Choosing your A level subjects

Which subjects to pick

Most students study three subjects at A level. Four subjects would arguably only be of benefit if you’re planning to apply to take a competitive degree course at Oxford or Cambridge, or for Medical Sciences. However, we would recommend four subjects at AS level to maintain breadth, before selecting three for the final A level year.

So called ‘facilitating’ or ‘enabling’ subjects are A levels which universities require if you want to take a specific degree course. These A levels will be listed in each university’s degree course requirements.

Do read the guidance on subject choices by the Russell Group of universities. You’ll find it most helpful.

For international university applicants: subject requirements vary significantly from country to country, so students are strongly advised to check specific requirements carefully with potential institutions before selecting their final A level courses. For example, to study many subjects (from Business to Psychology) at a research university in The Netherlands an A level in Mathematics is required. Booking an Explore session with the International University Advice Service is also recommended. This meeting will also allow you to discuss the appropriate co-curricular and extra-curricular involvements that are attractive to many university admissions officers, and to get a head start crafting your shortlist.

Our advice is always to pick subjects with which you’re comfortable, which you will enjoy studying and in which you feel you can secure the highest grades. There will always be a good reason why a given university course will require you to have studied a certain subject at A level. If you don’t feel comfortable or confident studying that subject, then it might be wise to reconsider your chosen university or career path.

For example, A level Chemistry is a mandatory requirement for entry to many Medical Science degrees, because without a solid grounding in Chemistry you will struggle.

Wolsey Hall Oxford is a registered school of Cambridge Assessment International Education

Wolsey Hall Oxford is a registered online Cambridge International School.

Wolsey Hall Oxford is a Pearson Edexcel approved centre

We have produced a handy fee calculator to help you work out the fees for the courses you have selected.

Acquired skills

For the majority of degree courses there are no mandatory subject requirements and admissions officers will look to the skills, rather than the specific knowledge, that you will have developed while studying your A levels.

Thus, if you are aiming for a degree course that will involve essay writing, you should ideally undertake subjects such as English and the Humanities at A level through which you can develop those skills.

Required A level subjects – Maths & Sciences

Maths: mandatory for all Maths degree courses and often mandatory for other degrees including Engineering, Economics, Business and Computing. Maths is usually considered a Science subject and thus meets the requirement to have studied a Science subject at A level for degree courses like Geography and Psychology.

Chemistry: mandatory for Chemistry, Medical Sciences (Veterinary, Dentistry, Medicine) and Biological Sciences such as Neuroscience.

Biology: mandatory for Biological Sciences and Healthcare.

Physics: mandatory for Physics and Engineering.

Choosing your A level sciences
Choosing A levels humanities

Required A level subjects – Humanities

Geography: mandatory for Geography, Geology and Earth Sciences

History: very much preferred for History degree courses and very useful when applying for Law

Our University Advisor is available for subject consultations should you require further guidance