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A Level Choices - Russell Group guide

(75 Posts)
Lilymaid Fri 04-Feb-11 10:47:40

The Russell Group has published its guide to making A Level (and other qualifications) choices. It is available here.

scaryteacher Tue 08-Feb-11 07:51:17

If anyone needs the pdf I had it emailed to me, so pm me with your email and I'll ping it off to you.

Can you be more specific about the bias against RS Sieglinde? It's worrying that you admit there is bias and that you are saying it shouldn't be encouraged at A level. It is not an easy A level; Kant, Aquinas, Mill et al can be a bit of a culture shock and the required reading workload is comparable to history and in many cases less accessible if you are dealing with Kant and Mill.

Milliways Thu 10-Feb-11 22:07:49

Sorry if this has already been posted. but here is the Cambridge version - very easy to read.

Emzzz Tue 15-Feb-11 20:31:34

Hey all - i was just reading these messages, and thought i absolutely had to say something. I'm not a parent - i'm 18, and going to start uni in October. I was just reading the education section of this site, came across this topic, and felt so...well, ANNOYED i suppose. So i joined up, just so i could say my two cents about this issue

I've just been accepted into Cambridge university, and received offers from other Russell Group unis, so i have first hand experience of what they are after. And i think you guys are getting a little bit worked up about this 'facilitating A Levels' thing - my only fear is that you'll try to force your kids into doing subjects they don't want to do, just because Warwick/UCL/Oxford/etc. say that they prefer these A Levels over others.

I've got a place to study English Literature, and i studied English Lit, History, Psychology and Art+Design (double award) for AS level, and English Lit, History and Psychology to A2. Psychology and Art+Design are, according to those lists, considered 'softer' subjects (although, from personal experience, i can firmly attest that art was NOT a 'doss' - workload-wise, it was probably the hardest subject i took!) So, i only took 3 full A Levels, one of which was a 'soft' subject. The recommendations published by the Cambridge college i was applying to suggested this was perfectly adequate.

Indeed, i would even go so far as to say that, for the RG's that interview potential applicants, the biggest factor in getting a place is your performance at interview. Of course, grades matter, but if somebody is going to apply to one of these places, they should feel comfortable about their grades anyway!!

What i'm getting to is that passion for the subject somebody is applying for is the most important thing. Passion and enthusiasm will come across in an interview. However, if somebody finds themselves in an interview, trying to talk with passion about some subjects they picked off a prescriptive list, they aren't going to be in a very good position!

Also, A Levels are tough - they are a lot of work, so it's only really worth taking a subject if you know you like it enough to be able to stand the workload! I've seen loads of people at my school pass their GCSEs with flying colours, then completely 'let themselves go', as it were, when it came to A Level - because that A Level Geography course (for example), which seemed like a pretty good idea at the time, rapidly became the worse mistake they'd ever made!

So, please, don't let this list intimidate you and make you feel the need to force your kids into subjects they don't want to do. If s/he picks 2 subjects from that list out of the total 3 or 4 A Levels they are intending to do, there should be nothing to worry about on that front. Your child's decision to try to get into a Russell Group uni will mean a lot of dedication and hard work on their part - but it should, ultimately, be their decision. Of course, you should support them - but they need to be aware that getting the A's and A*'s they need for these universities is going to put quite a lot of pressure on their shoulders.

Thank you everyone! If anyone wants to ask me about anything i've said, feel free!! xx

webwiz Tue 15-Feb-11 20:40:16

I'm not sure why you are annoyed Emzz because you have followed the advice in the guide perfectly - two facilitating subjects and one other.

Well done on your Cambridge place.

Emzzz Wed 16-Feb-11 01:04:59

Sorry if my meaning wasn't clear - what i meant was i'd already taken those subjects before i saw the guidelines. I hadn't even thought about applying to Cambridge until about half-way through my first year. When i did start to think about it, i did some research and found out that my subject combination fortunately fell within the college's guidelines. I'd taken English and history A Level because they were my favourite subjects at GCSE - regardless of their academic 'value', they were simply the one's i had enjoyed the most

I'm just worried that this 'Russell Group guide' will panic people, and devalue subjects that don't seem 'academic enough', and that parents will panic and urge their kids to take a whole host of these incredibly difficult subjects, when it's only really necessary to take two of the recommended subjects out of the, say, four subjects your child will be studying. Parents should be aware that it will be an immense amount of pressure on their child to get A's or A*'s in all of their subjects, and piling on the pressure by making them do a really intense combination, for instance, the three sciences and maths, will cause them a great deal of stress - unless your child really, honestly wanted to take that combo in the first place. These guidelines really ought to be for students to worry about, rather than their parents - if a student thinks they can do an intense lot of subjects, then they should go for it. But their parents shouldn't try to force this decision upon them out of panic from the publication of this, frankly quite limited, list of subjects.

Subjects like psychology, sociology, economics, politics etc. should be considered perfectly valid - they are all deeply fascinating disciplines. Similarly, arts subjects like drama and music should not be sidelined - they enrich one's educational experience. I just hope that these new guidelines won't make parents try to discourage their kids from taking subjects like music if they are really passionate about them.

I'm just speaking in the defense of my fellow students, here wink I'm sure plenty of people share my fear that this kind of 'subject snobbery' could well lead to bland and prescriptive post-16 education. Part of the joy of going into sixth-form for me was the chance to study subjects that hadn't been on offer at GCSE - things like psychology, and the combined art/design course i took. Yet all the 'recommended' subjects essentially follow on from GCSE. There's no incentive to try out new things if we are being told 'the subjects on this list are the only worthwhile A Levels'!

Emzzz Wed 16-Feb-11 01:05:37

Thank you, by the way!!

kangers Thu 24-Feb-11 19:06:05

Emzz- I completely agree- you have spoken wisely. I understand that parents are scared about 'doors shutting' for their childen, but ultimately, the soon-to-be adult should be in the driving seat- given the information and then left to make the choice. Plus all A levels are hard.

MotherOfGirls Mon 28-Feb-11 22:02:49

I love mumsnet! I haven't looked at it for ages but as I was searching for an accessible guide to which A levels would keep most options open for my DD1, who is lucky enough to be fairly strong in most subjects, I turned to mumsnet and found this thread. Thank you!

MotherOfGirls Mon 28-Feb-11 22:04:54

BTW, she is looking at Biology, Chemistry and PE and will need to choose between Latin and English Literature for her 4th AS. Does anyone have any words of wisdom?

crunched Fri 04-Mar-11 21:04:37

My goddaughter just offered place (Leeds) to do Medicine with Chemistry, Biology and DRAMA to A2, having got an A in Maths at AS. She reckons it was Drama they were impressed by,saying it was good for thinking on the spot and becoming an articulate person, which she is.
As Emzz says, choose subjects they love.

amothersplaceisinthewrong Fri 04-Mar-11 21:08:35

MY DD did politics, english and philosophy of religion at A level and was given offers from five RG unis

itsalarf Sat 05-Mar-11 22:09:49

I don't think anyone is saying that it is impossible to get into a RG university with a different mix of subjects, but merely that a safer option is to take at least two of the facilitating subjects. Still leaves an option for a "softer" much loved subject. But just because a handful of people here have had success without the facilitating A levels does not mean that the leaflet is wrong. To whoever asked earlier, Geography is also essay based at A level, despite many links with science courses. History and English also obviously.

FrumpyintheFrost Mon 14-Mar-11 16:39:42

Thank God for Mumsnet!

DS has just brought home a letter about this booklet - today - the 14th March hmm

bubblesvodka Tue 15-Mar-11 20:58:36

Good evening All - I work as a PA/Sixth Form Supervisor within a secondry school (our school was awarded the 'Outstanding Award' in the recent OfSTED inspections); my advice to all parents is to let your child decide which A levels they would like to study and not what you as a parent think is right. I've seen this so many times and the child ends up stressed because they hate the subject or cannot cope and this on occasions has resulted in the child dropping out of Sixth Form. Also we only offer 4-5 A levels to students who achieve A/A* in their GCSE as they are capable of handling their studies; for those who achieve mainly B & Cs we offer an option of 3 A levels - remember universities only want 3 A levels or the points that are achieved from these.

Secondly, parents please remember it is a huge jump from GCSE to A levels - some parents ring to ask why their child is spending 'x' amount of hours studying - A level subjects require double the hours of GCSE study time as some subjects are coursework based - look for signs of struggling within the first few weeks and address this immediately.

Finally, for those who have applied to UCAS, you can now log onto studentfinance to complete your forms for student loans. I stronglly disagree with the new increases for tution loans but if you are on low income please don't worry as there will be help available; It's OK for the politions to say that the students will only have to start repaying once they earn over £21,000 but £40,000+ is not a joke! How will the student afford other living costs?
Thank you.

FrumpyintheFrost Wed 16-Mar-11 19:06:08

Bubbles - thanks for our input. You make some very good points.

I think the RG table is very helpful in enabling students to make informed choices. For example, because DS2 chose to drop MFL at GCSE options, he has (slightly) restricted his choice of Universities. But he made an informed choice to do this and accepts that this was his choice.

southofthethames Tue 12-Apr-11 18:33:48

@WorldsSlowestTypist - I think English Literature is the only A level they count. If you want to do English at Uni, Eng Lit (called English when I did A levels!), Latin/another language or one other hard subject like History/Geography was advised, and best still 3 hard subjects. There was also a tendency for universities to feel that if you took something like philosophy or law or religious studies, it was because you were rubbish at a "real" subject like maths or history, even if the reality was that the "hard" or "real" subject might be easier. So, no, Language and Lit don't count as 2 subjects.

However, if your child wanted to do Physics, Engineering, Maths, computer science or Economics at uni, then Maths and Further Maths counts as 2 hard subjects, because FM is quite hard. IMO, though, once you do FM, maths is really rather easy! M, FM and physics is one of the easiest combinations to do and desired by universities, yet sadly many schools refuse to offer it because they can't get enough good teachers in the 2 topics.

happilyconfused Wed 13-Apr-11 08:36:37

As Southof said it depends what you want to do. Students do need to show passion for the subject as Emzz.

Amongst our RG offers this year we have students who have studied - wait for it - Media, Business and English Language. Yes that was their three A2 subjects and one even had ICT as an AS! (Their academic profile was very high across all subjects) I agree it does limit the degree choice but you can still go to an RG Uni and there are so many degrees to choose from.

It is really hard at Sixth Form at the moment with some students saying I only chose subject X to please the parents. Subject choice is difficult so give guidance but do not force a decision. Lots of schools (we do) use this for guidance only. The jump to AS is hard esp if kids have resat GCSE modules and done lots of coursework in uncontrolled conditions.

Now it will be costing 9k a year to get a degree some DCs will need to look at alternative routes into things like accountancy.

appplepie Wed 06-Jul-11 22:42:23


ellisbell Thu 07-Jul-11 14:42:02

sensible parents recognise whether their teenager is mature enough for a free choice or needs some encouragement in certain directions. Many students are quite capable of doing well at A level in quite a few subjects. If they make bad choices then they may face an extra year in the 6th form while they do the subjects they really need. Having only one year to achieve an A level is not exactly helpful, watching your friends with more sensible parents leave for university while you stay behind is no fun.

newspap Thu 07-Jul-11 15:27:58

I have a copy of this guide. I have had it for 6 months. I have told all of the year 11 potential A level students about it. I work in a high school, not brilliantly academic, but certainly nowhere near failing. I believe the students I have advised would not have accessed this information otherwise. My thread (above) was ignored, but young people need careers advice, and a careers service. Soon, there wont be one.

Gcsekid Tue 29-Jan-13 19:19:44

I'm considering the biology/psychology route at university and my advanced levels I'm considering are biology, chemistry, psychology and English language. In here it states that psychology isn't necessarily a hard subject, and language isn't mentioned a lot, so I'm basically taking two facilitating subjects. Would it be useful to take a third facilitating subject? Psychology being my only 'soft' subject? What are university opinions on the psychology alevels? What I was concerned about was also how language isn't as admired as literature, how much will this affect how universities see me? Any advice please !!

Copthallresident Tue 29-Jan-13 20:18:43

I don't really understand why people can't understand the distinctions the Russell Group are making. Psychology isn't a soft subject. Facilitating subjects are subjects that you need the A level in to carry on to study it at degree level. Therefore studying two or more will close down fewer options at uni. Subjects like Philosophy, Psychology, Economics and Law do not require the A level to study them at degree level (mainly because not all schools offer them) so you can still go on to study them at university even if you have not done the A level, but they are still a good preparation for university study. It is the more vocational subjects like media studies, art, business studies etc. that the guide highlights should not make up more than 1 of your three A levels IF you anticipate you may want to go on to study an academic degree.

They actually say that subjects like Economics, Psychology, Philosophy are good preparation for university, it is just that you won't close down any options by not studying them.

The only thing I would say Gcsekid is that DD is studying Natural Sciences specialising in Biology (with a Psychology module amongst others) and Statistics is really useful for both the Biology and Psychology studied, for interpreting results etc. However it is something you should check out on course requirements.

Gcsekid Tue 29-Jan-13 20:48:13

Thanks that's really helpful actually! Do you think biology chemistry psychology and language are necessarily good four options? I'm working at an A/A* level for GCSE anyway so I think I'll be ok with the statistic side of things. But I'm just worried that I will regret not taking an extra facilitating subject would, and an RG university wouldn't consider me as much of a good applicant

senua Tue 29-Jan-13 21:07:57

Start at your end-point and work backwards. Decide your subject and then look at the Good University Guide for the best departments for that subject (the best departments are often found in the best Universities but there are always exceptions to the rule).
Then speak to those specific Universities about their specific rules for those specific subjects. The Choices booklet is a good general guide but you will get the best outcome if you drill down to specifics. Ignore what teachers, parents, neighbours tell you - be guided by admissions tutors.

You do know that Psychology is a very popular, oversubscribed subject, don't you? eg I've just looked at Edinburgh's statistics - 597 applicants for 84 places.sad

Good luck and keep coming back to MN for

QuickLookBusy Tue 29-Jan-13 21:22:28

Gosh thank goodness some sensible posters have contributed to this thread. There is indeed a lot of panic around these "soft" subjects which I think is encouraged by the media.

Both my dd chose 2 soft subjects amongst their 4 A levels, they then dropped one 'soft' Subject after AS level.

Both got 5 offers from 5 RG unis, including Exeter, Bristol and Sussex.

And the poster who asked about Eng Lit and Eng Lang, yes they do both count as 'good" subjects. Dd2 got into a top 10 uni to study English Lit, with both these subjspects plus a "soft" subject.

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