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?

RedHelenB Sun 19-May-13 09:57:39

Sounds a bit much - don't think you get many uni Brownie points for doing 5!

Don't do it. Voice of bitter experience. Three is adequate for most things, four is ample. Five is overkill.

notfluffy Sun 19-May-13 10:01:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

creamteas Sun 19-May-13 10:13:29

It does sound like quite a heavy workload, although because of the links between Maths and FM, this is probably less that 2 other subjects.

There only good reason to do this is really is if he is not sure what he wants to do next and thus needs to leave different options open.

Is your DS staying at the same school? If so the staff there should have a good idea if this is feasible for him.

Hopefully, the school can be flexible too, so if he starts this and then ditch one if it gets too hard. He might have a better idea then about what he wants to do next anyway.

There are no Jan exams now, so he won't be officially entered for a while.

LondonMother Sun 19-May-13 10:14:38

I think he should go for it, given the subjects involved. If he's one of those lucky people who continue to find maths easy all through A level it's a lot less work than an essay-based subject. Doing a lot of Maths will be a huge help to him with his Physics and possibly also the Chemistry and Biology - certainly if he went on with one of those at university level a strong grounding in Maths is very important. If he can maintain a high standard across all five subjects he will be a very attractive proposition indeed when it comes to university applications. He and his teachers will know quite early in year 12 if it's not working out and he can decide then what he wants to drop. I know things are changing in A levels but as far as I know it's still going to be AS > A2 for the next couple of years so he gets another chance to review his options at the end of year 12 and at that point it would be perfectly normal to drop from 5 to 4 (or indeed from 4 to 3, although if he's doing Maths sticking with 4 A2 subjects is not uncommon).

Having said all that, it's only worth doing if he's certain of getting top grades across the board. 3 As or A*s or whatever the top grade will be is always going to look better than AABB. It also obviously makes a big difference if he has a lot of outside interests that would limit his study time/energy levels, as in that case also he'd be better concentrating on a smaller number of subjects.

Good luck to him!

mumslife Sun 19-May-13 10:26:02

Seems to much to me but there is always the option todrop one after a year if needed

senua Sun 19-May-13 10:48:34

Is he staying in the same school? If they know him, his capabilities & the workload involved and have accepted him sitting 5 subjects then that should give you confidence.

What's the plan after A Level? Is he leaving himself time for work experience etc? - you don't want a Personal Statement that reads "went to school, did homework, went to bed" grin

Casey Sun 19-May-13 11:31:27

Thanks for all the feedback.
Unfortunately we are moving (big move, long distance), so the new school don't know him at all, except for his application form, school report and interview! But it is a very high achieving school, so I'm sure they'll be on the ball to ensure he does a suitable quantity of courses to achieve the highest grades.

To answer a few questions, no, he doesn't know what he wants to do next, which is the reason he wants to keep his options open. For a long time he's veered towards physics at Uni, but occasionally talks about pharmacy or biomedical; more recently he's spoken about chemistry, chem eng and genetics....

Casey Sun 19-May-13 11:32:56

I'm hoping that by Christmas it will be clearer to him which subjects he prefers and what he might do in future, then he could drop one.

AliceinSlumberland Sun 19-May-13 11:39:44

I wouldn't bother with further maths, no unis ask for five and he will have a lot on his plate with the other four. Most people only come out with three and most unis only ask for three good grades. It would be better for him to spend time saved doing volunteer work, perhaps at a hospice or local school, as that will add more to a uni application than an extra A-level. Have a look at doit.org.uk and see if there's anything going on in your new area. It would also be a good way for him to meet new people in the new area. Four Alevels is plenty, five would be unnecessary.

Casey Sun 19-May-13 11:50:08

But the research he's done suggests that FM is very important for Physics at top RG unis...

And the school teach Maths+FM as a unit in 7 hrs a week (instead of 5 for a single subject.)

I would be very interested to hear from people whose dc has started with 5 courses, especially in the sciences, and either seen them through or dropped one.

Caitycat Sun 19-May-13 11:56:20

Five will set him up to under achieve across the board, it is very hard work and will also mean he has less time to get to know the others in his year and foster the new relationships that will be v important for him. I would get him to think now about whether he is more likely to want to pursue maths or science and to choose accordingly. I have spent a lot of time working with Oxbridge applicants and what is important is how well they do in the subjects they are studying an extra will make no difference to then but 85 rather than 90 percent in an AS paper will, for one student he didn't get an interview at all for Maths and the reason given was that although he had an A at AS he had got a B in one module. Your son may turn out to be brilliant with considerable extra capacity but in that case I would advise doing and extended project to show off his ability to organise and write up his own resarch which shows different skills to just another A level.

prettydaisies Sun 19-May-13 12:01:30

DD has done this at her school this year (Y12) because Maths and Further Maths is counted as one subject (they get 1 hour extra tuition a week compared to other subjects). She will have completed her A2 in maths by the end of Y12. She is also doing geography, physics and English Lit. However next year she is only allowed to continue with 3.
She has managed this year, but has worked very hard. It is doable.
My son is going to start off doing exactly the same as your son next year!

isitsnowingyet Sun 19-May-13 12:03:14

My niece and nephew both did 5 A levels (including Further Maths) and both ended up at Oxford doing Maths. Needless to say they are both 'workaholics' and that this isn't for everyone, but for some - yes. If he wants to do Physics then Further Maths is perfect for that.

glaurung Sun 19-May-13 12:04:22

Further maths is good, but not usually essential for physics even at good universities. Ds did 5 and saw them through with no problem (and still plenty of time for sport, music, DofE, part time work etc too), but some of his peers regretted the choice and either dropped one early on or two after AS. I think starting out with 5 but keeping a close eye on things is quite a sensible way to go - some children find they detest the maths and others loathe biology, so starting both gives the option to make a more informed choice about which to drop, or if it's all going well and enjoyable to keep all 5 up.

claraschu Sun 19-May-13 12:06:03

My son has ended up doing 6, and it has been fine (he did maths a year early, which helped). It doesn't give you an advantage as far as university entrance to do more subjects, but he was not sure what subjects he was interested in, so wanted to have variety (more like the Baccalaureate).

I do think that, if your son is the kind of person who effortlessly does well, A levels continue to be not such a big deal.

Relaxedandhappyperson Sun 19-May-13 12:10:21

Further Maths is definitely a Good Thing if he wants to do anything physicsy. Maybe not utterly essential but will make things far easier at the next stage. Plus if you are naturally very good at maths it's not that hard to do extremely well. As other people have said, you basically do further maths, and the maths comes along with it.

Let him start them all, and see where he thinks his heart lies.

Bertrude Sun 19-May-13 12:13:08

Another voice of bitter experience, also doing Maths and Further Maths, then had to do general studies as a 6th.

I had no life. I had no friends. I played rugby still, but I didn't have time for anything other than college work, rugby one evening a week and rugby on a Sunday afternoon. I had a free period on a Wednesday afternoon and that was it. All my friends made new friends during their free time, whereas I had none so was pretty much a billy no mates other than my fellow maths geeks (not a problem, but none of us had the time to socialise outside our classes)

My DS did these five and it buggered him for medicine because he got a B in chemistry. Not saying he wouldn't have got a B anyway, but he would have had more time to study if he hadn't been doing 5.

No uni is going to ask for 5 a-levels, even for medicine.

Casey Sun 19-May-13 12:37:04

Well, I seem to be getting two clear, contradictory messages on this thread!

Thanks for all the comments.

He's got a full week of sixth form induction, and I'm sure the school will stress how much hard work it is. So he may come back from that wanting to drop one already.

I found Maths A level very challenging and a big step up from O level, which I'd found easy. (Though got an A in the end.) If he is in that position, he can easily drop down to single Maths, but will still have a wide range of options open to him.

I just don't know how - at this stage - you can have a real idea about future careers and what subjects will appeal. I've been testing him on some science GCSE stuff and it all seems very simple and very basic to me, and I'm not a scientist and haven't "studied" any science for nearly 30 years!

glaurung Sun 19-May-13 13:08:24

That is the problem I think, GCSEs are very basic in comparison and being predicted or even gaining A*s at GCSE isn't a reliable indicator of how you will achieve at A level - you just don't know what he will enjoy or be good at in advance.

Good luck, whatever he decides.

Stubbed56 Sun 19-May-13 13:31:07

I did 4 A levels, 3 sciences + maths and an S paper too, and to be honest I found it a doddle at the time. I worked hard though. However most of my contemporaries at university (studying micro biological type sciences) had not bothered with biology and didn't suffer. It was covered in the first two or three weeks.

I would recommend leaving out biology unless he is feeling really confident, it won't make any difference in the future.

Of course he can always drop a subject after a term or so?

WorrySighWorrySigh Sun 19-May-13 13:43:13

Dont underestimate the impact of changing schools. My DD changed schools for 6th form and has struggled despite having A*/As across the board at GCSE.

eland Sun 19-May-13 13:56:36

So he's coming into y12 - everyone does 4 then don't they, so it's only FM extra, and as has been said that's not like an extra subject if he's a strong mathematician, and he must be or he wouldn't be taking it.

He should probably drop one after AS, but keep the FM if he might want to study physics.

Workload is more like 4 1/2 if 2 of them are Maths / Further Maths.

It depends on how strong he is at maths. If he was always top of the class in maths, (in a fairly academically strong school), and is breezing his way to A* then it's definitely worth trying (whilst keeping an eye on his results and happiness week by week, ready to pounce if he's showing strain), because A level physics is also pretty easy if you're a natural maths whizz, so that's three easy subjects and only two that need actual work.

I did this, and despite being a hopeless slacker I didn't find it too tough - mind you I used it as an excuse to slack off homework in each subject, so probably did less work in total than my 3 A level peers.

eland Sun 19-May-13 14:10:21

And,although some people have said FM is not essential for physics, it is a huuuge advantage and most strong applicants will have it unless it is not offered at their school which is fair enough, of course.

Oxford do not state it as a requirement, because they know not all school offer it, but if your school does offer FM and you didn't take it that weakens your application great deal, and everything else would have to be absolutely stellar to get an offer.

your son sounds like potential Oxbridge material (if he fancies Oxbridge) so it would be a shame to stsrt with a disadvantage, this stuff isn't publicised enough if you ask me.

I have DS1 in year 12 doing 5. He is doing 3 sciences, Maths and Further Maths. He wants to do Maths at uni. He was certainly discouraged from doing 5 but he stuck it out and seems to be doing OK.
As others have said it's a big step up from GCSE and A* GCSE students can still struggle with the Maths in particular.
DS1 is now working 100 times harder for his AS levels than he did for his but he's loving it. He does plan to drop Biology for A level because he will be doing STEP and some extra Maths modules.
He has researched entry requirements for Maths and decided that things like DoE and Critical Thinking would not be of great value.
I don't see a problem with changing schools. None of the schools here have a sixth form so all of them move on to 6th form colleges.

glaurung Sun 19-May-13 14:29:54

oxbridge probably are biased towards f.maths to be fair, especially if you had the opportunity to do it and didn't. But other places with strong physics departments often don't worry, simply because they have to teach the stuff in any case as a) it's largely modular, so they can't guarantee even further mathematicians have done much eg mechanics and b) too many schools don't offer it, so they would be discriminating against many potentially good applicants to insist on it.

For example, I know Birmingham physics dept. insist on A levels in maths and physics and then look for A* predictions rather than looking at f. maths being taken.

We did the schlep around unis lat year & the one thing they stressed (including Cambridge which DD1 got an interview for) was they didn't see any advantage in having 4/5 A's they would rather students got 3/4 concrete A/A*'s & had time to study effectively and thoroughly.

DD1 found it a real mental shift doing A's having been an A* student for GCSE's, loved it but it took her the best part of A2 year to pull her grades up and really get her head round the different techniques.

If he's unsure of his career path, then keeping his science range broad, with Maths as a fourth will keep his options open, and he can always drop one if he feels he needs to after AS.

A lot of the maths they do in Maths/FM/Physics is the same stuff apparently.

Maths and further maths is normal. Check how they do the modules. Some schools, for reasons that don't make sense, teach some of further maths early on. If so, he may struggle. But, if further maths is essentially an A2 course, there is no harm, because he should be able to pick it up later, or to drop it if need be.

If he takes, say, one further module in the lower sixth, that is fine. He could still reassess and drop further maths if it's not working. However, if he's happy doing 5, he could go on to do more further modules.

Does he know rough amount of extra home study required each course ? Maths and further maths comes under one here

Ds2 looked at 5 but after seeing amount home study had opted for 4 and will decide end of AS if will drop one or not . But helps as he knows what he wants to do so based choices around that

Casey Sun 19-May-13 15:55:36

He's only yr11 now, so I guess I should really be saying 5 AS Levels.

His Maths is very good - three of them vie for top of the year group position, it depends on how close they are to full marks in the exam. BUT I was like this at 16 too, and I found Maths A Level very challenging.

Also, ds2 is passionate about maths, in an uber-nerd sort of way. (Witters about it all the time, knows pi to a ridiculous number of decimal places, silver medal junior Olympiad winner etc). Ds1 has never been like that. But I don't know of that's just cos ds2 is weird and bonkers, or whether that's what all maths/further maths students are like...?!

Casey Sun 19-May-13 15:56:57

PS thanks for all the comments: very helpful.

lljkk Sun 19-May-13 16:38:29

If he were mine I'd let him start with 5 but with a very probable plan of dropping at least 1 pretty fast. Truth is he will decide what to do based on how manageable work load is AND how nice the lecturers are (only stick with nice supportive ones). He can't figure all that out until after he starts.

eland Sun 19-May-13 16:41:47

If he's mathsy look at the course requirements for Cambridge, Imperial and Warwick, they are all place that top maths students might end up applying to.

WorrySighWorrySigh Sun 19-May-13 16:42:25

I think that changing schools when everyone changes such as when schools dont have sixth forms and everyone goes to college is different from moving into an established cohort.

It was an extra thing for DD to deal with. It wasnt simply making new friends and finding her way round a new school. Existing students at the school had started their sixth form studies at the end of year 11 so started year 12 having already started IYSWIM. DD had to run hard to catch up.

nemno Sun 19-May-13 16:59:08

I'd let him try it with a view to dropping one. I agree that if he wants to do maths or physics then he needs to keep FM because his school offers it (top universities accept no FM if not available obviously). I have noticed that Cambridge will give hard 4 or 5 subject offers and do not necessarily reduce the requirements because a student is offering more subjects so the offer is more challenging to meet than the usual A*AA (eg A*AAA)

In getting the offer you'd think that a poor module in the context of 5 subjects would be less critical than one in 3 subjects but I wouldn't count on that. Minimising the chances of getting a lower mark by concentrating on fewer subjects seems wiser imo.

senua Sun 19-May-13 18:00:13

If he is joining a new school then "I am doing 5 subjects" is quite a statement to make. It will be difficult to row back from that without losing face. Can you make it a condition that:
You will allow him to do five subjects if you have the final say in whether he keeps going or not.
Then he can blame his big, bad mum for the decision.smile

hellsbells99 Sun 19-May-13 18:02:24

For the 1st time our school 6th form are encouraging the students NOT to take Further Maths as an additional option, but instead as 1 of the normal options. They say that the work load of 5 often proves too much and students would be better starting with 4 (including FM). 1 of DD's friends is still opting to do 5 including FM though.

junebeetle Sun 19-May-13 18:12:26

The exam load of 2xmaths (3 exams per year each) +3xscience (2 exams per year each) and no january modules would be quite daunting. The lack of Jan modules also removes one of the obvious checkpoints where you might decide 5 was too many after all.

NewFerry Sun 19-May-13 18:41:42

DS1 &DS2 have both taken 5 subjects at AS, inc maths and FM, then dropped down to 4 at A2.

At their school FM can only be taken as a 5th subject as the school worry that good GCSE students may struggle at AS and if you have used up 2 of 4 options in maths then you are stuck with having to see maths through to A2.
Although annoyingly, they then insist it has to a 4th subject at A2.

For them, the decision to take both was a bit of a no-Brainer as they both want to study engineering at uni, so having both is much better.

Suzieismyname Mon 20-May-13 22:16:54

If he's a maths lover then do the five AS and drop biology perhaps if it's too much.
I did maths at university and wish we'd pushed our school to do further maths, it would have msde my first year much easier.

Dozer Mon 20-May-13 22:59:38

What about dropping biology?

Bit more investigation of next stage, job options after?

You don't have to be a mathematical genius to do well at FM! And beware comparisons with ds2. There are some people who're amazing at maths, but probably lots more who enjoy the FM course and could enjoy and do well at university-level maths.

Mutteroo Tue 21-May-13 01:52:08

DS gained A* in his maths & science GCSEs last year & found the jump up in maths was greater than in physics. For that first term at sixth form, DS was spending 20-25 hours extra just on maths! He was putting himself under unnecessary strain because he had read how important it was to have further maths. The truth of the matter is its not always a compulsory subject unless you want to read maths or sometimes physics. Often unis like you to have further maths, but they also look at other subjects/interests of the pupil. DS has been given much more support & information on universities & their requirements now he's at sixth form & even though he dropped further maths last term, he's still planning to go to one of the top places for his chosen subject.

A side note; DS's godfather took five A levels & went on to get a double degree on maths & physics. It was his school who insisted he take five A levels & the strain was enormous. He's been invaluable on the advice he's offered to DS & actively encouraged DS to drop further maths. For DS this was the right decision & it may well be that your DS flourishes in the subject (& the others he's considering). No idea if my late night waffling has helped you to advise your son, but A levels are hard enough without adding extra pressures on a young person's shoulders. Wishing your DS well for his GCSEs

happyAvocado Tue 21-May-13 07:02:01

my nephew who did Natural Sciences regretted not taking further Maths as it disadvantaged him during his course - he did 3Sciences + Maths

if your son considers Physics Further Maths would be of great use to him.

My nephew decided on Physics after first year, now finished Msc in Physics in Cambridge and is doing another one in Kings - neuroscience

maybe Natural Sciences will be way forward for him if he finds all sciences equally interesting?

My nephew did some extra science course in the summer at some uni in London after y12, he thinks this helped him to get an unconditional offer smile

Needmoresleep Tue 21-May-13 11:54:56

Mine is taking five. At least to AS. Double maths, economics and a humanity subject and then a "fun" subject. Its entirely up to him whether he carries on.

1. look at university entrance requirements. LSE economics for example wants to see further maths, but is likely to off A* for the maths and AA for two other facilitating subjects not including further maths. Eg they expect 4 A levels.

2. the advice my son got was that the maths required at University for an economics degree would be around Further maths level. He might as well learn it in a classroom environment if he had the opportunity. I assume this is equally true for physics or engineering.

3. an awful lot depends on the quality of the teaching. My son is loving double maths, something he did not expect as he is a sound rather than a gifted mathematician. I hope his grades will reflect this as there are other subjects where he would have been more sure of getting a top grade.

4. There is a real step up to A/S from GCSE. I would echo previous comments. DS has had to work a lot harder this year and take it all more seriously. I assume next year will be harder still and with the distractions of UCAS. 5 A/S levels mean a pretty busy exam time table.

I have no idea what my son will do. Probably he will drop the fun subject at some point, possibly very late when he sees his A level exam timetable, though at the moment he is really enjoying it.

Depending on what your son wants to do I would identify four core subjects, and one extra. If he wants to do something sciency I would aim to keep the double maths. If he then wants to do something bio/chemistry and he is finding the workload heavy he might drop physics, or something physics/engineering and drop biology. A final decision can be made once he has started the school, had a chance to experience the workload and the syllabus and also identify who the better teachers are.

Lots of private school boys do three sciences and double maths. It is often known as "the Asian five", perhaps reflecting the preferences of students from Asia who come to Britain for sixth form. The boys I know doing this combination are English, but very bright.

DD1 (currently half way through a MMath at Bath) did Maths, FM, PHysics and Chemistry at AS, then dropped Chemistry for A2. Her school advised that three guaranteed A/A* at A2 was better than risking a B if doing more subjects. She did two STEP papers, but did all the prep for that herself - her advise is, if you need STEP, get on with past papers from the start of Y12 as it's totally different to A levels, and they don't provide actual answers, just "suggestions" for solving the problems.

But at the same time she kept one eye on her post uni CV, and did DofE to Gold, the Extended Project and a sports coaching qualification.

I doubt she'd have fitted it all in if she'd done more subjects. She probably put in an hour of own study for every hour in class, which has set her up well for uni.

Timetraveller Tue 21-May-13 14:58:39

Casey, my DS is in year 12 and taking the same 5 sujects at AS level. He was definite about maths, further maths, physics and chemistry, but he had to take another subject, as maths and further maths go together. (They all give one subject up after AS levels).

He couldn't decide between music or biology. He eventually chose biology because he hadn't ruled out studying medicine. Now he knows he's not interested in medicine and will be dropping it. He wants to study maths at Cambridge.

Secretscwirrels, your DS sounds very much like my DS - he's incredibly focused and hardworking. He knows he needs top grades to achieve his aim, so he works very hard and he's doing really well, especially in maths. He hasn't found the work too difficult.

GCSEs were easy for him, and he didn't have to work hard at all. However, when he began the A level courses, at first he had to adapt to the sheer volume of work. It's very different to GCSEs. Once he'd adjusted, he was fine.

If your DS wants to go to a top university to study maths or science, and he has the ability, then he should definitely study maths and further maths.

2rebecca Wed 22-May-13 10:52:10

I'd suggest dropping biology.

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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