A Levels for Engineering

(57 Posts)
Northerner7777 Wed 19-Feb-14 11:06:14

Hi all,
My Ds wants to become an engineer after sixth form but is unsure which A Levels would be the best to take. Ds is definitely taking Maths and Physics but is undecided between;

Ones he likes; Further Maths, History, Philosophy
Ones people say are useful; Chemistry, Design Technology, Geography

I was just wondering is anyone has had a dc choose A Levels for engineering and what they chose. Or any advice off people who are engineers.

Thank you

rabbitstew Wed 19-Feb-14 11:20:56

I suspect you'll be told Further Maths would be extremely useful. Chemistry would presumably be essential for chemical engineering and considered a generally good scientific subject for any aspiring engineer. History sounds like a nice option for an all-rounder who doesn't want to do all-science A-levels, but presumably wouldn't be considered "useful" to an engineer. I can see that design technology would be useful for getting onto an engineering course, but not so useful that you would want to study it if it wasn't really one of your passions. But I might be wrong on that.

TalkinPeace Wed 19-Feb-14 11:31:52

Maths, more maths, even more maths
a pure science of some sort
and then
either history or geography to give spatial awareness
English to make reports readable

NOT any sort of applied subject

also : what sort of engineer does he want to be
have a look at these and pick some options
www.southampton.ac.uk/engineering/index.page?
www3.imperial.ac.uk/engineering

Megrim Wed 19-Feb-14 12:13:29

Definitely chemistry for chemical engineering.

Design and technology for electrical and mechanical engineering.

I ended up as a geotechnical engineer (cross between geology and civil engineering) and did Geography, Geology and English at A level.

Whyjustwhy Wed 19-Feb-14 12:23:16

I have 2 ds at university currently studying for Masters degrees in engineering.

DS1 - Aero & Spacecraft design has Maths, FM, Physics, Chemistry & Geog to AS
DS2 - Mech Eng has Maths, FM, Physics, Design Tech, and Chem to AS

The more maths you can do the better has been their experience. However, be prepared for people to tell you that somehow further maths isn't a real A level, or very hard, compared to say (insert any humanity of your choice) as people who are good at maths "will find it easy" hmm

Fortunately, the universities disagree.

Northerner7777 Wed 19-Feb-14 14:30:09

Ds and I have had a talk about what you've all said. Ds has decided upon FM, Maths and Physics but as he's not sure about what type of engineering he wants to go into its between Chemistry, DT and Geography for his last choice.
Any ideas of what would be best for potential engineer who is undecided about which path?

They are allowed to do 5 but this is at the discretion of the HT and how well ds does at GCSE.

steview Wed 19-Feb-14 14:35:05

In some sixth forms FM doesn't get the full timetable allocation of hours for teaching (under the assumptions that classes will be small, hence less economical to run, and that those opting for it will find the single maths course a bit more straight forward than other students).

Because of this many sixth forms will happily allow students to study 5 AS levels where Maths & Further Maths are 2 of the 5 but only allow 4 otherwise.

For what it's worth I did Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Economics to A level. Degree was maths with engineering - it was the perfect grounding and Economics was handy to have something a bit different in my weekly timetable!

TalkinPeace Wed 19-Feb-14 14:37:36

Northerner
Get him to look at the course by course pages for the two Unis I linked to and see what grabs his fancy and then if needs be phone them as they will want to help him.

Northerner7777 Wed 19-Feb-14 14:45:56

Thanks TalkinPeace ill get him to do that at some point today.

reddidi Wed 19-Feb-14 15:30:09

To keep his options open the gold standard is Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry at AS, carrying all to A2.

If he knows he doesn't want to do Chemical Engineering he can drop the Chemistry if he needs to (if he knows he does he can consider dropping the Physics, but talk to the target uni first), but if he is unsure or is aiming for Cambridge he really needs to keep all 4 subjects going to maximise his chance of entry and range of options once there (and should confirm this by talking to the admissions tutor that deals with Engineering at his target college).

History, Philosophy and Geography are nice (Economics is better), but not in preference to any of the above 4 unless you want to rule out Chem Eng: if you want to keep a broad range of subjects, do the IB instead (you will need to get 7 in Maths and Science Highers of course).

Design Technology can be useful if you are targeting Mech or Auto, but even then not at the expense of Further Maths or Physics.

Geography important for Mining Engineering, but that is a different kettle of fish altogether.

Whyjustwhy Wed 19-Feb-14 15:59:55

I would go with Chemistry too. However, both of mine found it the hardest of their subjects so be prepared for the hard work.

Northerner7777 Wed 19-Feb-14 16:16:35

DS is looking at getting a level 4 engineering apprenticeship which will also fund him though an engineering degree but he is looking at uni as well.
For the apprenticeship he only needs 3 A levels to include Maths and Physics at C. Its the options for uni hes more concerned about in case he decided to go down this route.
How would it look if he took further maths for AS and dropped it as well as taking maths, physics and chemistry or geography?
We are thinking about speaking to the head of sixth form to see if ds can take the 5 option route or would this be too difficult?

Whyjustwhy Wed 19-Feb-14 16:31:26

5 is a lot of work. Specially when friends are all doing 4 and have so much more free time.
Be honest, is he self-motivated? Is he likely/predicted to get A/A* in these subjects at GCSE?
If not, then stick with 4 to AS.
I don't know much about the apprenticeships. although my nephew is considering this route as he is finding A levels difficult.
To get onto one of the top engineering degrees you are looking at A/A* in your A levels, so a very different (not better or worse) proposition to the apprenticeship route.

It's good your ds is aware of the different opportunities and is keen to keep his options open.

TalkinPeace Wed 19-Feb-14 16:36:55

at DDs college she has been suggested to start 5 and be willing to drop one at A2 if she is not guaranteed top grades across the board
sounds sensible to me

those who are looking at lower GCSEs start with 4 and drop to 3

stealthsquiggle Wed 19-Feb-14 16:37:15

Further maths would be very very useful, even if not a requirement for entry - not having done further maths nearly sunk me and certainly cost me a better class of degree. At school pace I would have got it - trying to catch up when most other people had done it was just too hard.

Other than that he should pick one he likes, IMHO. FWIW (and I realise this was back in the dark ages and therefore not relevant) I did Maths, Physics, Chemistry and French and went on to Engineering Science at Oxford.

BirdintheWings Wed 19-Feb-14 16:40:29

DS has engineering offers (including Southampton!) based on just maths, physics and design tech -- though he wishes he'd been able to do further maths.

The universities we've spoken to have all said they are essentially looking for the maths and physics.

LocalEditorOxford Wed 19-Feb-14 16:44:43

DH is an engineer, I've asked what he'd recommend, but can I predict take a guess at what he'll say?
-Maths
-Physics
-Computing
-Further maths or Chemistry

Northerner7777 Wed 19-Feb-14 17:33:16

The only type of computing offered is an ICT L3BTEC LocalEditorOxford but I don't think DS is too bothered about computing. He seems to think he should choose between Chemistry and Geography and definitely do Maths, FM and Physics.
At least were getting somewhere.

stealthsquiggle Wed 19-Feb-14 18:02:33

OP - I think you are there. DS should probably pick whichever of Chemistry and Geography he thinks would be most fun, IMHO.

Suffolkgirl1 Wed 19-Feb-14 18:43:02

DS is considering engineering courses, electrical, chemical or biochemical. In order to keep options open he is going to take: A level Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and AS further Maths.

We were advised by the school to make sure he takes the mechanics modules of the further maths as these are what the uni's look for.

LocalEditorOxford Wed 19-Feb-14 19:22:33

w00t - he agreed with me. And says computing is a really good choice considering current engineering.

However he says it depends what sort of engineering your DS is interested in as to whether Chemistry or Geography is most useful. eg - if Civil engineering, then Geography etc...

However he also says Maths is the key one to get considered, as long as the rest are academic subjects to get him in, then it won't make any difference as any decent engineering course will cover A-level level work in the first two weeks.

He has spent time as a teacher, is now an engineer and does guest lectures at a prominent engineering university, so he's quite well qualified to comment. He'll probably hate me saying this though. I like to blow his trumpet more than he does smile

TheBeautifulVisit Wed 19-Feb-14 19:29:11

Maths, further maths, physics full A levels, plus geogRaphael & chemistry to AS level.

TheBeautifulVisit Wed 19-Feb-14 19:29:51

Geographael = geography smile

LocalEditorOxford Wed 19-Feb-14 19:32:19

I prefer Geographael!

TalkinPeace Wed 19-Feb-14 19:46:14

Geographael
is better than what it said on my degree certificate!

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