GCSE results are out this week and for many students their GCSE grades determine, or help them decide, which A levels to take and what subjects to take at AS.
Which A levels?
Most students take 4 subjects at AS level in year 12 and then continue with 3 of the subjects at A2 level in year 13. But which A levels to choose (you may also find this post useful)?
Some students will be lucky enough to know what they want to do in life - eg become a lawyer, doctor, dentist - and so will more likely know the subjects needed to fulfil their goal but others may still be unsure. The choice of subjects for AS levels and subsequently A2, that together make a full A level, is an important choice. Most students take A levels with a view to going to university. Competition for University places has reached an all time high and there are lots of students scrambling for fewer and fewer places offered each year. This year many students, even those with top grades, have missed out on a place and some, unfortunately, because they chose the wrong A levels.
In choosing your AS level subjects have a think about where you might like to head, career wise. Consider if you want to go to university - even better if you have an idea of what type of course and university. For example if you want to aim for Oxbridge or a top UK university then you are likely to need to have chosen A level subjects wisely - so called 'soft' A levels may not actually count! If you want to study medicine, for example, then Chemistry is essential - check out the websites of some medical schools to check exactly what they need.
Hard vs soft A levels
'Soft' A levels include subjects such as law, art and design, theatre and film studies, media and business studies. For students wanting to try for entry onto more traditional academic courses at the top universities, these subjects may not be ideal and often do not 'count' - see this article in the Guardian. However, for students that want a more practical/vocational career then these 'soft' subjects may be a useful taster and possibly necessary for entry onto a more vocational course. This may also seem odd but taking law, for example, at A level is not a good idea for those looking to do a law degree!
'Hard' A levels are the more traditional subjects such as Maths, Science, Languages. At this stage of choosing AS levels, not all students have given proper thought to their career but it is worth at least thinking about it - a few hours researching online can be very fruitful and maybe a visit to a career's advisor just to make sure you are not making any bad decisions
Many state schools and FE colleges ask for at least a C grade at GCSE in a particular subject before acceptance on to the A Level course (often higher for more traditional A Levels such as Maths and English). Grammar and independent schools will often require at least an A grade at GCSE before acceptance on to courses. However, it varies dramatically by school and by year.
GCSE to A level
There is a huge difference between GCSE and AS level - AS levels are, of course, more intellectually demanding but students often find the expectations and large volumes of AS level difficult to adapt to - it is worth perhaps reading this article about the jump between GCSE and A level before starting the course, rather than after the 1st set of AS module results to maybe avoid some common mistakes.
Because A levels are more demanding than GCSE when choosing your AS subjects, consider the subjects you enjoyed the most at GCSE and the subjects you got the best grades in - it is extra hard to study a subject that isn't interesting or at least partly enjoyable.
If you didn't get the GCSE grades you'd hoped then this article provides some tips.
What if you don't like the subject...
It doesn't always follow that because you enjoyed a subject at GCSE you'll enjoy it at AS, or you could choose a non-GCSE subject that sounds interested and enjoyable but then find it doesn't live up to your expectations. Many students find they don't particularly enjoy one of their subjects at AS and so find it's an easy decision which subjects to take to A2.
If quite soon into the AS course you have serious doubts about all your choices of AS subjects take action asap. Have a chat with your tutors, teachers and careers advisors - it is not unusual for students to change subjects within the first few weeks but leaving it much longer is not advisable.
And if you need extra help...
If you are based in or around Manchester, Stockport, Macclesfield, Wilmslow, Cheshire areas we at 1-2-1 Home Tutors have tutors experienced at helping students through their AS and A level courses. Our tutors can offer tuition and tutoring help in most of the traditional subjects such as Maths and Sciences, English and Languages. Drop us a line on 01625 531 360 or fill out our find a tutor form
Available for a short time after exam results:
the Exam Results Helpline - 0808 100 8000