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How to Choose Your A-Levels

Updated on October 31, 2016
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Year Nine is the first year at school where teachers and parents seem to start taking you seriously. In Year Eleven, A-Levels are given a far more serious tone as they'll affect your academic future a lot more than your GCSEs will (although teachers won't usually admit it). Here's some key Dos and Don'ts to help you along when choosing your A-Levels.

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Subjects Offered

After years of studying compulsory English, Maths and P.E., you're finally allowed to drop them. That was one of the more exciting things about A-Levels for me (I HATED P.E. with a passion.) Here are some of the possible choices you'll get to carry on at A-Level. Your school/college may or may not offer them, it depends.

A Language (French, Spanish or German, usually)
Art and Design
Chemistry
Physics
Biology
Music
Drama
Media Studies
Psychology
History
Geography
English Language
English Literature
Mathematics (and further branches of Mathematics such as Statistics)

If you're already thinking about university, that'll play a major role in your choices.

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What Do You Need?

If you have an idea of what you'd like to study at university, it's a good idea to check what A-Levels they require. Do you want a degree in Mathematics? Choose Maths and Statistics. Are you interested in a degree in English Language and Linguistics? Choose English Literature and English Language. If you have no idea what you want to do in the future, don't worry - you don't have to already know what you want to do to make a good choice when it comes to A-Levels.

Play to your strengths

What do you usually grade highly in at school? Taking subjects you're good at will make life a little easier for you. At the same time, avoid subjects you're not good at, unless you really enjoy them or it's essential for the job you want in the future. There's no shame in dropping history or art if you always did badly in them.

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Don't copy your friends

It might sound really obvious, but I chose music because all of my friends did. It's the only "E" GCSE I got. I still don't know why I did it - I couldn't even play any instruments. Luckily, by my A-Levels, I'd learned my lesson.

For example, if you really want to choose Media Studies but none of your friends are, try not to let it bother you. You'll be annoyed with yourself in the future if you avoided a subject you were interested in for your friends. You'll most likely be going your seperate ways after your A-Levels anyway. Now is a good a time as ever to take care of number one.

An 'E' at AS Level is still worth 20 points
An 'E' at AS Level is still worth 20 points | Source

Four A-Levels or Three?

Some schools will give you the option of choosing three A-Levels or four. If you choose four, you can drop one in your second year if you wish, therefore keeping the first year's grades as an AS Level. If you choose three, though, you'll have an emptier timetable, and more time to study the three subjects.

Some people who took four were glad to drop one because it was unexpectedly difficult. My advice would be to take four subjects, and drop your least favourite or most difficult at the end of the first year. This way, you'll have an AS Level in the dropped subject, and you can continue with the three others.

This also helps when applying for university. An AS Level is still worth some of the UCAS points you'll need to secure a place.

Which A-Level sounds the most interesting to you?

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Think about the practical knowledge you'll recieve

Aside from being useful academically, think about what you'll learn and take with you at the end of your A-Levels. I chose History, not because I wanted to study History at university, but because I was genuinely interested in the program the course offered. Subjects like Psychology, Maths and a language such as German or Spanish are incredibly interesting and practical to 'real life' - and this is the last time in your life you'll get some formal study on the subject for free.

My A-Levels were English Language (because I wanted to study Linguistics at university), History (which was really interesting and fun for me) and Psychology (which was fascinating and I'm so glad I took it). Keep in mind what interests you as well as what you need for uni - one or two subjects in your future field should be enough, so use the last option or two to just explore what you're interested in.

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