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Choosing A levels

A levels are changing so that you will take exams at the end of two years rather than twice a year meaning that retakes will become more difficult.  The changes are being phased in and the first new assessments of two years’ worth of work, will be in summer 2017.

AS levels are also changing to become standalone qualifications rather than the first stage of a full A level.

Find out more about the changes at:

Find Out About The Changes To AS Levels

A levels are your passport to the next step in your career:

  • Employment
  • An apprenticeship
  • A university course 

Choose a combination which works well together and which will open the right doors for you.  Grades are vital and will widen your choices at university so it’s important to choose subjects you enjoy and are good at.

What do you get your best marks in at GCSE?  Think about your skills and interests.  What are you good at?

Technology?  Research?  Writing essays?  Problem solving? Science? Art?  Having creative ideas?  Making things?  Finance?

A levels are a chance to study a subject you enjoy in more depth but make sure you look at new ones like Economics or Psychology.  You might discover a new passion.

If you plan to go to University after A levels

Which A levels should you choose?

If you know what you want to study or what career you want, make sure you know what subjects you need at A level.

Start researching university options before you choose your A levels.  Some courses and some careers require specific subjects.

Examples include:

  • Medicine
  • Engineering
  • Art
  • Music
  • Sciences

Usually, traditional academic subjects such as English, history, maths and geography will require the relevant subject at A level.

There’s a huge range of university courses which will accept a range of A levels subjects.  Here are some examples:

  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Accountancy
  • Law
  • Journalism

Use UCAS to check university requirements find out what university courses and careers your favourite subjects link to here.

Check Out UCAS For More Information

To keep your options open, choose at least one Facilitating Subjects.  These are the subjects universities look for most:

• Biology

• Chemistry

• English literature

• Geography

• History

• Physics

• Modern and classical languages

• Maths and further maths

Read More About Facilitating Subjects Here

What grades will you need?

Popular or highly competitive courses will ask for high grades at GCSE and A level.  University websites and prospectuses will explain their standard offer.  Universities often base their offers on the UCAS Tariff system, see the UCAS website for details. 

If you plan to find work after A levels

What subjects will you need?

If you want a job based on science and technology such as engineering, you’ll probably need maths, science and technology subjects.  For health related careers you may need biology.  But for most career areas employers will accept a range of subjects. 

Research Your Career Here

Find out what careers your favourite subjects link to here.

Entry Requirements

A levels are a big step up from GCSEs.  You’ll need at least four or five GCSEs at grades A* - C. 

Some Sixth Forms and colleges will ask for higher grades.

Maths, sciences and foreign languages usually require Bs in the relevant GCSEs.

Maths and English

If you do not achieve a C+ grade in maths and/or English, you will need to retake these subjects in year 12.

If you really struggle with either maths or English, ask your school or college if they do numeracy and literacy qualifications.  These can be equivalent to a grade C at GCSE in maths or English, but are more practical so you may find them easier.

Further Research


Everything You Need To Know About University

UCAS Degree Course Search  

Advice From The Russell Group

  • Advice on best subject combinations for degree subjects
  • Subjects to keep your options open
  • Most useful A level subjects 

Employment & Apprenticeships

National Careers Service  

National Apprenticeship Service

Not Going To Uni