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If a student gets 9 for maths GCSE, is A for A level always possible?

(74 Posts)
Bankholidayweekend Fri 23-Aug-19 19:56:42

DD has decided on two of her A level subjects, but is less decided on the third. DD knows what she wants to do at university. Her first two choices are geared towards that. No specific subject needed for the third A level, but DD has ambitions to apply for Oxford, so third subject needs to be something she can get a high grade in if she is to have any chance of achieving her goal. DD is trying to decide between maths and chemistry as third A level. DD was initially inclined to choose maths. DS and I felt quite wary of that choice after the experience of DS who has just finished A levels. DS had grade 8 for maths GCSE and A* for chemistry. DS's view is that with chemistry DD can pretty much assure herself of an A by putting the work in, whereas with maths you can spend hours and hours studying only to find that you still can't answer the question, because if you're not the sort of person who naturally "gets" maths, you may still not spot what you need to do to answer the question. And DS's experience is that getting grade 8 at GCSE is no guarantee that you will fall into the group who "get" maths at A level. So we have steered DD towards chemistry rather than maths. But that was before GCSE results day. DD has got grade 9 in maths and 8 for chemistry. I'm now wondering whether a 9 at GCSE is pretty much always indicative of a student who will be capable of getting a high grade at A level maths. Thoughts welcome!

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CoolWivesClub2019 Fri 23-Aug-19 20:09:15

In my experience, no - it’s definitely not a given.

I sailed through maths all the way through school and got an A* at GCSE with no revision at all - I simply didn’t need to.

I went into maths A Level expecting it to be harder and prepared to work. It was harder but fine for the first 3 months or so as we were on Algebra (my favourite). Then new topics came in and I started to struggle with some of the concepts. Facts weren’t sinking in with ease any more.

Despite my best efforts and extra revision etc I came out with a C at AS level (this was 2004) and dropped it as my 4th subject before the 2nd year.

I think despite being fantastic at maths through school, GCSE was my ‘ceiling’ iyswim and my brain just couldn’t cope with the next level. I was far from alone - there were 20 in my maths AS class, all of whom got A* at GCSE as that was the requirement - a couple got D’s and about half the class ‘only’ got a B or C.

Bankholidayweekend Fri 23-Aug-19 20:25:36

Thanks CoolWives. My understanding is that one of the drivers for the recent move to the new number grades for GCSE is that A* covered too broad a band, whereas the students who would have got A* under the old system will now be sub-divided into grades 9 and 8. So 9 is a "high A*", but that still leaves me wondering whether getting a 9 means you must have enough of a "maths brain" to get A at A level or whether that's not necessarily the case.

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Watto1 Fri 23-Aug-19 20:36:31

I got an A at GCSE (A* didn’t exist then). I flew through GCSE but found A level so much harder . I scraped an E. This was over 25 years ago mind.

Watto1 Fri 23-Aug-19 20:38:53

And I also did Chemistry A level following a grade A at GCSE. Got an A.

LolaSmiles Fri 23-Aug-19 20:40:57

I don't think having any grade 8/9 makes an A at A Level a given.
There's a substantial conceptual jump for many subjects that goes beyond drilling for GCSE papers.

I'm not in any way knocking their performance by the way. they've done brilliantly, but I'd go for the subject she likes the most, is most interested in and is happier revising the content with as that's probably a better indication of future a level grade.

Hoghgyni Fri 23-Aug-19 20:42:07

At my DD'S 6th form they insist that students must have at least a grade 7 for maths GCSE to take A level. In their most recent results around 1/3 achieved an A or A* and around 1/6 got a grade D or below. If you have been well taught for GCSE and the right combination of question for you were on the paper, you will get a grade 9. That does not mean that you can guarantee an A at A level. My DD has found mechanics particularly challenging as she is not taking physics or further maths. Many in her class are taking those two subjects and their teacher tends to assume they all have the same level of background knowledge, so DD has had to try to fill in some gaps herself.

Hoghgyni Fri 23-Aug-19 20:46:03

Can she start both and drop one later? Many schools let you chop and change until Christmas or half term. A friend started with maths, Eng Lit & history. She swapped Eng Lit for biology at half term, started self studying chemistry at Christmas, dropped history last term, will study year 1 & 2 of chemistry in school this year and is now applying for medicine related degrees.

Bankholidayweekend Fri 23-Aug-19 20:50:02

Thank you all. Hoghgyni, that's a very interesting comment about the further maths. Around the time of this year's A level maths, I remember one MNer commenting that her DS had said he would not have been able to answer the questions on the A level maths paper without the knowledge he had gained from taking further maths. I am wondering whether the highest A level maths grades will go to those taking further maths too and those who don't will therefore be at a disadvantage.

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GaraMedouar Fri 23-Aug-19 20:50:20

Difficult to say but I’d say it’s likely she will be able to get an A if she got a 9. She’s definitely got a Maths brain. My DS did no work for GCSE’s and got a 9 in maths (always his best subject). He then did Maths A-level , didn’t do much work, because he thought he’d coast it, got a D in his mocks, then crammed and panicked in the last couple of months and did end up with an A. I think if your DD starts off and works hard she will be fine. A 9 at GCSE is for only the top students. Your DD should choose the one she enjoys most, then she’ll be inclined to put in the hours.

Bankholidayweekend Fri 23-Aug-19 20:54:15

I am now wondering whether starting four A levels if possible might be no bad thing. For DS's year group, the school was clear that they would not allow people to start four A levels with a view to dropping one, but I think they might have now adopted a more flexible policy. I initially thought that taking four would put too much pressure on DD, but am now thinking perhaps it would be worth it if it helps her identify whether she'll be able to cope with maths.

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Hoghgyni Fri 23-Aug-19 20:56:22

Hopefully not BHW as DD is predicted an A* and will probably need to get it! I encouraged my DD to take maths as it keeps opens so many career options even if you do not have a STEM degree.

Hoghgyni Fri 23-Aug-19 20:57:30

Cross post

LolaSmiles Fri 23-Aug-19 20:58:27

The 4 A Levels situation often is an issue because it's better for students to get 3 good grades than 4 weaker ones and they're more likely to end up under in multiple subjects doing 4. It wasn't as much of an issue on AS levels and then A2 (very common to do 4 in y12 then 3 y13). With the new linear a level specs, it's a different kettle of fish and I can understand why they focus more on 3.

dootball Fri 23-Aug-19 21:00:25


"If you have been well taught for GCSE and the right combination of question for you were on the paper, you will get a grade 9. "

This is completely untrue. Thousands of students are well taught and don't get a 4, let alone a 9.

Bankholidayweekend Fri 23-Aug-19 21:01:57

Lola I agree re the 4 A levels point. I definitely don't think it would be the right thing for DD to do 4 long-term.

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Oblomov19 Fri 23-Aug-19 21:02:53

Like others, I sailed through till GCSE's. When A level, algebra and trig being my faves, I was fine with the 'statistical' but really struggled with the 'mechanical'.
I believe like pp I had hit my ceiling.
Now I do accounts! grin

Banangana Fri 23-Aug-19 21:03:18

I got an A at GCSE (rather than an A*) but that was without any revision or extra work other than the homework we were set. I got an A at A level with a bit more work and at the time I would have said that A level math 'clicked' more and was easier but looking back it was just that I actually put work in. I had a friend who failed AS level maths and worked very hard to bring her grade up and ended up with an A* and studying Maths at university. If your daughter has gotten a 9 at GCSE I think an A or an A* is well within her reach as long as she puts in the work.

Bankholidayweekend Fri 23-Aug-19 21:05:22

GaraMedouar if your DS got a 9 with very little work, I would say that definitely is the sign of a maths brain! Harder to tell in DD's case because she did work hard for her GCSEs.

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Azeema Fri 23-Aug-19 21:09:22

I think should play to DDs strength. Which is math. Math is more highly thought of than chemistry anyway.
You can also check sixth form prospectus as that shows what % of students get A*, A at A level- gives you idea if instructors are any good or not.
My DD had similar coin toss Classics or History and went with Classucs because smaller class and higher % of students getting As at A level.n

snozzlemaid Fri 23-Aug-19 21:09:28

My dd got an 8 for maths GCSE last year and did maths A level this year. She's always found maths relatively easy but found A level a lot harder and got a D in her AS she took in June.
She's decided to drop it now and continue with the three subjects she got As in.

Hoghgyni Fri 23-Aug-19 21:10:32

Dootball I agree with you completely, but this is a question about a student who got a grade 9.If she had struck it unlucky with the questions set on those particular papers she may have got a grade 7 or 8, despite being hood at maths. We were told that students who were taking the higher level paper who were expected to get a grade 5 would probably find around 50% of the paper inaccessible.

OhYouBadBadKitten Fri 23-Aug-19 21:11:24

What would your dd like to do at university? Does she really enjoy maths?

Hoghgyni Fri 23-Aug-19 21:11:58

Apol8gies for my typos, but I'm sure you'll get the gist of it.

RainOrSun Fri 23-Aug-19 21:14:29

What are the other subjects? I'd say Chemistry on its own, with no other science subjects, could be tough.

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