Suitable a levels for a degree in engineering

(40 Posts)
Consils Sun 24-Feb-13 19:59:46

ds1 wants to study engineering. He was planning to take English, Maths, Chemistry and physics but is now wavering over the chemistry. He is planning to apply to Oxford. Thanks.

SavoirFaire Sun 24-Feb-13 20:18:57

Generally you need maths and physics for engineering. Chemistry not so important. A quick look here tells me that Oxford want both maths and physics and preferably also further maths.

At other universities it might depend on which particular area of engineering he is interested in, so you would need to look at specific degree details, or speak to admissions tutors (who are generally quite helpful and responsive). Civil engineering at UCL has no specific A Level requirements - you can go in having not done maths or physics even.

soaccidentprone Sun 24-Feb-13 20:42:37

my nephew is on an engineering course. he did triple science and maths at 'a' level. didn't do too well in the first year so has transfered to doing btec in engineering at college and is applying to start his degree in sept 13.

just saying 'a' levels aren't the only optiongrin

HorribleMother Sun 24-Feb-13 20:48:17

Which type of engineering matters a lot, I would have thought.

DH did physics math & DT. On to electrical engineering.

Most important thing is a really good grounding in maths. If he can do further maths that will really help.
Which sort of engineering?

I did Engineering without Further Maths( did Maths / Physics / Chemistry / German) which got me an interview at Oxford.
I highly recommend further Maths, and of the mechanics or pure maths rather than the statistics variety.

Consils Sun 24-Feb-13 22:38:25

Would DT be a good option?

I have no idea about DT - I would be concerned that it may be seen as a softer option than Chemistry even if it isn't.

What course is he looking at at other Universities? I assume he's looking at the MEng at Oxford, but is he looking at Mech Eng / Chem Eng / Elec Eng for the others?

NewFerry Sun 24-Feb-13 22:49:24

DS is taking resistant materials design technology as one his 4 A2s to study mech eng at uni. It's certainly useful for some disciplines, less so for others. But maths, maths and more maths should be his focus. grin

DS1 is now in his second year studying aero eng, he took maths, FM. Physics, chem (and geog to AS).
DS2 is taking maths, FM, physics, res mat (and chem to AS)
At DS uni, anyone with less than AS in chem had to take additional chemistry modules in the first year to bring them up to an appropriate level, but it doesn't follow that all unis or all courses insist on that!

javabean Sun 24-Feb-13 22:58:03

Ideally, maths, further maths and physics. The other subject isn't as important, plenty of students have a subject that's unrelated, but a lot of people do choose chemistry. I don't think DT has any particular advantage over chemistry. Why is he planning on taking English rather than further maths? Even if he can get an interview/offer from Oxford without further maths, it'll be a much easier transition to study there if he has it. Realistically, the course is very much applied maths, and the vast majority of applicants will be taking further maths smile

I imagine that OP's son may be doing English for the same reason I did German - for a bit of a break!

javabean Sun 24-Feb-13 23:17:58

Maybe that came out wrong, didn't mean to sound dismissive of English! FWIW, I'm an engineer who did a 4th arts a-level because I enjoyed it smile but Oxford may well make an offer explicitly excluding particular subjects, so if OP's son is set on Oxford he needs to choose his subjects wisely.

muminlondon Sun 24-Feb-13 23:30:57

Yes, DT a good option after Maths, Physics and perhaps Further Maths - see Russell Group Informed Choices where DT specifically mentioned for general, aeronautical and mechanical engineering.

throckenholt Mon 25-Feb-13 07:29:25

It depends on the engineering - if he wants to chemical or biochemical or biophysical engineering them obviously chemistry and biology are relevant.

If he wants to do mechanical, electrical, civil etc then chemistry is not that relevant.

For all maths and physics and probably further maths (with an emphasis on the mechanics bits) would be best. I think English is the least relevant to be honest.

Also consider universities that specialise in engineering - the Uni I work at does no engineering courses, the one I did my degree at was almost half engineering courses. It makes for a very different feel to the place.

prettydaisies Mon 25-Feb-13 07:44:57

DS, who wants to do engineering, will do maths, further maths, physics, chemistry and 3D design.

Sympathique Mon 25-Feb-13 09:57:12

A working engineer needs to communicate and write reports. So taking a long term view, A level English seems a good choice that will make him stand out from the crowd in job applications. Engineers where I studied had to do an English exam at the end of their first year and most struggled. Maybe if his big focus is getting into Oxford then take the advice above, but also email some colleges and ask about A level profile of accepted students - how many had all sciences? Do colleges have a record of talking applicants with a smattering of non-science A levels? Good luck to him.

Sympathique Mon 25-Feb-13 09:59:06

In fact email the engineering faculty. No one is going to remember x years hence that he's the student who asked about English so he won't be marking himself out.

throckenholt Mon 25-Feb-13 10:12:29

Isn't A-level English mostly literature ? Don't think that would help much with the technical writing required for engineering (and science in general).

Shame there isn't a qualification in technical English - would be far more use for a lot of people.

HorribleMother Mon 25-Feb-13 10:13:39

DT is not a soft option, but it's also less useful to some types of engineering.
I would think DT most relevant to mechanical or electrical. The mechanical engineers where I went to Uni had to design and make lots of things. That said, even chemists or physical geographers end up building and wiring things quite a bit.

Agree with Throck about the "feel" of an engineering uni varying from others. I am not convinced that Oxbridge are Engineering unis.

tops for mechanical, my old employer (lboro) is in at Number 6 (who would have thought from a non-RG uni, too [ironic smiley here]).

Cambridge tops more widely, supposedly.

Sympathique Mon 25-Feb-13 11:04:29

throckenholt "Isn't A-level English mostly literature ? Don't think that would help much with the technical writing required for engineering (and science in general). Shame there isn't a qualification in technical English - would be far more use for a lot of people.

English A level is indeed mostly literature but he will be writing essays which require him to be able to express complex ideas on paper, and in decent English. I would have backed a choice for any essay-writing subject (or a language, but that's a separate skill). I'm not convinced that a focus on technical writing is desirable at this stage. The key skill is to be able to write well; the requirements of any particular discipline are then easily acquired later.

I struggle with the notion that science/engineering/maths students should take only those subjects at A level. It seems to me that it's best to keep a broad education as long as possible, IF that is what the student wants to do, of course - which this young man seems to want to.

throckenholt Mon 25-Feb-13 11:08:01

>I struggle with the notion that science/engineering/maths students should take only those subjects at A level. It seems to me that it's best to keep a broad education as long as possible, IF that is what the student wants to do, of course - which this young man seems to want to.

I agree in principle but within the limits of our current system if you sometimes have to specialise earlier than ideal. It would be great if you had to write some decent essays in the science subjects (or even maths).

Certainly my science degree and PhD required a lot of essay writing (but that was a long time ago - not sure how it has changed now.)

Sympathique Mon 25-Feb-13 11:12:39

I also find it interesting that some of you suggest going for 'engineering' universities and classify oxbridge as not engineering universities (Hmmm, wonder what they do in that enormous department on Trumpington St?). It shows how diverse we are. My first university was a very mixed one, my second a science/technology one, and I did miss the Arts students. But as must be obvious from what I've already said, I'm not one of the 'them and us' brigade! No doubt the OP will be able to take my posts with the appropriate pinch of salt.

RatherBeOnThePiste Mon 25-Feb-13 11:16:18

DD currently on engineering too, has today taken in her bit of paper with her A level choices on : maths, further maths, physics and chemistry.

JoandMax Mon 25-Feb-13 11:21:07

Depends what kind of engineering he wants to go into really.

I studied chemical engineering so A-levels were in Maths, FM, Physics and Chemistry. I would say the Maths was most useful, we did loads!! But different courses/universities will determine it really

Sympathique Mon 25-Feb-13 11:21:30

Throckenholt: agree about the limits of the system. Science/etc. students seem to be more bound by them than Arts students because of entry requirements.

With regards to the almost ubiquitous suggestion here for Further Maths: if that replaced Chemistry it would not necessarily knock out English. I can't comment on how necessary Chemistry is though. Tough one.

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