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Top tips to choose the best A-level subjects

With A-level results about to land, there is just one week until GCSE outcomes and the making of many new sixth form students. Institution and subject preferences may be swayed by GCSE grades higher or lower than expected, so North Bridge House Canonbury’s assistant headteacher, Dan MacPherson, offers advice to sixth form candidates looking towards A-level studies.

Plan for the future – whatever it may be

For the majority of 16-year-olds, a clear path to future aspirations is rare and the focus, until now, has been on getting through GCSEs in order to open as many doors as possible. It can be confusing, therefore, having to refine options for A-level and disregard many of the subjects on which hours of revision have been spent. Yet students who are undecided on their university or career plans can opt for a number of subjects which will facilitate changing ambitions.

A-level subjects recognised for their transferable skills will keep options open, as will a selection that are not too similar to one another; a range of humanities and sciences will offer the most choice when it comes to applying for jobs or higher education.

The humanities – essay weighted subjects such as English Literature and History – prove the ability to think critically and analytically, whilst the sciences demonstrate logic and understanding of complex theorems. Practical subjects such as Art and Drama are great choices to develop depth of expression and communication skills.

Most importantly, students should choose subjects they enjoy! Specific aspirations or not, their chances of success and achieving future goals will be far greater if they study courses in which they have a genuine interest. GCSE grades will also indicate the subjects in which they have the most knowledge and to therefore pursue for the best A-level results. These will more often than not be the subjects they enjoy most anyway.

Consider the bigger picture

Many students will be thinking ahead to university and will be concerned with selecting the right A-levels for specific degree programmes. Aside from distinct vocational courses such as Dentistry, Medicine, Veterinary Science etc, universities accept students with a range of transferable A-levels to both subject and job-related courses.

Similarly, the majority of jobs do not demand a degree in one specific subject – all the more reason for students to study something they really will enjoy. For example, many students think they need a Law degree in order to pursue a career in Law, but can in fact do a range of degrees followed by a short conversion course.

Another thing to bear in mind is that Russell Group universities value the Extended Project Qualification. The EPQ is a standalone qualification, equal to an AS-level, which shows independent research skills – so it’s worth considering sixth forms that offer this alongside core A-level subjects.

What to do if GCSE results are not as expected

This whole decision process may be thrown by unexpected GCSE results but it’s important to keep calm whether results are better or worse than anticipated.

Some students may miss the grades required to get into sixth form, but should not make assumptions without phoning the school or college as soon as possible. If they cannot accept based on initial subject choices, they may be able to offer alternative courses.

Other students will surprise themselves with impressive GCSE grades and re-think goals and ambitions. A-level study may not have previously appealed to them, or they may have been a little hasty in dropping a particular subject they are now keen to continue.  It is not too late to consider applying to sixth forms or colleges and spaces can often be found if you ring around admissions departments straight away.

How to enquire to NBH Canonbury Sixth Form

North Bridge House Canonbury will be dedicating their admissions line to families enquiring about A-level study at their Outstanding Sixth Form, as well as running a special GCSE Results Day Drop-In from 4pm on Thursday 24 August for late applicants. To find out more about our distinct approach to understanding teens and maximising their A-level potential, call now on 020 7428 1520 or email Andrew.sewell@northbridgehouse.com.

North Bridge House Schools

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