A Comprehensive Guide for Your A-Levels Journey

A man taking online A-Level courses in the UK

Advanced Levels (A-Levels) and Advanced Subsidiary Levels (AS Levels) are courses that students in Northern Ireland, Wales, and England take after GCSEs or IGCSE’s. They’re the most common qualifications for university admission.

With these two-year qualifications, students can either try a completely new subject like economics/drama/law or study an existing GCSE subject in more depth.

Here’s what to expect from A-Levels:

  • More independent study time because you wouldn’t have more than 3-5 subjects to study – unlike GCSE, where you have to study 6 or more. This translates to less time in the classroom.
  • Different expectations from you and differences in the way you’re taught.
  • Greater difficulty compared to GCSEs.

In this blog, our A-Level e-learning expert offers a comprehensive guide for your A-Levels journey!

Can you take an AS-Level?

Well, yes you can as most colleges and schools tend to offer AS-Levels and enter students for appropriate examinations.

When selecting your A-Levels –whether you want to go elsewhere or stay at your school to study them, check every option the institution offers.

Your AS-Levels do matter

Did you drop a subject? If yes, the AS-Level qualification for that subject still carries a lot of importance.

Whatever UCAS points this makes up still contribute to the total points you apply to university with. Currently, AS-Levels are equal to 40 percent of an A-Level.

Based on your AS-Level performance in these subjects, your teachers will also decide your predicted grades, which will greatly impact your university application.

A student takes online A-Level courses

Do AS count as A-Levels?

Under the new system in England, your AS marks can’t be banked towards your final A-Level grade – while you’ll take exams for all your subjects at the end of your AS year.

Remember one thing for the subjects you carry on with the following year: although they aren’t completely useless, these marks wouldn’t have a say in your final A-Level grades a year later – you’ll then re-sit different exams (which will count).

And for the subject you drop; these marks will play an important role in deciding your grade for your AS-Level qualification.

How to choose A-Levels if you have a degree or career in mind?

How to make life a lot easier when selecting A-Levels? Simple; have an area that you’re interested in entering into, or you already know about, for example, medicine or law – but you might still be confused whether you’re making the right decision or not.

If you know the degree you’ll be applying for after completing your A-Levels, try reverse engineering. This means look at potential universities you’ll be applying for and check their entry requirements for the degree subject you’ve chosen.

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Numerous universities will directly state what grades they need and which subjects also.

Here are some general subject requirements for a number of degrees below – however, we’ll still urge you to review the entry requirements for specific universities as they can vary substantially. You can either find them on UCAS or university websites:

  • Economics: Sometimes, you’ll need mathematics, but you might need economics A-Level itself (which is very rare).
  • Earth Sciences or Geology: Normally, you’ll need at least two from the sciences and mathematics.
  • English: You’ll usually need English – and probably literature too.
  • Management, Accounting, or Business: While there are no essential subjects, economics, business studies, and mathematics are useful. In many cases, top universities don’t recommend taking both economics and business at A-Level.
  • Medicine: Chemistry is usually essential, along with Biology, Physics, Mathematics A-Levels (often including another Language as well).
  • Law: Usually don’t have essential subjects, but often those that demonstrate an ability to write (a combination of arts and science).
  • Psychology, Sports, and Nursing: It often requires a science subject, but it may not matter.
  • Biology: Normally requires Biology and Chemistry A-Levels.

Engineering: You’ll probably need Mathematics A-Levels or equivalent, and often science subjects (like Physics).

A student takes distance learning A-Level courses

Consider this important A-Levels list

Do you know that there’s a list of core ‘preferred’ subjects that are perceived as high-quality A-Levels by some of the so-called top universities? Well, chances are, you probably don’t because it’s not always made clear to students. If you’re considering applying to Cambridge, Oxford, or one of the ‘Russell Group’ universities, try to choose your A-Levels from the following list:

  • Classical/Modern Languages
  • Mathematics or Further Mathematics
  • History
  • Geography
  • English Literature
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology

How to choose A-Levels if you DON’T have a degree or career in mind?

Don’t know what career path you might want to take in the future? No problem, that’s absolutely fine. In this case, try selecting subjects that you’re best at, or you enjoy most.

Your future plans shouldn’t have to be set in stone. However, having a vague idea of what you like can certainly help.

Yes, studying at GCSE can seem a little boring, but A-Level subjects can help you find more specifically what you’re excited about.

Example 1

While you may have enjoyed Mathematics and have excelled in it, some teachers may have put you off. Sometimes, gelling with certain teachers is difficult. But don’t worry, it’s quite common.

A man takes fast-track A-Level courses online

However, it’s advisable to think back to your initial interest in the subject and why you liked it so much. What if your A-Level Mathematics teachers spark that enthusiasm again? You’ll be able to give it another shot.

Here’s another problem: you might be very good at your GCSE subjects across the board, but nothing specifically stands out to you – or you love a lot of subjects and don’t want to get rid of some of them.

Sometimes, it’s possible to select subjects that cover an array of subjects, and that will open a lot of doors for you, demonstrating a range of skills.

For instance, you might choose to include an art-based option like English along with a STEM subject.

Example 2

Assume that the environment and nature fascinate you. However, the GCSE Geography syllabus doesn’t excite you, so you decide not to take it in your A-Levels.

Instead of abandoning it altogether, see what A-Level Geography actually includes. Go deeper; see the options you might be able to specialise in down the line.

Why not choose A-Levels?

Here are some of the most common wrong ways students use to choose A-Levels.

Not thinking about the future

While there’s no harm in thinking about yourself in the present moment, also consider where your overriding interests lie and what future you might take advantage of.

One way to narrow down your choices is to work backward from career paths you’re interested in. First, identify the types of job you’re interested in and review the entry requirements section for recommended subject choices.

A student takes online A-Level courses in the UK

Sticking to familiar options

GCSE level offers a range of subjects, but there’s a far greater choice in A-Levels, for example, Law, Politics, and Psychology. If these subjects intimidate you because they’re new, consider two things: Would you do well in them? And would they actually interest you? Chances are, they might open new doors for your future interests.

Copying friends

Choosing a specific subject because you know your best friend will be in the same class as you can be quite tempting, but that’s a mistake you should never make. Your A-Levels should focus on what you’re good at and should be of interest to you, not your friends.

Calm down; it’s normal to be confused about which A-Levels you should choose

Whether you haven’t got the slightest idea about what you want to do or have your career path all mapped out in front of you, hopefully, the points above will help you make the right decision about your A-Level subjects.

It doesn’t matter which situation you’re in, do as much research as you can. Most schools and colleges will either have this information on their website or provide a subject guide booklet.

If you haven’t decided which school or college you’re going to for A-Levels, this can also be an element in your decision as subject content and subjects can usually vary considerably between different A-Level providers.

A student takes online A-Level courses.

Go through every subject, and write down any subjects that you think you’d do well in from your existing skillset from GCSE. Since you never know what might interest you, try to keep your options open.

Can you change your A-Level subjects?

While you’re approaching your Year 12, you’ll be able to drop one of your A-Level subjects entirely.

If you reach Year 13 and realise you should’ve taken a subject you haven’t yet, you might be able to study it. However, this will be at your teacher’s discretion.

If you’ve just started with Year 12 and dislike a subject, get in touch with your teacher instantly. You’ll probably be able to swap that subject with a different one. Or you can look at studying Fast Track A Levels with a distance learning course provider such as Oxford Learning College so that you have that extra subject by the time you complete your other A Level examinations.

What can you do with A-Levels?

Your A-Level choices will affect where and what you study. It doesn’t matter what you choose to study at A-Level; many universities will try and accept you no matter what – if your grades are good enough. However, this isn’t the case for all universities.

Before offering you a place, some universities will want you to study certain A-Levels. Before making your final A-Level choices, read about the universities you might want to study at. For instance, if you’re interested in a science degree, a university will expect some kind of science A-Level amongst your grades.

What grades do you need to do A-Levels?

In most cases, schools will want you to have accomplished five GCSEs with a minimum grade of C/4 for each. Your school may also accept other vocational qualifications like BTECs. Reach out to your school and make sure you know exactly what grades you want.

What can you do after A-Levels?

Here are some ideas:

  • Dive straight into paid employment: You can apply for jobs that support or offer additional training, allowing you to progress further in the organisation.
  • Consider taking the higher or degree apprenticeship route: This is a great option if you want a degree but without paying any fees. This combines real work experience in a company with university study.
  • Keep your options open: How? With a Higher National Certificate, Higher National Diploma, or a foundation degree. These are shorter, just one or a couple of years in duration – and if you wish, they can be topped up to a full degree later.
  • Apply for university: See what A-Levels are mandatory for different degrees and search for a course to see the universities’ entry requirements. If you’re unsure what you want to study, see the full breadth of degree subject possibilities available online.

Enrol in Oxford Learning College’s fast-track A-Level courses online and work at your own pace

Are you looking to achieve your A-Levels? Oxford Learning College’s distance learning A-Level courses are a flexible alternative. Whether you’re re-sitting exams to gain admission into a university or are a first-time student, you’ll find our online A-Level courses ideally align with your needs.

Give us a call now for more information!