What A-levels do you really need? – OurWarwick

What A-levels do you really need?

Russian Federation (the)United States of America (the)
Maya Surprenant | Biomedical Science with Industrial Placement Contact Maya

Teachers in school will say a lot of different things about what A-levels you should take in school. If you want to study science, you need the sciences, and while that is logical, each STEM degree has very different requirements for what you actually need. Whether you’re gearing up for a degree in Biological Sciences, or you still have not a clue what degree you want to do, here are a few tips to help you decide which A levels are the right ones for you to take.

All degrees, regardless of the direction you take have one base in common – they usually require at least one A-level in a specific subject that is related to the main subject of the degree. For example, if you want to study History, then you will most likely need to take A-level History, and two other subjects. Similarly, if you want to study Biomedical Sciences, you most certainly need Biology A-level, but that’s it! This rule applies for degrees that involve combinations of degree streams as well. For example, to study Biochemistry, you will definitely need Biology, but you also need Chemistry A-level.

As degrees get more complicated, so do the requirements, but I’m not going to bore you all with a list of the degrees and their requirements. (Uni websites are made for that after all 😂) What I will do is share my biggest advice for choosing your A-levels. A-levels come in an interesting way, whether you do international ones or not, you still get to start with a choice of 4 subjects. Now, depending on whether you know your degree stream of choice or not, you might have an idea of what subjects to choose.

For example, I knew I wanted to study science. Particularly something related to medicine. I had no idea what degree I wanted to study in university though, just the general area. Before even starting my search for universities and degrees, I chose a safe 4 a-levels, Biology, Chemistry, Maths and Physics. My reasons for choosing those were the following:

  1. I like science. Plain and simple, I just generally like all areas of science and I knew that even if I didn’t end up needing one of the A-levels I could do it well because I enjoy it.
  2. Regardless of which STEM degree I chose to study, those A-levels would be enough, so I knew I was safe.
  3. Maths was probably the A-level I needed least for the area of study I wanted to go into, but I was that kid who just likes maths. (more on that a bit later)
  4. My chemistry teacher refused to let me take anything else 😂

If you know that you are a humanities person, you probably won’t even consider taking those A-levels, and honestly, that is wise, because spending time and putting effort into something that you don’t enjoy or that won’t give you anything is just pointless. It’s better to put your effort into an A-level that you can do well in and that can help you do your degree of choice, than taking one just to take it.

That being said, particularly focussing on STEM students, you don’t have to do what I did and take all STEM A-levels. Unless you are studying a degree like MORSE, that requires a stricter set of A-levels due to the wide range of coverage of the degree, after hitting that main A-level, as I mentioned before your options are pretty open. If you want to study something like biomedicine, to biology, you can choose something like psychology to accompany Biology, and on top of that you can do Economics A-level if you feel like expanding your options.

The A-levels you need depend on these key things:

  1. Your interests and abilities
  2. The degree area you want to study
  3. The universities you want to look at

One final piece of advice I would give is don’t overload yourself. While it is common and usually expected that you drop your fourth A-level when entering year 13, some people may find it tempting to try and keep all four (some people is me.. I did that). I found physics so interesting that I couldn’t drop it, so even though I didn’t need it for my degree, I kept at it. In addition, my silly Math loving self thought it would be even more fun to take on Further Maths on top of my already overloading 4 levels. Ultimately, for me, it wasn’t worth it. I didn’t need the extra load, and it ultimately caused me to do worse overall. That’s not to say it’s impossible, there are people who can take on 5 hard A-levels and get all A*s in them, and to those people, I applaud you and hope you keep doing well!

But to everyone, regardless of your ambitions, I ask you to first think. Do you really need the extra work? Is it going to give you an advantage, or is it going to set you back? Will you be able to manage it?

Asking yourself the right questions before choosing your A-levels will help you make the right decision. So, to finish this post off, I’ve put together a good list of self-ask questions in the form of a flow chart that hopefully helps you make the right choice!

Also, always please reach out to me or other students to ask us about our experiences and what we suggest for your area of interest!

Questions to ask yourself before A-level choices:

Russian Federation (the)United States of America (the)
Maya Surprenant | Biomedical Science with Industrial Placement Contact Maya

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