Which A Levels to choose to study Philosophy at (RG) University?

(27 Posts)
Goodbyealvin Sun 17-Apr-16 12:45:17

Dd is in year 10 and we are starting to think about A Level choices and university. She's at an academic school so would hopefully be aiming for Russell Group, possibly Oxbridge (though not sure about that; we know that she can't do pure Philosophy at Oxford, Cambridge might not be her thing)
It also might be that she doesn't choose Philosophy, so we want to ensure that she doesn't rule out other subjects, probably either History or Classics.

In the mix for A Levels (she's allowed a maximum of 3, are:

History (strongly leaning towards this)
RS aka Philosophy and Ethics

To my mind she should do History, Latin and Greek, but would she be better choosing RS or Philosophy instead of one of those?

OP’s posts: |
Decorhate Sun 17-Apr-16 13:11:49

What's her reasoning for not doing Philosophy & Ethics at A Level if she is thinking of doing it at uni?

titchy Sun 17-Apr-16 13:12:43

She'd need neither Latin nor Greek for classics, so doing both at the expense of a presumably favourite, and well regarded, subject seems a little odd. I'd go for Latin, History and Philosophy (poss the RE instead of Philosophy if she prefers the syllabus - which will have changed with the decoupling of AS/A). She's ruling out an English degree though.

thatstoast Sun 17-Apr-16 13:17:16

History, English Literature and then either Latin or Greek. Although is a modern language an option?

nagsandovalballs Sun 17-Apr-16 13:24:15

I lecture at an RG uni in the humanities

I would want to see history and English with either RS or Latin/Greek. Not both classical languages. Or history, RS and Latin/Greek.

Do not do philosophy. The rule is: traditional subjects for A Level and uni standard subjects for uni only (philosophy, law etc), especially if you have an eye on Oxbridge.

floraldresser Sun 17-Apr-16 13:30:42

History and English Lit definitely. Those subjects are great for anything academic. Very good for if she decides to do Law later on too!

boys3 Sun 17-Apr-16 13:53:44

Have to concur with the History and English Lit school of thought. Thereafter whatever she would enjoy most (and therefore perhaps most likely to put in the requisite level of effort to secure a good grade). Philosophy A level would be the last on the list.

Probably also worth thinking outside the RG spin - neither St Andrews nor Lancaster are RG ahd yet both well regarded for Philosophy, the former perhaps more so than the latter.

Intrigued by the Cambridge might not be her thing Can you elaborate op ?


BoboChic Sun 17-Apr-16 13:55:19


Poofus Sun 17-Apr-16 13:56:41

History, English and Latin/Greek. Definitely not RS or Philosophy at A-level. It's a shame she doesn't have Maths, though - Maths plus History and Latin/Greek would be ideal.

ClimbedEveryMountain Sun 17-Apr-16 14:53:29

If you want to do Politics, Philosophy, Law (and to some extent Economics), you shouldn't take them at A-Level.

I would go for History, English Literature and Greek or Latin.

Booboostwo Sun 17-Apr-16 15:01:03

I am a philosopher, it's a fantastic subject, so glad your DD is considering it!

I wouldn't recommend either of the philosophy A levels, they don't have the best reputation despite efforts to improve them. She can do anything she likes, we are jacks of all trades!

Goodbyealvin Sun 17-Apr-16 15:09:54

Thanks for these comments, really helpful.

Maths and science are her weakest subjects, so there's no way she would choose any of those for A Level

Cambridge - well, it's possible that she may not get the GCSE grades required (see first comment!), also she's got ASD and it might be all a bit too much (dh and I both went to Oxbridge for humanities so we have a small insight)

I'm pleased to hear that Philosophy A Level isn't required as I didn't think it was a good choice and might narrow her choices if she changes her mind.

Sorry, I didn't want to 'diss' the likes of St Andrews et al, just wanted to give an idea of her aspirations and certainly if a particular course is well regarded at a non RG university we'd certainly consider it.

She prefers Greek to Latin but I was thinking that if she decided on Classics then she'd be more likely to get help with getting Greek up to speed. Also, would universities take a dim view that she'd had the opportunity to take Latin but decided not to?

I guess it's a 3 pronged approach for us- subject, university and SEN support. Hopefully we can get all 3 in exactly the right mix!

OP’s posts: |
ImperialBlether Sun 17-Apr-16 15:13:35

Another Philosophy student here... those in my class with A level Maths found it easier than those of us without it.

GasLightShining Sun 17-Apr-16 15:36:06

RS aka Philosophy and Ethics

RS is a separate subject to Philosophy and Ethics although with an overlap aren't they or they were when my DD was at sixth form a few years ago

rightsaidfrederickII Sun 17-Apr-16 15:52:45

I work at a university. We care far less about what A Level subjects a student takes than it is often assumed. This is Cambridge's take on the matter, for instance www.phil.cam.ac.uk/prosp-students/prosp-ugrad-faq and UCL doesn't specify any subjects www.ucl.ac.uk/philosophy/prospective-students/undergraduate/philosophy-ba (just two examples).

If I were your DD, I would look for [combinations of] subjects that will
a) be interesting to her, personally
b) keep her options open - it's very, very common for students to change their mind about what they want to study between Y10 & Y13, as I'm sure you're aware
c) she's good at - getting good grades is always the most important factor.

To that end, I would choose
- History - on the grounds that it's a rigorous essay-based academic subject, usually required to do history, and of use for both philosophy and classics
- RS or philosophy - whichever she prefers, on the grounds that they're both rigorous, essay-based academic subjects that will give her a taste of philosophy and allow her to decide if she likes it or not, while keeping her options open. If she doesn't want to do either, then I would seriously question why she wants to do a degree in philosophy.
- one other - her favourite from the available subjects; one that she thinks she will do well in

Note that for classics, it's common for universities to offer two pathways - one for people with Latin / Greek A Level, and one for those without. Classics is a subject that tends to struggle to recruit enough students, even at RG universities - it's certainly not mega competitive.

zazas Sun 17-Apr-16 20:26:04

ClimbedEveryMountain (highjacking thread here - sorry) interesting that you mentioned economics (although as you said 'not to the same extent') as an A level subject that is not necessary...as my DD found that at every university open day (and there were a few!) she attended for economics they all stressed that they would find it unusual for someone wanting to study economics not to have taken it at A level if available. We were a little surprised by this...

monniemae Sun 17-Apr-16 21:10:03

I did history, English and RS (with philosophy and ethics modules). Was offered places at six rg unis to do philosophy. Was a while ago mind!

scotsgirl64 Thu 21-Apr-16 09:59:37

My DD is just about to graduate with MAPhilosophy from Ancient Scottish Uni and did English , RS, Geography and Drama A levels!

scotsgirl64 Thu 21-Apr-16 10:02:48

Oh and dd has dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia and on course for a 2:1!...

Noitsnotteatimeyet Thu 21-Apr-16 12:05:03

I did English, French and music many aeons ago and went on to study philosophy at a RG university

Logic is very much easier if you're good at maths so it would be good to check how much formal logic there is in any of the courses she's interested in. At my university it was a compulsory module in the first year but after that you could choose modules which avoided it if need be. I was always very jealous of my maths-minded peers as they quite often got 100% in logic exams, something impossible in ethics or aesthetics exams ...

Booboostwo Thu 21-Apr-16 13:17:32

rights I was a lecturer in philosophy and the A levels are nothing like the subject at UG level. For some reason the A level are a very poor historical run through of some ideas that has none of the originality of thinking required for a degree in philosophy so if the OP's DD doesn't like the A level philosophy it doesn't mean she won't like the degree.

Maddaddam Fri 22-Apr-16 10:01:14

I read Philosophy (with Psychology) for my first degree.

Am now an academic (not in Philosophy).

I would suggest that for Philosophy you ideally want to demonstrate:

Logic skills (i.e. Maths)
Essay writing skills (any essay-based A level)
Critical thinking skills (could be History, could equally be a science).

Godstopper Sat 23-Apr-16 19:16:11

I've recently finished my Philosophy PhD, and have done/am doing a fair bit of uni teaching whilst looking for an academic post.

- My dept (RG) didn't care about philosophy A-level. The skills required are vastly different: we want an ability to understand, and argue for, various positions. A-levels are more about ticking off boxes to show you have read x, y, z.

- You certainly want something with a logic component if at all possible. On most courses, it is a basic requirement of passing the first year.

- History is a good choice - you'll be analyzing texts. Anything that develops critical thinking skills.

- Emphasis on Classics possibly misguided. You won't encounter much in the way of Ancient Philosophy (some, but mainly for scene-setting), but again, if she likes this, it is fine for critical thinking.

The only caveat with the absence of maths/science is that she may not be able to do, er, the philosophy of science/physics/maths if that is offered as a module - but doesn't sound like that's a worry!

Poppledopple Sat 23-Apr-16 19:37:34

My DD is just about to graduate with MAPhilosophy from Ancient Scottish Uni and did English , RS, Geography and Drama A levels!

Scotsgirl my DS has just chosen these for A level - minus Eng as only doing 3 now - I was worried about the Theatre Studies (Drama) choice in case it was seen as light weight somehow - but it would be like cutting off his arms to ask him not to do this...

Godstopper - do you think RS, Geography and Theatre Studies is robust enough?

Godstopper Sat 23-Apr-16 21:00:01

All things being equal, I'd be looking to either drop, or add a more traditional subject, than theatre studies. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but a good philosophy dept. is going to place an emphasis on traditional, core, subjects. We don't, for example, consider General Studies as being of equal merit to other A-levels, although some depts do (note: this doesn't reflect my actual view, I've just got over a decade dealing with academic philosophy at university level!)

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