A'level choice - ML / biology

(121 Posts)
Premiumm Fri 08-Jan-21 18:23:19

DD plans to take French, Spanish and biology. She's interested in teaching languages. Does biology add anything to the mix? She refuses to consider history or English, despite being good at them and a reader. Because she enjoys biology.

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MargeryMcLatchie Fri 08-Jan-21 18:35:56

I would say English or History would be a better choice - shows more interest in words / expressing oneself. And she could probably get onto most arts degrees with French / Spanish / History (or English Lit) if she changes her plans.
Whereas she wouldn't get onto a science degree with only biology.
Biology is also pretty hard to take as a single science (much easier in conjunction with chemistry I think, which most people in her class are likely to be doing). But if she loves it.....?

Premiumm Fri 08-Jan-21 19:26:54

Thank you. Do you think that taking biology rather than English or history would mean that she might miss out on getting into a good university for modern languages? She's strong academically.
If she changed her mind about teaching, would biology on its own at A'level open up any possible jobs for her? I'm guessing not. She just seems fixated on doing what she most enjoys for A'level, rather than looking further than that.

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Xenia Fri 08-Jan-21 20:36:22

If she gets high grades in them all she will be fine but one of my daughters who was good at all subjects for GCSE found physics and chemistry harder than economics and geography at A level. If your daughter is good at languages usually history or English lit are good combinations. I did German, History and English lit.

If she wanted to do law which is what I did then languages plus biology is fine too.

EwwSprouts Fri 08-Jan-21 20:56:01

The advice at DS's school is do what you enjoy as that usually results in a higher grade. I'd let her put down biology. By the time August comes round she may have changed her mind and for popular subjects like English Lit there's a good chance 6th form will be able to accommodate within the timetable.

PresentingPercy Fri 08-Jan-21 23:59:08

Doing an essay subject with languages is definitely better prep for an MFL degree at a decent university. She would get a place with Biology but the best universities will expect her to read books and write essays as a major part of the MFL degree. She won’t have experience of essays. Oxford like MFL applicants to have an essay subject (English literature for example) and DD had to send one in as part of the selection process. It’s important to be confident in writing essays. Look at what Oxford want as it gives great info.

Your DD needs to understand decent universities ask students to read, engage in the culture of the country in arts, politics and history and that’s why students need more than language acquisition. They gain much more than that from a MFL degree too. She perhaps should look at degree content at the top universities so she sees what’s required. Essentially you are giving her the best advice.

reallyisthisallthereis Sat 09-Jan-21 01:38:33

Has she considered psychology? It's quite sciency with much crossover with biology. Plus lots of essay writing, analytical skills. evaluation. It's works well as an all rounder subject for developing skills.
Plus it's really engaging as a subject.

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Premiumm Sat 09-Jan-21 09:21:21

Unfortunately, the school doesn't offer psychology, which would probably be a good choice for her.
I totally get it that top universities want to see an essay subject, and have talked that through with her, but she's insisting on biology. Very frustrating, because she has the potential to go to a good university and I suspect that this will scupper that. She says that she will compromise on a mid-ranking university if it means she can do her biology.

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annevonkleve Sat 09-Jan-21 09:37:43

I don't think doing a science at A level will scupper a language degree at all.

And I went to school with someone who did biology chemistry and German and went on to study law. They didn't seem to care about essay subjects.

Let her do what she wants to do. MFL faculties are not exactly oversubscribed and she will get into a good university easily if she has the grades - they really won't care that she doesn't have a formal essay subject (anyway some A level language courses do involve some essay writing).

PresentingPercy Sat 09-Jan-21 10:49:12

Yes. She will get in and if she’s not aiming for Oxbridge it won’t matter. However universities like Durham, Bristol etc are academic courses where essays are an important part of the course. It won’t stop her getting in but it will be more difficult to hit the ground running. Some on DDs course had to go for coaching in essay writing because their skills were below those required. DD said these dc really struggled.

reallyisthisallthereis Sat 09-Jan-21 10:49:27

That's a shame about the psychology and quite a surprise that they don't offer it. It's currently the 2nd most popular A level subject.
They do have some shorter essays in biology and your literacy needs to be quite good (far more than Chemistry or physics) so you she enjoys it, let her take it. It's a well respected A level and a good grade in biology will look good for any career. (I may be bias as my degree was biology)

PresentingPercy Sat 09-Jan-21 10:51:47

If she wants to be a teacher I suspect no one will care what university she attends anyway. Not much competition in that career. If she wanted a city job or law it would matter.

PresentingPercy Sat 09-Jan-21 10:53:59

Biology and MFL essays are not the same as English lit, politics and history essays. The depth of reading around the subject isn’t the same. That’s why Oxford like English lit.

Premiumm Sat 09-Jan-21 11:18:28

I think she could potentially try for Oxbridge, as she's very keen and hardworking at her languages, but maybe not worth bothering if she does biology. At the end of the day, all I can do is make it clear to her that this may mean she doesn't get into one of the top couple of universities and may struggle a bit at the start of a ML course. I can't make the decision for her. The thing with the teaching ambition is that there's no way of telling whether she'll still want to do that after a few years at university.

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Premiumm Sat 09-Jan-21 11:19:31

Taking the long view is something that some teenagers seem to be better at than others, unfortunately.

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EwwSprouts Sat 09-Jan-21 11:23:22

No reason she can't do a written EPQ.

Lalalatte Sat 09-Jan-21 11:27:48

I know of a number of ppl who have done stem subjects (maths, physics) plus a MFL a level, so I can't see why it can't be the other way round.
If you're wanting to take a biology degree they want you to have chemistry but this isn't the case here.
Can she do an epq in lieu of an essay based subject?

Premiumm Sat 09-Jan-21 11:33:26

Thanks for that suggestion.

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stillhappytohelp Sat 09-Jan-21 11:34:34

I would have thought biology would be far preferable to psychology for many unis.

Realistically, if she is on track to get the entry requirements for the MFL course, she will get an offer (except for Oxbridge and Durham where more is required). They need students. DD went to Bristol to do languages and loads of the people on her course had missed the entry requirements (by quite a bit!) and still been let in because they needed the numbers. So really, if she’s not interested in Oxbridge/Durham and she is capable of getting A grades in the languages I wouldn’t worry about the third subject all that much.

That being said, DD did do English Lit as her third subject and it probably did help her in terms of the essays she had to write at degree level. So if you’re thinking in terms of preparation for the degree, an essay subject would be a good idea. But in terms of getting offers I doubt it’ll make any difference - prospective MFL students are relatively lucky because there’s not many of them!

PresentingPercy Sat 09-Jan-21 12:41:11

The science undergrads wouldn’t argue that their MFL at A level helped them at all with sciences at university. It’s exactly the same the other way around. It doesn’t matter what the third A level for MFL regarding most universities. There is every possibility of getting into the tier of universities just below the top 3/4. There are not enough MFL applicants to go round. Oxford allow in 33% of MFL applicants. Yes, she could look at an EPQ to help with research and her writing skills.

It’s perfectly possible to change career direction at university when you meet very ambitious young people.

PresentingPercy Sat 09-Jan-21 13:10:03

To be fair, linguistics with a biology A level is perfect. Lots of MFL degrees offer this possibility. The attached from Oxford gives a flavour of what she could consider.

Lalalatte Sat 09-Jan-21 13:14:30

@PresentingPercy , given that scientists work in international teams i would say that having another language should be considered a bonus by those doing science degrees.

Op , if your dd does want to go for mfl at oxbridge and the like she should check their requirements on their websites rather than rely on randoms on the Internet. I very much doubt that her choice of biology as a 3rd a level would rule her out.

PresentingPercy Sat 09-Jan-21 15:30:03

I’m not talking about work after a degree. I’m talking about whether a MFL A level is useful when you do a science degree and vice versa. Few scientists in this country do a MFL at degree level although you can do a year abroad in another country if you study a MFL to an acceptable level at uni as well as your science but lots of science students don’t bother. Most start from gcse level and it’s bloody hard! Even an A level in a MFL is hardly good enough for anyone to be fluent enough for work. However most people don’t bother because so many foreign people speak English. Native speakers in a MFL are of course different.

PresentingPercy Sat 09-Jan-21 15:31:18

The info I posted wasn’t from a “random”. It’s from the oxford web site. No need to be quite so rude!

reallyisthisallthereis Sat 09-Jan-21 18:44:47

PresentingPercy

The science undergrads wouldn’t argue that their MFL at A level helped them at all with sciences at university. It’s exactly the same the other way around. It doesn’t matter what the third A level for MFL regarding most universities. There is every possibility of getting into the tier of universities just below the top 3/4. There are not enough MFL applicants to go round. Oxford allow in 33% of MFL applicants. Yes, she could look at an EPQ to help with research and her writing skills.

It’s perfectly possible to change career direction at university when you meet very ambitious young people.

My MFL A level came in really handy with my sciences as I ended up studying abroad and later worked abroad. I teach now, mainly A level Biology and Psychology and regularly use my knowledge of etymology of language which comes from speaking 2 other languages, albeit not fluently, but reasonably well to get by.
Plus, I enjoy being able to speak another language when abroad so sometimes, studying should just be for the love of studying so unless they need specific subjects for a career, I'd recommend taking the subject that inspires them.

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