Deciding Which A-Level Course To Study - Advice For Choosing A-Level Subjects

There are many A-Level courses available to study when a student has completed their GCSE Course. Students generally choose A-Level subjects based on the grades that the obtained in their GCSE's. However before a student commits to studying A-Levels, it is essential that they choose A-Level subjects which they enjoy. The more enjoyable the subject, the more likely the student is to study and the more likely they are to pass the A-Level exam and achieve a good grade.

Another predetermining factor is to choose subjects which are prerequisites for courses studied at University, or prerequisites for professional examinations. If a student is still undecided of their career and university course, it is advisable to keep their options open. This can be achieved by choosing subjects which are general and cover most options.

Where Should A Student Choose To Study A-Levels ?

The majority of students choose to study A-Level courses at their school sixth form or at a local college. The choice is entirely up to the student however, can be influenced by several factors.

Studying A-Levels At The School Sixth Form

Some students will prefer to stay on at school to study their A-Levels. Often the class sizes are smaller and the student may find this option more favourable because the student is familiar with the school environment and will be better acquainted with teachers. However the student may not have the choice of all the courses that are a available at a F.E college or sixth form college.

Studying A-Levels At F.E. Colleges or Sixth Form Colleges

Further education (F.E) colleges and sixth form colleges can help bridge the gap between school and university or the workplace. Colleges can offer a student a strong sense of being independent and often have a large selection of courses to choose from. They are usually better resourced and have have modern equipment compared to schools. However it may take a little while for some students to adapt and adjust to their new surroundings. With many modular A-level courses having the first set of examinations in the beginning of January of year one (only four months after starting the course) this may be cause for concern.

The Importance Of Choosing The Right A-Levels

In our experience of tutoring and teaching many students, it is paramount that a student chooses the right A-level course for them in advance. If a student does not enjoy the subject, the chances are they will have difficulty in understanding the subject which will decrease their motivation. This then creates a vicious circle, where the student is less likely to achieve their academic goals and could waste two years of studying A-Levels. This can lead to a student loosing confidence and even dropping out of the A-Level course or education altogether.

To ensure that your child is choosing the right subjects to study at post sixteen, it is preferable to know the following :-

  • the subjects that the student enjoys
  • what the students chosen career field is
  • the grades that the student has achieved in previous exams

Once this has been taken into account, this will help you to advise your child of the routes available to them. If unsure you can always raise the issue with your child's teachers. Regarding career options, if your child is unsure you may also wish to make an appointment with a careers officer at your local careers service.

The Importance Of Choosing The Right F.E. College or Sixth Form College

If a student decides to stay on at school or study A-Levels at the local F.E. college, it can be detrimental to change to a different school or college part way through the course. This is because there is essentially a period of adjustment that a student needs to adapt to from the transition of studying GCSE's to A-Levels. Changing schools or colleges will prolong this period of adjustment even further. Secondly different schools and colleges study different syllabi (even in the same area). This can lead to a student having to catch up on all worked missed and can lead to poor exam grades in AS-Level. It is very important that as a parent, you research in advance the options available to the student.

Once the student has decided upon the A-Level course that they wish study, it is worthwhile checking the availability of the course at their current school or local college. You can try finding local suitable colleges in your area by consulting the local Yellow pages or visiting Comprehensive search for colleges in the UK.

You may then wish to contact the college to advise you on the courses they offer. You can also ask them when their next open day is and request them to send you a college prospectus. This will give the student the opportunity to see if they like the college and conclude whether they wish to study there.

More advice about careers through learning can be found here

By Jayne Thomas Co-founder of Home Tutors Directory

This guide is original and was written using our own experiences of advising students during many years of tuition. It is protected by copyright. You may use this for your own personal use or for teaching purposes. It should not be published wholly or in part on other websites or in written publications and certainly not passed off as anyone else's work. If you have seen this article published elsewhere we would like you to let us know by contacting us here. We can then take action against them.


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