5 A Levels: advice?

(73 Posts)
Casey Sun 19-May-13 09:53:49

ds1 has been accepted to do 3 Sciences, Maths and Further Maths. He's a very high achiever (predicted all A*). He does work hard at school, but it's fair to say he's never found the curriculum work to be very difficult or challenging to GCSE level.

I'm a bit concerned about the step up to A Levels and the wisdom of doing 5 courses.

Any advice? and how/when to make the decision to drop down to 4 or 3 if necessary?

Casey Wed 22-May-13 16:03:38

I think there are three possible scenarios at/by Christmas:
1) He's enjoying them all and coping with keeping on top of all the work.
2) He's finding Maths very challenging, so decides to drop FM
3) He's doing we'll with the double Maths, but is clearer on his future plans and chooses to drop the Biology.

Casey I think you are right although he might not have until Christmas.

When DS1 and his cohort started 6th form last September they were told they had 6 weeks. In that time the lessons and homework would be full on and they would be tested. At the end of the first half term there was an opportunity to drop out of a subject if they were struggling. Many did.
I think 6th forms are judged by OFSTED on their drop out rates, hence the wish to get it right in those first few weeks.

At least if he tries all 5 to begin with he can say he gave it a go.

snoopy987 Mon 27-May-13 18:35:39

DD & DS have both taken Maths & FM. DD is now studying Physics at a RG university & DS is due to start a maths degree this year. FM at A2 is a huge benefit when applying for either course at RG or similar university; without it the first year can be much harder.

DD started with Maths, FM, Physics, Chemistry, an essay subject & General Studies. The workload was manageable for the consistently organized (she isn't) but very hard to get back on top for those who got behind. She dropped chemistry in Yr 12 & the essay subject in Year 13; was determined to keep up the FM & achieved good results at the end.

DS started with maths, FM, Physics & Chemistry. He is a better mathematician but weaker in arts subjects. His workload has been fine; not just because he took less subjects but because the maths is much easier for him - so takes far less time.

Both mine did A2 maths in Year 12 & FM in Year 13. Their experience was that a good Maths A2 grade in the bag in Year 12 was fantastic for UCAS applications. Ifyour DS finds FM harder than expected he can retake modules/ drop back to AS FM / drop it in Yr 13.

xylem8 Tue 28-May-13 11:21:09

Important to remember
1) from hereonin courses are all linear .There will be no modules or options for winter resits.
2) There is a big jump from GCSE to A level in Physics and chemistry
3) FM I think you really have to love maths.It has to be more of a hobby than just a school subject to get a top grade.
4) Biology whilst not particularly difficult is very, very heavy on content,

FM is not needed tor physics courses.DS got offers from all 5 of his RG unis without FM-even though they do it at his school.

seeker Wed 29-May-13 10:13:45

Bear in mind that there are lots of other good things to do in the 6th form- it would be a shame to miss out

There are people doing 5 at dd's school. I ask "How's x?" "Don't know"says dd "He's doing 5 subjects"

Andro Wed 29-May-13 22:36:42

I would suggest that my Christmas he'll have a better idea of where he's at, 5 A levels is hard (especially the ones he's taken, been there and done that but with Italian on top) but it doesn't necessarily mean he'll under achieve - just make sure he's honest with himself!

PurplePotato Thu 30-May-13 16:33:16

My DS1 has taken 5 AS levels, including Maths, FM and Physics. He has found it fine. He's not a workaholic, has a Saturday job and goes out a couple of evenings each week. He is however planning to drop one subject (History) at the end of this year and just take 4 subjects to A2 level - largely because he hates not having any free lessons. His friends tend to hang out drinking coffee in their frees, and he feels he's missed out on this aspect of sixth form life in Yr 12.

Bella900 Thu 30-May-13 17:52:19

I teach both Maths and Further at A Level and there are a fair number each year who juggle it well (along with enjoying the subjects).
As a word of caution I would say that GCSE performance doesn't always translate into success at A Level especially with Maths and Further Maths.

bigTillyMint Thu 30-May-13 17:56:16

OP, my best friend from school did 5 A'levels (similar to your DS's), a dgree and PHd in Maths and is now very high up in a redbrick uni.

She was also very sporty and sociable.

It can be done!

miggy Thu 30-May-13 18:10:40

Ds1 did 6, English,maths,history, Latin,drama and further maths. It helped that they did the maths a year early.
Drama was his "fun" subject, though it probably took more time than the rest!
He is very motivated and very organised and I think he only really struggled a bit with further maths.
No harm in starting five if he wants to and dropping down if needs be. DS planned to drop history if needed as he did it outside the timetable anyway, but actually it was fine.

xylem8 Thu 30-May-13 18:10:41

The thing about maths, FM and physics is that it is mostly understanding concepts rather than having to do loads of time consuming work and remembering lots of content. So I think it is doable with those subjects more than it would be with others.

IKnowWhat Fri 31-May-13 01:01:27

Don't do it. You do realise that some Uni's will give him an offer based on all his A'levels. So, assuming he takes four of the subjects to A2 he may get an offer of A*AAA whereas a student only taking 3 subject would get an offer of A*AA. It puts him at a disadvantage.

If he is unsure what he want to take he could do five AS levels and then drop two subjects for A2.

My DS2 is going to start 5 AS in September and then after a month or so (once he has sussed out the teachers and the subjects a little more) will drop one immediately.

Further Maths is extremely useful for many subjects. Uni's are sensitive to the fact it is not offered at every school but it is very much a preferred subject for many science, maths, etc courses.

However, it is not always counted as an 'extra' A level for courses such as medicine as it has too much overlap with math. As can be seen HERE. Obviously the only truly accurate place to see a uni course's actual entry requirements is on the Universities Admission policy for the course in question.

BeckAndCall Fri 31-May-13 08:59:19

Personal view here, my DS did physics at an RG uni with physics, maths, FM and Spanish A2s ( most RG unis want 4 A2s if maths and FM are studied together, I believe).

With hindsight, he wishes he'd not dropped chemistry as it would have been very useful for some of the modules.

And I also recall, had he have got into Oxford (he didn't) if he didn't have FM, he would have had to have taken remedial maths classes.

happilyconfused Sat 01-Jun-13 09:46:59

I email'd fifteen RG/1994 engineering admissions tutors last week on behalf of a student with regards only maths,fm and physics at A2. The response was positive in that maths and fm are considered as two subjects. The student is dropping Chemistry and will not be at a disadvantage as universities offer on three A2s. The UMS scores are important at some universities as it is a question of how high the A/A* is and not how many A2s a student achieve. The student is very focused on achieving top UMS..

BeckAndCall Sat 01-Jun-13 10:01:03

I'm very happy to be corrected, happily - my knowledge is now 5 years behind plus my DS was at a school where this was policy ( on maths and FM) so the experience maybe anecdotal.

So FM as one of only 3 A2s isa OK is the up to date advice!

IKnowWhat Sat 01-Jun-13 12:23:08

Contacting Uni Admissions departments directly, is definitely the way to go. My eldest has an unusual academic history (we were expats) and we ended up contacting most of the UK Medical Schools directly to find out if he would be eligible to apply. It made us realise that there is a ridiculous amount of misinformation about. We made sure we got everything in writing.

Universities have to have clear admissions policies for their courses. I would be wary of fully trusting any other source of information. Admissions policies can and do change year on year.

happilyconfused Sat 01-Jun-13 12:34:30

That's what I have received so far from Surrey, King's, Exeter, Royal Holloway, Birmingham, UCL, Southampton, Reading, Nottingham, Sheffield, Kent and Imperial. Waiting on the others to get back to me.

3 unis went on to say that any student without fm or any mechanics modules would find themselves seriously disadvantaged in most engineering courses due to the skill needed in applied maths specifically mechanics. One said they were only interested in maths and physics and assume a high skill level on entry which links with Beck's remedial maths comment.

Plus there was the usual no promises line and that the personal statement and school academic reference are also taken into account.

Please bear in mind I only asked for engineering(aero, elect, mech) and computer science type applications.

xylem8 Sat 01-Jun-13 13:27:55

Most maths A levels will include a mechanics paper module.

BeckAndCall Sat 01-Jun-13 15:04:52

No xylem, not necessarily. At my DDs school she is following a mAths with stats course ( for her bio chem aspirations) and will complete C1 - C4 plus S1 and S2 - not a mechanics module in sight.

However, friends who are taking a physics path and know it are more likely doing the M1 and M2 modules . But they both just count as 'Maths'

If they do FM, they will obviously have mechanics modules, but not necessarily in single maths

webwiz Sat 01-Jun-13 15:45:06

DD2 didn't have any choice over the maths modules she did - the school offered S1 and D1 in addition to C1-C4. If you wanted mechanics modules you had to do Further Maths which covered M1-M3.

junebeetle Sat 01-Jun-13 15:57:31

That's the problem with maths A levels, university courses can only assume you have knowledge of C1-4 if you have maths A level, and FP1 if you have f. maths A level. All the others are optional and may or may not have been taken, so degree courses usually end up having to go over it or set it as summer catch up work.

happilyconfused Sat 01-Jun-13 16:43:23

Maybe that is why there is an advantage to doing fm as a student then covers a lot more modules. In any case when students complete their ucas application they should declare their modules so unis will know if a student has done maths & stats or maths & mechanics. Surely it would not do any student any favours knowing they are having to catch up with peers who are already confident with applied maths - not a great start to any uni course with a high maths content. It shows how students need to research their options very carefully these days.

junebeetle Sat 01-Jun-13 17:04:44

Yes the uni will know what modules have been studied, but as it's usually a school decision, rather than a student one they don't like to discriminate on who they make offers to based on that and as soon as you have some people on the course who haven't studied whatever modules it is then you need some way for them to catch up which is usually rattling through the material in lectures at the start of the course. The optimal modules to take depend hugely on what course you want to take, so physics/engineering usually like mechanics, economics likes stats and computing courses probably smile on decision, so really schools can't win whatever they offer and most simply aren't big enough to offer students a choice.

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