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ds's A Level choices drama rumbles on... help!

(108 Posts)
lainiekazan Wed 04-Dec-13 10:04:03

The form has to be in on Friday and he can't decide.

He is definitely doing Eng Lit and History. Then he hasn't a clue. The runners are Music, Latin and Philosophy.

He is thinking of putting down all 5 but I think he'll have a nervous breakdown (or I will) if he starts off doing that many. He's worried that Music does not look good enough, he would find it difficult to achieve as highly in Latin as students at a public/private school, and that Philosophy would be one essay subject too many and, again, might not look that impressive.

Any opinions?

janeyjampot Wed 04-Dec-13 10:10:11

We're making similar choices at the moment. One thing I have found helpful is to think about the next stage and look at what is needed there. Does your DS know what he wants to do next?

From a completely objective point of view, the Russell Group publish this guide: which lists certain 'facilitating' subjects which are those that give the most options for university entrance. According to that list, Latin would be the best option, but I think it would be worth looking at past results to check that students have managed to achieve top grades in the past so that you can at least have some idea about whether this is achievable in the school he attends.

TeenAndTween Wed 04-Dec-13 10:14:16

Set aside for the moment 'looking impressive'.
- what is he good at (academic and hobbies)
- is he inspired by the courses
- what might he be considering doing after A level
- what GCSE results is he expecting
- what is his work ethic like

Out of those remaining 3, if he does the ones he is interested in, provided he is also capable then wouldn't that be the best thing? Then he drops one going into the second year. As long as he keep the 'heavier' English Lit and History, the impression I get is that the 3rd doens't matter quite so much.

Or put all 5 down then drop one on 1st September?

(NB daughter only in y10 so only just starting to explore this myself)

ATailOfTwoKitties Wed 04-Dec-13 10:14:32

Why is he worried that music 'doesn't look good'? I suspect it's very difficult indeed!

NomDeClavier Wed 04-Dec-13 10:19:18

Music is bloody hard. Harder than geography and I think viewed more favourably than philosophy unless he wants to do philosophy or law.

Latin looks most impressive but where is he realistically likely to achieve highest?

NomDeClavier Wed 04-Dec-13 10:20:26

Didn't finish!

I would put music and Latin and decide after the first year which to drop.

MuppetsChristmasCorral Wed 04-Dec-13 10:26:16

I did 5 A-levels and it is possible, but it meant I had to sacrifice the odd evening out with friends etc. I didn't mind much as I am a glutton for punishment really loved what I was doing, but if DS is a social butterfly it might not be the best.

My sister did three full A-levels and two AS's over the two years. She did one as an extra in her first year and one the next. Could that be an option if he's desperate for all the subjects?

Mignonette Wed 04-Dec-13 10:29:38

What does he enjoy most? He should do that. Music is very hard but also brings great pleasure too.

I love philosophy but it is verbose!

lainiekazan Wed 04-Dec-13 10:29:58

Ds certainly isn't a social butterfly but he is an afficionado of the XBox...

The trouble is he doesn't love any of the three he's considering. What would be the least work/easiest?!

titchy Wed 04-Dec-13 10:31:57

Eng Lit and History are good heavyweight subjects. The other three are also very well-regarded and would be very acceptable to Oxbridge, so he doesn't need to worry about looking impressive - any combination will look impressive!

Unless he is intending to do Latin or a specific period of History where Latin would be useful, dropping Latin would do no harm. Dropping Music would be fine, even if he was intending to do a Music degree (as long as he had the practical requirements) and dropping Philosophy wouldn't rule out Philosophy degree.

So basically dropping any of those will do no harm to his chances of a university place, and any combination will look impressive. So he shoudl make his choice based on what he enjoys!

superlambanana Wed 04-Dec-13 10:40:25

I disagree that dropping music wouldn't matter if he wants to do it as a degree - been there, done that, lots of universities wouldn't even look at my application without it.

I'd say to put down the one he enjoys most. If I were him I'd put two or three of them down and make his final decision in the first few weeks of term - there's always some movement and schools are usually happy with movement up to about the third week.

lalsy Wed 04-Dec-13 11:00:08

I agree that it doesn't matter especially if he is likely to carry on with Eng Lit and History to A2. My dd did four of these (not music) at AS and then dropped history and has just done UCAS (and is getting offers). Eng lit and History are fine for facilitating subjects - you don't need three (the RG guide has more info on this). Almost no courses need Latin (my dd has managed to find a very obscure one but there would have been plenty of options without), as many schools do not offer it; the same may well be true of philosophy - you can check this on the UCAS website by searching for degree courses he might want to do and seeing what the essential and preferred A levels are.

I would ask the school for recent results in all three subjects - they are all likely to be small and therefore potentially vulnerable to staff changes etc so look for a good, stable record. And then all things being equal, he should go for the one he enjoys most and is likely to do best in. My dd found the four essay subjects (the Latin lit is effectively essay based) at AS very, very hard work. I gather philosophy is perfectly well regarded as a "hard" subject - it is just not essential for specific degrees, and I suspect the same is true of music. None of these are easy options - I think my dd would say Latin is more work than philosophy but she is keener on it. History was shedloads of work at AS.

ATailOfTwoKitties Wed 04-Dec-13 11:30:34

Depends on the Latin syllabus, surely?

I did A-level Latin back in the day, and there were very few essays to write that I remember (hell of a lot of unseen translations of Agricola's weird ideas of British geography/Aeneas and Dido breathing heavily in caves/watery reflections gleaming on the oiled skins of beautiful youths, though, that sort of thing).

lalsy Wed 04-Dec-13 11:33:39

Which board does Latin A level and doesn't have essay style answers needed?

friday16 Wed 04-Dec-13 12:15:12

Dropping Music would be fine, even if he was intending to do a Music degree (as long as he had the practical requirements)


Q2 I’m a UK citizen and want to study Music at Oxford, but I don’t have A2 Music. I do have ABRSM Grade 8 Theory. Can I still apply?
A2 Although ABRSM Grade 8 Theory is helpful in providing useful theoretical background to the course, it is not a substitute for A2 Music at Grade A.

There are places that don't agree, and will accept Grade 8 theory as an alternative to A Level music. However, (a) grade 8 theory is not a walk in the park and (b) you will need to explain why you didn't do A2. "My school didn't offer it" is OK. "I didn't fancy it much" might undermine your claims to want to do a music degree.

titchy Wed 04-Dec-13 12:33:03

Probably true Friday - but presumably if OP's ds was seriously thinking about a music degree he wouldn't be wondering whether or not to do music!

Theas18 Wed 04-Dec-13 12:44:41

Do the music to A2 if there is even a hint you may want to take it further (apart from anything, if you ARE in that position, it will be a subject you are strong in and will get a good grade!).

hench Wed 04-Dec-13 12:56:59

any combination would be fine, so put all on the form and let him go to all lessons for a week (assuming school can timetable them all - if not, the choice may be made for him). He can then drop the one he likes least after seeing what the teachers, class groups and subjects are really like.

hench Wed 04-Dec-13 13:03:32

All three are minority choices, so if there is a particularly poor takeup for any the school may not run them. There's lots of financial pressure at the moment for sixth forms not to run small classes, and it may be wise to seek assurance from the school that they will offer the A2 courses next year definitely too, whether or not everyone deides to continue the subject for two years.

lainiekazan Wed 04-Dec-13 14:07:26

Thanks. He is Grade 8 piano but does not want to be a musician/do music degree - it's a hobby.

I think he is going to put all 5 and see what the college says. Apparently quite a few students do Philosophy, very few do Latin.

Beastofburden Wed 04-Dec-13 14:17:05

Where does he want to go to University? What does he want to study?

In your shoes I would say the priority is to get at least AAB including English and history. That would be good enough for most places.

Or, if you are looking at a very competitive University, you need to be looking for A*AA.

Even for Oxbridge, as long as he has English and History and is going to get A in both, the third subject isn't terribly important as long as he gets an A. Philosophy has an OK reputation especially if he is looking at something like law at Uni. Latin has no reputation either way unless you are doing classics, because its not offered in many places. Music is seen as strong evidence of performing and music skill, so relevant if you want a music degree, but not relevant if you are doing something else. A modern language would be better than any of these, to be honest, but only if he could get an A.

So if he can get AAb or A*AA depending on his ambition doing English, history and philosophy then that would not be a bad choice.

Absolutely pointless doing five. Nobody wants five A levels in the humanities and social sciences (its different in science where maths, further maths and three sciences is the dream package) and if he dilutes his effort and doesn't get five A*s then he has wasted his time.

lainiekazan Wed 04-Dec-13 14:33:24

He is looking to do as well as he can. It's a shame, really, that one has to play the A*/As game, and not do a broader range of subjects that might include one that one does not excel in, but that's another thread.

oscarwilde Wed 04-Dec-13 14:51:17

I don't wish to sound incredibly rude but what use is Latin if you are only going to study 4/5 subjects and none of them are another modern language? It's nice to study something you enjoy but at what point in the education system do you focus on the longer term benefit?

It's a genuine question. I'm sitting here racking my brains but Law and Medicine are the only professions I can think of where it might be of use and Med is obviously (given the rest of the subject choices) not in question.

Background: Educationally I didn't go to school in UK and at home subject choice was heavily biased towards "use". Latin would be deemed as a luxury choice, only offered by a tiny number of schools, and people study 7-9 subjects at A level so doing a minority course just for interest sake is somewhat more acceptable.

Feel free to tell me I am talking crap and an A* in Latin will be of use after school. smile

Beastofburden Wed 04-Dec-13 14:57:44

lainie it sounds as if none of them really appeal. You could go one of three ways:

Do music as it will be relatively easy for him, so he can cash in his As in the other two subjects by doing not much work for music. i did that back in 1980- i took English, French, German and two Music A levels, Theoretical Music and Practical Music. The music ones were freebies for me and I got five A grades. It's a high risk subject though for not getting an A*, be warned. Very unpredictable.

Do a modern language which will be far more useful in getting work and competitive in University entrance than any of the three he is looking at.

Do either of philosophy or Latin, whichever you think is most reliably taught and is the least work.

If there is any chance of doing a modern language and getting a decent grade then I would do that.

lainiekazan Wed 04-Dec-13 14:58:03

Well, most things are pretty useless, aren't they? Might as well strip things right back and everyone only do A Level Survival Studies (in which ds could guarantee a U grade).

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