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ds is asking me for advice about choosing his A-levels and I havent a clue.

(26 Posts)
stitch Tue 20-Nov-12 21:52:19

He wants to do english and philosophy, maybe geography. Cant decide between history or politics.

He has absolutely no idea what he wants to do at uni. Im a science person from a ridiculously sciencey family so havent got a clue. Do any wise mumsnetters have any thoughts. Perhaps which subjects give more flexibilty, more choice in careers etc. any subjects that are just pointless?
all advice appreciated.

vj32 Tue 27-Nov-12 23:04:28

I agree to check out the actual content and structure of the courses - for history is the only option modern history (Hitler, Stalin etc again as most will already have done this for GCSE) or do they offer different time periods (the Tudors is a popular one at the moment).

What geography units do they do? I know now I loved Geography but we did a massive long unit involving soil, biospheres etc - too boring and science based for me and put me off taking it at uni.

English - Lit or Lang? If its Lit, what books do they study?

The other thing I found was that the big deadlines for history and geography were very close together. All three are very heavy essay subjects, so you might want to ask if they co-ordinate course work hand in dates between departments, and what help would be available if he was struggling with work load.

ISingSoprano Tue 27-Nov-12 10:43:39

The only comment I would make is that if he has any thoughts of going on to do a Geography degree he may need another science at A level.

Cahooots Mon 26-Nov-12 22:35:08

Is it possible for him to start of taking all five subjects and seeing how he gets on. He could then drop the one he likes the least. He might find he gets a brilliant teacher in politics and a terrible one for history.

I also agree that he should take the ones he is most interested in.

Have you checked out the balence of course work verses exams with each subject? If he favours one over the other it may influence his choice.

Although schools like to know what subjects the DC's will be taking but, I imagine, most schools allow the students to change their choices after they have their GCSE results. This would give your son lots of time to mull this over.

Yellowtip Mon 26-Nov-12 22:23:03

I'd advise History over Politics.

The marking for Philosophy can be very, very, very, very mecurial. But if that's what he wants to do....

almapudden Mon 26-Nov-12 20:32:34

I studied English Lit, History, Politics and French at A level. Loved them all, and thought Politics was brilliant (had a v good, hilarious teacher though).

BoffinMum Mon 26-Nov-12 19:51:29

I would go for English, History and Geography as the teaching tends to be more reliable, and the subjects have a lot of variety.

squeezedatbothends Fri 23-Nov-12 21:53:01

My son did History, English and Philosophy and Maths. Dropped Maths after AS and wished he's done Politics as it was more highly regarded as a compliment subject for his course at Oxford. He loved Philosophy but it's hard - no coursework and the A2 was all assessed in June so no chance of a resit if it had been needed. They all compliment each other well and as other posts have said are highly regarded. English Lit more so than English Language btw.

lljkk Wed 21-Nov-12 14:43:00

I am minded to think that if he's unsure, he does what sounds most appealing, for sure.

I am biased towards English, Philosophy & History. Complement well.

I am a geographer,btw, I feel that History & Geography complement incredibly well, too.

boschy Wed 21-Nov-12 12:20:00

Our 6th form said Govt & Politics was a very strong choice academically... and also sounds fascinating, and I would think a very useful grounding for life as a voter?!!

boomting Wed 21-Nov-12 12:00:17

Any combination of those A Levels will provide a solid foundation for just about any essay-based subject.

I would, however, dispute the idea that politics is necessarily dry - of the four people who did A Level politics at my school, three went onto do politics or a variation thereof at uni, and the fourth went on to do law.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 21-Nov-12 06:54:51

Is he planning to do three or four? English + Philosophy + Geog + Hist/Politics would leave pretty much all humanities and social sciences degrees I can think of open to him. It's not the same as in sciences where for certain courses you have to have done Chemistry or whatever IYSWIM.

Out of history/politics I would slightly err on the side of History purely because if he ends up going on to study History (or Classics, Archaeology etc) at university it will be a logical progression and he won't have to be explaining why he didn't do it for A-level; whereas plenty of people study politics at university without having done it for A-level, because the A-level isn't as widely offered.

But that's not a huge preference, if he's more attracted to Politics - best thing might be to get a look at the syllabuses and see what sounds inspiring.

Welovecouscous Wed 21-Nov-12 06:31:51

In my day the careers service just told you all choices were equally valid confused there was no real guidance at all.

BoundandRebound Wed 21-Nov-12 06:27:49

Have the school not employed any careers service?

Welovecouscous Wed 21-Nov-12 05:50:07

I'm sure the politics is very interesting to study - in fact I tried to do it myself but timetable clashes meant I couldn't.

I'm just giving my view as someone who does recruitment now as part of my City job, that I think history is perceived as a better and more academic a level than others. The most traditional options generally go down best with big employers.

Most important always to do the subjects you love best, though.

TheWave Tue 20-Nov-12 22:32:17

I do think History is pushed on to anyone vaguely thinking of English as apparently they "go well together", and "History is a strong subject", yes you keep telling me, but the History syllabus might be a turn off in terms of content for some and Gov/Politics more appropriate.

seeker Tue 20-Nov-12 22:15:19

My dd is absolutely loving A level Philosophy- her brain is going off like a firework! I would thoroughly recommend it. Exhausting to live with though!

lurcherlover Tue 20-Nov-12 22:10:17

As I teacher, I disagree that Politics A level isn't academic. We send students to Oxbridge and Russell Group unis every year with Govt and Politics at A level. All those subjects are academic, and would be fine for uni courses. The subjects to avoid if you don't want anything considered "soft" are social sciences (Sociology in particular - Psychology less so), Media Studies-type subjects and Law.

TheFarSide Tue 20-Nov-12 22:08:33

I agree with Hipster he should go for what he most enjoys. However, this is a useful guide, published free online by the Russell Group:-

kenanddreary Tue 20-Nov-12 22:07:14

Agree with Almost that the most important factor is whether or not your DS enjoys these subjects/thinks he would enjoy them.

I suggest he and you obtain as much information as possible from the school about the A levels he is interested in. The syllabus for a subject can vary from school to school depending on which exam board they use and the teacher's own personal preferences, ie. which books are selected for English literature.

One final point - please encourage your DS to choose subjects where he has a realistic chance of getting at least a grade B at GCSE. If not then he will find the A level very challenging.

Welovecouscous Tue 20-Nov-12 22:07:05

If he is equally interested in all of them then I would do the following, as these would generally be considered good a levels and be highly acceptable to most universities and employers:


With these he could do any of the above degrees, they would be viewed well in the city and by blue chip employers and they will work well together as a set.

Politics is not quite as well respected an a level. He can do a history and politics degree without a level politics.

stitch Tue 20-Nov-12 22:05:54

so am i hipster. No point in doing something you hate only to get mediocre results in it.

stitch Tue 20-Nov-12 22:03:34

thank you dede thats exactly the sort of thing I needed to hear.

Pary, thats what he went to with his dad. fortunately they talked him out of the sciences he was insisting on. (strict asian father with unrealistic expectations) So Im very happy with them. smile iyswim.

I'm a great believer in taking the subjects that you enjoy the most - you're going to want to work more than if you do a subject that you think you should and self-motivation is key at A level.

If he really can't decide, I'd suggest English, History and Geography - the other two are a bit dry, in my opinion, so might be difficult to get excited by IYKWIM.

ParyMortas Tue 20-Nov-12 21:57:27

Has there been any sort of careers fair at school or any open evenings at college? The people there would help with this most definitely. We went to the college open evening and found it very useful.

We are lucky with DS, he knows what he wants to do and which A Levels he wants to take - Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Computing.

Dededum Tue 20-Nov-12 21:56:49

I did history, economics and English. Then a history/politics degree and then law training and became a solicitor.

These are all sound A levels, not so sure about politics however - probably fine but I would push for history.

These A levels would be good for law, management, accountancy I would have thought most professions.

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