Choosing your A Level subjects by Peter Timmis Head of 6th Form
When contemplating how best to advise young people about their subject choices at A Level, I am always drawn back to my own experiences of school (long, long ago).
At GCSE I had always been a bit of a “Steady Eddie”. I always did my work whether I enjoyed a subject or not and I managed a string of very good grades. I knew I wanted to do Physics and Maths as they were my favourite subjects, but I also wanted to do French as I had got my best result of all on that subject.
September came and 6th Form began, a few things struck me very earlier on. A Levels were hard! The concepts were difficult and required consolidation to keep them in my head. The workload was huge with homework coming pretty much every lesson, but strangest of all, I noticed I was being out-performed by some of my contemporaries, not the obvious candidates who had streaked ahead to A*s in August but those who had not achieved well in some subjects at GCSE, because they hadn’t worked very hard or not enjoyed the subject. I realised that they were achieving well because they were finally doing three or four subjects that they really enjoyed. They no longer had to sit in classrooms learning about something they didn’t care about. They had found their motivation and their drive.
That is my first point really, you have to want it! You have to want to study the subjects, don’t just choose the ones you’re good at, as you might not enjoy them at A Level, as I have mentioned, A Levels are difficult and come with a heavy burden of work outside of class if you want to do well you need to at least be able to enjoy your work as you’re going to be doing a lot of it.
The other thing to be aware of is that subjects shift their focus at A Level, having spent my GCSE French learning about Monsieur and Madame Dupont, who lived in La Rochelle and seemed to spend most weekends playing ping pong, I was now being asked my opinion about an Aids crisis in France and racism in southern cities such as Marseille. I struggled with this as I had enough problems structuring my opinions in English let alone talking about them in another language.
So my advice here is to get an informed opinion of your options. Speak to the teachers of these subjects; speak to people who are studying the subjects you’re interested in already. Go to open evenings and talk through the skills required to do well at A Level.
I spoke to my Lower 6th Study Skills class about this and wondered if they had any further advice about how to go about their subject choices, these are the points that they made.
-Pick subjects that you like
-Subjects that you were good at GCSE are not always as straightforward at A Level
-There have been some big changes to A Levels recently – Make sure you are up to speed.
-Download the specification and look through the topics you cover, do they engage you? Are you curious to learn more?
-Think even further ahead, to what you want to do after school, look at university courses, what subjects do they want? What grades will you need
-Make sure you have a full understanding of how you’re assessed, e.g. coursework, exams, oral exams
-Try and balance out practical subjects and exam subjects. Coursework driven subjects take up a large amount of your time out of class so be prepared for this. Again if you enjoy it, you will find this easier.
Lastly, I want to make sure that you don’t think that 6th Form is just two years of toil where you are chained to your desk. Regardless of your subjects and your academic ability, it is a challenge, but like all challenges, it is an opportunity to find out more about yourself and what you’re capable of. You will grow as a learner and as a person. You will make friends that you stay in touch with for the rest of your life and you might just figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. So if you’re currently struggling with what to study at A Level, stop, have a think and reflect on which subjects motivate you, once you’ve done this, go out and find out all about those subjects. Be informed and you will make the right choice.
To discover more about 6th Form and choosing your A-Levels visit our open evening on 17 October 18:00- 20:00
We understand that choosing the right place to study A-levels is a big decision and the Admissions Team is here to help you every step of the way.
Telephone admissions on 01945 586 750