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3 vs 4 A-levels and Uni offers

(67 Posts)
pipilangstrumpf Sun 05-Nov-17 13:52:01

I understand that 3 A-levels are sufficient to apply to a UK University and that their offers are based on the 3 subjects studied.

Does anyone know what offers are made when applicants study 4 A-levels? Do Unis make offers based on all 4 subjects?

DumbledoresApprentice Sun 05-Nov-17 13:54:54

Usually offers are based on the three best even if the student is studying four. If the offer is AAA, for example, it generally doesn’t matter whether they end up with AAAA or AAAE.

Needmoresleep Sun 05-Nov-17 13:54:54

I think it is rare though some of the most competitive courses may - usually for sciences. But then it is hard to work out whether the offer was only forthcoming because the student was taking four A levels.

titchy Sun 05-Nov-17 15:07:01

99% of times the offer will be the same i.e. There's no point continuing with the 4th subjects from an offers POV. Maths/FM may not be counted as two though. Imperial and possibly Oxbridge are the only ones off the top of my head that might ask for grades based on 4.

lljkk Sun 05-Nov-17 15:52:44

This comes up with kids who like math or physics but also want to keep option open for medicine. b/c medicine admissions won't count further maths A-level but FM is very useful A-level for kids doing physics or math at Uni, who might not get on the medicine course after all. So those kids might want to squeeze FM in as an extra A-level, they have a good reason.

jeanne16 Sun 05-Nov-17 17:57:16

My DS did 4 A levels last year. All his offers, including from Cambridge, were based on 3 A levels only. The exception was Imperial which gave him a choice of either 2 A stars and 1 A grade or 1 A star and 3 A grades.

LineysRun Sun 05-Nov-17 18:01:44

If anyone can work out how my son got into his university course given his original offers and then his actual A level results, they deserve a degree themselves.

(Bless you, DS.)

I am assuming it happened as a result of his subject choices (three hard sciences).

pipilangstrumpf Sun 05-Nov-17 18:50:11

Thanks everyone, that’s really helpful. So if the offer is the same, based on 3 Alevels, then any of your 4 Alevels can achieve the offer condition? And the fourth one is just ‘spare’ and not valued/necessary?

And yes, it would probably be for a Science based degree, although dd isn’t sure yet as only in Yr 11.

EmmaGrundyForPM Sun 05-Nov-17 18:57:29

It's not the case that if you take 4 A levels any 3 of the 4 can satisfy the offer. Quite often a particular grade in a particular subject is needed .

If you are applying to do, say, Engineering and you are taking Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Economics A levels then a likely offer will be something like 'AAA including Maths and Physics". So getting As in Physics, Chemistry and Economics but a C in maths won't get you in, whereas getting As in Maths, Physics and Economics but a C in Chemistry would.

EmmaGrundyForPM Sun 05-Nov-17 18:57:30

It's not the case that if you take 4 A levels any 3 of the 4 can satisfy the offer. Quite often a particular grade in a particular subject is needed .

If you are applying to do, say, Engineering and you are taking Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Economics A levels then a likely offer will be something like 'AAA including Maths and Physics". So getting As in Physics, Chemistry and Economics but a C in maths won't get you in, whereas getting As in Maths, Physics and Economics but a C in Chemistry would.

TwitterQueen1 Sun 05-Nov-17 19:01:18

yes, a 4th one is just a 'spare'. I think it's comparable to an EPQ really. Mine did 4 and was going to do an EPQ too but when we realised how much work was involved she dropped the EPQ. Universities base their offers on 3 A levels only, so the 4th was an insurance choice because an EPQ doesn't count. So if she'd flunked psychology for example, she still had another A level to fall back on.

As it happened, she got 4 As grin

LineysRun Sun 05-Nov-17 19:05:30

It was definitely my son's saving grace, as it were, that his A Levels were Maths, Physics and Biology, in order to do a science degree. He could have got higher grades in other non-hard-science subjects, and that wouldn't have mattered when it came to admissions.

We did (well, he did) end up going through the roller coaster of clearing - and then you have the whole other roller coaster of getting halls accommodation - but he's at Reading doing science and that's a good outcome.

Subject choice is key, like EmmaG says.

goodbyestranger Sun 05-Nov-17 20:28:01

It obviously varies though jeanne. DS's offer from Imperial was just 3 A's, although he was taking a fourth A level as well as an EPQ.

The other unis to make him offers (Medicine), including Oxford, were also based on 3 A levels only.

pipilangstrumpf Mon 06-Nov-17 11:49:35

It’s a shame they can only take 4 subjects. DD would love be to continue more subjects including some she would do very well in (possibly better than those she needs for her Uni course). I find 16 very young to ‘specialise’ and drop other subjects you still enjoy.

Aftershock15 Mon 06-Nov-17 12:05:58

Does anywhere near offer the IB? That allows you to keep more subjects going.

pipilangstrumpf Mon 06-Nov-17 12:12:41

Good point, Aftershock, the IB might have been more suitable for dd, but we’ve probably left it too late to apply now. I guess she’ll just have to choose the 4 most relevant subjects. Just wondered whether others felt the same way?

LoniceraJaponica Mon 06-Nov-17 20:01:55

"It’s a shame they can only take 4 subjects."

Unless your child is exceptionally gifted 4 subjects is more than enough. A levels are linear now, and AS levels don't count towards the final grade. DD started with 4 subjects and has dropped to 3 after AS levels (her school still did them this year). The workload in year 13 is far more manageable than year 12.

When AS levels counted towards the final mark the students sat the equivalent of 4 modules in year 12 and 4 modules in year 13 (if they were taking 4 subjects). Now that A levels are linear they will be sitting the equivalent of 8 modules at the end of year 13 which is a big ask.

DD is applying for medicine and none of the universities want 4 subjects. They want 3As (to include chemistry and another science). So she will sit the equivalent of 6 modules next June.

goodbyestranger Mon 06-Nov-17 20:42:03

Lonicera my older DC took a lot more than four modules in the summer of Y13, you're over simplifying.

A lot of Medicine applicants are offering more than three A2s, it's one of those subjects where lots of applicants do four, even if unis say they only need three.

imokit Mon 06-Nov-17 20:49:44

I did medicine and 4 A levels (because at AS I got AABB in the wrong subjects for medicine and I didn't want to drop my As).
My offers were for 3 subjects, but they specified that Biology and Chemistry had to be included in those 3 grades.
They didn't care about the extra one, as long as the mandatory subjects were covered. (ie I could have got AABE with As in History and chemistry, b in biology and E in geography, but if I'd gotten AABB as in AS with the both Bs in biology and chemistry, I wouldn't have gotten in).
The fourth can make the application and personal statement look good, as it shows you're keen and academic.

user2019697 Mon 06-Nov-17 20:50:10

OP's DD is in year 11. Amongst those starting year 12 next year, it will be far less common to take 4 A levels (leaving aside Further Maths, which is sometimes not counted for medicine anyhow). For funding reasons (as well as increased difficulty of the linear A levels) many sixth forms are simply not offering 4 A levels to almost all students.

And yes, it would probably be for a Science based degree, although dd isn’t sure yet as only in Yr 11.

it is going to be very relevant what science degree and what level institution. Many science degrees are relatively under-subscribed and will take all students that achieve the advertised offer or near enough. But of course there are pockets of very competitive universities (Oxbridge, Imperial etc) and very competitive subjects (medicine) where to get an offer you often need to be on courses to achieve more than the published offer (or for medicine demonstrate work experience, strong aptitude via BMAT, do well in interview etc).

LoniceraJaponica Mon 06-Nov-17 20:52:34

" you're over simplifying."

I know I am, but basically under the old system you sat 4 x 1 year per subject for 4 A levels at the end of year 12 and the same at the end of year 13, and now it is 4 x 2 years per subject (or 3 x 2 years per subject for 3 subjects).

I believe most year 13 6th form students are now sitting 3 A levels. DD says the only students in her 6th form doing 4 are doing maths and further maths plus another 2 subjects.

I accept that most students doing medicine are exceptionally bright, but at every subject talk we attended we were told that they weren't interested in more than 3 A levels. And given that DD really struggled with 4 subjects (although she did well at AS with 2As and 2Bs) she really needed to concentrate on 3 to get all As, or even some A*s.

LineysRun Mon 06-Nov-17 20:56:43

DS and my dentist [1] say that a fair few students with 3 A levels enrol on Biomedical Sciences and then 'bump up' to Medicine or Dentistry.

A bit of a risky strategy but it works for some. But those three subjects must be hard sciences.

[1] I love my dentist. She graduated just a few years ago from UCL and has turned my gob around (as it were)

titchy Mon 06-Nov-17 21:42:09

I doubt that's more than the odd one or two liney - medicine numbers are capped so they could only ever replace someone who had quit.

Goodbye, regardless of the fact that many medicine applicants will be doing 4 A levels, it isn't used as a differentiator so there's not much point unless you're exceptionally gifted, beyond the normal medicine/Oxbridge sort of gifted (or your 4th is FM or your other language if bi/trilingual).

goodbyestranger Mon 06-Nov-17 21:51:49

Do you recruit for Medicine titchy?

DS did four in Y13 because he really enjoyed History and didn't want to drop it, but doing four (he'd already done another and was doing the EPQ as well), did demonstrate his ability to juggle a lot on the academic front as well as his other interests, which is no bad thing for a medic. It's in that regard that he was told by tutors that it was useful. Medicine is a funny one, and they like DC who can handle a lot of volume in terms of work and stay unstressed.

titchy Mon 06-Nov-17 22:17:39

No I don't. Why? Are you saying universities prefer their medics to have 4 A levels?

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