Choosing Your A-level Subjects

Choosing Your A-level Subjects

The Student Lawyer has other articles to assist with making your A-level subject choice. This article will address the specific instance where you are certain you want to study a Law degree but don’t know what A-levels to take.

1. Take 4 first year options.

This almost goes without saying. Still, having spoken to many peers, I think this was an significant point that I couldn’t afford to skip over. In your first year (formerly known as the AS year) when starting sixth form you should choose four subjects (or more, depending on your capacity and school). This is important because most traditional universities for Law in the UK and beyond will consider your subject choices and grades when you apply in the upper sixth year (second year of A-levels). Having fewer than four subjects at this point will immediately put you at a disadvantage. It is of course possible to drop one of the four subjects in second year if the workload gets too intense. Three good A-level grades are more convincing than four average ones.

2. Core/Facilitating Subjects

A more important point I’d like to bring home is that these should be “traditional” or “core” subjects. Sixth form is a time for deciding on a degree, so A-levels are ultimately just a means to an end. Traditional universities, particularly Oxbridge, much prefer students who have studied tried and tested subjects and scored well. As the Law degree does not have specific subject requirements, students are often free to choose from quite a wide range of subjects, typically English Literature, History, Languages (Classical and Modern), Geography, Chemistry, Biology, Economics, Physics and surprisingly even Mathematics and Further Mathematics.

Note, Law or Business Law at A-levels are not considered “core” subjects. The law you will learn in that course differs greatly from the Law degree so it may even be detrimental to your application.

3. Play to your strengths; not forgetting your interests

Many teachers will advise you to choose subjects you have typically done well in. Most students will know by this stage which ones are their strengths and which they should avoid. As I mentioned earlier, A-levels are simply a means to an end for most students. Choosing subjects you can succeed in will make for better grades to apply to university with.

This doesn’t necessarily mean ignoring your own interests. In fact, more often than not students do better in subjects they enjoy and/or are interested in. Whether they enjoy it because they are better at it, or vice versa I cannot say. In my own experience this tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

4. The LLB

It is a well-known fact that the Law degree will require a lot of writing. Therefore choosing subjects which require essay writing can be beneficial, but only with regard to essay writing practice. Universities often prefer a range of subjects which show the ability to think critically, evaluate and apply knowledge to the situation at hand. Taking science subjects (particularly Chemistry) at A-level is quite common for law students as well. Note that many famous Law Lords come from science based backgrounds too. For context, I studied Chemistry, Economics and Math at A-levels (with Biology at AS) and I chose Economics over Biology because it had more of an essay writing element, giving me a slightly broader subject choice.

In conclusion, give careful consideration to your A-level subjects. At GCSE level, considering University options might seem a little pre-emptive but as suggested above the choice you make can have very important effects on your university. If you have already chosen your A-level subjects and they don’t adhere to this guide, don’t fret. This article is meant as a basic Do’s and Don’ts, the Law degree is incredibly flexible for A-level (or equivalent) choices, especially when compared to other courses. If for some reason you cannot adhere to the guideline above, you can focus more on other aspects of your university application to compensate.

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