• Question: Do you think it is better to do 4 or 3 alevels

    Asked by band499bed to Alexander dB, Amber VW, Andrew, Erin P, Isabelle S, Martin M, Maryam S, Michael S, Rachel E, Thomas on 20 Feb 2024.
    • Photo: Erin Pallott

      Erin Pallott answered on 20 Feb 2024:


      At my school, we did 4 in the first year, then dropped 1 to do 3 full A Levels. It is only worth doing the 4th A Level if you’re confident it won’t affect your final grades for the other 3.

      3 A* grades are better than 4 A grades.

    • Photo: Martin McCoustra

      Martin McCoustra answered on 20 Feb 2024:


      I never did A levels and strongly feel that the the Scottish approach of taknig a wider range of subjects to university entry level is a more rounded approach to eduction. I have Highers in Chemistry, Physics, Maths, English and History and crashed a two year O grade programme in Engineering Drawing in the same year I did my Highers. I left school at 16 at tthe end of my fifth year at high school and went straight to university.

    • Photo: Thomas Swift

      Thomas Swift answered on 20 Feb 2024:


      Back when I did them I started 4 and dropped one in the second year – so I finished with 3.

      I’m glad I did, as I ‘thought’ I was doing well at History, but after the end of the first year failed all of the exams. Up to that point I’d planned to drop Chemistry, but instead I kept it, put a lot of time and effort into catching up, and started to enjoy it more. I ended up studying it at University – when only 18 months earlier I thought it was my worst subject.

      You never know how your going to take to College – so I thought it was good to keep your options open if you can.

    • Photo: Maryam Sani

      Maryam Sani answered on 21 Feb 2024:


      I think you should only consider 4 A levels if you feel that you will need all of them. It’s a lot of work even if you do 4 in the first year and then drop one. Most universities require 3, some of the most competitive require higher points and in this case, it may be helpful to have completed 4.

      Consider the following, can you do well in 4 A levels? Will the required study time affect the extracurriculars that you are pursuing? Are the 4 subjects relevant to the degree that you want to pursue?

    • Photo: Rachel Edwards

      Rachel Edwards answered on 21 Feb 2024:


      It depends on what you want to do after A-levels, and what subjects you want to take. I’m in a physics department, and to get onto our degree we ask for physics, maths, and one other – but with flexibility on what the other one is. It’s always useful if someone does further maths too. Some degrees (medicine?) may be more strict on what they want.

      The main thing is to make sure you’ve got the right core ones – if you are thinking of university, check what’s typically needed for the degrees you think you might be interested in, or see what qualifications jobs are after. Then, look at what you enjoy. I added in an A-level in Graphic Design as a 4th one because I really enjoyed it, and it made a nice change from all the maths. Finally, think about what you can cope with. Can you put in enough work to do well at all 4, or would it be better to concentrate on 3 and get better results in them?

    • Photo: Isabelle Secord

      Isabelle Secord answered on 22 Feb 2024:


      I started studying four subjects in Year 12 – Biology, History, Maths and Physics. At the end of year 12, I sat two exams for History AS and decided to stop studying history for the full A level. In Year 13 I had 9 exams – 3 for Biology, 3 for Physics and 3 for Maths. I ended up completing 3 A levels and that was the right decision for me as I wanted to be a scientist – I loved studying history but I did not need an A level in history to go to University to study Biology. 4 A levels is a lot of work, and I would have had to sit more exams at the end of Year 13. It’s a personal choice and you should consider why you want to do another A level and if it is helpful / relevant to the next steps you want to take on your academic journey.

    • Photo: Michael Schubert

      Michael Schubert answered on 26 Feb 2024:


      That depends on your goals! Personally, I like the idea of doing as many different things as possible, but that may be because I find it hard to make decisions. It’s most important to make sure that you a) meet all the requirements for whatever study programme you want to do and b) can do as well as possible in the ones that you take. For many people, that means doing three instead of four… but not for everyone.

      No matter what you choose, it’s not a permanent decision. If you start four, you can always drop one, and if you do three, you can always take another one later on. I know a computer scientist who did three in school and is now doing a fourth one 18 years later!

    • Photo: Alexander de Bruin

      Alexander de Bruin answered on 26 Feb 2024:


      I started with 4, but only carried 3 to full A-level. It did mean that I got to study a bit of a-level biology and a bit of a-level music as I did AS levels in both.

    • Photo: Andrew Parrott

      Andrew Parrott answered on 29 Feb 2024:


      The system is quite different from when I did my A-levels. But for what it is worth, I started with 5: maths, chemistry, physics, IT, and general studies (which my school forced us to take – I don’t even consider it a qualification and neither do most universities). At the time you could drop between years and get an AS level. So I dropped IT for the final year.

      The reason for dropping was not that I was not very good at IT (in fact it was my best scored AS level) but because the course was really dull. It is hard to stay motivated in something you don’t find interesting. So I would always recommend to go with what you enjoy!

      But if you are thinking of going to Uni always check what they accept as qualifications as not all A-levels will be considered equal, and some are mandatory for the course. E.g. hard to get into a chemistry degree without (a good graded) chemistry A-level.

      These decision don’t always pan out how you expect. At part of my job now I do a lot of data analysis and software coding – so I still get to do the fun parts of computing (problem solving with code).

    • Photo: Amber Villegas - Williamson

      Amber Villegas - Williamson answered on 1 Mar 2024:


      When I was in school I asked about doing a Baccalauréat -> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baccalaur%C3%A9at as it doesn’t restrict the subjects as much as the UK A level system does and you can choose one of 3 paths (Literature, Sciences or Economics with Social studies). That way I wouldn’t have been limited as I love all the sciences.
      I asked in my school about it but was told by the year head teacher that European BACs are is not accepted by UK universities (this fyi was a complete lie). I ended up doing 4 Levels and 1 AS level which was a lot of work and I ended up failing one of the A levels and the AS level I never sat a class for as it was Spanish and I was brought up bilingual anyway. If I could go back I’d either do the Science BAC or take only 3 A levels and maybe 2 AS levels instead. Either way just because you don’t do something now for A level doesn’t mean you can’t do it in the future, one thing they don’t tell you is you can take GCSE and A levels at any age. And… just because you think you are heading in a certain direction career wise you can change at any time. Learning is a lifelong process and if you train yourself to enjoy the learning experience the world will open up in ways you have never dreamed of.

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