Choosing your AS/A Level subjects

Many people seem to have this notion that you simply pick anything you are somewhat good at at GCSE. However, there are far more important things to take into account when choosing the subjects that will (ultimately), decide what course and potentially university you will attend.


“Not A Real Subject”

There is this thing where people often choose something which is more simple, so that they can get a higher grade. Yes, the higher the amount of As you have on your report, the better it looks – but you also have to take the type of A it is. Some AS/A level subjects are not as glorified as others. Therefore, if you would get a B in Maths, but opted for Thinking Skills because you would be guaranteed an A, stick to maths. It will look better on your final report. Moreover, with more ‘traditional’ subjects, there is greater mobility to other European countries and the US – another bonus to not taking the easy way out.


“Mix & Match”

Trust me, do not think that just because you know what you want to do in university, you can just choose the relevant subjects. Diversify and do not lock any doors before you get a chance to peek through each and every one of them. If you want to take history at university, for example, do not only take humanities. Take two humanities, a science and an art (or any other mixture). Yes, you will pick the areas you feel most comfortable in, but don’t think you are doing yourself any favours staying inside your comfort zone. Choose something which guides you in the direction of the course you want and keep an eye out for the requirements of the course you’re most leaning towards in university or college, but do not think that that will be your final subject choice – you’ll be surprised how much people change. Keep your subjects broad and your options open. And remember Forest Gump’s little lesson: “Life is life a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re ‘gonna’ get.”


The Hermione Syndrome

You do not own a time turner. We all wish we did – but we don’t. So please do not sign yourself up for more than five A levels. Some extremely bright individuals pull it off (with tears and caffeine addiction, but it does happen). But you do not need to put that much pressure on yourself so early on! It will look better to have three to four A levels with good grades, than a plethora of mediocre grades.



They can be good, bad, or ugly – but they are all there to do the same thing: teach you. Admittedly, some are better than others, but that cannot be a determining factor. I made that mistake and took a subject I hated over one I could have potentially been quite good at because I liked the teacher better. She showed up pregnant three months later… So do not rely on one person to make or break the subject. Instead, be sure you like it, no matter what.


Honestly though, AS/A levels seem threatening to some. Many cannot get their perfect combo of power subjects and have to opt for a less ideal strategy, but in the end of the day the person who will go through them is you, so choose them for yourself and remember: choose the options which will provide for several escape routes in case your mind changes.


written by Aline Derlagen (Durham University)

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