and will make your application look good. This would be useful for if you don’t know what degree you want to take at all, because they are broad subjects and valued highly by the universities. However, this comes last on the list as I think the other tips in this blog post have to take priority. This is just a tip for if you genuinely have no idea how to choose your A levels, as you can’t go wrong with the facilitating subjects. That being said, I only had 1 facilitating subject and still got into a good university so certainly take this with a pinch of salt, as its not everything.
I really hope that this has helped you think about how to choose your A level subjects if you are at the age where you are looking into them, and despite not having an open day or introduction days, it might help you come to a clearer conclusion. Although please don’t get worked up about it, as even if the worst case scenario happens and you choose the ‘wrong’ options, you have up to 2 weeks in most instances to change them and move to something else. So please don’t stress! I hope that this post was helpful, and if you have anymore requests for future blog posts that might be helpful please let me know!
Ps: These photos were taken by the lovely Natasha.