Is it worth doing 4 A levels?

(27 Posts)
ICantFindAFreeNickName Thu 08-Aug-13 20:23:23

My DS teacher says that provided he gets his expected grades at AS level next week, he should continue with 4 A levels rather than dropping one as we expected. Her argument is that as Maths & Further Maths overlap a lot he can cope with 4. However we are concerned that he might be putting too much pressure on himself when most uni's only seem bothered about 3 A-levels anyway. DS thought it might give him a slight advantage to be doing 4 A levels rather than 3 when it comes to uni offers. Are there any uni admissions people who can give us any advice please

OP’s posts: |
titchy Thu 08-Aug-13 20:40:15

It'll depend what he's aiming for at university. A maths degree at an RG type institution would expect an applicant to have Further maths. Similarly another science degree might require three separate subjects and not count maths and further maths as different subjects. He'd do well to contact individual admissions officers for their advice (not next week though!).

titchy Thu 08-Aug-13 20:42:14

Posted too soon! In the first example. Dropping one of his non maths subjects would probably be fine, in the second example dropping Further would be ok, but if he wants to keep options open doing all four might've the way to go.

creamteas Thu 08-Aug-13 20:53:07

Having 4 is unlikely to be an advantage, as the most that is asked for is 3. Some also want an AS, but he will have that anyway.

But if he wants to do Maths, then having FM would be a good idea, if he can cope.

What does he want to do? This really should be his decision, and if he wanted to try then he could always start with the four and drop one if the workload is too much.

ICantFindAFreeNickName Thu 08-Aug-13 20:59:41

Sorry I should have explained a bit better. He will continue Maths, Further Maths & Physics. Chemistry is the one he may drop. He does not know what he wants to do really. Looking at Maths & Physics degrees.

OP’s posts: |
mysteryfairy Thu 08-Aug-13 21:11:15

At my DS school maths and further maths counts as one choice so all the further mathematicians do 5 AS levels and 4 A levels. To be honest if you are good enough at Maths to be expecting to read it at a decent university A and AS level don't require a lot of time/effort and I think your DS could be bored and have a very samey timetable for a sixth former if he drops chemistry now.

titchy Thu 08-Aug-13 21:35:12

Well dropping chem to do a maths degree will be fine, but a physics degree would need maths, physics and one other subject, and further may not count so he should check with universities hes interested in before a final decision is made.


HorryIsUpduffed Thu 08-Aug-13 21:42:26

If he's any good at Maths (which he should be if he wants to apply for Maths or Physics) then genuinely Maths and Further Maths is maybe one and a half A Levels worth of brain power, rather than two.

Would he be able to drop down later? ie start off studying the full set of options and after Christmas focus on just taking the however many he needs for his single A-Level to meet his offers?

I understand that many universities teach the equivalent of Further Maths quite quickly in the first year of Physics or Engineering courses, so obviously having done those topics already (particularly if he takes the Mechanics options rather than Decision) will give him a leg up and an easier start into university.

I think you pretty much have to have Further Maths to apply for Maths, unless you have some serious extenuating circumstances.

ICantFindAFreeNickName Thu 08-Aug-13 22:02:35

I knew I could rely on you guys, you have mentioned things that had not even occurred to me. I think we will suggest he starts all 4 then drops Chemistry if he is struggling or if its not required for the courses he decides on.
One thing he was worried about is a teacher told him, that in Year 13 you cant just drop a subject and have to be entered in the exam even if you have not been studying it for months and if you don't sit the exam you will get a fail. Do you know when the pupils names actually get entered for A levels?

OP’s posts: |
hellsbells99 Thu 08-Aug-13 22:04:30

My friends DD went to Sheffield uni last year to do maths - she didn't do further maths. I think Warwick insist on it for a maths degree but a lot don't.

creamteas Thu 08-Aug-13 22:12:40

The deadline for summer exam entries is usually Feb/March.

Different schools have different rules about entry, but I can't see why they would waster money on entry fees if a student had dropped a subject months before.

HorryIsUpduffed Thu 08-Aug-13 22:30:10

Or indeed mess up their own statistics (eg % A-C) by making an entry they know won't be taken up.

ICantFindAFreeNickName Fri 09-Aug-13 18:24:07

Thanks for all the help. I will print off & show my son.

OP’s posts: |
MariscallRoad Fri 09-Aug-13 22:00:04

Frther Maths is harder than Maths and A2 id more difficult than AS. But this is not the point because the most important is to get the grades of the offer. t is not bad idea to start Further Maths to see how it is because if he chooses to do such a degree he will have the taste of things to come. He will see how it goes.

Some people can manage well with 4 but always depends on the person.
The market for Maths and Physics graduates might be different in 4 years time but Maths and Science subjects can be used in other degrees so he will have a lot of choices. Good luck with it smile

secretscwirrels Sun 11-Aug-13 15:42:23

DS1 has just done 5 AS levels.
He did Maths, FM, and the three sciences. He plans to do a Maths degree and wants to go to Warwick. He seemed to manage the workload of 5 AS comfortably but is going to drop Biology and do 4 A levels. This will create quite a bit of space in his timetable for STEP preparation. (A Maths admissions test which some unis require)
He did not do critical thinking or general studies although the college encourage them, nor has he done EPQ. These would have stretched his timetable and most top unis do not treat those subjects as proper A levels. It's worth taking into account whether the school insist on CT/GS.

alreadytaken Sun 11-Aug-13 17:22:11

Further maths is often seen as not being a full A level, he'd be wise to keep the Chemistry going unless he does very badly in it.

lljkk Sun 11-Aug-13 17:43:14

Sheesh, MNers make up your minds.
Someone on here was talking about how her DD's boyfriend was doing 5-6 A-levels. When I proclaimed "That's just greedy!" I got told very sincerely that 5-6 was quite normal now. confused

I wish 5-6 was normal. English system specialises way too early for my comfort.

secretscwirrels Sun 11-Aug-13 18:07:02

IIjkk DS is one of only a handful doing 5AS at his college and I don't think any of them are doing 5 A levels. But it is very much a bog standard sixth form. When he has been to university taster days / summer schools he has rubbed shoulders with many DCs who are at private schools and commonly they are doing 5/6 A levels. He feels he has to do 4 to compete. sad.
Having said that he would have liked to specialise at 14 if he could grin.

SlowlorisIncognito Sun 11-Aug-13 20:47:17

Outside of maths degrees, further maths is often regarded as only 0.5 of an A level. Many sixth forms share this perception, which is why he is probably being encouraged to carry on with four.

Before dropping any subjects, I would encourage him to look up the degrees he wishes to apply to at the universities he is considering, and check that maths, further maths and physics is an accepted A level combination.

However, if he carries on with 4, when he submits his UCAS form, he should put all 4 grades as pending. This means there is a slight possibility he could get an offer which asks for say- 320 points from maths, physics and chemistry, meaning he can't then drop any of those subjects, unless he choses to decline the offer.

I think he ought to make the decision now, having made sure dropping chemistry won't exclude any courses he might want to apply for.

HorryIsUpduffed Sun 11-Aug-13 20:53:10

Yes that's a good point - my offer back in the day was AAA. I contacted the admissions people to see about dropping one subject - FM as it happens (because back then if you were doing double maths you'd have finished your single maths A Level's worth of papers by January) - and they said they would have to review the offer as it was based on a portfolio of five.

alreadytaken Mon 12-Aug-13 07:54:56

schools that do 5/6 A levels may count subjects like General Studies ir critical thinking as an A level. Few universities will do so. It's rare to have 5 or 6 academic A levels unless you do further maths and most do 5 (4 1/2 really) rather than 6. Oxbridge like 3 good grades and a good AS, except in maths where 4 would be expected.

Inncogneetow Mon 12-Aug-13 08:34:51

ds1's sixth form teach maths+further maths in 7 hrs, instead of 5 hrs for a single subject.

Also they do all the Maths modules in yr12, so that A level is awarded in yr12, not yr13. Some unis (some med schools) have said they will consider only A levels done/awarded at the end of yr13.

BeckAndCall Mon 12-Aug-13 13:33:11

It's simply not true that FM is not seen as a full A level. A look at any of the entrance requirements for, say a physics degree, at a RG university will show you that.

What is often true, however, is that schools which offer FM do expect their pupils to take 4 A2s so that they have a rounder education ( my sons school did, for example). Schools timetable differently but my sons school for FM timetabled 8 periods a week, same as for any other subject. After all, the modules are self contained and have as much in them as any other, so the taught hours would need to be the same.

There was a good long thread on this some time in the last 6 months, OP - you might want to search fro it and see what was concluded in that airing of the topic.

glaurung Mon 12-Aug-13 15:21:52

This comes up quite often. The view that further maths A level isn't quite held in the same regard as others may stem from the Cambridge response 'Number of A level subjects studied' found here where they state that:

"Further Maths is thus a particular case which should be considered separately from others. In many ways it is effectively not a fourth, distinct A level, but grows out of work done for A level Maths. The combination of Maths and Further Maths is not, for those strong in the subject, as heavy a burden as combinations of Maths with any other A level."

or it may be that for some degree courses only one of maths and further maths will be considered (this is often for medicine courses, but is becoming rarer - Edinburgh is a current example)

Cambridge also state that three academic/traditional and relevant subjects at A level are usually quite sufficient, and more are not often encouraged especially for arts subjects but ...

"For those who want to apply for mathematical and science subjects we are aware that the academic value of taking four A levels is clearer. We certainly would never wish to put off an applicant offering, say, three sciences plus maths for our science-based courses, and would very actively encourage all applicants in Physical Natural Sciences, Computer Science, Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Mathematics to take Further Maths if available (and, if not, to see how else they might improve and develop their mathematical knowledge and skills according to the advice offered on both the University of Cambridge Engineering and Mathematics Faculties’ websites)."

So, if you want to study Nat Sci, comp sci, engineering or maths at Cambridge, and you have the ability to do 4 without grades slipping and your school supports it, then it's probably a good idea.

MariscallRoad Tue 13-Aug-13 14:17:34

ICantFindAFreeNickName, if the teaching of FM in the school of DS is good, then it might be worth trying to do it. Some departments say that it would be an advantage to have a FM A level but I have not seen this stated as a condition.

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