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The subjects you take at A-level can have a major impact on your future direction so before embarking on two years’ hard work it’s well worth doing your research. Here’s our five-point guide to making your choices.

Ability and enjoyment

If you enjoy your studies, you are likely to be more motivated. Similarly, having a natural ability in your chosen subjects can  increase your chances of success. For this reason you often need a certain grade at GCSE to study a subject at A-level, so you’ll need to check what subjects are open to you.

But beware, there can be significant differences from studying subjects at GCSE to A-level, so it doesn’t always follow that choosing a subject you enjoyed before will be a safe bet.

New subjects

Your school or college may offer A-levels in subjects that you’ve not studied before.

If any new subjects appeal to you, it’s worth taking some time to find out what’s involved to avoid disappointment later.

Keep a balance in mind. Choosing a couple of familiar subjects alongside one new one for example, can help leave your options open.

If you want to study certain subjects at university, it is not always necessary – or indeed helpful – to have studied them at A-level.  This generally applies to new subjects at A-level, such as law or business studies (whereas for more traditional subjects an A-level in that subject is usually essential for university study).

Subject combinations

Similarly, some universities discourage students from taking certain combinations of A-level subjects, especially where there may be an overlap in content, such as with business studies and economics.

The issue of subject combinations can be particularly important if you’re studying science subjects – see Choosing STEM subject combinations for further information.

Course content, assessment and workload

You may also want to think about the likely workload of your choices. Find out what’s required in terms of essay writing, independent reading or extended projects and consider what this may mean in terms of your chosen subjects.

Future plans

If you have a particular career in mind, you may need to choose certain A-levels in order to meet entry requirements for degree courses or further study.

If you don’t yet have any career ideas, then keeping your options open can be just as important.

Top universities usually require three academic A-levels, not including general studies or critical thinking. The Russell Group, which represents 24 leading UK universities, has produced a guide which sets out how the subjects you study at A-level can determine which degree courses will be open to you in future.

You can also check entry requirements for university courses on UCAS.

If you feel like you have made the wrong decision after starting your course then most schools and sixth forms will allow you to move to a different course, but you should speak to your tutor as soon as possible.

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