A levels choices for engineering

(34 Posts)
wohmum Thu 18-Feb-16 06:48:39

My DS is in yr 12 taking maths physics, chemistry and mandarin . He will drop one of these next year.
He is aiming to go to uni to study engineering and will definitely keep physics and maths ( on target for As in both) but veers between dropping either chemistry or mandarin. In reality he is unlikely to use mandarin in a future career, but enjoys it and we feel that it does make him stand out of the crowd a bit. Of course chemistry would be a solid choice, but what do you all reckon would be the best for him to stick with - he's likely to get a B in chemistry and poss an A in mandarin

BikeRunSki Thu 18-Feb-16 06:53:25

What type of engineering is he interested in? This will make a difference to that 3rd A level. I wouldn't dismiss Mandarin though.

fatowl Thu 18-Feb-16 06:58:21

My dd is in y13 and started with maths physics chemistry and Spanish

She has dropped Spanish and had applied to do aeronautical systems engineering.

Offers are coming in, all are insisting she passed Maths and physics, don't seem bothered about the chemistry but she never really considered Spanish for A2

wohmum Thu 18-Feb-16 06:59:04

He doesn't really know yet - probably not chemical engineering , most likely some sort of mechanical/ automotive/aeronautical.

wohmum Thu 18-Feb-16 07:00:44

Thanks fatowl, we'll done to your dd. what unis is she keen on?

wohmum Thu 18-Feb-16 07:02:13

Oops, ' well done', not 'we'll' done

ThumbWitchesAbroad Thu 18-Feb-16 07:04:09

Well he's got the important 2 with Maths and Physics - and if the Chinese do take over the world's manufacturing entirely, then Mandarin will stand him in better stead than chemistry!

Personally I'd have kept the chemistry but that's because I loved it (and hated physics, so didn't do it) but was still offered a degree place on a chem eng course because I had the Maths to go with the chemistry. Didn't take it - went another route instead (Food science) so the chemistry was more important for that.

I'd say that chemistry would offer him wider scope in the science degrees if he decides for some reason that he hates engineering; but only if he does actually enjoy it. If he's not fussed then let him do the Mandarin.

As a matter of interest, why can't he keep all 4?

PinkFondantFancy Thu 18-Feb-16 07:05:04

I'd keep whichever he's most enthusiastic about, I wouldn't have thought uni will care either way unless doing chemical engineering

PinkFondantFancy Thu 18-Feb-16 07:06:12

Good point thumb witches, why not do 4 alevels? I did, was a pretty normal thing to do 15 years ago

wohmum Thu 18-Feb-16 07:09:21

The workload to keep all 4 will be pretty tough, and his school only recommend taking 3 to get the best grades. This week he's most enthusiastic about mandarin, but it's an awful lot of vocabulary to learn!

wohmum Thu 18-Feb-16 07:12:05

I also did 4 many moons ago, we've not really considered keeping both - might have a chat with him and sixth form to see if it is feasible.

hellsbells99 Thu 18-Feb-16 07:14:36

Don't keep all 4! If he was an A* student and finding it easy, then that would be different. 3 good grades are worth more than 4 weaker ones.

hellsbells99 Thu 18-Feb-16 07:16:14

If he is sure he doesn't want to do chemical engineering, the pick the one he is going to get the best grade in. Although I personally would stick with chemistry as that was my favourite!

ThumbWitchesAbroad Thu 18-Feb-16 07:16:30

Are the school more concerned about individual achievement, or their stats, or both? Just worth a thought.

Definitely worth considering doing all 4; I assume if the workload got too much then he could drop one halfway through the year?

When I was at school, 4 was also quite common (high academic achieving school decades ago); and in our neighbouring school (boys' version of the same sort) they would even do 5 (but that's because they ALL had to do "General Studies", which we didn't).

GreenSand Thu 18-Feb-16 07:33:21

Chemistry if Chem Eng is a possibility.
If Chem Eng is off the possible list, then which ever he prefers. Personally, Mandarin. Business is big in China for all the big engineering firms I know.

FishWithABicycle Thu 18-Feb-16 07:34:57

I'd advise mandarin. Firstly it opens up possibilities for a more exciting international career. Secondly he will get a higher grade which could make a significant difference to the quality of university he gets in to. Thirdly, because the a-level chemistry syllabus is (or rather, 20 years ago it was) deadly dull to someone with a physics/maths/engineering brain. There are reams and reams of "recipes" and rules to learn by rote, but no time to explore the actual science behind them. Later at university I began to understand that this was because the physics and maths that explain the "why" of chemistry is way too complex for a 17 year old. However I found a level chemistry a deeply frustrating and boring experience and only managed a C due to how uninspiring it was. I probably could have done better had I bothered to do a bit more work but I didn't have time for dull. (Later after I had finished my physics degree and was capable of grappling with the maths I began to find chemistry interesting again and did a PhD on how atoms move during chemical reactions so it wasn't all wasted)

MaryRobinson Thu 18-Feb-16 07:39:46

I would say keep Chemistry. The thing about languages is that there are effective ways of picking them up all the time so even if he drops Mandarin now, what he has learned so far will stand him in good stead and he will find it much easier to go back to it rather than Chemistry.

wohmum Thu 18-Feb-16 07:42:01

Thanks for your responses.
That's exactly what he is struggling with in chemistry fishwithabicycle - it's the reams of rules and recipes . He used to enjoy it, but has lost enthusiasm this year

FannyFanakapan Thu 18-Feb-16 07:47:48

My DD is studying engineering - she took math, physics and english literature! He should take the one he enjoys the most, and thinks he will get the best grade in.

A lot of unis have year out programmes in the far east - one has a campus in Malaysia I believe - and possibly Nottingham? Cardiff? so he could spend a year abroad, maybe do some travel, work for a chinese company.

bruffin Thu 18-Feb-16 07:51:34

My ds is taking a mech eng degree and has maths, further maths and physics.

OddBoots Thu 18-Feb-16 07:56:49

My DS is in Y12 and the advice he has been given (only advice, they let the students choose) is that if you are getting good grades then doing 4 A Levels is fine if you don't have a pt job or a time consuming sport/hobby otherwise, if you have either or both of those then do 3. They also suggest for anyone not certain that they start out doing 4 and reassess once they have had their offers in from UCAS.

Autumnsky Thu 18-Feb-16 11:45:49

If your DS can get a good grade in Chemistry, I would suggest drop Mandarin. As I belived you can easily learn language yourself. So if he is interested in Mandarin, he can keep learning himself.

GinandJag Thu 18-Feb-16 12:59:35

I think Chemistry is more useful.

He will have to have a good understanding of materials science regardless of the branch of engineering, so Chemistry at A2 will give him a leg up.

GinandJag Thu 18-Feb-16 13:02:47

Out of interest, are you native Mandarin speakers, OP?

colander1 Thu 18-Feb-16 13:16:09

Don't do all 4. Unis will offer you a place based on your number of A levels. If you are doing 3 they will offer (say) 3 A grades. If you are doing 4 they will offer 4 A grades. Don't make life too hard!

Chemistry will keep chemical engineering open, but I think Mandarin offers something extra. Good luck.

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