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Are my A Level choices reasonable?

(29 Posts)
Gcsekid Tue 23-Apr-13 18:47:59

For A level my choices are Biology, Chemistry, Psychology and English Language. I've got a few questions, firstly, I know literature is more preferred but I enjoy language much more so that won't change,but will it affect how a university see me? Also what are your opinions on psychology? I think it sounds like an interesting subject but I'm not sure it it's a 'pointless' one on a CV? I'm getting straight A's at GCSE, but I'm worried about these subjects being a lot of work and
Too much to cope with, I'd preferably like ABB/AAB, any advice would be appreciated!

BeckAndCall Mon 29-Apr-13 06:43:33

Not my thread, I know, but that's very helpful notcitrus!

But not a ringing endorsement of the supervision system!

notcitrus Sun 28-Apr-13 21:36:40

Just seen replies.
I wanted to be a biologist, so first year options were chemistry, biology of cells, and then physiology (could have done organisms or geology). Actually I made a mistake above - I was the only one doing chem without physics/maths - there were a few others doing combos of the options above.

Was it difficult? Yes, but mainly because my college had rather poor tuition at the time, so we kicked out the person who did physiology, and the chem tutor was very expert but useless at tutoring. Most importantly, didn't understand the effect of the exam structure. So I spent the Christmas vacation trying to teach myself second order differential equations so I could answer quantum mechanics or thermodynamics questions for the 'physical chemistry' section, whereas friends with more clued-up tutors were told to ignore those fiendish topics and only worry about rates, which were the topic for lectures just before the exam.

My DoS's comment on choosing chemistry was "You'll really enjoy it. And learn a lot. You won't pass it, mind." - actually I scraped a third, which he congratulated me on, followed by checking I wasn't going to try doing chemistry in second year.

The Maths for Biologists course could have been helpful but was terribly taught so we actually came out knowing less than when we started. Luckily my tutor was very helpful and tried to teach us what we needed for chemistry.

I'm very glad I did first-year Chemistry and the A-level subjects I did. However I did have post-GCSE understanding of maths - it's the understanding what calculus is and what it's used for that is critical, rather than being able to manipulate equations yourself. I did stats for biology A-level and them during my MSc and managed to completely dazzle my PhD examiners who had much less knowledge of stats.

bombyxmori Sun 28-Apr-13 16:18:57

Beckandcall, agree. Colleges vary, but all Cambridge science students have to do a maths course in 1st year. It's no good sticking heads in the sand and hoping for the best. If OP is keen on oxbridge (no sign of that - just mumsnet hype I think) then she/he needs to check colleges. Yes, everyone applies for nat sci.

Notcitrus, you're not the first I've heard of to get in with no maths (maybe you're her though!) but was it not just a tad daunting to be the one with (substantially) least maths and physics? Be honest, for the benefit of those taking advice from here. Getting into somewhere is just the start. Two of my DCs went with gaps that most of their peers didn't have and it was undoubtedly harder for both, at least in 1st year, because of it. (Of course, the gaps meant they had something the others didn't, but that was rather less helpful at the time! 'Preferred' subjects are stated for a reason)

OP: you seem to be in a difficult position. You said you can no longer do Eng Lang? You seem not keen on all sciences/maths, but still want to do neurobiology from biology and chemistry A levels - and probably Psychology as the third. I would stick to your guns over a fourth and pick from the remaining block what best suits your interest as well as aptitude - so perhaps not Physics from what you say! That is, so long as you're realistic about where you can apply with these A levels and your likely grades. You'll be doing what ASs were meant to do and keeping your education broad. But before you finalise, get your school's advice, check university requirements, and email some admissions officers as suggested. Ask for the A level profile of people on the courses. You only have 5 choices for university, so you don't need to meet everyone's requirements. [Hobbyhorse warning] It's a real shame if university science students are bludgeoned into doing all sciences from age 16. No wonder they get treated as geeks and weirdos by arts students.

To play my own devil's advocate though, the point I'd make about maths is that you do need it as a scientist, you can't afford to be afraid of it. A level would allow you to continue to study it, and you'd come out more confident and competent even if you don't get a great grade and can't cope with some of it - it's easy to lose sight of the value of A level courses: two more years of study, they aren't just about the grade. But don't do maths if the thought makes your heart sink. Do, though, get some maths practice before you head off to university. (Coincidentally or not, I think Cambridge tell their scientists to practise their maths in the summer before they arrive!)

headlesslambrini Sat 27-Apr-13 17:18:06

Cant you get an appointment with the schools careers adviser?

BeckAndCall Sat 27-Apr-13 17:11:01

But notcitrus your experience of Cambridge is exceptional. Coincidentally I have just looked at the website for one of the colleges and it says quite clearly that you will be disadvantaged for natural science if you do not have maths. ( diff subject I know but neuro sci probably starts off there).

So all the advice you are getting, OP, is that you will need maths for neuroscience.

But quite frankly you're on the wrong website - go over to The Student Room and you'll get better information there

notcitrus Fri 26-Apr-13 18:30:21

I'd ask some of the unis you're potentially interested in, as they are the only ones with up to date info - my school told me I'd never get anywhere without maths or a 3rd science. Especially not Cambridge.

Phoned Cambridge. Bio and chem fine for NatSci. Got in, as well as offers from Manchester, Bristol, Warwick... Admittedly out of the 30-odd of us who hadn't done maths to A level (out of 650 students), only 7 of us hadn't got A/S level, and I was the only one who hadn't done physics either. But as maths teaching at my school was crap and I effectively hadn't learnt any since age 13, I have no regrets.

ISn't the current system you have to take 4-5 subjects in first year 6th and then drop one or two? If that's the case, I'd really recommend the maths. And check with unis about pyschology - they may or may not rate it. It's the sort of thing you can take up later or enjoy reading about quite easily, whereas maths usually isn't.

Gcsekid Thu 25-Apr-13 22:31:20

That's what I thought, I'm very interested in psychology and if I didn't take it I think id regret it a lot, does it massively affect my position in a decent university if I got AAB/ABB In bio, chem and psychology.. Or is it very unlikely getting in against other students without maths or physics?

breatheslowly Thu 25-Apr-13 21:41:53

Bizarrely I have taught Chemistry and Psychology at A level. I don't think you need Maths for A level Chemistry at all (goo GCSE level skills are essential). But Maths is very useful if you are pursuing a science degree (a bit moreso for physical sciences, but statistics is very useful for biological science). Psychology is a lovely A level - it is really interesting. But it is definitely easier than traditional sciences. I would say that a C grade chemistry student would generally be an A grade psychology student, and as a result it isn't a great discriminator for universities to use to select students so they probably don't like it partly for that reason. I think it does complement sciences as it brings essay writing skills, but English Language will do that for you. Psychology is also a great subject for really getting to grips with the scientific method as psychological research is plagued with confounding variables and limitations on research methods. However you will probably get enough of that from the sciences.

Suzieismyname Thu 25-Apr-13 21:27:05

You'd be nuts to do Physics without Maths...

Gcsekid Thu 25-Apr-13 20:42:18

Hopefully ill get good grades in chemistry and biology, because I feel like taking these too sciences and mathematics would be too much work and I'm afraid my grades will start to slip, I Believe law is also a soft subject and isn't highly regarded, and it is nothing to do with my career path.. But I'm unsure of what else I could take. Physics and maths seem to be my best options for university, but they don't particularly Interest me

Gcsekid Thu 25-Apr-13 20:30:23

I'm working at an A/A* in maths and feel I may have the potential to do maths at alevel, but I feel that's its likely ill get a C at alevel due to my work ethic, and I don't feel too confident with the subject, but I've just been told I can't take English language due to the subject blocks. And subjects left are ones such as physics and geography. I'm getting A's currently in physics, but I don't particularly find it interesting so I don't feel like ill be able to take it confidently

TolliverGroat Wed 24-Apr-13 23:42:22

You could really do with Maths to support the Chemistry in particular and to keep your options more open on university options. In your position I'd take that and drop one of English Language or Psychology (probably drop the Psychology given what you've heard about the course/teachers).

Ehhn Wed 24-Apr-13 23:32:32

As others have said, it depends what you want to do next. I am in the English department at King's College London and we don't care much for psychology A Level. It's true- perceived as soft but isn't easy for the student (same goes for PE - really hard subject!) Rule of thumb: if it is a subject that is traditionally studied at uni (psychology, law etc) then top unis don't care for A levels in those subjects as it is believed that you cannot get a proper understanding of the subjects at A Level. Right or wrong, this is the attitude. Top unis like traditional subjects such as the sciences, lit, history etc. It looks like your options are pushing you more to a social sciences (psych/ed psych) - as other posters have said, if you want to be totally science based, get maths or physics on board...

happilyconfused Wed 24-Apr-13 21:31:15

If you are going down the science route you need maths to get onto the competitive course. You can then go for Lang instead of Lit. Not really sure what psychology would offer you can do some extra curricular reading instead.

Suzieismyname Wed 24-Apr-13 19:34:46

Another one for Maths, preferably with some Statistics content too.

notcitrus Wed 24-Apr-13 18:58:08

I did neurosciences. If you are remotely capable of it, do maths at least in lower sixth. Also consider physics. One essay subject to prove you can write is useful though.

But don't panic if you know there's no way you will ever do maths - I got to Cambridge with biology, chem and two random subjects, and while first year chemistry was tough, the MSc neuro wasn't.

evilgiraffe Wed 24-Apr-13 17:53:44

Having done a science degree with Biology, Chemistry, and Geography as my A Levels, I speak from experience when I say DO MATHS. I bitterly regretted not taking maths at A Level, it would have been enormously helpful, particularly in the biochemistry modules of my degree. If you're going to do four A Levels, then you can still keep English or Psychology for fun, but I can't stress enough how helpful a good grounding in maths is for a biological degree.

alreadytaken Wed 24-Apr-13 17:42:38

if you want something to look good on a cv drop the Psychology and go for Maths instead. One of my child's friends applied for psychology and even if you want to apply for a psychology course you'd probably find it easier with Maths. Psychology degrees are popular and at the better universities you could need an A*. Some offer lower grades to those with science A levels.

Maths is counted for so many degree courses that anyone capable of doing well in it should consider taking it.

secretscwirrels Wed 24-Apr-13 15:19:46

I think you would struggle to do A level Chemistry without Maths.
Could you not do Psychology as an enrichment (ie none exam) subject?

senua Wed 24-Apr-13 08:43:02

Originally, I thought that your list of A Levels looked OK but if you are looking specifically at Neurosciences then you may need to tweak a little. If we go to the UCAS site and go to 'course search' and drill down to 'course-specific requirements' then you will find, for example:
Bristol: Minimum of two science subjects, or one science subject and Mathematics. Will not accept Gen Studies nor Crit Thinking
Cardiff: Biology and Chemistry. Maths preferred as third subject. No GS/CT.
Leeds: Biology and Chemistry and a third science or science-related subject. No GS.

So you can see that Maths is frequently mentioned. They don't say that you have to have it but if the course is heavily oversubscribed and your competitors have Maths but you don't, then it may put you on the back foot. There again, Keele will let you study a joint honours in English & Neuroscience with three A Levels including English and an unspecified science!

I'm not sure that Psychology is a difficult subject although it may be horses for courses. My DS finds it easy (not much to understand, just lots to learn) so kept it on to A2 because he thought that he would get a good mark in it. I've just done a search: I've told you this before!smile If it is merely lots of learning then you should be able to make up for poor teaching from the text book.

AllOverIt Wed 24-Apr-13 00:23:30

You need a balance of academic subjects.

Psychology is quite difficult, despite its reputation as a 'soft' subject.

I teach both English Lang and Lit. Definitely pick Lang if this is what you prefer.

If you want the science route at uni then pick two sciences.

QuintessentialOHara Wed 24-Apr-13 00:08:25

If you are interested in Science, would you not be better off with either maths of physics rather than English?

Gcsekid Wed 24-Apr-13 00:05:12

I think I'd be interested in psychology a lot because I find that stuff really intriguing, but I've heard loads of rumours that it's a terrible subject to take and the current teachers aren't too good, but as long as I find the content interesting I think I should be ok?

Gcsekid Wed 24-Apr-13 00:03:09

I'm considering dropping English language, the route I want to go down is the biology route, I'm interested in neuroscience particularly, but any science really, but that depends on how good I find psychology as to whether I drop that or Lang..

andadietcoke Tue 23-Apr-13 21:18:16

I did psychology at a-level and it's actually very transferable to business degrees - I've just finished a masters in business and drew on a lot of what I learnt when I was doing a-level.

Plus, I found it very interesting, so was more engaged, which is what you need when you're committing to studying a subject.

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