Work experience student, Alex, has recently chosen her A levels and shares some tips on what to consider when making this decision.
“‘The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.’ – Sydney J Harris
Having chosen my A level options at Christmas, I want to share some of the things I considered in the hope of helping you make your decision.
- What I would get out of doing different subjects
To start thinking about this, I spoke to teachers about what skills different subjects involved. Different skills I learned that featured more heavily in different subjects were essay writing, interpreting information, calculation and research.
I used this information to see what skills I would be left with after doing an A level in the subject.
From these thought processes I decided that taking Geography would give me essay writing skills for the future, for example. And taking Spanish would give me a solid understanding of a new, foreign language and culture.
Ultimately you will rarely use the factual information you learn at A level unless you take a specific degree in one of the subjects, so the skills you take from the experience is the most important thing.
- What I enjoyed
I chose my A levels whilst in the middle of my GCSEs, so I could easily see in which subjects I looked forward to learning new content and was interested in the material.
This was important as I would have to spend a further 2 years immersed in the subject, and would be much more likely to do well if it excited me.
Ask your teachers about the content of subjects that you are considering taking and see if it makes you excited to learn about it.
- What I was good at
I reviewed my grades and marks over my GCSE years and looked at the subjects in which these were the best. This showed the subjects in which I had a natural understanding and so would be more likely to excel at.
I also spoke to my current teachers who taught the subjects that I was interested in to find out whether they thought I would be capable of taking the A level. As they have the best understanding of the demands of the subject and know my capabilities.
- Career options
I’m in a position where I don’t know what career I want to go into, so for me it has been important to choose a range of subjects where I didn’t want to close too many doors and also where I wanted to have a variety of skills for different degrees.
If you do know what degree you want to do, make sure to research the core subjects needed at A level, Because this will usually only be one or two subjects I suggest that for your extra subjects you consider ones that supplement your chosen degree by giving you skills that will be used in the degree and career.
- If I wanted to do any new subjects
Taking new subjects can be a risk, as you don’t know whether you’ll enjoy them as you have never studied them before.
While looking at different, new subjects on open days, look for material that interests you and that you are excited by. This is a good indicator as to whether you’ll enjoy the subject.
To get an idea of how you’ll feel you could also talk to anyone you know who is taking, or has taken, the subject. Ask them whether they enjoy, or enjoyed, it and the reasons why or why not.
I asked the Graduate Ambassadors at the University of Worcester how they picked their A levels and here’s what they had to say.