Students need more guidance when choosing A-level subjects

On GCSE results day, new research from Which? University reveals that nearly fifth (18%) of university applicants said that different A-level subjects might have been better suited to the degree course they applied for.

The survey of 1,000, conducted by YouthSight for Which? University, also found:

  • Only around three in ten (30%) felt suitably informed of how their A-level options would impact their university/ degree choice
  • A similar percentage (29%) felt they needed more advice on which A-levels to take
  • Over half of those choosing their A-level subjects (52%) picked their choices without thinking about what degree they wanted to study.

Alex Neill, of Which? University said:

“The A-level subjects you take can have a big impact on what you can go on to study at university, so make sure you do your homework and choose wisely.

“If you’ve just received your GCSE results, and are now choosing your A-level subjects, it’s important to know your options and get some advice. Our A-level explorer tool can help you to consider the best subjects to take.”

Which? University – a free source of information for students – shares six top tips to making your A-level choices:

  1. Certain uni courses will look for specific GCSEs and A-levels: To apply for some uni courses, you’ll need specific GCSE and A-level subjects at specific grades. If you know what you want to study at university, you should check out the full entry requirement details.
  2. Taking certain A-levels will open up more university course options: If you haven’t decided what you want to study at university, don’t panic – you won’t be the only one. We’ve listed the most commonly asked-for subjects in university entry requirements for you on our site.
  3. Some courses and unis have lists of subjects they don’t accept: Be aware that some courses will view certain A-levels as more beneficial than others. Some universities actually list which A-level subjects they prefer, whilst others actually have ‘non-preferred’ subject lists.
  4. Many unis and courses will consider you whatever you choose: Don’t forget – many courses will consider a wide range of A-level and other qualification choices and do not normally have essential subject requirements! Try not to get too bogged down in essential A-levels you have to take.
  5. It’s not all about A-levels: BTECs and vocational qualifications are a valid route to university, too, and more students are taking this route now, so it’s worth looking into all of your options.

Which? University has created a free tool to help you choose the right A-level subjects that will help you get to where you want to be. It’s simple: input your A-level choices into the tool to see a range of degree course matches based on what students with similar combinations went on to do – from the most popular to unexpected. To use the tool, visit:

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  1. YouthSight, on behalf of Which? University, interviewed 1,020 adults aged 19 and under, who had applied to university, online between 12 – 15 February 2016. Data is nationally representative, weighted to be representative of gender and school type.
  1. Which? University is a free and independent website to help students make more informed decisions about higher education, featuring more than 30,000 courses and 281 universities and colleges to search and compare. We bring together facts and statistics from official sources including UCAS, the Higher Education Statistics Agency and combine it with real-life insight from students and the unbiased, expert analysis you’d expect from Which?.
  1. Which? University’s A-level Explorer tool has been designed as a resource for use by students – as well as their teachers, parents and career advisers – to help make informed decisions about higher education choices at an earlier stage in the decision-making process. Students input their A-level choices into the tool and are presented with results that highlight ‘best’, ‘close’ and ‘unexpected’ degree course matches. For each subject recommendation, students are able to examine which A-levels are typically studied, possible onward career paths, average graduate salary and employment rates and the range of possible degree options and specialisms available. To use the tool, visit:

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