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Article: AS Level and A Level Decisions


This article looks at a range of courses that are available at AS and A level. It covers the things that you need to think about when making your choices.


When choosing courses, you need to consider a number of things, including:

  • the types of courses and subjects that are available
  • where you can study
  • your interests and abilities
  • your career and higher education ideas

A and AS levels

A levels and AS levels are courses that require the study of single subjects in depth. Sometimes you are assessed by examination only, while others contain coursework assessment as well. You will be graded A*- E at the end of the course.

Choosing courses

You will need to find out all you can about the options available and think about each one in terms of what is most suitable for you.

If you have some career or higher education course ideas, find out which types of qualification are acceptable. For example:

  • is one type of qualification preferable to another?
  • would a mixture of qualifications be acceptable?

You also need to think about whether you are likely to get the qualifications you need for those careers or courses.

Make sure that you take enough subjects for your future career or course ideas, but not so many that your grades might suffer. It might help to discuss this with your teachers.

Entry requirements

Find out the entry requirements for the courses that you are thinking of applying for. For most advanced level courses, you are likely to need at least four GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, or equivalent. However, some schools and colleges ask for more.

Are you likely to meet the entry requirements, or do you need to apply for similar courses with lower entry requirements? It is easier to apply for more courses now and turn them down later, than to make applications when you get your year 11 results.

Choosing subjects

Think about subjects that you enjoy studying, subjects in which you do well at the moment, and interests related to new subjects that were not available to you at GCSE level.

Find out as much as you can about each particular subject that you are considering by looking at school and college prospectuses, and by attending school or college open days. Think about what each subject is like to study.

Consider the assessment methods for each subject. For example, some subjects are based mainly on essay style exams; others also have multiple choice exams and/or practical assessments.

Also think about the assessment methods of the combination of subjects you are considering. For example, could you cope with three mainly essay subjects or three mainly practical subjects?

Don't let your individual grades be the most important factor when making your final choice about which subjects to take. Think more about which subject you would prefer to study and also your performance during the year, not simply the final result.


Arts, social sciences and humanities subjects can lead to a wide range of careers including administration, business and creative careers.


If you are thinking of continuing with languages in higher education, it may be useful to take two languages at A level. However, this is not essential. Some languages may be taken from scratch at higher education level if you have at least one modern language at A level.

In addition, a second language at GCSE or AS level should widen your opportunities when it comes to making choices about higher education.

Languages can be useful for a wide range of careers including legal, scientific and business-related careers. They also complement other subjects such as English literature or history.

Subjects you know

The advantage of choosing a subject that you already study is that you know how good you are at that subject, and how much you like it. But be careful, some courses may be different from those you have studied so far. Maths at A level is very different from the GCSE course you'll have done. Check this out with your individual Teachers.

New subjects

You can start some subjects from scratch either because they were not available or because you chose not to take them at GCSE level. If you are thinking of taking a new subject, you will need to spend some time finding out about the subject and what the course is like.

Be careful about taking only new, non-traditional subjects as this may limit the range of careers or courses open to you in the future.

Relating subjects to careers

Think about which subjects are necessary for particular careers or courses.

If you know which career you want to enter, find out which subjects you will need. If a range of careers interests you, write down which subjects you will need for each career. Then, make a list of those you would need in order to keep either the majority or the most important of those career ideas open to you.

If you do not like the subjects in your list, think carefully about whether you would like a career related to those subjects. You also need to think about whether you are likely to achieve the qualifications you require for those careers.

Be careful of narrowing down your choices to fit one particular career, as it could cause problems if you change your mind later.

If you have no fixed career or course ideas, try to choose subjects that complement each other and which will keep your options open in the future (but only if those subjects interest you!).


If you want to keep open the option of a scientific career you will need to bear in mind that most science-based degrees, and consequently careers, demand two or more science A levels. You will also need to make sure that the science subjects you choose are acceptable for the particular courses or careers that you are considering.

To broaden your education, you could consider contrasting the science subjects with, for example, arts or humanities subjects, or a language.

Choosing where to study

Once you have chosen which course you would like to do, find out where you can study your chosen course. Course centres include school sixth forms, sixth form colleges and further education colleges.

Attend college open days or evenings to see for yourself what they are like. Where possible, talk to staff and students to find out what particular courses are like and how much support you will receive.

Consider the differences between a school sixth form and college. It's often a good idea to make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of each sixth form and college in your area. Doing this should help you to see which one would suit you best.

Getting into Higher Education

If you are planning to go on to Higher Education, find out the entry requirements for the courses you are interested in. Then you can choose your subjects with this goal in mind.

Think about the following:

  • how many subjects do you need to take?
  • does the course require you to take particular subjects?
  • are you likely to achieve the grades asked for?

If you already know which higher education course you wish to follow, find out which types of qualification and which subjects you will need. The UCAS website or individual universities' websites will give this information.

If a range of courses interests you, write down the entry requirements for each one. Then, make a list of the qualifications or subjects you would need in order to keep either the majority or the most important of those course ideas open to you.

If you do not like the subjects in your list, think carefully about whether you would like a course related to those subjects. You will also need to think about whether you are likely to meet the entry requirements for the courses that interest you. Your teachers should be able to give you an indication as to how well you should do at advanced level.

People who can help you

There are many people who may be able to help you to make your choices. Teachers can tell you about the courses and how well they think you will do in particular subjects.

If you have access to a careers adviser through your school or college, they will be able to help you. Friends and parents may also be able to give advice. However, be careful about the advice you take. People may have their own reasons for wanting you to choose particular subjects.

In the end, the decision on which subjects you choose to study at an advanced level is yours. Think carefully and consider all the options covered in this article.

Further Information


Address: Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL52 3LZ

Tel: 0871 4680468



Choosing Your A Levels

Author: Cerys Evans Publisher: Trotman


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