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Chemistry or Biology at A Level

(51 Posts)
itwillbebetter Fri 12-Feb-16 15:26:30

DS1 needs to choose between the two. He is already planning to take physics and maths. He has always been set on chemistry but just lately has found biology more enjoyable. He is equally matched in both and predicted A*. He has had his heart set on a career in nuclear physics for ages but just suddenly is pondering medicine.

I will have the chance to speak to Head of sixth form but was interested in other viewpoints as to which one is more beneficial to keep his options open?

peteneras Fri 12-Feb-16 15:41:16

If he's interested in Medicine, Chemistry is vital. My advice, keep both if possible but if you must drop one, then boot Biology.

Clobbered Fri 12-Feb-16 15:45:23

For either medicine or nuclear physics, chemistry is the best choice.

TheSecondOfHerName Fri 12-Feb-16 15:45:42

Chemistry A-level will open more doors, including Medicine.

TeddTess Fri 12-Feb-16 15:46:31

couldn't he take both and do 4 A levels?

itwillbebetter Fri 12-Feb-16 16:47:52

Looks like chemistry is the better option.
tedtess no, he is only able to do 3 a levels, all the sixth forms round our way seem to be advising this.

roguedad Fri 12-Feb-16 18:07:56

It's bad advice for getting into a really good university. I'd go for the four. You can also drop one later in the light of offers, but do not underestimate the competition. M,P,C,B is a good combo that keeps the options open. Take a look at the Complete Uuniversity Guide and the points of successful candidates. You might need to knock off up to 140 points for an AS not taken to A2 and maybe a grade 8 music exam, but it tells you that even after that you cannot even seem like an average successful candidate with just 3 A levels at A*A*A. For example, the top ten medical school have averages at above 540. Take off 140 - that's A*A*A. All your local sixth forms are giving seriously bad advice. Don't be confused about what you hear about offers on 3 when starting 6th form - those are minimum conditions on acceptance and in no way reflect the typical standard. It's not for the school to tell you how many you can study. If you really have no choice lose Biology as other have said.

TalkinPeace Fri 12-Feb-16 19:29:31

disagree with rogue
guidance to DDs college is utterly clear that offers are now back to 3 not 4
(they handle 2000 offers a year so know more than many)
FFS med schools will be empty if Jeremy gets his way anyway

Bolognese Fri 12-Feb-16 19:43:20

I will bet you £1000 med schools will never be empty, its a VERY well paid job.

LogicalTest Fri 12-Feb-16 19:50:26

Choose four. A levels are the hardest work you'll ever do exam wise but four all the way. Head down, arse up for two years and your child will reap the benefits for the rest of their life. Universities are full of students with four even five top grade A levels so the advice is odd. If the ability and motivation is there success will come.

TalkinPeace Fri 12-Feb-16 20:02:10

Universities are full of students with four even five top grade A levels so the advice is odd

Time for me to back on sabattical from the bubble that is MN

itwillbebetter Fri 12-Feb-16 20:28:51

Mmm, lots of conflicting advice here, all very gratefully received. We went to lots of sixth form open days including some grammers and the thoughts are very much now with only taking 3. Physics, chemistry and biology will all be linear straight a levels, no as levels offered.

I guess I need to research this some more just to make sure.
Thanks for the advice.

SpotOn Fri 12-Feb-16 20:32:48

Locally the advise seems to be to take 4then drop to 3...one school DS was looking at wanted him to take 5. I said that was nonsense. DS felt too much pressure and ran for the hills.

Anyway, I would advise chemistry over biology for the mentioned careers.

honeysucklejasmine Fri 12-Feb-16 20:35:23

Chemistry for sure.

DrDreReturns Fri 12-Feb-16 20:37:39

For medicine definitely go for Chemistry over Biology. I have several friends who did medicine with A levels of physics, chemistry and maths.
When I was at school, admittedly twenty years ago, no one did four A levels. Taking four seems like too much to me.

ouryve Fri 12-Feb-16 20:37:51

Definitely Chemistry if he has to stick at 3.

I took 4, sometime in the bowels of the 1980s and it was actually the first time I'd found biology properly interesting (went on to take the S level paper and got a distinction - THAT interesting!), so it's a shame if his school won't allow him to take 4 subjects.

PurpleDaisies Fri 12-Feb-16 20:43:27

There's a big cross over between nuclear physics and chemistry and if there's even a tiny chance he'll do medicine definitely chemistry is the way to go. He can read the syllabuses online and see what appeals most to him. Chemistry is harder but would be much more useful for the sorts of things he's interested in (I tutor all four of his potential a levels!).

ridinghighinapril Fri 12-Feb-16 21:09:33

I have no idea about 3 vs 4 A-levels but definitely chemistry if he is considering medicine or nuc physics - that seems pretty unanimous on this thread!

DickDewy Fri 12-Feb-16 21:13:10

My son is doing both and from my perspective, the chemistry seems a LOT more difficult!

Although, ironically, he enjoys the chemistry more.

Haffdonga Fri 12-Feb-16 21:20:24

DS2 is doing all 4 and thinking abut the same career type ideas. He says biology is more interesting but if you are the sort of person who is good at maths and physics then chemistry is easier in a way because, like maths, it's a right or wrong subject.

Biology A level doesn't have such difficult concepts to get to grips with or problems to solve, but it seems to depend very much on hitting the right wording in the mark scheme to get things right. Ds gets really frustrated that he understands it all but can get lower marks because he writes perfectly correct answers which just happen not to be the points the examiners are looking for that day.

Fourarmsv2 Fri 12-Feb-16 21:24:25

We get lots of students into medical school each year - I'm a Bio HOD. Chem essential, Bio not.

Better to do three and get good grades than 4 and do less well. Offers this year all based on 3 grades. No students do 5 except those doing maths & add maths.

Haffdonga Fri 12-Feb-16 21:28:16

DS also says if he wants to do medicine he needs to do biology so drop the physics or maths, but if he wants to do nuclear physics then drop the biology as he'll need all the others.

Sounds like your ds needs to decide sooner rather than later what he's going to with his life. Easy peasy! wink

Haffdonga Fri 12-Feb-16 21:29:43

x posted and bow to your superior knowledge 4 !

DrDreReturns Fri 12-Feb-16 21:31:50

When I was at school Biology was seen as the 'easy' science. One of my Biology teachers said that complacency was the biggest problem with Biology students. I did Biology and Chemistry and found them equally challenging. Some of the concepts in Biology were quite hard (for me) to grasp I think, e.g. the Krebs cycle. If he is going to do Maths and Physics I would encourage him to go for Chemistry, it's a more natural fit, and Biology isn't as easy as people imagine.

Balletgirlmum Fri 12-Feb-16 21:36:08

The issue with colleges now only offering 3 is that most students started with 4 did AS level after 1 year then chose 3 to take onto A2.

With the demise of AS levels many see it pointless to study a subject for a year in which they won't get a qualification & they may as well spend the time on the three from the start.

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