How to Choose Your A-Level Subjects
Have you got your heart set on taking A-Levels, but can’t decide which subjects to take? Here are 6 considerations to help you make this crucial decision.
Updated 27 Apr 2018
If you’ve decided to take A-Level as your pre-university programme, congratulations! This course has a nasty reputation for being tough but with hard work and determination, your qualification can open doors to an impressive variety of degrees in many countries around the world.
However, the strength of your A-Level qualification is largely dictated by the subjects you take during your course and can affect your university applications.
In this article, we explore what you need to take into account when choosing your A-Level subjects. Let’s get to it!
#1. Choose subjects you’ll excel in
It’s no secret that A-Level is a long and gruelling course. Its 100% exam-based nature will have you poring over textbooks and
cramming internalising large chunks of information throughout the programme, so you might as well choose subjects that you enjoy.
It’s also important to consider taking subjects that you will likely achieve good grades in, especially if you’re planning to apply to top universities abroad for competitive degree programmes such as Medicine that typically demand A*AA as an entry requirement.
Not sure where your strengths lie? Here’s how to use your SPM results as a guide.
#2. Avoid ‘blacklisted’ subjects
If you’re planning to pursue your degree overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom (UK), you should bear in mind that some universities have a list of subjects that aren’t encouraged.
For example, The London School of Economics (LSE) has a sizeable list of “non-preferred” subjects which includes subjects such as business studies, accounting and information and communication technology.
Some institutions may have course-specific restrictions that exclude subjects that don’t equip you with the skills needed to keep up with the demands of the requisite degree programme. If you do decide to take these subjects, you will typically need to take them alongside 2 other "traditional subjects" such as biology, chemistry and mathematics.
Additionally, some universities do not recognise subjects such as General Studies and Critical Thinking as part of your 3 subjects, so keep this in mind when choosing your A-Level subjects.
#3. Choose subjects that are relevant to your degree programme
Taking A-Level gives you the freedom to pick a combination of subjects that will prepare you for your undergraduate degree. Some subjects may open doors to more degree options than others, so it’s important that you choose the right ones.
However, if you’re already certain about the type of degree you aim to pursue, you should choose subjects that are relevant to your undergraduate course so that you’ll be equipped with strong foundational knowledge in topics related to your degree programme.
As a quick reference, here’s a list of degrees and the recommended subjects:
|Accounting, Business, Economics, Finance||
Essential: Mathematics & Economics
Recommended: Business Studies, Accounting, Law, Psychology
Recommended: Further Mathematics, Economics, Physics
Recommended: Mathematics, Physics
|Biochemistry, Biomedical Science, Nutrition||
Essential: Chemistry, Biology & Mathematics
Recommended: Physics, Further Mathematics, Computing
Essential: Mathematics & Physics
Recommended: Chemistry, Further Mathematics
Recommended: Mathematics, Economics, Law, English Literature, Accounting
|Medicine, Dentistry & Pharmacy||
Essential: Chemistry, Biology & Mathematics
Essential: Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics
Recommended: Psychology, Sociology
Take note that this list only serves as a rough guide. Check your university website for specific entry requirements.
#4. Take ‘facilitating’ subjects for wider degree options
If you haven’t already decided on a degree programme, you’ll be pleased to know that A-Level is often cited as one of the most flexible pre-university courses as it is widely accepted by universities worldwide. It also allows you to take a diverse combination of subjects, acting as a 2-year buffer period to explore your strengths and interests.
So if you aren’t sure what degree programme to pursue, keep your options open by taking some “facilitating subjects” — or subjects that are most frequently required for admission in top universities and that provide a pathway to a range of degree options.
Subjects that are commonly viewed as “facilitating” subjects are mathematics, further mathematics, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry and history.
If you plan to pursue your degree in the UK, particularly at a university under the Russell Group of Institutions, a rule of thumb is to take 2 “facilitating” subjects.
#5. Remember that quality trumps quantity
Just because you can take 4-5 subjects at A-Level doesn’t necessarily mean that you should! The number of subjects you should take largely depends on where you decide to pursue your studies. Most degree programmes in Malaysia and the UK only require a minimum of 3 subjects as an entry requirement.
You might be tempted to bite off more than you can chew by piling on more subjects than you can handle, but it’s worth remembering that you will be held to an international standard at A-Level and will have to perform exceptionally well to achieve good grades.
As such, it might be better to take 3 subjects if you can better manage your time that way, and if your course does not require you to take 4 subjects.
#6. Consider the subject combinations offered by your college
While you are encouraged to choose subjects according to your future degree programme at university, you will still be subjected to the subject combinations offered by your college.
It’s worth noting that some subject combinations may be impossible due to timetable clashes, even though you’re free to choose subjects according to your interests.
Some of the common subjects offered by Malaysian institutions include the sciences, mathematics, economics, law, psychology and sociology which are often pre-grouped to avoid timetable clashes.
So there you have it! We hope these 6 considerations will help you make an informed choice when choosing your A-Level subjects. Remember to pore over the entry requirements of your chosen degree programme thoroughly and make a decision according to your interests and capabilities.