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Further maths A level

(29 Posts)
choirmumoftwo Wed 28-Nov-18 00:03:33

DD is in year 12 taking maths, physics and chemistry and working at A*/A standard in all three. She was dissuaded from taking further maths despite an A at GCSE for reasons we've never fully grasped but went along with as it wasn't essential for her future plans.
She's really enjoying her maths course and is now leaning towards taking it at degree level but of course the lack of further maths would then be a problem. School have indicated that it's too late in the day for her to add it to her timetable without huge upheaval. Is it totally unrealistic to think she could self study the syllabus (obviously with our help and support) and sit the A level as an external candidate? She'd clearly have some catching up to do but are we silly to even be thinking about it?

OP’s posts: |
Needmoresleep Wed 28-Nov-18 09:10:30

Check whether AS FM is still offered. DS was on a degree course where FM was seen as "desirable" and quite a lot of his peers had self studied as far as the AS. If the whole A level is too tough a target this might be a useful half way house.

With the change in A levels not as many degree courses will require FM, so it is worth checking. However for the more academic courses, FM will be a huge help as adjusting to University teaching alone is tough enough.

jeanne16 Wed 28-Nov-18 09:26:46

Agree with Needmoresleep. Your DD should be able to do an AS in FM in Y13. Ask the school if they will timetable this.

Oratory1 Wed 28-Nov-18 10:55:12

Even if it’s too much to actually sit the exam could she self study some of the course so she is not disadvantaged at uni. Unless fm is required by the uni (and you can check admissions requirements now) much of the advantage comes from studying the material which she could do without the time required for revision and sitting the exam.

Pumkinsoup Wed 28-Nov-18 13:34:04

My DD, very bright, studies FM A level plus Maths and Physics. I can say FM it is indeed a big step up over A level Maths and hugely different to GCSE, especially in the second year. The whole mix of subjects with the new syllabus is a big workload and high level of difficulty even for a bright DC.

I would say self studying FM A level would be very hard for most bright people, although Einstein is known to have done something like that.

Adding FM over the mix that your DD already has might be a high risk strategy and if goes wrong can damage confidence and mental health thus compromising the whole thing.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 28-Nov-18 15:35:44

* She was dissuaded from taking further maths despite an A at GCSE for reasons we've never fully grasped but went along with as it wasn't essential for her future plans.*

My guess would be that the school may not encourage doing FM as a 4th subject except for students who got A*s at GCSE who they are sure can cope. Uni offers are usually on the basis of 3 subjects, an extra doesn't necessarily help and may hinder if the outcome is 4 less good grades. This of course isn't so good for those who aren't totally clear what they want to do at uni when they start 6th form.

Under the old modular system, it used to be reasonably common for some FM students to self teach one or two extra modules that they were particularly interested in or which would be helpful for their uni course - but these would tend to be the types who'd got A^ gcse FM .

There's probably no harm in her having a shot at it if she's keen, on the understanding that it may be a big ask and she shouldn't persist if it is impacting her other 3 subjects.

JustRichmal Thu 29-Nov-18 09:04:16

If she gets the CGP books she could have a look at it and decide. For different reasons, my dd is self studying FM from these. Make sure you get the ones for the right exam board. Be aware it will be a lot of work, and extra 8 to 10 hours a week and probably a lot of the summer holidays to catch up.
There are two core maths and then she has to choose two from four other options.
I totally agree with Errol though, be prepared to pack it in if it is going to impact on her other A levels.

choirmumoftwo Thu 29-Nov-18 13:11:45

Thank you all for your comments. I think she's going to follow the course and make a decision on sitting the exam nearer the time. Agree though that if her other subjects start to slip, the FM will be sidelined. Based on limited research so far, only Cambridge seem to ask for FM A level as an entry requirement for maths, and she doesn't plan to apply there anyway!

OP’s posts: |
ErrolTheDragon Thu 29-Nov-18 14:20:26

Almost nowhere makes FM an absolute requirement, for the simple reason that not all 6th form colleges offer it. But unfortunately it can be a significant disadvantage for a student on the top-ranking courses if they've not done it - that's physics and engineering too, not just maths. OTOH if the student doesn't know for sure at the start of yr 12 they want to go into one of those fields and they're restricted to 3 A levels, choosing maths, fm and physics can limit their options. It's a real problem, exacerbated by the removal of AS which allowed more time to decide and drop to 3 plus an AS. Students shouldn't be having to self study, but from the POV of being able to do a mathsy university course, the more they know before they get there the better.

Best wishes to your DD, OP!

ladyorangemarmalade Thu 29-Nov-18 14:35:51

Same thing happened to my ds. He did the AS level independently with the Further maths support programme in Y12 and he got an A, which is the highest score at AS. He enjoyed it as the resources on the FMSP really suited his way of learning. He was tempted to carry it on as a 4th A level in Y13, but he likes his Xbox a bit too much! He's still annoyed that he couldn't do it as his 3rd A level in school as his predictions on his UCAS form would have been higher.

Oratory1 Thu 29-Nov-18 14:50:28

I think the other issue is that a key thing for UCAS entry on top courses is that you have to show you really love the subject and if FM is offered at your school they might question why you didn't do it of you love maths so much you want to study it at uni - but saying soemthing like 'it couldn't be timetabled but I decided to cover the material in my own time' (even if she doesn't sit the exam) may be helpful.

Needmoresleep Thu 29-Nov-18 15:04:07

It's a real problem, exacerbated by the removal of AS which allowed more time to decide and drop to 3 plus an AS

At least some boards still offer AS for maths

ErrolTheDragon Thu 29-Nov-18 16:21:01

* At least some boards still offer AS for maths*

Good ... so long as schools let their students take it! And still not ideal if they start 4 but they want to keep the two maths and have to drop one of the others with no AS available. Although, as I've commented elsewhere in the past, the notion that the main purpose of education is to get certificates rather than to learn stuff isn't always helpful!

SelpMeGod Sun 02-Dec-18 21:43:03

Oxford for Maths degree entry requirements says

"Further Mathematics at A-level is not essential. It is far more important that you have the drive and desire to understand the subject."

I believe, and others may correct me if I am wrong, but it is far more important to have further maths A level if you wish to study physics as a degree rather than maths.

I only know this because Ds1 is in year 11 and looking to do further maths A level.

noblegiraffe Sun 02-Dec-18 21:48:59

Further Maths is highly recommended for Oxford and you are expected to take it if it is available at your school. But not all schools offer it.

The full quote from the Oxford website says
“The majority of those who read Mathematics will have taken both Mathematics and Further Mathematics at A-level (or the equivalent). However, Further Mathematics at A-level is not essential. It is far more important that you have the drive and desire to understand the subject. Our courses have limited formal prerequisites, so it is the experience rather than outright knowledge which needs to be made up. If you gain a place under these circumstances, your college will normally recommend suitable extra preparatory reading for the summer before you start your course.”

So if you don’t take Further Maths you’ll be given extra work to do to make up for it.

titchy Sun 02-Dec-18 21:49:50

I disagree, slightly. Very important to do FM if doing a maths degree. If you're at a poor performing school where it's not offered that should be taken into account, hence that statement. But 95% of maths UGs have FM.

Not essential for physics at all, although regarded as very useful.

MotherOfATeenApprenticeActuary Sun 02-Dec-18 21:59:11

From my experience if you want to go to uni and study a maths or physics based course further maths might not be compulsory but it will be a big help in the first year covering the leap up in subject matter. DS2 is studying it at the moment for A/S, he's one of only four in his school that were allowed to sit it (A* - A* only in the two Welsh maths GCSE's) and he's finding it a very tough subject. I don't think it's something you could 'self study' unless you had a very good tutor outside of school.

One boy in his school is doing a third year of A levels to study it (not uncommon in the school) which would be good, your daughter would have her grades in hand from the other subjects and two years of maths A level under her belt to help her understand. I know DS really struggles when the maths and further maths aren't synchronised so he is learning the further maths concepts without the base line concepts covered first.

Wiifitmama Sun 02-Dec-18 22:09:36

My ds is taking FM at his college. The teaching has been terrible this second year so this term he has essentially been teaching himself. We are now in the middle of a complaint with the college and have removed him from all FM classes so he is going to be self studying the rest of the year. He is predicted A* for FM and has an interview at Cambridge tomorrow to study Maths. My point in this is that it is indeed very possible for a motivated and very able student to self teach the subject. However my ds is only taking two other subjects, not three. The work load is heavy.

choirmumoftwo Sun 02-Dec-18 23:20:09

The statement on Oxford's website is outwardly reassuring in that it recognises that pupils interests can change in year 12 and they may not have taken FM even if their school offers it. There is obviously an expectation that the pupil will do extra work to extend their knowledge.
However, the last year of admissions data available shows that no-one without FM A level was offered a place to study maths. I appreciate other factors may come into play but it does somehow undermine the truth of their own statement.

OP’s posts: |
BeanBagLady Sun 02-Dec-18 23:36:10

“My guess would be that the school may not encourage doing FM as a 4th subject except for students who got A*s at GCSE “

I don’t think the Board Ds did for GCSE FM offered an A*. A was the highest.

Or am I thinking of AS level?

ErrolTheDragon Sun 02-Dec-18 23:45:44

My guess would be that the school may not encourage doing FM as a 4th subject except for students who got A* GCSE “

I don’t think the Board Ds did for GCSE FM offered an A*.A was the highest.

Or am I thinking of AS level? ^

Stars play merry hell with bolding on MN!grin
I believe you're thinking of AS. I don't know if fm even exists at gcse nowadays, but before the reforms the FM gcse act

ErrolTheDragon Sun 02-Dec-18 23:48:46

Old style gcse FM actually had A^ - 'double star' as well as A star.

Witchend Mon 03-Dec-18 18:12:36

I think the general thing is that if you want to do a degree in maths, then you should have done Further maths at A-level if your school offers it, as they recognise not all schools have the facility to offer it.

However they would expect you to do it if the school offers it unless you have a good reason.

For example the feedback from Oxford entry in 2017 says that 60 applicants weren't doing Fm, 3 were interviewed and none offered a place, and similar numbers in 2016.

Sadik Mon 03-Dec-18 18:33:17

DD really struggled with picking A levels for similar reasons - not sure if she wanted to go down the life sciences or physics/maths route.

In the end she went for the maths/fm/chem/physics option for AS (we're in Wales again, & still common to start 4 then drop one for yr 13/A2). But college did say that if she had started with 3 sciences/maths then decided she'd made the wrong choice it would be very possible to drop biology after AS & then do AS FM in year 13, potentially then taking a year out before applying and taking A2 FM during that year.

Indeed she has a yr 13 student in her AS class who is taking FM AS as they've decided to go for physics at uni and wanted the course content.

In terms of difficulty (and of course Wales may be different as different exam board) she says the FM isn't any harder than regular maths, just more of it. But taking 4 is definitely a big time commitment, and I think would be very hard without the structure of a taught course.

Sadik Mon 03-Dec-18 18:34:26

Should say I think that realising you've made the wrong choice isn't that unusual - I know other students who've done an extra year in order to add in either chemistry or biology because they decided to apply for medicine.

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