Tips on Choosing A Levels Subjects

A Level is a pre-university programme based on the UK education system.  Here at Tenby SEP, we offer the Cambridge A Level programme for our Sixth Form.  When looking at pre-university courses you will be asking yourselves lots of questions “Which is the best one?”, “What subjects should I take?” “What college will support me?”

Mr. Jeff Ison, Head of Tenby International School, Secondary  has answered some of those questions here and believe that Tenby is the Sixth Form that will get you to your destination of choice.

How many A Level subject should I take?

There are differing opinions about the numbers of A levels students should take during their time at Sixth Form College.  A Levels offer an in depth experience of a single subject, so there is an argument that the more A Levels you do the more breadth you can achieve in your education.

However A Levels are also very challenging, which is the reason they are also very respected globally.  This means that completing too many can be overwhelming for some students.

If you focus on A Levels as a route to tertiary education in a university of your choice which is the pathway provided at Tenby Sixth Form then the answer is you should complete 3 A Levels at the end of Year 13.  Offers from even the top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge include three grades and do not demand a fourth. Our extensive experience of supporting students into their first-choice university shows us this a pattern across all institutions worldwide. A Levels at the end of Year 13, many students start with 4 in Year 12 to provide breadth and an option of subjects to continue all the way to A Level completion.

Are there any subject that universities do not recognise?

Different Universities have their own admission procedures and criteria, so it is difficult to give a definitive answer about which subjects are recognized or more influential than others.  We will discuss facilitating subjects below as these are extremely important.  In terms of not recognizing subjects, Universities will recognise all A Levels but it is the combination that is really important.  Some universities may see a too narrow combination as not sufficient such as two or three Business based subjects having too much overlap.  This is why the combination of A Levels is really important and why our vast experience and expertise, brougt by our Sixth Form leadership of Mr Michael Moss and Ms Katherine Lloyd is vitally important.  They have created a set of subject blocks which allows combinations of A Levels that means students can access thousands of degree courses such as Medicine, Law, Engineering, Psychology, all of the Science and Humanity degrees and many others.

Should I choose subjects based­­ on my strength?

Absolutely! Your strength in a subject should be a big factor.  The only more important factor should be your enjoyment.  If you enjoy a subject, you will be more likely to work hard at it and therefore you will be more successful in your learning.  This is also more than often the area that you might wish to move into at degree level and beyond.  You need to listen to advice from others and it maybe that you need a combination of subjects to get to your chosen degree that you might not have chosen otherwise.  A Levels are challenging, and you should have a genuine interest in learning the subject when you choose it.  Tenby’s learning focus does not stop in Sixth Form, in fact it is even more crucial as the learning becomes more challenging but at the same time more exciting and amazing!

What are facilitating subjects?

Facilitating subjects are those subjects that don’t obviously lead into a specific career necessarily but they develop a knowledge and a set of skills that are respected across the leading universities. 

They are:

  • English literature.
  • History
  • Modern Languages – e.g. French, German, Spanish etc.
  • Classical Languages – e.g. Latin, Ancient Greek
  • Maths and Further Maths.
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • Psychology

These subjects support applications into any degree course even where the link between the subject and the degree course may not be obvious.  Lots of degree courses take an amount of content and skills from these subjects so universities often ask for at least one of these subjects for successful applications, such as the need for Maths when entering an engineering course.

I have personal experience of the value of facilitating subjects.  When applying for a History degree I did not realise that my learning in my Maths A Level would be of any use at all.  However, upon the interview, I was happy to discover that the fact that having  Maths A Level convinced the university that I had the skills and attitude to be successful in the university. It is important to ensure that you study at least one facilitating subject at A Levels.  Our focus on learning means we hold these subjects in high esteem and our subject blocks allow students to access them.

What are the subjects that are relevant to my preferred degree programme?

Here we list the subjects that are relevant to your degree interest.

DegreeRecommended Subjects
History, English Literature, Psychology
Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics
Computer Science
Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics
Psychology, Mathematics, Biology
Further Mathematics, Mathematics, Physics, Design Technology
Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Economics
Further Mathematics, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry
Sports Science
Biology, Psychology, Physical Education

At Tenby Sixth Form we are passionate about learning not purely as a route to results but because we should always be looking for Good Struggle and Amazing Learning.  We have a created a unique and superior offer between the learning focused breadth of education view and the narrower ‘get into uni’ view.  In Year 12 students complete four AS Levels still providing a breadth of subjects and subject combinations which allow students to access all of the most popular degree pathways.  Then in Year 13 the common approach is for students to continue with three complete A Levels so they can be successful in their university application and manage the rigour and challenge that is A Level study.  The difference at Tenby is that the amount of A Levels is not the only focus as it is not the only focus of universities. We have a unique range of leadership opportunities for students to take part in and awards such as the Duke of Edinburgh International Award and the Community Sports Leadership Award which will support the A levels chosen in university applications.

Find out more about Tenby Sixth Form here, or drop as an enquiry.

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