Choosing A levels


Which A levels?

It’s that time of year when year 11 students have to decide which subjects to study at A level. For some this is an easier decision because they’ve got a specific career path in mind with specific requirements – for example, entry to medical school to study medicine needs A level chemistry. However, for many it’s a dilemma and at 121 Home Tutors we’ve come across many students (and parents) stressed out because they aren’t sure which A levels to choose and worrying about making the right/wrong choice and how it may affect their future – they may see this decision as definitively mapping out their future and I’ve spent many a tutorial listening to such dilemmas from students believing if they make the wrong choice now then their whole lives are affected. This is of course not true – but convincing the students can be trickier!

A good thing about being confronted with this decision now is it can help to focus students and, once choices have been made and conditional 6th form places offered, provide an incentive to study for GCSE grades. But, choices made now are not set in stone and there will likely be opportunity to change courses when GCSE results come out. Like with university admission, when A level results are out some students find they did better, or worse, than expected, others some simply change their mind and so go through a clearing system to find them a place on a suitable course. While 6th forms and colleges don’t have a clearing system per se, the point is there is flexibility.

AS, A2’s and A levels

First, for those not quite sure how it works; in year 12, most students study 4 subjects at AS level and then in year 13 drop one of the subjects and continue with the remaining 3 subjects at A2 level (an AS + an A2 in the same subject, together make an ‘A’ Level). This allows the students chance to ‘try out’ subjects at advanced level before committing to a full A level. While the majority of students do continue with their AS studies to A2 level, it is possible to select an entirely new set of AS level subjects in year 13 and of course, A levels aren’t the only options for post-16 education. Other options include the IB or vocational training, BTEC’s and apprenticeships.

Hints for choosing A levels

  • If you know you want to stay on at school, or if you are keen on a college, look what’s on offer.
  • If you have a particular career, degree or university in mind, look what specific A level subjects and grades they ask for; check out university websites and/or ask careers advisors. Some universities place a lesser value on some subjects – General Studies is often discounted and for some courses the so-called ‘soft’ A levels have a lesser value.
  • If you are unsure what you want to do – again don’t panic/stress over it. Consider which subjects you enjoy studying and which ones you get the best grades. If you enjoy a subject you are more likely to get better grades as you will be more motivated to do the work. Ultimately the higher the grades you can get the better, regardless of what you decide to do later on!

And finally,

To year 11 students [and their parents],

GCSE’s, A levels, degrees etc – they’re all stepping stones and our best advice is to do your best and aim to achieve your potential. Try not to stress too much about making the ‘right’ decision now as there is always opportunity for review.

If you’d like to discuss AS, A2, A level choices, or need help getting the best GCSE grades then please get in touch with us at 121 Home Tutors. Call us on 01625 531 360 or email