Year 11 students across Berkshire are being encouraged to get thinking about their futures by a local Head of Sixth Form, offering a number of tips on preparing to choose A-level subjects which many schools require in the build up to Christmas.
Paul Hodges from LVS Ascot has been advising students on sixth form choices for eight years and says: “Students should already be thinking about what subjects they want to do after GCSEs. Preparation is the key as there is so much to consider – one of the reasons LVS Ascot’s A-level pass rate reached a new high (99.2%) this summer was that we encouraged students to leave nothing to chance in picking the right subjects to help them succeed”.
Here Paul gives his top tips on what students should be doing to make sure they choose the right options:
- What do you enjoy?
The first thing to do is ask a really obvious but very important question: What do you enjoy studying? If you enjoy a subject you are likely to be more motivated and succeed, and if you succeed you will enjoy it even more. A-levels and BTECs are intensive and you need to be hooked for two years. However, there is also the opportunity to experience a range of subjects not available at GCSE, such as A-level Criminology or BTEC Travel & Tourism, and you should investigate these new subjects by talking to teachers and students at open days, such as LVS Ascot’s sixth form information morning on Saturday 5th November where independent advice will be available.
- Have your end goals in mind
Many university courses require qualifications in particular subjects and will need you to achieve specific grades before they accept you. If you have a clear idea about a career path then check the degree course requirements as some of these may surprise you. For example, you may not need an A-level in Economics to study Economics but you will probably need A-level Maths. You can check university course requirements on the UCAS website and the Which? University guide also has information on subjects needed for particular courses.
- Play the percentages
If you are unsure what you want to study at university or what career path to choose, keep your options open by selecting ‘facilitating’ A-levels. These are subjects that generally keep more university courses open to you when you apply and include Biology, Chemistry, English Literature, Geography, History, Maths and Modern Foreign Languages.
- To BTEC or not to BTEC?
It’s not all about A-levels in the sixth form – don’t forget the vocational subjects. Cambridge Technicals and BTEC qualifications tend to have a greater emphasis on practical elements. The nature of the courses helps to develop independent study, self-organisation and time management. LVS Ascot has introduced a range of these as they are equivalent to A-levels (depending on the number of units you complete) and are recognised by most universities including those in the Russell Group.
- Avoid misinformation
There is a lot of misinformation about which A-levels particular universities will and won’t accept. Check the university websites and make contact with admissions officers if you are unsure – they are usually very helpful. Furthermore, your UCAS application will allow you to write a personal statement which gives you the opportunity to present yourself as an individual and demonstrate all the co-curricular activities you have undertaken during your time in the sixth form. Many universities will consider you if you have an interesting yet truthful personal statement regardless of the A-level combinations you select. The LVS Advantage programme and Duke of Edinburgh scheme always help LVS Ascot students stand out so make the most of your sixth form opportunities.
- Remember the reforms
The reforms to A-levels in all subjects will be complete by September 2017. This means most departments will simply offer A-level qualifications and not AS-level qualifications. AS-level qualifications do exist and can provide additional UCAS Tariff points so long as you do not study the subject to A-level. However, an AS level is only worth 40% of a full A-level. In view of this, a better option to gain extra UCAS Tariff points would be to consider studying an EPQ (extended project qualification) alongside three A-levels. An EPQ is worth 50% of an A-level and is recognised as providing university-style study with the opportunity to expand your knowledge in a particular interest area. In 2016 100% of EPQs at LVS Ascot sixth form achieved A* – B results, so they can be a very rewarding qualification as you seek to gather enough points to take you to university. Information on the new UCAS Tariff system is available here.
To provide further help from Paul Hodges along with additional independent advice on A-level choices, LVS Ascot is holding a sixth form information morning on Saturday 5th November with all students considering studying A-levels, and their parents, invited to attend to find out more.