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Really Concerned with A Level Choices - Help.

(35 Posts)
urbancupcake Wed 30-Oct-13 12:19:45

I met up with my nephew yesterday and was talking about his A Levels choices. My sister was very secretive about the GCSE results he didn't quite get the right grades for in order to do his original choice for 6th Form and so it was difficult for me to get involved.

It now transpires he's doing Biology, which he wants to do at Uni, as well as from memory, philosophy, RS, ICT I think and possibly Technology which he plans to drop (I appreciate I may have listed one too many).

The problem is however, from my research, if he wants to study Biology in one of the Russel groups Uni's, he should have done Chemistry.

Now I'm not sure if he's grade for Chemistry was too low to do it, I will find out. In any case, am I right by saying that he doesn't stand a hope in hell getting into a Russell Group Uni without chemistry? This would be tragic as I know he loves the subject dearly.

I asked him who advised him about what subjects to take and he said no one. He just did what he enjoyed and got decent grades in. Do schools generally do this, as in, just leave it to the student to pick a stupid combination of topics without any guidance???!!!!

If I found out he did get a decent enough grade in Chemistry, could I suggest his parents meet with the school and get him to switch course?

His best friend, who I know is academically brighter, seems to be doing the right thing and studying for his A levels, Maths, Economics, History and another traditional topic, but his Father is an academic himself, so could have guided him more wisely.

Or, am I worrying too much?

derektheladyhamster Wed 30-Oct-13 12:57:32

I studied biology at Sussex (about 20 years ago though) and I had biology, english and history, a quick check confirmed that to study here you would need:

Specific entry requirements: A levels must include at least one from Biology, Human Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Successful applicants will also need GCSE (or equivalent) Mathematics and either Chemistry or Double Science, with at least grade C.

derektheladyhamster Wed 30-Oct-13 12:58:59

Of course sussex isn't in the RG group, as I don't think it existed then! Was a very good course though

friday16 Wed 30-Oct-13 12:59:18

With those A Levels he could in theory get into Birmingham, in that he would meet their minimum requirements, but obviously that does not remotely assure admission. I would suspect that he would need to make a very strong case. But most other courses want Biology plus one of Chemistry or Physics (for example Manchester, Sheffield, UCL), and the implication in most cases is that what they really want is, unsurprisingly, maths + biology + chemistry.

Straight biology is UCAS code C100: look it up on university websites.

titchy Wed 30-Oct-13 13:34:26

If his GCSEs weren't that good maybe he isn't RG material. RS and Philosophy decent choice, but the other two are pretty soft.

EndoplasmicReticulum Wed 30-Oct-13 14:01:59

Most Biology courses want a second science, or maths, as well as Biology A level.

He may not be up to it grade-wise anyway, if what you say about his GCSEs are correct.

There are other routes to a career in Biology, see this document here:

webwiz Wed 30-Oct-13 14:07:06

DD1 did Biology at university without Chemistry A level she had Geography and French as her other A levels. She had offers from Sheffield, Sussex and Birmingham but chose UEA as she preferred the course there.

He should ignore The "Russell Group" thing and choose a course that is appropriate for his interests and the grades he is likely to get.

DS has just started A levels and its too late to switch as far as his school is concerned but they find that they need a subject they haven't studied for university they could take it as an AS in year 13.

urbancupcake Wed 30-Oct-13 14:15:05

This is really great feedback, thanks guys.

Thanks also Titchy. You might have a point actually. I'm not sure if his grades all round were just not good enough; OR, he made poor choices with what he had. Could well be the former. He got 6a's I believe, but buggered Maths and ended with a C and I'm sure at the time hearing he got an A in English Lit. Will double check. If he got Biology, RS and Philosophy as his final 3, although this would rule out Biology quite possibly, would you suggest doing something else at a Russel because of the sheer profile (important to keep it real) or stick with Biology as it's his first love outside of a Russell - but with less job prospects?

I'm going to call him and his Parents this afternoon to make them aware realistically what his options are as I don't think they know. Just wanted to chat with you guys first to check I'm not talking crap.

@hamster - will look into thanks. Does this mean he won't be totally written off by not going to a Russell? Does it really impact job prospects and type of job in this day? Asking generally of course.

Friday - Can you give me an example, or explain what is deemed as a strong case? Sorry my little un still young.

urbancupcake Wed 30-Oct-13 14:18:23

Thanks Endo think I may need to remove my rose speckled class eh? Thanks for the link - brilliant.

Web What brilliant advice about taking it later.

You guys are brilliant.

friday16 Wed 30-Oct-13 15:43:31

"explain what is deemed as a strong case"

The further you get from the "obvious" A Levels, the better your grades, personal statement and teacher's recommendations need to be.

schmalex Wed 30-Oct-13 15:55:32

I did biology, physics and maths and really regretted not doing chemistry as a lot of biological courses do require chemistry. He may find when he studies biology he becomes interested in genetics or biochemistry or medicine or something else that needs chemistry.

In my opinion, if biology is his key area of interest he'd be silly not to do chemistry to back it up. But of course he could study it later.

caroldecker Wed 30-Oct-13 16:57:04

Also biology and chemistry are easier than 2 unrelated a levels due to course overlap

senua Wed 30-Oct-13 18:57:44

As an aside, I think that you will find that the Philosophy and/or RS is one subject, not two.

titchy Wed 30-Oct-13 21:00:03

Please don't equate a non-RG degree with lower job prospectshmm. He should stick with Biology if that is what he really wants. Just tell him to do a course accredited by Society of Biology, or whoever the professional body is. I really do wish people wouldn't write off all universities if they not RG.

intitgrand Thu 31-Oct-13 07:57:35

i think you should back off it really is not yous business especially he his father is ao academic .doesn t the fact that they won t tell you his gcse grades not telk you something. Butt out

callamia Thu 31-Oct-13 08:12:26

Russell Group universities are not the only route to doing well in life.

The obsession with them being the holy grail of higher education is a bit silly I think. It may be that another university will suit him much better, and will offer him a course that he can excel in, and be happy at. Many excellent professionals went to non-RG universities, just as a number of students go to a RG and under -perform because it's just not right for them. A good match between institution and student is more important.

There is a huge jump between GCSE and A level science subjects, and I've seen a lot if students with A and B science GCSE grades really fail A level science subjects. It may be better that he does take subjects that he might do well in rather than struggling. Students are no longer allowed to take re-takes during their course - and so perhaps sixth forms are being a little more cautious.

Unexpected Thu 31-Oct-13 08:55:08

Why are you so involved in your nephew's choices? If your sister hasn't even given you his exact GCSE grades and you're not sure what subjects he is taking for A level, I don't think you can know whether it is possible for him to take another combination. All you can do is point him in the direction of useful information on entrance requirements and suggest he speak to careers advice at his school (I also wouldn't necessarily believe him when he says no-one guided him in his subject selection. teenagers have very selective memories!)

givemeaclue Thu 31-Oct-13 09:03:27

Why are people so hung up on Russell group?

Seriously, it is a consortium of a small group of unis. There are many other great unis not part of that group.

I say this as someone who went to one. I have recruited 100s of people to jobs (not in science though) and I don't even know what unis are in the Russell group let alone discrimate on grounds of whether attended one or not.

He should do the subjects that he is likely to get decent grades in. There is no point in him flunking chemistry and ending up st no uni just to gave Russell group in mind. Seriously op you are too hung up on it

givemeaclue Thu 31-Oct-13 09:05:34

Op I also think your sister will not appreciate you meddling in this. Especially as half a term of sixth form has already gone by.

lljkk Thu 31-Oct-13 09:11:30

Sticky beak out, OP!! Sheesh.
(Oh the tragedy he might not go to RG, sob sob...)

throckenholt Thu 31-Oct-13 09:28:07

There are plenty of great departments out there that are not in Russell Group University - far better to look at the ranking of the department than the overall university.

Of the top 20 ranked biological sciences courses for 2013, 5 are at non-RG unis - Lancster, Bath, Leicester, Surrey, UEA - all good reputation universities.

I would have thought the lack of chemistry is going to be his biggest stumbling block because the overlap is huge. But no reason why he can't keep up his interest in biochemistry himself - if he really wants to make a career in biology. It is a harder route than taking the a-level route but possible.

In answer to your question Or, am I worrying too much? - um - yes - probably - he is not your responsibilty. I would wonder about why he got no relevant career advice though.

mumeeee Thu 31-Oct-13 13:36:09

OP I agree that you need to leave your sister and nephew to sort he's own A level and uni choices out. There are a lot of good umiversities that and RG. Also it's important that a young person goes to a uni that suits them best, I would. have been very annoyed if one of my siblings had interfered with my DDs choices, my youngest has just started uni.

Shootingatpigeons Thu 31-Oct-13 19:28:34

My DD is studying Natural Sciences at uni specialising in cell biology and genetics. She makes considerable use of both her Maths and Chemistry interpreting the results of experiments, understanding the boiochemistry of cells etc., let alone all the cutting edge stuff that is currently straddling the rather false disciplinary boundaries between the Sciences, biohacking, synthetic biology etc. Unis may accept a candidate without other Sciences and Maths at A level but whether they will then be equipped to get the most out of the course is another matter......

And are not Philosophy and RS very close in their scope. Understanding ethics is actually very important for Scientists but what my DD studies in her Philopsophy A level is basically the philosophy and ethics of religions.

Still the whole point of biohacking is to make Science accessible to everyone so perhaps your nephew will be able to learn in his garage what he has missed out on at school and uni.......

By the way I am not a Scientist, just on the receiving end of a lot of enthusiastic briefing, so I apologise if I have not got the proper gist of it!

I agree you shouldn't intervene but getting a few conversations going over an edition of New Scientist wouldn't do any harm (and a subscription might be a good chrissy present )

intitgrand Thu 31-Oct-13 19:36:04

Ok well just looked at our nearest RG Uni- Leeds and he can get in there without chemistry

happilyconfused Thu 31-Oct-13 21:05:20

No one in charge of a Sixth Form is going to allow a course change now - they have done 7 weeks.

Just because you go to an RG university does not guarantee employment. Lots of unis have great employment prospects and are non RG eg Bath, Surrey. Titchy & Throck have made good points

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