4th AS level for Oxford modern languages application

(68 Posts)
3littlefrogs Fri 12-Apr-13 18:16:53

If you were interviewing applicants for modern languages courses at Oxford, what 4th AS level would you consider suitable/useful alongside French, German and music. (There is no possibility of a 3rd language course at school).

Is psychology considered too soft a subject for Oxford?


Yellowtip Fri 12-Apr-13 18:47:15

Almost any would be 'suitable' surely? What would be useful? History or Eng Lit are fairly obvious ones, but if it were my DC I'd say do absolutely whichever of the subjects offered is fourth on your own personal list, in terms of interest/ enjoyment. Oxford is far less stuffy about choice than most of the top universities: it's the next tier down you need to watch, in case Oxford doesn't work out - maybe contact them? (cover all bases!).

titchy Fri 12-Apr-13 18:49:08

Psych would prob be ok as the others are all considered 'hard'. English might be a better fit though? Or history maybe depending on the content of the degree he is hoping to do - lit based or culture based.

titchy Fri 12-Apr-13 18:49:52

Cross posts!

Twentytotwo Fri 12-Apr-13 18:56:35

I'd avoid psychology.

bombyxmori Fri 12-Apr-13 19:00:44

Interest comes first, but if you're on a tie-break, rather than the interviewers preferences, I'd think about what skills would be useful. Off top of my head, I'd say if 'proper' essays aren't included in the mod lang A levels, I'd do a 'proper' essay subject. Not completely off the top of my head: DC's friends who hadn't done an essay subject got/needed coaching in how to write essays. Not Oxford tho'. T'other place.

weegiemum Fri 12-Apr-13 19:02:32


Other humanities eg history, Geography.

Nothing considered "soft"!

3littlefrogs Fri 12-Apr-13 19:06:00

Didn't do history at GCSE, and hates English (mainly due to horrible teacher though).

Really good at languages, would love to do a third, but school doesn't offer it.

The course is languages and linguistics/development of languages, which is why I wondered if psychology might be a possible AS level.

yellowhousewithareddoor Fri 12-Apr-13 19:07:18

I thought psychology was on the 'ok' list for non soft subjects. I'd be tempted by English if they liked it.

jkklpu Fri 12-Apr-13 19:07:22

English or History, I agree

3littlefrogs Fri 12-Apr-13 19:10:26

I did A level English and loved it, but the English teacher has been absolutely dreadful for GCSE, so it has become a subject associated with a great deal of stress and misery.

mysteryfairy Fri 12-Apr-13 19:33:06

My DS's school regard music as a second tier subject and therefore wouldn't encourage another option like psychology for an Oxbridge candidate - not sure if they are right about this. DS is currently doing the same subjects as your DS intends to and his other subject is Maths (he's actually doing Further Maths too so five in total). It might sound like an odd one to add into the mix but actually requires a lot of the same strengths as German and Music.

Twentytotwo Fri 12-Apr-13 19:33:41

For linguistics English language might be appropriate. On the website it says:

Modern Languages and Linguistics

A Modern Language
(depending on course choice)

English Language, Mathematics, or a science; any other language

Twentytotwo Fri 12-Apr-13 19:34:40
Twentytotwo Fri 12-Apr-13 19:35:39

Is it a very small school? Is she sure she'd get that teacher?

titchy Fri 12-Apr-13 19:50:10

Music is not a second tier subject!!!!shock

chickydoo Fri 12-Apr-13 19:53:19

Watch music, it is not considered a facilitated subject.
Oxbridge seems ( currently) to favour facilitated subjects for the vast majority of courses.
I know 3 students not offered Oxbridge places despite predictions of 4A* 3A*. for A'level.
After much upset & many phone calls & talks with the head of a different Grammar school. It appears taking Non facilitated subjects were the reason the applicants were declined from Oxford & Cambridge.

PuffPants Fri 12-Apr-13 19:54:04

English works well. The Oxford course is very literary - way more focused on lit than lang. If he doesn't like reading or studying texts, this will be a huge problem.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Fri 12-Apr-13 19:58:20

As someone who spent five years reading German and Spanish, if it's the actual languages that you want to learn, rather than the Oxford kudos that you're after, I'd pick a different place to study.

This gives information about facilitating subjects. I woudn't suggest Music and Psychology in case they are both viewed as soft.

webwiz Fri 12-Apr-13 20:21:05

This is quite interesting - you can select a degree course at a particular university and see what A levels successful candidates had (and the grades)


titchy Fri 12-Apr-13 20:55:33

Facilitating and non-soft are NOT the same thing....

3littlefrogs Fri 12-Apr-13 21:22:01

Thanks for all the info. I will look at those websites. smile

I am amazed that music is considered a soft subject. The work load for GCSE is huge, what with practising 3 instruments, composing, arranging and performing. I think it is at least as hard as learning a language. Plus all the computer technology they have to learn as well.

webwiz Fri 12-Apr-13 21:31:27

Music is a well regarded A level - a facilitating subject just means one which is a required for a number of different degree courses and so keeps your options open. Music isn't a facilitating subject because it isn't "required" for any subject other than Music.

chickydoo Fri 12-Apr-13 22:16:06

Just to add to my former post
A good friends son wanted to study English at Oxford
He took English Lit, French, Music his 4th (AS) was history
He got 4A* for AS levels and 3A* for actual A'levels, yet he was turned down by Oxford & 2 other very well regarded unis. His interview went well, had great work experience with
a publishing house & was Captain of
rowing at his school.
He was so upset, my friend his DM after much phoning, emailing & speaking to head teachers from other schools, was told that because music was not a facilitating subject they chose other candidates with A* in facilitating subjects.
Don't shoot the messenger, but I lived through this with them, saw how devastated they were. He now wishes he had chosen history over music, and he might have got one of his chosen uni's

seeker Fri 12-Apr-13 22:18:57

And apparently it's no use even applying if you don't have all As and preferably A*s at GCSE.....

Milliways Fri 12-Apr-13 22:22:41

My DD did French, German, Eng Lit & Maths to full A2 + History AS (Did MFL at Cambridge)

Yellowtip Fri 12-Apr-13 22:29:54

chickydoo I'm not convinced. I think sometimes if unsuccessful applicants insist on feedback the universities try to be kind, which is as it should be. Why kick a dog etc. - especially a dog who's applying post A Levels. Personally, I wouldn't rely on feedback as being the truth, the whole truth and nothing but. I have a DD who got offers from all her five university choices for History (including Oxford and Durham and three other RGs) with less good grades than your friend and without being captain of rowing (etc). She took History, Eng Lit and Art & Design at A2 (with French for AS). I also think it may be a mistake to assess your own interview as good or not good, as so many young people who get in these days seem to have interviews which appear utterly disastrous to them. My own DD is very far from alone in having that sort of spread of subjects among her peers, which is why it's worth sharing.

Yellowtip Fri 12-Apr-13 22:33:48

Where did you get that from seeker? And as grade deflation strikes, there will be more and more who've missed predicted grades but still get offers with Bs.

Yellowtip Fri 12-Apr-13 22:35:35

A guess only smile And then of course there might a U turn and rampant grade inflation this year, who knows?

webwiz Fri 12-Apr-13 22:37:14

chickydoo did your friend actually speak to Oxford or just to other head teachers? I know several DCs at Oxford with Music as one of their A levels and with various combinations of "soft" subjects.

English is very very competitive and lots of good candidates don't get offers from all their choices. My impression of Oxford (DS is showing an interest in English) is that they want you to be a reader and aren't particularly interested in rowing and work experience.

Psychology is probably considered a "soft" subject at Oxbridge - so I would be wary of taking it in conjunction with Music which is debatably "soft", but not reliably considered "hard".

Twentytotwo Fri 12-Apr-13 22:45:56

Oxford have to like you. You could have straight A*s and not be what they're looking for. Then there are the colleges themselves. Many moons when I was in sixth form we were basically given an edited list to choose from because some would look less favourably on any applicant from our school. And it was acknowledged that so few people put Hilda's as their choice that it was a good choice for weaker candidates.

Twentytotwo Fri 12-Apr-13 22:48:31

Though as a mixed college that's probably no longer the case.

Yellowtip Fri 12-Apr-13 22:53:02

Some subjects are almost wholly centralised now Twentytotwo and so for those where you apply is marginal.

slipshodsibyl Fri 12-Apr-13 22:53:54

I see that your dc doesn't like English and didn't do History Gcse. You do not have to have done History Gcse to take AS Level. It is a safe choice given your question (if it is palatable to your dc)

Primrose123 Fri 12-Apr-13 22:54:44

I did MFL at university and did A levels in French, German and maths. Would that be a possibility? You have to enjoy maths to do it at A level though, it's much harder than GCSE.

Yellowtip Fri 12-Apr-13 23:04:02

True about History. I didn't do it for O level but did for A level and loved it and got an A in the dark old days when an A = an A* of today. Perfectly do-able. Got to have a vague interest at the outset I suppose, and a decent teacher too.

3littlefrogs Fri 12-Apr-13 23:23:38

DC is an avid reader, articulate in 3 languages, interested in history. Might consider doing history at AS level/A level if it is possible to do without having done GCSE. I didn't know that was possible, but I suppose it makes sense.

Just been really put off English because of awful teacher.

We have lots to think about. Thank you to everyone.

Yellowtip Fri 12-Apr-13 23:27:17

If he's got an interest then History is a really good idea 3frogs as he's very likely these days to get a curriculum with a massive whack of German history as part of it.

I wonder whether they acceptability of "soft" subjects at Oxford might depend on where the candidate went to school and whether the school might reasonably have been expected to guide the student to the "right" mix of A levels. It would seem unduely harsh to reject a candidate from a school that rarely sent anyone to Oxford because the school didn't guide them to all hard subjects, but some schools would be very used to Oxford entrance and be expected to steer their candiates appropriately.

Yellowtip Fri 12-Apr-13 23:47:11

In DD's case it was a superselective breathe and in their defence the HoS did say don't do it but she did anyway: not great at French (and not keen) but brilliant at Art (and super keen).

eatyourveg Sat 13-Apr-13 08:39:06

English or History or possibly Gov&Politics but no idea if thats soft or not

bombyxmori Sat 13-Apr-13 10:02:39

Trouble is, English is in such great demand. He's not the first I've heard of to get that kind of outcome. Mod Lang are a different kettle of fish so his experience is not perhaps generalisable. And Oxbridge IS a lottery - they have too many good candidates so no one is guaranteed - and someone feeling the interview went well is not a guide, they say that. Hope it worked out for your friend's DS in the end.

bombyxmori Sat 13-Apr-13 10:03:37

oops that was for chickydoo, not used to system yet. Way late response

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 10:07:35

"Where did you get that from seeker? And as grade deflation strikes, there will be more and more who've missed predicted grades but still get offers with Bs."

The all As and A*s thing? It's received wisdom in our neck of the woods. Is it not true, then? <hopeful emoticon>

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 10:12:42

Oh, and dd just told me they had a talk at school from an admissions person who said the same........

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 10:13:19

Sorry, my last two posts were to yellowtip.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 13-Apr-13 10:33:08

Chickydoo music is considered a facilitating subject.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 13-Apr-13 10:39:24

It's music tech which is on the 'bad' list. And that is a very different animal.

I'm actually appalled that so many posters in this thread as so misinformed about music. Gove's war against the arts in education seems to be going well on the hearts and minds front. sad

bombyxmori Sat 13-Apr-13 10:47:03

Agree with Russians. 2 of 5 of DD's A2 music class went on to do English. But the OP asked about mod lang anyway

Yellowtip Sat 13-Apr-13 10:49:34

In that I know some real life people actually there now with a rogue B or so seeker, including at AS. I'm not sure lower grades are application enhancing exactly, but it wouldn't make sense that a single duff grade would completely kill an application - stuff happens in some exams with even the brightest of people, everyone knows that.

chickydoo Sat 13-Apr-13 11:05:19

On Russell group list ( via independent newspaper ) sorry on phone & can't link.
Music is not listed as a facilitating subject.

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 13-Apr-13 11:06:24

At least one of this year's A level music students at DD1s school is headed off to do medicine somewhere brilliant. And I think other music A oevel kids have gone on to Oxford in recent years (v few go from our school to Cambridge. I think it's probably the travel more than anything).

Mind you that said even with the ssibility of grade deflation giving rise to lowered hurdles I still can't see DD1 being string enough on paper to trouble either place. Which is a shame because she may be (she may have to be sad ) re-evaluating her future plans.

ggirl Sat 13-Apr-13 11:16:55

My dd did French,math and Music A level and got in to RG uni to study french , not Oxbridge but Music was considered decent A level and she got 5 offers from RG's

webwiz Sat 13-Apr-13 11:19:47

OP your DD could email some Oxford admission tutors and see what their opinion is. DS asked about his 4th A level choice and the reply was do what you enjoy and are likely to get the best grade in.

mysteryfairy Sat 13-Apr-13 14:38:19

The rower story must be at least partially exaggerated as he couldn't have achieved 4 A* at AS given that the highest grade awarded is A.

I have so much admiration for children doing GCSE or Music A Level - the workload has been massive and its one of those subjects where some actual talent is required. I could learn virtually anything to A Level standard but not Music. However it doesn't change the perceptions of it and we have recently had an Oxbridge admissions tutor check it is the one DS is dropping for Y13 and state that to do so is for the best. I'm also not convinced about the need to rehearse 3 instruments. My DS1 has been unusual in doing his AS performances on 2 different instruments (and playing a third in a GCSE performance of his composition). Most stuck to performing on just one. My DS2 in y11 has grade 7 on three separate instruments but has done all his GCSE performance pieces on one of them simply on the basis it is easiest to transport on the school bus. Think it's worth commenting in case anyone reading is put off the subject by not having enough instruments.

bombyxmori Sat 13-Apr-13 14:51:04

webwiz, that is what they usually say. Unless it's a course requirement they are not going to say it's better to do X rather than Y. You might get a response if you ask what would be best prep, but even then the answer is likely to be along the lines of 'all subjects are useful in different ways'. They don't want to commit themselves, or Chinese whispers-style, it'll become perceived dogma - on here at least! As the need for 'facilitating subjects' seems to have become. Sadly.

I would, though, bear in mind the 'helpful' subjects for the course pulled up by twentytotwo. It's perhaps why OP's DC thought of Psychology as a possible science?

3littlefrogs Sat 13-Apr-13 15:30:10

BTW I didn't say 3 instruments are necessary or compulsory for GCSE. But music is a very big part of our lives, and composing and arranging is something that DC does a lot and doesn't want to drop an instrument.

Just wanted to make that clear.

3littlefrogs Sat 13-Apr-13 15:32:33

History and politics seem to come up a lot on the list, so might look into those. Current school doesn't offer politics though.

It does seem a bit of a minefield!

RussiansOnTheSpree Sat 13-Apr-13 15:53:42

Chickydoo it is listed as a proper subject by Cambridge though. And lesser RG universities all say 2 facilitating subjects plus one other. And music is highly regarded.

Yellowtip Sat 13-Apr-13 15:59:40

chickydoo I think the whole thing about music and your friend's son is a complete red herring. It may be what your friend told you and it may even be what one of the universities told her or it could be one suggestion made by one of these several HTs who perhaps wanted to get her off the phone. All that can be said for sure is that it's a very well received subject, for all sorts of courses.

sandripples Sat 13-Apr-13 19:33:54

My DD did languages at Cambridge recently, after going to comprehensive school. She did AS French, German, Music and Psychology then dropped the psychology for A2. Music was and is a great passion for her - the A level was really hard and seems to have been well considered at Cambridge.

babytrasher Sat 13-Apr-13 22:40:33

When Blind Jack of Knaresborough introduced the AS-Level, the excellent idea behind it was to try to ensure that students heading arts-ward would study a bit of science into the 6th Form; and would-be scientists would be dirty stop-outs with the humanities for just a little longer. And unis appreciate that.

The single best all-round love-me-for-doing-it AS is undoubtedly Maths. If he has a problem with that, given where OP's DS's wants to go, his best 4th AS choice would be a science, any science.

glaurung Sun 14-Apr-13 01:30:53

seeker, one of dd's friends has an offer from Cambridge this year - their gcses are 1 A*, 5As, 3Bs and 2Cs - it is for maths where they may be less fussy on GCSEs than some other subjects, but clearly straight A*/A is not always necessary.

PiratePanda Wed 17-Apr-13 22:51:58

"Watch music, it is not considered a facilitated subject."

You mean facilitating subject, and yes, music IS considered to be a hard, albeit specialist, subject by the RG. Read their A Level choices book again.

Psychology, on the other hand, is regarded as soft and non-facilitating. How about Biology?

happilyconfused Mon 22-Apr-13 20:40:29

Having just attended an advisors conference for Cambridge it is the unit UMS scores that are used as an indicator along with the personal statement, the school academic reference, any tests and the interview. They have to turn down lots of candidates with A* predictions as there are too many of them. There is some variation between subjects but 93 points per unit would be fair. A real passion for the subject has to sine throughout the application. I got the impression they thought music was ok.

happilyconfused Mon 22-Apr-13 20:44:12

Glaurung - you are right. Cambridge acknowledge that though the average student has six or seven gcses at A* they will offer to students who perform very well at AS. The chart a small few with only a few As.

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