Subject Choices - Advice and Guidance

Getting your post-16 subject choices right is an important first step towards your chosen future pathway.  Entry to the best universities and apprenticeships can be highly competitive and whilst academic performance is very important, they will also want to select students who are clearly well-motivated and passionate about their subject.  In some cases, they may even ask you to gain some work experience in a relevant field.

Sixth Form students at Bournemouth School are required to study either 4 full A Levels (we do not offer AS Levels) or 3 full A Levels and complete a plus option during Year 12 (known as 3+).

The advantages of studying 4 A Levels are:

  • It demonstrates your ability to manage the challenge and volume of a demanding academic curriculum.
  • It potentially offers a wider range of degree options.

The advantages of a 3+ option:

  • The plus option can be used to facilitate your full A Levels / University application.
  • In Year 13 you would only have to focus upon 3 subjects rather than 4, allowing greater time for consolidation of learning and exam preparation.

Reasons to select a subject:

  • The subject is required for your choice of degree or career. For instance, to study Architecture at many universities you need Maths and Physics. (See Informed Choices website for guidance and also the UCAS website.)
  • You are good at the subject and you enjoy it.
  • It facilitates your other subject choices.
  • It is a new subject that you have not studied but it interests you and you think it will suit your strengths.

Further considerations:

  • Have you got/are you likely to get the necessary subject entry requirements?
  • Have you looked at the syllabus to know what the course involves and also how the subject is examined?
  • Have you spoken to a subject teacher/Head of Department and watched the relevant online presentation?
  • Some subject combinations are compulsory, e.g. you cannot do Physics without Mathematics A Level.
  • Further Mathematics can only be taken as a fourth A Level choice.
  • If you wish to study Computing at university it would be advisable to have Mathematics A Level.

Some degrees will be open to you whatever subjects you choose to study for your A Level qualifications and there are many other popular degrees which are normally open to you without any specific subject background. These include: Accountancy; Anthropology; Archaeology; Business Studies; History of Art; Law; Management Studies; Media Studies; Philosophy; Politics; Psychology; Religious Studies; Sociology; Surveying.

Many courses at university level build on knowledge which you will gain while still at school.  For this reason, some university courses may require you to have studied a specific subject prior to entry, others may not. 

Another factor to consider if you are aiming for incredibly competitive courses at university, such as Medicine, is that you may require a very high performance in your GCSEs.  Does your performance to date match your ambition? (Think about your mock examination outcomes).

We advise those students who are wishing to apply for highly competitive courses such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary science to study 4 A Levels.  Those who wish to apply to Oxbridge should also study 4 A Levels.