For those of you doing four, five or (dare we say it) six A-Levels, Spring might be the time when you start thinking about which AS you can drop in the summer. With the weather getting nicer and summer (hopefully) on its way, this is also prime slacking-off-in-subjects-you-think-you’re-going-to-drop time. But be warned: you may be endangering your eligibility for certain Oxbridge courses… So, before you make any decisions, read our blog!
The first thing that you need to do is look at the course requirements for the subject you are interested in. This may sound silly but there can be quite substantial differences between A-level preferences for similar courses at different universities. Did you know, for example, that to apply for Medicine at Cambridge you need to do Chemistry, Biology and either Maths or Physics, whereas at Oxford, you only need Chemistry and Biology? Or that Maths A-Level is not essential to study Economics at Oxford, but it is at Cambridge? If you do have any doubts at all, please call the University Admissions offices and ask them. It’s much better to leave your options open at this stage in the game.
The second thing you need to do is to read between the lines. It’s worth bearing in mind that when the University says that a Maths A-Level is not required, it may still be very beneficial. Although the PPE course at Oxford states that Maths is ‘useful but not essential’, the applications process and the course itself are really geared up for people who are confident in Maths. For instance, the Thinking Skills Assessment test (more on that later) has some quite tricky Maths questions. You can see some of them in the Free Online Resources section of our website. Additionally, first-year Economics is much easier if you have a Maths background.
What’s more, according to the people we spoke to, only individuals with a Mathematical A-Level (and we’re including Physics here) were offered a place. This may be due to the mathematical nature of the questions asked at interview; one of the applicants we supported last year was given a graph of household consumption and expenditure and was asked how to work out the stock of savings from 1970, not an easy task if you don’t know the process and the formula. All we can say is that there may be some people who got an offer without any mathematical subjects but we haven’t met any yet…
The third thing you need to think about before you give yourself permission to consider dropping subjects is the combination of subjects that you will be applying with. If you want to apply for Modern Languages, you will not only need to prove that you have a passion for languages but also a love of literature – in which case keeping English Literature might be a good idea. In all cases, when considering Oxford and Cambridge’s preferred A-Levels, you will almost certainly need an essay writing subject when you apply for a languages course.
Finally, you need to be sure that you have enough ‘academic’ subjects in your armoury of qualifications. Cambridge University, along with some other top universities, has a list of ‘soft subjects’, which they don’t consider to be as academically challenging as some more traditional subjects. If more than one of your A levels is on the list, you are, sadly, unlikely to be invited to interview.
To find out whether you have a good collection of subjects or the right subjects for the course you want to do, you can give us a call in the office. It can be quite difficult to work out exactly what you should be doing to give yourself the best chance of success, but we are always happy to help.