Skip to main content

Considering what A Levels to take when you are just 15 years old can be hard, very hard. These choices can be made harder as it is important to make sure that your choices ensure your future options remain as flexible as possible. 

Schools will expect students to consider their A level choices before they have sat their GCSEs. For a student, this can feel pressurised but the school need to have plenty of time to ensure they have the appropriate staff and timetabling in place to be able to support everyone. There is a broad range of subjects for students to choose their A level course from but not every school will offer all options. Generally, students will sit 3 or 4 A levels. Schools choose the A level subjects that they will teach and that they feel are most appropriate for their students based on historical data such as popularity in the past, student aptitude, timetabling and most importantly the availability of teaching staff. If a school does not offer certain subjects it is always worth discussing your choice with them or looking at other institutions who may provide different courses and options.

Most A levels are purely based on academic capabilities and examinations. There are exceptions such as Design & Technology, Music and Art where you will be required to prove your practical skills alongside academic theory. Languages also will require a high level of both oral and written aptitude in the chosen language. 

There are seven exam boards (awarding boards is another name for them) within the UK, all are regulated by Ofqual a government body.

You can find extensive information about each board and their A level subjects on their websites. Much of the information is relevant to teachers, not parents and students but there are always times when it maybe helpful to see the content and type of examination that each A level will comprise.  Schools chose the board that suits their teaching and curriculum preferences, therefore, students may find they are adjudicated by more than one board.

 

Although it may feel a long way away,  if university and a degree could feature in your future, we strongly advise researching what A levels different degree courses require. 

Science, medicine, music and art are obvious examples of degrees that have pre-requisite A levels. Another example that is slightly less obvious is that in order to read Economics or Architecture at university A level maths is necessary. 

Consider, also, the combination of A levels. Some universities will discount certain A levels, therefore, please do not choose three only to find out half-way through the course that the university of choice will only count one or two of them.  

The Russell group of universities have their own list of essential or ‘facilitating’ A levels which are compulsory for entry. These A levels are mathematics, further mathematics, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and classical or a modern language.

Whilst reading university websites you may see that some universities allocate their places via a points system. Each A level grade, A* – E, is assigned a number of points and entry will be dependent on the total sum, know as tariff points, of a student's achieved grades.

Individual university websites and prospectuses clearly outline what A levels or equivalent qualifications are required or accepted for each degree course along with the grade offers that have been set for the following year's entry.

UCAS www.ucas.co.uk and What Uni https://www.whatuni.com  are useful and reliable sources of information.

This sort of advice is exactly what our team of qualified consultants excel at. 

At the time of writing A level assessment and their courses are changing. The first component of the A-level program, A1s, in many subjects are being removed and from 2017 onwards students will sit just one set of final exams at the end of the two-year period. There is also talk about an introduction of T levels, T standing for Training. These A levels will be vocational.

 

 

The International Baccalaureate is an alternative to A levels provided by some schools. 

The IB aims to change the world through education.  Now in its 49th year, it is a well-established and highly respected, global qualification. Schools that provide the IB have to be authorised and are constantly assessed to ensure standards are maintained. It is a lengthy process, as well as an expensive one, so any school that does provide the IB will be fully committed to the program. Internationally there are 4,655 schools offering the IB with 126 based in the UK, the majority of these schools provide the Diploma Program for 16-19-year- olds. The IB aims to foster a love of learning, independent thinking and balanced students, whilst encouraging good soft skills and a broad philosophical outlook.

The DP program has two levels, Higher or Standard.  Both require students to take 6 subjects. To receive the Higher DP students must also complete 3 other modules.

Four subjects are chosen from four over- arching themes.

Individual Societies         Business, Economics, Geography, History and Information Technology

Exploratory Science        Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Design Technology, Maths, Computer Science, Environmental Science

Arts and Elective             It is possible to swap one of these modules for a second from the choice above.

Two languages                One will be the student's native tongue, the other a modern language.  

 

DP extra modules

i) Extended essay - a 4,000-word essay written on a subject related to course work.

ii) The Theory of Knowledge which comprises of Ways of knowing, Routes of knowing, Value judgement.

iii) Creative, Active, Service.

 

Assesment 

Assessment is based on how the student presents, analyses and constructs their argument in an essay

Problem-solving questions that require either text or data answers.

Questions requiring short answers.

Case study analysis

Course- work

Each category is awarded between 1- 7 points, with 7 being excellent.

3 extra points are awarded for each of the extra modules.

A DP is awarded to those who gain over 24 points.

 

There is also, a new qualification the IBCP, the International Baccalaureate Career Program. Similar to a BTEC, it is a more vocational, skilled, qualification. Students who take this often go onto to apprenticeships or further vocational studies. Students complete 2, or more of the DP courses alongside a core curriculum which focuses on communications skills, service, training and a reflective essay.

NB. the IB is not to be confused with the EBacc

 

 

by

Related articles


  • The Good Careers Guide

    For nearly 30 years the Good Schools Guide has provided trusted help and advice to parents, helping them with one of the most important questions they face - choosing the right school for their child. The Good Schools Guide: Careers (GSGC) is a natural development of that help, aimed particularly at young people making decisions about their futures.

  • What is Further Education (FE)?

    Further Education refers to educational choices made after reaching your 16th birthday. FE covers all qualifications lower than a degree.

  • Celebrate apprenticeships

    Welcome to this trial campaign which is run by the Good Careers Guide and supported by the National Apprenticeship Service. We think that by saying thank you to schools, teachers or advisers who have helped you into an apprenticeship and an interesting career we will encourage them to put more students forward.

  • Good Careers Guide Aviator

    GCG Aviator is an experimental platform that we are using to explore how careers information may be viewed as a network rather than a set of hierarchies.

  • Careers Interventions

    What can a school, college or university do to help you on your way to a great career? Apart from having excellent career staff - essential guides to an unknown land - they should offer lots of Careers Interventions: opportunities for you to learn about careers, or experience something of them, involving real employers or other outside experts.


Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews, data and catchment:

Comprehensive catchment maps for English state schools inc. year of entry.
 School exam results by subject and performance GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 Which schools pupils come from and go onto.
 Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of more than 1,100+ schools.
 Overall school performance by GCSE, Alevel or equivalent.
 School data comparison by A/B weighted, relative success and popularity.
 Compare schools by qualities and results.
 Independent tutor company reviews.

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark
 

The Good Schools Guide subscription

 GSG Blog >    In the news >

Newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.

An Education Manifesto from The Good Schools Guide


Just published - The Good Schools Guide 21st edition - 1200 schools fully reviewed and updated. Buy now