Your A-Levels are your first opportunity to take control of your study. A bad choice here shouldn’t be fatal but there are some things to watch out for.
Choosing which A-Level courses to go with can seem a daunting choice and it is often underestimated how influential the decision is on your overall future. It is therefore wise to consider all of your options carefully, and to fully research the range of careers that your course may lead to. We have compiled a brief list of some things that you should bear in mind when you are considering what is probably the biggest choice of your life to date.
Go with Your Strengths
Generally speaking, you will need to have secured a certain grade at GCSE level to be accepted onto the A-Level course. Schools will give a little bit of leeway, but in principle if you don’t meet the required grades for a course, you will not be allowed to undertake it. So look to your strongest grades and research what courses they will lead to. Good grades in English, Maths and the Sciences are obviously going to open a wide range of A-Levels you can study, but there are other GCSE’s that offer different A-Level options such as History, I.T. and Languages.
Keep Your Options Open
By this we mean try to avoid choosing similar A-Levels, as Universities sometimes exclude certain topics or may not favour students with A-Levels that are too similar. As an example, English Literature, English Language, Media Studies and General Studies as a combination may not be as strong as something such as English Literature, History, Biology and General Studies. If your GCSE grades only allow a small selection of A-Levels then don’t worry! You can still choose similar topics but the next step will be to explain when applying for University why you chose them and highlight your strengths in those areas. However, if possible, a good mixed assortment will look very good to University tutors who are considering your application.
Research All You Can
It goes without saying that you need to put a bit of research and work into finding out more information about the courses offered at your school or institution. What courses do they offer? What tutors take them? How are they assessed? What are the entry requirements? They are all questions that need to be answered. Find out what you can using the internet, resources provided by your school and by asking questions of the appropriate tutors etc. One of the greatest mistakes that an A-Level student can make is not researching fully the courses they are entering, only to find out they are either struggling to keep up or are simply not enjoying the study. Save yourself this problem by doing appropriate planning and research to ensure whatever your final decision is, it is a well thought out one.
Prepare for Hard Work
There is no doubt, the A-Levels are a step-up from GCSE, but with plenty of hard work and study, they can be conquered and offer the added benefit of opening up the possibility of going to University. There are less hours per week spent in the classroom than at GCSE, but this means you have to show discipline and complete work outside of school time, more so than ever before. In this way A-Levels prepare you for what University study is like, and you need to get used to conducting your own revision, doing practice exams, getting work proof-read etc. in a way you may not be used to. In order to be successful, a good work-life balance should be struck but make no mistake, to achieve really good results then you get out what you put in. Make sure results day is something you look forward to, rather than dread!
Listen to Advice
Before making your final choices, discuss your options with your parents, teachers and tutors. They have life experience and can offer advice on a decision which is ultimately your own to make, but listening to their guidance may help you in making a great decision about your future. They may be able to provide you with practical help and advice on specific things such as the difficulty of the course, predicted grades, the amount of coursework involved, exams and other information that could help fully inform your decision. However, to repeat the earlier statement, it is ultimately down to yourself to make the biggest decision to date concerning your future, so whatever you do, don’t take it lightly!