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Alevels :(

(27 Posts)
Gcsekid Tue 29-Jan-13 19:13:57

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 !!

Startail Wed 30-Jan-13 16:09:40

In my experience Birmingham Phycologists are lovely and slightly mad. I've lived with a couple

Startail Wed 30-Jan-13 16:07:23

For Gods sake this isn't rocket science
Google university name physcology corse requirements


Biology and chemistry should be enough with one other that isn't GS or similar junk.

Copthallresident Wed 30-Jan-13 15:52:49

webwiz I would imagine that even within unis there are differing views about which A levels are good preparation for courses, even amongst course tutors, unless ours is unique!!

However you are not seeing the distinctions that the Russell Group are making, which is not to define hard and soft but rather to guide students in their choices so that they can keep their options open. Facilitating subjects are those subjects that are traditionally taught in all schools and so university's can make them a requirement for studying the degree. Other subjects are not taught in all schools and so universities cannot discriminate, any more than they can against those only doing 3 A levels instead of 4, however much they might think that studying that subject at A level, or studying more than 3 A levels at A level might prepare a student better for university study. These are the exact Russell Group words

"There are some advanced level subjects which provide suitable preparation
for entry to university generally, but which we do not include within the
facilitating subjects, because there are relatively few degree programmes
where an advanced level qualification in these subjects would be a
requirement for entry. Examples of such subjects include Economics,
Religious Studies and Welsh."

I am quite sure most university psychology courses would regard Psychology as one of those subjects eg Bristol "A*AA - AAA including at least one science (Psychology and Geography included as science subjects)"

webwiz Wed 30-Jan-13 15:30:53

Psychology A level is still not the "best" preparation for a Psychology degree - it allows a chance to dip a toe in the waters but if it was necessary then it would be a required subject. Sciences, Maths and an essay subject will give the skills needed.

If there was a transparent definition of "hard" and "soft" then it might be easier for students to make informed decisions.

Copthallresident Wed 30-Jan-13 15:29:24

Gcsekids The point about British Psychological Society registration is an important one as some university courses are not accredited. If you want to keep your options open for a career in Psychology it is important to choose a course that is.

Copthallresident Wed 30-Jan-13 15:22:11

Tried to be too clever with Italics and bolding blush

Copthallresident Wed 30-Jan-13 15:20:45

webwiz but that is Cambridge, one university, and one college. Even the Colleges have varying policies and for that reason Cambridge no longer publish a list. When they did it was inconsistent with the Trinity advice! Note that list of soft subjects did not include Psychology. Also note that the Trinity advice is inconsistent with Russell Group advice as it puts Economics, Class Civ and Law into it's generally suitable A levels and Law into it's generally less suitable.

Although it may frustrate some parents and some people who want their prejudices confirmed or their own achievements validated (and ahem, 3As in History Geography and English Literature in the 1970s, how clever must I be? well not very actually, just regurgitated a load of largely unprocessed a information, the skills required to now gain a History A level were acquired at uni) as the Russell Group says ^There are many rumours about subjects being regarded as ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ and different people will have differing opinions on the matter. In general, subjects referred to as being ‘hard’ are more traditional and
theoretical subjects, for example: English, History, Physics and Chemistry.
In fact all the facilitating subjects listed earlier can be considered ‘hard’
with the addition of others^ such as ^Economics and Politics.
‘Soft’ subjects are usually subjects with a vocational or practical bias,^
*for example*^: Media Studies, Art and Design, Photography and Business
Studies. However, there is no set definition of a ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ subject.^

There is no substitute for checking out course requirements and if necessary talking to admissions officers.

webwiz Wed 30-Jan-13 14:13:45

This document gives an indication of the value that is placed on different A levels:

Psychology falls into the category of "more limited suitability" - sciences, maths and an essay subject are the ideal preparation for a degree that requires lots of different skills. I had science A levels which was useful the experimental side but I was also fairly good at essays.

Psychology A level is a good way of finding out if you are interested enough to study the subject at university but not necessary. I'm sure its an interesting A level that feeds well into other subjects but I was under the impression that it doesn't teach lots of high level skills as Senua has described.

The content of Psychology degrees is controlled by the fact that they need to provide eligibility for British Psychological Society registration which is needed for further training and study.

Copthallresident Wed 30-Jan-13 13:59:48

senua I am familiar with the mountain of learning as DD got an A* in it at A level. She would not regard it as a soft option in terms of the wider reading she did, and actually still does, that falls between Psychology and Biology, the OPs interest. She is a scientist and could have dropped it at AS and made life easier for herself but for the courses she wanted to do she need Maths Biology and Chemistry and she kept Psychology on for the interest and relevance to her possible options. In the end she has gone down the cellular biology / genetics route rather than neuroscience but she still find her knowledge of Psychology useful. An added bonus was the essay writing required. She is now required to do modules on ethics assessed by essays, and that would have been even more traumatic if she had not written an essay since GCSE. DD2 now enjoying Psychology as a compliment to her English Literature course, and I am sure she will find it useful studying Eng Lit at uni. She is doing History and Eng Lit alongside, an incredibly common combination.

Copthallresident Wed 30-Jan-13 13:47:57

pointythings You are offering a 16 year old advice on what you consider a soft subject based on what evidence? The Daily Mail? It is not the Russell Group advice and it is not the advice that Gcsekid will get from universities. Read the Russell Group advice from P26 here

BTW I do not have a vested interest here, I am an academic at a RG uni whose specialist studies are on the borders of History and Literature, but I do understand the value of the study of Psychology for university level studies, especially in Literature, as well as, of course, Psychology!

Also BTW Gcsekids My DDs attended / attend a very selective school that is often in the top 10 for A level and sends most of it's girls to Oxbridge / Russell Group unis and 57% of them last year did not achieve A levels in three facilitating subjects. They have a thriving Psychology department and it is one of the most popular A level options. What has changed since many parents were at school / uni is that it has become one of the most popular subjects to study at uni and entry to good courses is very competitive indeed.

racingheart Wed 30-Jan-13 11:49:06

Surely it depends on whether you're taking a BA in psych or a BSc, and what you want to use it for later.
I'd swap Eng Lang for Eng Lit. The analysis and character study might come in handy maybe?

senua Wed 30-Jan-13 11:20:05

On the question of whether Psychology is a 'soft' subject: DS is doing the A Level and I asked him about it.
He says that it is mainly learning a mountain of Stuff, and re-regurgitating it in the exam. It misses the more subtle aspects of more traditional subjects - the understanding of complex ideas, the application of knowledge, the development of argument, etc.

StoicButStressed Wed 30-Jan-13 11:14:31

Don't think is always only 3 to A2? DS2 is def taking 4 (in fact has A-level exam this p.m. - eek!!!) Right though re all of his offers have only asked for 3 A's or A*'s - not one of them has issued an offer that based on 4.

Know DS spent lot of time on student forums to get a clearer idea of all the Uni's he was interested in before submitting UCAS form; ditto even earlier on (IE point you at now), he also did same to get clearest poss view of 'best' 4th subject to take to get in where he wanted to go (his first 3 were maths, further maths & economics, and the one he used to 'round' off his choices/ensure Uni knew he was capable of other things rather than just Maths/Economics was - unbelievablyconfused, as I could NEVER have done it!) was A'level Latin. Let me know if you want me to ask him the sites he used if that would be of any use to you?

JenaiMorris Wed 30-Jan-13 09:40:40

I'm surprised to hear the Psychology is considered a soft subject. Disclaimer: I'm neither a teacher nor a psychologist!

How different are Psycholgy courses at different universities? Do some take a more natural sciences approach leading to a BSc and others a more social sciences approach (perhaps leading to a BA)? I have a BA(Hons - btw wink )in Sociiolgy - I graduated a looong itme ago but friends who studied Sociolgy at Bath and Bristol Universities came out with BScs. Their courses seemed more science-based than mine - I just wonder if it's a similar story with Psychology.

bruffin Wed 30-Jan-13 08:09:15

DS's gf has so far
History, Geography, psychology and sociology at AS, all As
She has been reduced offers from 2 universities, but was limited because she did not have science and maths. However Bath is one of the top universities for psychology and they don't require a science but she is still waiting to hear from them.

GinandJag Wed 30-Jan-13 06:43:33

Actually, the UCAS website is better for course requirements.

A very quick glance shows that entry requirements are fairly flexible for Psychology or Neuroscience.

For most places you need one science and a 'science-related' subject (which presumably could be psychology). Tougher places will require any two sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics), but may let you substitute psychology or geography if you can exceed their standard offer.

You won't be closing too many doors, if any, with your initial choices.

GinandJag Wed 30-Jan-13 06:22:20

You won't ultimately have two softer subjects, as you will only take three to A2 and universities will base their offer on 3.

The advice to look at what specific universities require is good.

It's easy enough to glance through requirements of a range of universities using the Unistats website.

Copthallresident Tue 29-Jan-13 23:16:16

Gcsekids I think you may be encountering some parental preconceptions and prejudice here. I would contact some admissions officers for courses you are interested in and ask their advice, if your school careers officers can't help. Also read the actual Russell Group guidance closely and accurately!!

Copthallresident Tue 29-Jan-13 23:12:53

pointy things On what basis do you consider Psychology a soft subject? That isn't what UCL told DD , and she was applying for Natural Sciences. It isn't what the Russell Group advice says either. It says the softer subjects are vocational courses like media studies, art, etc and you should only study one of those, if you want to get into a Russell Group university.Subjects like Psychology, Philosophy, Economics , Class Civ etc etc etc are not prerequisites for studying the subject at university (mainly because they are not offered at all schools and so as with the the 3+ A level requirement to require them would be to discriminate) but are a good preparation for university study. Facilitating subjects are a prerequisite for studying the subject at university so not studying them will limit your options. DD is certainly finding her Psychology useful in neuroscience and psychology modules she has taken alongside her Biology specialisms. Psychology is also useful for humanities students, especially those studying literature.

Gcsekid Tue 29-Jan-13 22:17:23

*applies with neuroscience, so those are definite, but I was worried that universities would decline my application because of the two 'soft' subjects

Gcsekid Tue 29-Jan-13 22:16:29

Well I'm interested in both biology and psychology, but I feel psychology really a

Loshad Tue 29-Jan-13 21:24:06

sorry above message is for studying psychology at uni, not biology obviously wink

Loshad Tue 29-Jan-13 19:48:16

They don't all specify biology, i looked for one student and it was at least one from a list of chem/bio/psychology. I checked a couple of russell group and a couple of third tier and they were all the same, best bet is to check the requirements of the say the 10 universities most likely to make it onto your short list.
Eng Lang not well regarded by oxbridge/RG but fine for ex polys in general.

bruffin Tue 29-Jan-13 19:38:40

Check whether you need maths. My sons girlfriend wants to study psychology at university but didn't take maths and i think it has limited the courses she can take.
But she has taken psychology at a level and history but can't remember the other subjects. She already has had several offers for university including a reduced one.

Gcsekid Tue 29-Jan-13 19:36:41

I haven't fully dismissed literature it's just that I prefer language much more, but yes I thought that too. Would some universities specify biology and chemistry as requirements and then ask for another facilitating subject?

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