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Bright child, good school, Year 11, got to choose A Levels. Tell me - 3 or 4?

(187 Posts)
nonnomnom Mon 07-Dec-15 12:18:37

If your child is reasonably bright and at a good school, can you tell me if they will be expected/are expecting to do 3 or 4 subjects, now that AS Levels are largely going? (Not counting those doing Further Maths or General Studies here.)

DD's school surprised me by saying they needed to do 4 - even if essay subjects - but dd now saying she's only going to do 3 as there only 3 she really wants to do and better to get 3 good results than 4 mediocre ones.

But will decent unis expect 4 now? Or at least 3.5?

What will most Year 11s be doing? National guidance seems unclear.

Thank you...

Stoneagemum Mon 07-Dec-15 12:25:08

Watching with interest, ds's school has said choose 4 and an alternative we have looked at is saying 4 or the equivalent to if combining with a BTEC

NorthernLurker Mon 07-Dec-15 12:27:35

Dd is right. Three good is better than 4 mediocre but expect pressure from school to do 4. Ignore!

GloriaHotcakes Mon 07-Dec-15 12:29:20

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dingit Mon 07-Dec-15 12:58:04

Dd is in year 12 at a selective academy. Doing 4 As and critical thinking. She will drop PE at A2, mainly because she has to take part in a competitive sport to carry on. So A2 will be maths, physics chemistry.
So far so good, but come back and ask in a few months!

Bunbaker Mon 07-Dec-15 13:01:27

At DD's school they start doing 4 and drop one at the end of year 12. Some carry on with 4, but only if the school deem that they are capable of 4 good grades.

Their A level results this year have put them in the top 10% nationally for post 16 and they want it to stay that way.

catslife Mon 07-Dec-15 14:41:04

I have a dd in Y11. Bright pupils are expected to choose 4 A level subjects for Y12 but they can choose to do an EPQ for their 4th subject (which is a project of their choice) if they wish.
dd is expecting to drop one subject at the end of Y12.
Pupils who just scrape the entry qualifications will be expected to take 3 subjects but may need to fill their timetable with other activities as they need to have a certain number of timetabled hours each week.

Ladymuck Mon 07-Dec-15 14:42:37

"Their A level results this year have put them in the top 10% nationally for post 16 and they want it to stay that way."

And of course the concern is whether the league tables are measuring the same things that universities are looking for.

From what I've seen in the more academic private schools, pupils are expected to take 4 A levels. Some will do 3 plus the EPQ. The schools I've looked at have all adopted the new 2 year linear format asap, so no more AS levels for those starting next year.

catslife Mon 07-Dec-15 14:43:09

PS General Studies A level is on the list of subjects that aren't being reformed for the new linear A level and most sixth forms are phasing it out!

catslife Mon 07-Dec-15 14:47:45

The schools I've looked at have all adopted the new 2 year linear format asap, so no more AS levels for those starting next year.
Schools and colleges don't have a choice as to whether to offer the new linear format ladymuck
All the facilitating subjects apart from Maths (and FM) will have the new linear A level format from Sept 2016. There will still, however, be AS levels in Maths (and FM) and some non-facilitating subjects in 2017.

Bunbaker Mon 07-Dec-15 14:52:08

What is EPQ?

Ladymuck Mon 07-Dec-15 14:56:06

"Schools and colleges don't have a choice as to whether to offer the new linear format ladymuck"

Sorry, I should have clarified - most of the good schools aren't offering any AS levels, just the full 2 year course. Waiting with interest to see which way some degree offers will move (esp those requiring AS FM).

Icouldbeknitting Mon 07-Dec-15 15:01:54

For a mostly A grade student the results of our open evenings for a 2016 start were 4-4-3-(4 and drop one after the first year).

ExitPursuedByABear Mon 07-Dec-15 15:07:17

We have a thread going for Y11 parents.

There is no consensus. Most sixth forms have told DD to choose 4, and then possibly drop one at the end of Y12. And several still take AS even though does not count towards final mark anymore.

Best sixth form however says just do three. Only do 4 if you get an average of an A across all your GCSEs.

ExitPursuedByABear Mon 07-Dec-15 15:08:51


catslife Mon 07-Dec-15 15:22:07

EPQ stands for Extended Prpject Qualification see link for more information

littledrummergirl Mon 07-Dec-15 17:03:17

Ds2 preferred school still starts with 4 and drops 1. Some children may do 5 (higher maths) and all have the option of epq.

nonnomnom Mon 07-Dec-15 19:42:12

Thanks Exit - will look at thread...

Suffolkgirl1 Mon 07-Dec-15 21:23:35

I would always say start with 4, so many pupils find that one of their A levels is not what they expected, if you only start with 3 you cant really drop one.

nonnomnom Mon 07-Dec-15 21:56:44

Thanks all - thanks to this and Exit's thread agreeing on starting with 4 (even if not intending to finish with all 4 necessarily) dd has chosen to put a 4th one down on her form. Relieved as 2 out of 3 subjects will be new to her so at least this gives her a bit of leeway to change.

Thank you all! flowers

swingofthings Tue 08-Dec-15 16:39:58

We've visited a number of colleges, all getting good results, some excellent, and all have said that unis will not be looking at 4 A levels, but 3 very good ones. DD was going to do 4, but now thinks she will go for 3, although might consider the extended project as been told this is highly regarded.

antimatter Wed 09-Dec-15 09:11:25

My dd currently in Y13 didn't opt for EPQ. She is already doing one essay su ject.
Her school afvises those applying for Medicine to do epq to show that they are capable of writing essays.

roguedad Wed 09-Dec-15 21:10:08

Strongly advise starting 4 and then only consider dropping one when you see what offers DD gets for university places (and NOT at the start of second year of sixth form). That way you can optimise what to focus on in the light of the offers.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about what unis are looking for. Their eventual offers might indeed be grades on 3, but the good ones, especially in competitive courses, are choosing who to offer to from fields of kids doing 4 or 5, making offers to part of that high-flying pool, and successful applicants are showing up often having completed 4. Remember that 3 in the offer is the minimum they will take on - the average standard is often much higher. I think a great many students shoot themselves in the foot by going into the admissions season just starting 3 in 6-2. I strongly recommend looking at the Complete University Guide for the average points achieved by candidates who are actually admitted, and ask yourself the question "How do I make myself look better than an average successful person". You need to take a bit of those scores to calibrate (there's a few Grade 8 ABRSM results perhaps)

roguedad Wed 09-Dec-15 21:13:15

Did not finish - cat walked on keyboard and posted.... take off maybe 70 for the odd music exam but remember that AS levels and A2s in the same subject are NOT separately counted. Then you realise that Cambridge Economists often have 4 top grades, and so on. This is a lot more realistic than listening to anecdotes about how someone got on offer on 3 for the top of the Russell Group.

OP - your strategy is fine as you have settled on it, but please defer dropping to after you see what the offers look like.

Interestedininfo Thu 10-Dec-15 05:54:50

roguedad this thread is about the implications of the changes to the A level syllabus with the uncertainties of non-modular exams, different syllabus etc but your comments are based on the old system. Even with the old system Cambridge Economists will mostly have been doing further maths as their 4th A levels. My DCs' schools have many going to Oxbridge for a variety of subjects and most went from 4 subjects to 3 in Y13 unless they were doing further maths.
As others above I think it is worth starting with 4 in order to keep options open about choice of subjects for as long as possible. After the first term it is easier to assess the workload and decide whether to change to three.

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