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Choosing the right A-level subjects can feel really tough, but if you are methodical, take your time, and ask lots of questions you will find the combination which is right for you. There are over 40 subjects examined at A-level, and even though it’s unlikely that your sixth form offers that many, you should still have a lot of choice. However, the decisions you make now will set you on a course that can be difficult to change, so it’s important to make the right subject choices at this early stage.
A-level subjects range from ones you’ve probably already met at GCSE to ones which sound interesting but which you may not know much about.
It’s important to choose subjects you enjoy doing. Even if you are good at a certain subject, you might not actually enjoy it all that much. There’s no point going through college and never looking forward to lessons because you don’t like them. This in turn may make you feel you can’t cope with the work and make you feel stressed in the long-term. If you look forward to lessons, chances are you will approach them confidently and do well in them.
In thinking about whether you will enjoy a subject you should consider two things about it: the content of the subject and the skills it requires. You should have a real interest in the content – the things that you learn about – but you should also be confident that you have or can develop the skills that the subject requires. Each subject involves a different mixture of activities. One subject might require a lot of learning detail, another might require a lot of independent reading, some subjects involve a lot of essay writing, others a lot of creativity. Each of these activities requires skills you may or may not enjoy. The way a subject is assessed might also be important to you, particularly if assessment involves a lot of project work.
If you have clear ideas about what you want to study at university, you should check whether your plans require specific subjects. Your school should be able to provide careers advice and testing if you need to clarify your long-term plans before choosing A-level subjects, but don’t feel you have to nail down your future plans before choosing A levels. Keeping options open is a good idea but check that your A-level choices don’t rule out degrees you’re interested in.
Breadth of subjects is valued by universities, so subjects with significantly overlapping curriculums should be avoided where possible e.g. Economics and Business Studies.
Subjects such as Communications and Culture offer a broad range of skills that compliment a number of other A Levels and will provide you with a good foundation for your future plans.
It’s worth considering a language A Level even if you don’t intend to study it at university as there’s a broad recognition that any language at A Level requires commitment and discipline.
Talk to sixth-formers who are currently studying the subjects you are considering. Ask them what they like best about their subjects (and what they don’t like).
Skimming through a book on the subject can give a good idea of the type of work you would be doing. This is particularly useful when you are contemplating an A-level subject you have not studied before.
Choosing your A Levels needs careful research to think through your possibilities. Take advice from family, friends and teachers so you can make an informed decision, based on accurate up-to-date information – but remember, the final choice is yours as you are the one that will have to put the hard work in!