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Help with A level choices.

(30 Posts)
CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 15:15:03

My son is in year 11. He's predicted and on track for grade B in all his GCSE's apart from French which is C/D and Maths which is C/B. He has a late August birthday and until this week has been very reluctant to talk about what he wants to do after his exams. However this week he has really opened up and decided he wants to stay on at the sixth form and study English, History, Ict and either Geographpy or Biology A levels ( he would drop one at the end of lower sixth form). My questions are if he chooses geography are his choices broard enough? He is doing double science not triple so would he struggle with the Biology? My son has no idea what job he would like to do.

secretscwirrels Fri 15-Nov-13 15:30:45

Those are very good solid subjects, but all quite heavy workload wise.
Biology at A level might not need GCSE, the main thing about Biology compared with the other sciences is that there is a huge amount of material to cover. Applied science is a possible alternative?
Do you have a parents evening coming up when you could discuss with those subject teachers whether they think he would be able to tackle the A level?
What about sixth form open evenings (all on this month around here). You can talk to the 6th form teachers and get a feel of what's involved.
I have one in Y13 and one in Y11. My Y11 is just trying to narrow down his subject choices.

CareersDragon Fri 15-Nov-13 15:36:42

Hi CreamyCooler,
If these are the subjects that interest him most & that he wants to study, I'd suggest they're fine. A levels inevitably narrow choices, and the only areas to beware of is that if he decides he wants to study something science- related at university, they often prefer candidates to have 2 sciences. This said, there is no hard & fast rule so some Unis will be less bothered, and there's always the option of taking a foundation year anyway. I'm guessing that he's not that into science if he's only taken double science for GCSE. Some schools that I've worked in advise against A lvl Bio, after double science GCSE as it is a BIG step up.
His choice of English & History form a nice "package", and along with Geography are counted as "facilitating subjects" by the Russell Group of top British Unis, leading to a broad spectrum of uni courses. See their booklet, "Informed Choices", at: In Year 11 it needn't be a problem if he doesn't know what he wants to do career-wise, but it IS a good time to start researching some options and window-shopping jobs/careers...look at the National Careers Service website.
Hope that helps!

CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 15:38:35

We had the open evening last night and got to talk to lots of sixth formers which was helpful. After that was a presentation and it mentioned taking a wide range of subjects so I was a bit confused. I think I'm comparing it to when I did my A levels 25 years ago and was steered into picking all sciences or all arts.
I will investigate the applied science subject. Thank you.

secretscwirrels Fri 15-Nov-13 15:40:28

I recommend looking at different sixth forms as they often vary a lot in subject choices. Also Sixth form colleges give a different experience than school sixth forms.

CareersDragon Fri 15-Nov-13 15:43:04

Beware. Applied science won't be seen as a facilitating subject for universities, but may be a more useful option if he might want to consider vocational options 18+. Do you think he may want to go to uni?

CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 15:45:16

Thankyou Secretscrwirrels, I think he will stay on at the school as is quite young for his age and isn't like some of his friends who are ready for a change. I'm just pleased he has made any choice as has been refusing to talk about the future until this week. Having said that I will have a sneaky look at our local sixth firm college.

CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 15:47:29

Yes I do think he may want to go to university. At the open evening yesterday they mentioned needing just 2 facilitating subjects. Do you agree with that CareersDragon?

CareersDragon Fri 15-Nov-13 15:58:08

In principal, yes. Three would be even better, in allowing the broadest range of degree courses at the top Unis - which he would have at least to AS level, as the only non-facilitating subject amongst his choices is IT.
Good luck!

CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 16:01:23

Thank you. I'm really proud of him for coming up with these choices. My son isn't an A* pupil but very consistent and a good all rounder.

CareersDragon Fri 15-Nov-13 16:09:36

That's great! Having B grades in GCSEs is a good foundation for A levels, if he is prepared to work hard. I've seen students who coast A* GCSEs get miserable A level grades, and vice versa. Whatever he chooses, there will be a range of options to suit him, both at university and via apprenticeships.

IamInvisible Fri 15-Nov-13 16:26:35

DS1 did History and English A levels last Summer. He got A*s in his GCSEs in both subjects (100% in History), they were his favourite subjects at school and he has a great interest in them. There is a lot of work to do in both subjects, it was essays and reading constantly, there was not a lot of time for going out and they needed a lot of dedication.

DS2 has just started Biology A level, he did separate science for GCSEs, he got 3As. He is doing Biology, Chemistry, Sociology and Psychology. He loves Biology, he wants to go into Nursing, but of the four it seems to be the one where he gets the most homework and the most reading.

I think as long as your son is interested, motivated and prepared to work hard he should be fine. I agree with careers a couple of DS1's friends did really well in their GCSEs, then didn't work at all in Yr12, so had to re-do it because they did badly in their AS levels. As long as he is consistent he should be fine.

The other thing is, when my 2 chose their A levels they gave the school an idea, but they didn't have to confirm them until results day so there is usually scope to change your mind.

BackforGood Fri 15-Nov-13 16:42:46

A think that's a good set of solid subjects <Disclaimer, am not an admissions tutor or anything - just a parent who has been on a round of University open days this last few months>
My ds isn't an A* pupil either, so we may possibly be looking at the same type of Universities. They are all offering things like 'BBC, incl B in history'... so they aren't really interested in what the other subjects are.

I thought I'd let you know from an ordinary mortal point of view as I realise 99% of MNers dc will all be looking at Oxbridge or 'Russell Group' wink

As an aside, my ds has been really inspired by looking at Universities, and, with hindsight, I wish we'd gone and looked a a couple of open days in the Autumn of Lower 6th - might be worth giving it some thought next year. smile

CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 16:50:01

So good to hear BackforGood, I would never, ever have thought of looking at universities then. My DH and I both went to university as mature students and would love it if he did want to go (although the money side is so scary).

out2lunch Fri 15-Nov-13 16:56:09

dd has just started a levels - she is studying history and it is by far her most difficult subject.she had an a for gcse and she finds it v heavy going.might be worth considering after you get gcse results.

BackforGood Fri 15-Nov-13 17:01:19

No - I never thought of it either, but it's easy to do - thousands of people attend and you can just turn up if you lke. They prefer you to register so they can send you marketing stuff through the post, but nobody will notice that you are a year earlier than the majority.
They give talks on finance and talks from each subject as well as tours of the campus, accommodation , sports and social places. It's really interesting.

Out2Lunch - I think all subjects are a massive jump between GCSE and AS, it's not confined to History. My ds "only" got a B for History at GCSE, but managed C for AS and is working at around a 'B' level now his teacher tell them.

CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 17:07:30

Out2Lunch, is your daughter doing the A level course where they study Lenin and Stalin then African American Civil Rights and then the following year modern Britian.
I so agree about the jump up to A levels. I actually found it more of a jump from O levels to A levels (English, Economics, Sociology) than A levels to my degree. It must be even harder now they are do 4 subjects.

CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 17:14:05

Another question is can students get on university courses if they for instance get C's and D's in their A levels?

breatheslowly Fri 15-Nov-13 17:22:30

I'd ask each of his subject teachers about his potential as an A level candidate as a B grade GCSE might be a perfectly sound foundation in some subjects, but an indication that your DS will struggle in others. There was a MN thread where a MNetter's son wasn't allowed to do Maths with a B grade GCSE because the evidence suggests that most B grade GCSE students do poorly in Maths.

The subject I would be most concerned about is Biology - but his teacher would be the best person to advise him.

Has he considered Psychology? It is a great A level and uses a scientific approach.

CareersDragon Fri 15-Nov-13 17:25:25

Yes. Different Unis have different entrance requirements for different subjects, see, where they are all listed. If grades are very low, or with just 1 A level, he could do a Foundation Degree (bit like an HND) and top it up to a full degree afterwards...

CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 17:31:22

I thought the same about Biology. I spoke to his teacher yesterday and because he was only 1 mark of an A in the General science GCSE ( it was remarked but stayed the same) he did in the summer she thought he would be ok. What is more of a concern is he needs a B in Maths to do Biology. My DS and I have just been chatting and I think talking to the students last night has probably steered him of Biology and towArds Geography. I'm just pleased he's thinking and talking about the next step.

breatheslowly Fri 15-Nov-13 17:37:16

Geography is a great subject - really varied. Every holiday I go on reminds me of my Geography A level as it gives you a new way to view the world.

BackforGood Fri 15-Nov-13 17:44:54

Cooler have a look on
You have to register, but don't get harassed by loads of e-mails or anything.
You Your ds can play around with options of Universities or university courses, and what might be available with predicted or guessed grades. Or can filter by area of the country, or can filter courses from a starting point of not expecting to get more than CCC, or whatever you choose - it's been a really helpful site for us.

CreamyCooler Fri 15-Nov-13 18:13:07

Thankyou BackforGood.

out2lunch Fri 15-Nov-13 18:18:19

creamycooler - yes I think she is studying that course.

back for good - I agree.dd is finding the other subjects not too bad at all at the moment English lang, sociology,communication and culture but ds was struggling with a level maths and was left behind v early on as he was a b grade gcser in a class full of as and a *.

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