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where to find impartial advice on A Level choices

(12 Posts)
lainiekazan Thu 25-Apr-13 09:40:18

On MN?!

It is so difficult to know what to advise ds. He wants to do English as one of his choices. Obviously English Lit carries more kudos, but does it? I know a girl who has a place at Oxford for Law and she is doing Eng Language. So if seems to be a myth that Oxbridge spurn all candidates with this A Level (unless doing English degree, of course). So presumably other top universities don't care if you have Lang instead of Lit.

Actually ds would quite like to do Lit and Lang to hedge his bets, but I notice the exam board is WJEC for this and ds tells me that this board is notoriously "half-witted" (his words). I was told (30 years ago) that the boards matter and my school went round choosing the most difficult boards for each subject (typical). Is this info hopelessly out of date?


Caitycat Thu 25-Apr-13 09:47:35

English Language is absolutely fine, it is a rigorous academic subject. I would advise against doing two lots of English as some (not all) Unix will feel this is too narrow, especially if he doesn't apply for English. Exam boards can't really be taken into consideration by unis as they are chosen by the school so candidates have no choice - I wouldn't worry about that aspect at all. Happy to advise via pm if you need further advice. (Currently on mat leave but I am in charge of HE progression in my school.)

lainiekazan Thu 25-Apr-13 10:00:33

Thanks v much Caitycat. I meant the combined Lang & Lit A Level. Two English A Levels would be overkill !

senua Thu 25-Apr-13 10:21:07

Where to find impartial advice? - go to the horse's mouth.
It sounds as if he wants to apply to University. Decide which course, which type of University (Oxbridge, 1992 or whatever) and do a quick trawl of what 'course specific' entry requirements they are specifying. They are, after all, the ones who will make the decision on your DS in a few years' time.

Also do a trawl of past results at your school. If subject XX tends towards the A-grade end of the spectrum and subject YY tends towards the D/E end, then take that into consideration! The grade differentials may be due to teachers or the sort of pupils that take that course - but either way, think twice.

There have been other threads on this: do a search.

lainiekazan Thu 25-Apr-13 11:18:38


I did look at the sixth form college, but it is very large and consequently difficult to draw any conclusions from the results. There doesn't appear to be much guidance: I'm sure ds could pick Pottery, PE and Dance and no one would say a word.

Slapped wrist for not searching on other threads. I have been on MN for (ahem) eight years and get unreasonably riled by people posting the same questions over and over again without checking the archives.

tiredaftertwo Thu 25-Apr-13 13:47:02

I think the UCAS website, where you can check specific requirements for particular courses, will be more useful than previous threads (tho perhaps less entertaining). Also consult the Russell Group guide Informed Choices, and check the websites of a few universities to see if they have lists of acceptable A levels.

I would not read anything at all into one person reading law. Which does your ds actually prefer - that is really important? Off the cuff, my impression is eng lit is very widely accepted and regarded, and is more the default setting.

AMumInScotland Thu 25-Apr-13 14:06:38

Definitely look at actual universities and courses - they tend to be pretty clear about what they want. And I'd second the RG Informed Choices booklet - you can find it online - that explains what subjects are most generally-useful, plus what subjects are useful depending on what you want to go on to study.

Threads are fine, but its all very subjective, and you have to weigh up whether each poster actually knows about this stuff, or if they are just repeating their own personal prejudices!

As to particular boards - unless your DS is a very thorough researcher, I'd guess he is repeating something his teacher has said. They really won't judge between candidates on the basis of which board they went through. But if the teacher doesn't like that course for whatever reason then that may reflect the fact that their students don't tend to do well in it.

ISingSoprano Thu 25-Apr-13 17:24:37

I agree with the 'go to the horses mouth' advice.

Research the courses and individual universities closely as courses that sound the same may have very different entry requirements. For example, my ds applied to study marine biology. Some universities insisted on A level chemistry and some didn't.

senua Thu 25-Apr-13 22:13:49

Slapped wrist for not searching on other threads.

Sorry if I sounded a bit shortblush I was posting in a hurry. I knew that there was another thread somewhere. I've found it - it was started by, ahem, me!

lainiekazan Fri 26-Apr-13 18:44:52

Ah, thanks, Sensua. Read your thread and blush I'd even posted on it!
What did your ds decide to do in the end?

My confusion is that all the so-called insider knowledge says that Eng Lit is the only way to go, yet I looked at a number of the Russell Group universities and Eng Lang was acceptable. As were other what I believed to be "crappy" A Levels.

Do universities make the same offers to people studying "easier" A Levels? Would a person taking English Literature and Latin be treated the same as one taking Eng Lang and Classical Civilisation? Seems unfair if that is the case.

senua Fri 26-Apr-13 19:40:00

It's so difficult to know what to do for the best because there are so many variables!

At this stage of Y11, I would have said that English was one of DS's main subjects. He went on to get A* A* at GCSE. He decided on Lit&Lang because he didn't fancy the syllabus for straight Lit. However, English was the subject that he dropped after Y12 (mainly due to poor teaching). The subject that he is going to read at University was his third choice when deciding on A Levels.
Things are so changeable and fluid when you are a teenager!confused

I think that the Lit v. Lang v. Lit&Lang question depends so much on what they intend to do next. Despite anecdotes to the contrary, it is probably safer to study Lit if going on to do something in that field at Uni. But if interests lie elsewhere, so English is the third or fourth subject, then it's probably not so vital.

TreeLuLa Fri 26-Apr-13 19:41:44

The Russell Group of Unis published a guide to this a year or so back.

It's here

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