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A-level combination: History, Maths & Biology?

(58 Posts)
TheSecondOfHerName Mon 22-Feb-16 22:58:16

A reasonable combination? Or a ridiculous one?

My son wants to do 3 A-levels and needs to finalise application this week. Definitely sure about History, fairly sure about Maths, less certain about Biology.

The only other subjects on his shortlist are Psychology
Government & Politics

Other subjects aren't under consideration, either because he doesn't enjoy them or because he has little aptitude for them.

He would like to go to university. His potential career interests include nursing, teaching, psychology, social sciences.

He is procrastinating with the decision, and I have spent too much time thinking about it and can no longer see the wood for the trees.

Are History, Maths & Biology too unusual a combination? Would they look bizarre on a university application?

BackforGood Mon 22-Feb-16 23:48:28

<disclaimer: I am only a parent who has gone through it twice so far, not a university admissions tutor or anything>

The advice I've heard over and over is to do the subjects they will get the best grades in, if they don't know what they want to do (usually equates to the subjects they enjoy).
If they do know what they want to do, then look up some courses and see what the entry requirements are for that University course. So, I'd look up a few Nursing courses, social science courses, etc., and see what they are asking for.

TheSecondOfHerName Tue 23-Feb-16 07:21:34

Thank you. A lot of the courses he is interested in don't have specific subject requirements.

louisejxxx Tue 23-Feb-16 07:24:59

What makes you think it's a bizarre combo?

Looks good to me - a nice mix of Science subjects and 1 "writing-based" subject. Universities will like it.

Coconutty Tue 23-Feb-16 07:25:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

slebmum1 Tue 23-Feb-16 07:31:54

I don't think history particularly goes with the science and maths - what does he want to do after a levels?

TheSecondOfHerName Tue 23-Feb-16 07:36:43

He will probably get A* at Maths GCSE but is not especially able at the subject. I did Maths A-level and was quite concerned about the jump from GCSE to A-level, so I asked his Maths teacher if he was a feasible candidate. He thinks that my son would be fine if he works steadily at it. The sixth form has about 150 students sitting Maths A-level each year, and they mostly get very good grades.

I think he won't find the Maths easy (I did Maths A-level and it was a jump from GCSE) but he seems to be motivated to work hard at it.

derektheladyhamster Tue 23-Feb-16 07:38:43

My ds has chosen maths chemistry & biology, with history as his 4th subject. One is dropped after a year which at the moment is the history pre u, but he is very good at history and enjoys it, so I can see a possible shift. His chosen degree asks for biology & 1 subject from chemistry or maths so the option is there

History is a very well regarded essay subject and would fit nicely with the other facilitating subjects

Rosyredface Tue 23-Feb-16 07:38:51

During visits to colleges we have been told that it's not advisable to just take 1 science subject as usually 2 are taken together. Ds doesn't want a science career though so is now considering other options.

TheSecondOfHerName Tue 23-Feb-16 07:39:47

slebmum1 that's my concern, but he loves History and is gifted at it, so really wants to do History A-level. He has an idea that he wants to do social sciences or psychology or nursing or possibly anthropology, but to be honest, I don't think he knows yet.

TheSecondOfHerName Tue 23-Feb-16 07:46:10

Thank you for all your responses. I realise it's not the most interesting thread to start, and there are countless 'are these subjects OK' threads, so I do appreciate it.

He doesn't want to study 'hard science'. He isn't doing Physics GCSE so I don't think Physics A-level would be an option. He has no aptitude for Chemistry and got a C in the mock. Biology is only in the list because he is reasonably good at it and thinks it might be useful if he wants to do a degree in nursing or psychology.

MrsA2 Tue 23-Feb-16 07:46:53

I did those three A levels. I got straight As and as a result was in the very fortunate position of getting accepted by all 6 of the decent universities I applied to - including Durham, Bristol and Nottingham. That was 17 years ago though now!

Agree that maths is a big step up at A level but also history is too - and I know other A level students today who still have found that the same. So don't let him get disheartened if he starts off getting very low history grades in the first term, he'll improve once he starts to get the hang of A level style essay writing.

Bovnydazzlers Tue 23-Feb-16 07:49:50

Absolutely fine combination, keeps loads of options open. Only if he was going to go into vocational science/medicine does it really matter what subjects he does. Employers won't look at the subjects just the grades. Important he does the ones he enjoys and has aptitude for. (I did history, maths, chemistry leading to history degree then accountancy career, worked for me!)

Molio Tue 23-Feb-16 08:37:01

Very good combination and all good subjects.

Molio Tue 23-Feb-16 08:41:29

Rosyredface DS3 did history, physics and geography and his school (a good school) didn't bat an eyelid, quite rightly. MN would have said doing physics without maths was misguided and he'd been bound to struggle (he didn't). If those are the subjects OP's son likes, and given his current thinking about his future, he should go with his instinct. Masses of kids take biology with no other science.

jaguar67 Tue 23-Feb-16 08:47:34

All highly regarded subjects and would facilitate any number of degree options. Only question I'd raise is Biology as a single A Level - my DD is moving for 6th form (relevant only as we've therefore had guidance from more than 1 school). Each school has stressed in their sixth form prospectus, that extreme caution should be taken if considering a single science. Biology came up specifically since this is the one that students tend to opt for - apparently there is overlap between Biology & Chemistry to some extent and the single scientists feel the pinch of this in keeping up with the other 'multiple' scientists. Having sad that, I'm sure if you go into this with eyes open and are prepared to ask for support when this overlap occurs, I'm sure it's not insurmountable. Good luck!

annandale Tue 23-Feb-16 08:54:58

Sorry, haven't RTFT even though it's short but have rushed to the end to say this sounds like a GREAT combination.

Economic or social history requires a decent statistical understanding and an ability to 'get' the numbers, and maths really helps with that. As a history student I struggled with poor maths. Biology and maths are another great combination - any health based or lab based career will also need good stats. In general, Maths is an enabling subject which I think everyone should do to the highest level they are capable of.

I wonder if he would consider economics or chemistry AS as that would expand his range, alternatively another language, e.g. German would be a solid choice either for economic/financial or historical further careers or study.

annandale Tue 23-Feb-16 08:55:23

oh damn am I out of date, have AS levels died now?

Bromeliad Tue 23-Feb-16 08:56:23

I took Maths, Physics, History & Archaeology at AS (old system obviously) dropping to Maths, Physics & archaeology at A2. I studied Physics at university and the Archaeology/History was a talking point in all my interviews. I was told it made me look more rounded. I'd go for it!

annandale Tue 23-Feb-16 09:05:09

I think the single science 'don't do it' is poor advice actually, I think if you can do a science it's a really good idea. Yes biology is descriptive so tends to be the one that people do but why not? It's a great qualification and shows you can manage a science qualification. Again for healthcare careers it's pretty essential if he goes that way. I wish I'd done that instead of Government and Politics, even though the latter was a fabulous course and I enjoyed it.

derektheladyhamster Tue 23-Feb-16 09:10:28

I did a biology degree at Sussex with biology, English lit & history. I did struggle a little with the chemistry side, but nothing that couldn't be overcome. I think its a fine combination

catslife Tue 23-Feb-16 09:15:04

If those are the subjects that he really wants to do that's fine. I suspect that now some schools are limiting students to 3 A level subjects, unis will have to consider different combinations of subjects.
As he is considering nursing taking A level biology would keep that option going. He would definitely need a grade C in his GCSE Chemistry for uni entry though, so may need a rethink if that isn't achieved. It would also be a good fit for Pyschology as that is also quite maths based. It doesn't sound to me as if A level Chemistry would be a good idea. You do need a good aptitude for this subject at A level. (I used to teach A level Chemistry and under the old AS system most students who were only taking it because it went well with Biology really struggled and were really relieved to drop the subject at the end of Y12.)
If he changes his mind about nursing then Economics would be a better fit with History and Maths. Perhaps this could go down as his "Reserve" option if there is space for this on the form.

SuburbanRhonda Tue 23-Feb-16 11:00:00

You mentioned psychology - DS is doing it and finds it fascinating. So much so that he's applied to do it at university. I wish it had been an option when I did my A levels. Biology was turgid (decades ago though - might be more interesting now).

RightKindOfSun Tue 23-Feb-16 12:53:49

Absolutely agree with everyone on here who says it's a fine combination. Each subject OP's DC has chosen is a fine choice, alone and in combination. Well done.

I feel so sorry for DCs of posters who fuss about doing just one science or history not going well with science and maths. For goodness sake, isn't it wonderful that they develop different knowledge and skills bases?

One quote: "In general, Maths is an enabling subject which I think everyone should do to the highest level they are capable of." HURRAH HURRAH! If only schools didn't put the less able mathematicians off.

TheSecondOfHerName Tue 23-Feb-16 15:38:40

Thank you all, these comments are really helpful. I think I have looked at the subject combination for too long, so it starts to look weird in the way that a word starts to sound weird if you say it too many times.

I think he will probably be putting Psychology and Economics as his reserve choices.

I am not too worried about him finding Biology A-level difficult as both DH and I have degrees in Biological Sciences, so we can offer support if needed.

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