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It is really feasible to do 4 "hard" A levels?

(290 Posts)
Kazzyhoward Thu 03-Aug-17 11:35:40

DS is forecast grades 8 and 9 in his GCSEs across the board. He is wanting to take all 3 sciences and Maths at A level. These are the subjects he enjoys. At this stage (argh!), he has no clue about what career he wants to go into! School/teachers seem happy enough to let him do them with the usual warnings of them being hard subjects etc. Just wondering if any parents/teachers have experience of kids doing these 4 A levels and whether it's realistically feasible to get decent passes. My personal view is to run for the hills and choose just 3 A levels of a different mix, maybe one science, Maths, and a humanity or economics/business studies, but perhaps that would do him a great dis-service. Very difficult when he hasn't a clue about career nor what degree subject he'll take at uni.

laundryelf Thu 03-Aug-17 12:18:27

My DS was the same and very disappointed when he had to drop Chemistry after AS. I thought it was too many challenging subjects but as he pointed out, he enjoyed doing them so it wasn't work to him.
If your DS wants to do it, that's enough reason to let him try. If it's too much then he can drop one during the year. The Sixth Form my DS has just left now says students can drop a subject at Christmas if they want. Previously it was not allowed until after AS level exams.

ProfessorLayton1 Thu 03-Aug-17 12:25:37

My Dd has chosen French, maths, further maths , chemistry and biology for her AS levels as she has no clue what she wants to do...
I do worry about the workload but the school is happy for her to do..
I am going to keep a close eye on how she is coping

SureIusedtobetaller Thu 03-Aug-17 12:27:38

Physics and maths overlap a fair bit - if you do one it makes the other one easier.
I don't think your son would be able to have a job as well (most 6th formers do here) but otherwise I think it should be fine.

BroomstickOfLove Thu 03-Aug-17 12:28:56

In my day there was quite a lot of overlap between maths and physics, so nearly everyone who did 4 A-levels did maths, physics, and two other mathsy/sciency subjects.

errorofjudgement Thu 03-Aug-17 14:41:36

I think it may partly depend on whether these are exams assessed at the end of year 12, or whether they can be split with some exams taken in year 12 and the remainder (& any resits) in year 13.

Both my DS took Maths, physics, chemistry, FM & 1 other (Geog/ResMat) in Yr12 then "dropped" to 4 in Y 13.
DD, is at the same school, and just finished her GCSEs, and school policy now is 3 subjects only right from the start, plus either FM or EP but only if your grades are good enough at GCSE and school believe you can handle the workload. This is because of the move to final exams we are told.

errorofjudgement Thu 03-Aug-17 14:41:54

And the harder exam syllabus!

BigGreenOlives Thu 03-Aug-17 14:44:32

Lots of people do. where my dcs go to school. Most students do maths A level as it isn't that much work if you are good at maths (selective schools) & then other subjects. 4 humanities would be v touch.

SerfTerf Thu 03-Aug-17 14:47:37

It's fine and a common combo.

Iamstegosaurusthethird Thu 03-Aug-17 14:48:40

My DS did, he started with the idea he'd drop one then as he was finding them manageable he carried on and got AAAB so it's definitely doable just depends on the individual I guess. He's very laid back so didn't stress too much which I think helped, plus he's naturally good at maths so actually didn't find it too hard.

DoctorDonnaNoble Thu 03-Aug-17 14:49:05

Lots do

GHGN Thu 03-Aug-17 15:08:49

2 years ago I got one student who took Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Computing at school and did Additional Further Maths in his own time just for fun. It is doable for some kids. 5 years ago, I taught one student, who finished with 5 A Level, 4A* and 1A but she did almost no work for Maths, spending 90% of my Maths lessons doing Further Maths work instead.

PersianCatLady Thu 03-Aug-17 15:21:49

Most year 12 students start the year studying 4 subjects and then drop one at the end of the year.

Throughout year 13 they then study for the three subjects and then get A levels in those subjects.

Are you sure that your DS won't be doing this too??

Allthebestnamesareused Thu 03-Aug-17 15:45:29

A lot of kids do Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry at our school and at the local sixth form college.

TeenAndTween Thu 03-Aug-17 16:02:45

But, double maths is broadly speaking considered less work (if you are good enough at maths to be doing double in the first place) than 2 standard A levels. So I don't think the examples of 4 including double maths are strictly relevant.

OP, that said, I think this would be permitted at our local 6th form given this is predicted to be a straight A* student at GCSE.

TheFallenMadonna Thu 03-Aug-17 16:05:44

With the changes to A levels, starting 4 is becoming more uncommon. It requires special guidance at both 6th forms DS has applied to.

sendsummer Thu 03-Aug-17 18:04:36

Starting off with those four would be perfectly doable if the school allows it. I would advise him to reassess at the end of the first term.
Does he like physics and biology equally?

Bobbiepin Thu 03-Aug-17 18:13:51

Starting with 4 A levels is perfectly normal, even with the change in specifications. This leaves him open to dropping a subject later on, either mid year or after AS. If he were to start with 3 and find he doesn't lile one, after October he would not be able to drop a subject or change as it would affect the school's funding. If he is prepared for the work that comes with it (maths and chemistry are notoriously difficult) then go for it. Don't push him into taking humanities subjects on the premise that theu are easier, if he doesn't like it he will not work as well for it and subjects like history or psychology are just as tough.

CauliflowerSqueeze Thu 03-Aug-17 18:17:25

The new specs have a huge amount more content. Universities offer 3 grades. We recommend 3 A levels now and not 4. Better to get 3 high grades than juggle 4.

EggysMom Thu 03-Aug-17 18:22:50

Depends whether he has an affinity for the subjects, or struggles with them - one child could easily manage four hard A-levels, another could struggle with two simpler topics. As we don't know your son, how can we say? You're the best judge!

OrlandaFuriosa Thu 03-Aug-17 18:28:23

The advice on better three excellent than four not is spot on.

Be aware also that some HEIs discount further maths for some courses, just as some HEIs insist on it.

The issue is workload.

What you seriously don't want is eg Physics, Chemistry, Biology/Maths and Art because the Art workload is huge.

Mycarsmellsoflavender Thu 03-Aug-17 18:30:47

I think his plan of doing 4 related subjects that he enjoys ( very important!) is much better than your idea of doing 4 unrelated subjects, sorry!

SuperPug Thu 03-Aug-17 18:39:36

I'm not sure why these A Levels are labelled "hard" tbh. I think it's that perception which puts a lot of girls off and therefore means they're less represented in STEM careers and subjects.
I did a mixture of the ones above and Arts. I found science harder because I wasn't very good at it. But it's not hard if you have a natural aptitude for it. Similarly, some people find languages a doddle, others wouldn't.
The new A Levels are tough. I teach a subject which is not science based and it's the hardest specification I've ever had to teach. I really feel for the pupils.

safariboot Thu 03-Aug-17 18:50:56

If DS has an aptitude for maths and science then they aren't hard for him. Sciences usually involve a lot less essay writing than humanities, and when I did my A-levels my textbooks were considerably shorter than some others.

If he wants to do a science degree at a decent university he'll want maths and two sciences anyway.

Milliways Thu 03-Aug-17 18:53:37

Agree with Superpug. My DD did 5 AS levels (Maths, Eng Lit, History, French & German) but found the sheer number of essays a killer, so dropped History and did the rest as full A2s. A lot of her friends did the 3 sciences and Maths, particularly the medic applicants.

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