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Help with choice A levels maths/physics/computing or BTech

(29 Posts)
6thformcolleges Sun 15-Nov-20 21:34:44

Hoping for some advice on choices for 6th form. DS is in year 11 and has likely undiagnosed SEN. He has CATS scores in top 1% but failing to meet nearly all his targets at GCSE. He is on target to pass everything but mainly with 5s including both English (GCSE targets were all at least 7 due to high SATS).

Looking at options for 6th form. He loves physics and is on target for a 9. However maths likely only to be a 7 at best so thinking that wont work as he doesnt find the maths easy but not sure how much is the teacher and missing so much teaching and how much is him. He would prefer not to do maths but I think has to if he does physics.

He would prefer to do computing A level and computing BTech (plus the physics) and the college offer both computing. Are they complimentary or is it duplication? If just one then any opinion on which?

Our other thought is he does a level 3 BTech in computing and forgets A levels totally but a shame as he loves physics. However he would then easily meet the entry requirements and it would be less stressful. Any thoughts?

Thank you

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PresentingPercy Sun 15-Nov-20 22:13:45

I would work back from what he wants to do post 18? What would his ideas be? In that way you can look up courses and see if btecs are ok and whether maths is needed. However computer science and physics tend to need maths so you really need to find something in that sphere but without the maths.

bruffin Sun 15-Nov-20 22:18:53

Will he be able to take physics without maths A levels. Many schools won't allow it

6thformcolleges Sun 15-Nov-20 23:02:44

He has absolutely no idea what he wants to do long term so we cant work backwards. Hoping he will mature at some point and get some idea. No I dont think he can take physics without maths hence thought of BTech but am unsure if maths might be ok. Is he likely to have good maths if he finds physics so easy and perhaps just not finding it as easy due to so much missed learning and a poor teacher. He rarely does homework and never takes any notes in class so it is incredible he is on target to get anything really

OP’s posts: |
lanthanum Sun 15-Nov-20 23:20:18

I wonder whether the best thing would be to get a good maths tutor and see if you can crack the maths. Most colleges will let them do it with a 7, and he could keep going with tuition over the summer, focussing on the most important bits for A-level. It's worth talking to his school about the maths - it might depend a bit on where his difficulties lie.

If he wants to do either physics or computer science beyond A-level, not having maths would probably restrict his options quite a bit.

If maths really isn't a runner, the level 3 Btec sounds a possibility - check what it would lead to afterwards.

TeenPlusTwenties Mon 16-Nov-20 07:11:14

I would be very surprised if universities accepted a BTEC certificate in computing & an A level in Computing as two distinct separate qualifications, there is just bound to be overlap.

So he needs to either do the
- Extended Diploma in Computing (3 A levels equivalent)
- Maths & Physics A levels + BTEC certificate in Computing
- Maths, Physics & Computing A levels.

Your 'best' universities will almost certainly want A level maths for a computing degree, but others won't. Better to get top grade BTEC at D D D or even D* D* D* than bomb out on the maths A level.

So the maths. A 7 is fine for A level maths. From following here, Algebra is the key skill to A level maths success. So what is his algebra like? Will he be willing to work at it?

re Undiagnosed SEN. If you got a diagnosis, might it help with getting adjustments and understanding going forward? Regardless of that, do you have a 'feel' for how it impacts his learning and whether exam based or regular assessment will be better for him?

HelloDulling Mon 16-Nov-20 07:14:29

Rarely doing homework/taking notes is a concern. Is that part of his SEN? Winging it at GCSE is v different to A level.

6thformcolleges Mon 16-Nov-20 07:40:15

Thanks - yes homework and not taking notes is a concern for me too but focus has been on mental health/keeping him in school and minimizing pressure (picking my battles) so if GCSEs happen they will definitely be with zero revision and he will not agree to tutoring.

Teenplus - I am sure he wont be considering best universities!! Any university seems a miracle especially if it involved coping away from home! Yes my thought was best to do level 3 BTech but wanted some other opinions as he loves physics. Presumably there is nothing else with physics? Not sure if algebra is an issue - I think it may be and he doesnt have capacity to work at it currently but obviously these are very challenging times with covid severely disrupting his school.

He may get diagnosis later. He wants to be medicated for ADHD (although no certainty he would get diagnosed as that and not ASD) but the medication he is on for health issues means he cannot take ADHD medication.

Not sure if exams or course work style would suit him better. The advantage with the level 3 is there couldnt be a shock at the end when he failed them all as it is continuous assessment. However he likes being around very bright kids and the entry for level 3 is very low.

OP’s posts: |
sandgrown Mon 16-Nov-20 07:47:46

My son sounds similar but less academic. He is waiting for ADHD assessment. He cannot focus and will not revise . He is taking level 3 BTEC and still trying to pass Maths GCSE. He could not have managed A levels and keeping him on track is so stressful.

TeenPlusTwenties Mon 16-Nov-20 07:54:26

It is worth asking what the actual average grades are of the BTEC Computing students, and also what the range of results is.

I personally don't think that it is a BTEC that 'lazy' kids would tend to choose, and although the entry requirements might be lower (5 x grade 4?) I think some pupils will be doing the BTEC by choice even though they 'qualified' for A levels.

TeenPlusTwenties Mon 16-Nov-20 07:57:48

He rarely does homework

This is a concern though. Does he rarely do it because he doesn't see the point, or disorganisation? The regular assessment model for a BTEC will mean he has to complete regular work. If he doesn't he'll fail.

And you have to hit the ground running with a BTEC. Only getting a Pass for your first few assignments (if Distinctions available for the work) means you are ruling yourself out of the very top grades straight away.

wadoino Mon 16-Nov-20 08:33:03

We've had a similar situation. DS is doing physics and computer science but not maths. He's picked a third subject he enjoys. He wants to study something computer related and knows he's limiting his options but has dug his heels in over maths. I wish he fitted into the maths,physics,computing box but he doesn't. Lots of good unis don't require maths a-level for computing (e.g. nottm & newcastle but there's a list on the student room forum of them). He won't be heading off to cambridge or ucl but should get good grades in the 3 subjects he enjoys and will find a course that fits.

Etotheipiplus1equals0 Mon 16-Nov-20 08:44:35

I have a better version of this that I couldn’t find. It gives a rough idea of the relationship between GCSE maths and Alevel maths grades. It’s important to know that if you are starting off with a 7 you are in the bottom third of students taking a level maths. There are outliers who buck the trend but that generally takes a lot of work and you mention that he doesn’t do homework, so it’s probably not the course for him unless he would be happy with a lower grade. If his one strength in maths is algebra he might be ok.

6thformcolleges Mon 16-Nov-20 09:22:00

Teenplus - He doesnt do homework as he sees no point in it at all - he doesnt believe it helps improve results or helps him learn and it is just a waste of his time but he is also totally disorganized so doubt he could manage anyway without my intervention (which is when homework is done).

Wadoino - is maths not required if you do physics or does he do some extra maths? Can you get high grade physics without maths?

Interesting that some able kids may do the level 3 - I will see if they will tell me average grades.

OP’s posts: |
Cornishmumofone Mon 16-Nov-20 09:29:59

Do any of your local colleges do BTEC Engineering? Depending on whether they do an award, certificate or diploma, it might be possible to combine that with Computing.

6thformcolleges Mon 16-Nov-20 10:15:26

They do engineering as a level 3 but that would be instead of computing. Is it offered as as single subject at some colleges? Not sure if he would like it or not though

OP’s posts: |
wadoino Mon 16-Nov-20 10:42:29

His school don't require maths to do physics - he got a 7 in maths & a 9 in physics at gcse. I'm sure he would find physics easier if he did maths but he's taking the harder path.. He got a B in his half-term test on very little work but it's early days.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 16-Nov-20 11:53:18


They do engineering as a level 3 but that would be instead of computing. Is it offered as as single subject at some colleges? Not sure if he would like it or not though

I know some unis which accept a BTec for engineering require A level maths alongside it. I don't know whether that generally applies.

The 'doesn't do homework' ... getting to grips with maths is IME massively related to practice.
But, having a bad teacher may also be a lot of the issue. My DD was completely confused about trigonometry in yr 8 ... it took me about 5 minutes with paper and pencil to sort it out. She got A* FM at A level.... I'm certainly not saying it's anything like that trivial but a tutor (if he's willing to put in work!) might help a lot.

ErrolTheDragon Mon 16-Nov-20 11:57:59

Bolding failhmm

I'll put in a shout for @noblegiraffe , she's one of MNs experts on maths teaching.

Etotheipiplus1equals0 Mon 16-Nov-20 19:12:58

I see a lot of students (mostly boys) who do well at GCSE doing nothing outside of school (I’ve taught a level maths for 15 years). They mostly come unstuck at A level. The pace is so much harder and the depth of understanding required so much higher that very, very few students can do reasonably without doing homework and revision, especially in the new spec. It can be a bit of a shock to the system.
This is particularly true in maths but it is similar for most A levels. He will need to start putting some hours in.

Etotheipiplus1equals0 Mon 16-Nov-20 19:14:48

That being said, the fact that he has done ok so far without working means that if he did put the time in he could have the potential to do well. But if he doesn’t enjoy it, the hours needed are unlikely to materialise...

ErrolTheDragon Mon 16-Nov-20 19:15:30

Somewhat OT but that's a very beautiful NN there.grin

grenadines Mon 16-Nov-20 19:20:22

Speaking from my DS experience I would not recommend doing physics A level without doing Maths as well. Your DS will find that the rest of the physics class are doing maths a level and will grasp concepts that overlap between the two subjects much faster so it is always a struggle for the non maths student to keep up. Luckily my DS was doing 4 subjects so was able to give up physics and still have 3 subjects to take on to A level.

sd249 Mon 16-Nov-20 19:20:33

I would say that if he isn't willing to work at home and he's finding maths difficult / refusing to take notes then he will likely fall apart with A-Level maths and I wouldn't recommend it at all.

A Level maths even for the brightest students is very very difficult without working hard outside of lessons.

Etotheipiplus1equals0 Mon 16-Nov-20 20:40:29

Why thank you @ErrolTheDragon! (Hoping you mean mine). My favourite equation smile

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