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What are the A-level requirements of different degree subjects?

School qualifications (at GCSE and A-level etc.) are important for what you are able to do later on. Different universities and courses have different requirements. It is much easier to get into some courses/universities than others. However, you will need to choose AS/A-level subjects (or subjects for equivalent qualifications) before you apply to university. The subjects you choose matters for what you are able to do later on.

Top tips

1. What are the A-levels that give you the most options at university?

The following A-levels are asked for by a number of university courses as an essential entry requirement: Biology, Chemistry, English, Geography, History, Languages, Maths, Physics.
The more of these subjects that you do, the more options you will have open to you at university.

2. Be careful about taking more than one so-called ‘soft A-level’

.. (if you want to apply to one of the most prestigious universities)

Some institutions (particularly very prestigious universities) do not like students to have too many ‘soft A-levels’ (i.e. A-level subjects that are considered to have less academic content). The information is often not made clear by universities. University policies can change on this. A list of these subjects published by University of Cambridge in 2008 included the following: Accounting; Art & Design; Business Studies; Communication Studies; Dance; Design and technology; Drama and theatre studies; Film studies; Health and social care; Home economics; Information and Communication Technology; Leisure Studies; Media Studies; Music technology; Performance Studies; Performing Arts; Photography; Physical education; Sports studies; Travel and tourism.

3. Subjects needed for different types of science degree

Life sciences: These degrees are based on chemistry and biology. As long as these two A-levels are chosen, a huge range of degrees will be left open. These include degrees leading to a definite career path, such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, pharmacy or dietetics, and degrees based on research – for example, biochemistry, biomedical materials science or pharmacology.

Engineering: This is the practical application of maths and physics. As long as these two A-levels are taken, a huge range of degree options will be left open. These include engineering (mechanical, electronic/electrical and civil), physics and materials science.

Subject requirements

(Specialist Schools and Academies Trust. Admissions to Higher Education: Advisers’ Directory 2009/11)

Click on the headings to see more information!

Medicine/Dentistry

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Dentistry Chemistry and Biology for most course. Some also like Biology and Maths or Physics as well.  
Medicine To keep all options open: Chemistry, Biology and one from Maths or Physics. To keep most options open: Chemistry and Biology Critical thinking

Economics

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Economics Some require Maths Maths and Economics

Law

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Law None Critical thinking; History

Business/Finance

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Accountancy (also banking/finance/insurance) None Possibly Maths, Business Studies (AGCE, National and Diploma) and Economics.
Actuarial Science/Studies Maths Further Maths,  Business Studies (AGCE, National and Diploma) and Economics
Business Studies None Possibly Maths, Business Studies (GCE, National and Diploma) and Economics.
Management Studies Maths (only very occasionally) Possibly Maths, Economics, Business Studies (GCE, National and Diploma)

Maths/Computing

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Computing Maths for some courses Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Philosophy, ICT
Maths Maths and sometimes further Maths Physics

Engineering/Technology

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Aeronautical Engineering Maths and Physics Further Maths, DT
Building/construction Maths and Physics for many courses  
Chemical Engineering Chemistry and Maths. Sometimes Physics  
Electrical/Electronic Engineering Maths and Physics DT, Further Maths, ICT
Engineering Maths and Physics Further Maths
Mechanical Engineering Maths and Physics Further Maths and DT

Physics/Chemistry

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Chemistry Always Chemistry. Some courses want Maths and Physics as well. Other want Maths and Biology  
Environmental Sciences/Studies Many ask for two from Biology, Chemistry, Maths, Physics and Geography  
Geology/Earth Sciences Usually two from Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology Geography and Geology
Materials Science Normally two from Chemistry, Maths, Physics and Biology  
Physics Maths and Physics Further Maths, Chemistry

Architecture and related studies

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Architecture Some courses want an Arts/Science mix AGCSE or National Art and Design; Art, Maths, DT, Physics
Building Surveying None Maths and Physics could be helpful

Social Studies

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Geography Most require Geography Some BSc (science) degrees prefer one from Biology, Chemistry, Maths or Physics
Politics None Politics, History, Philosophy, Law
Sociology None Sociology, Psychology, Geography and Media Studies

Languages

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
American Studies Varies, but English and/or History often asked for Politics
Classical Studies For Classics course, Latin or Ancient Greek. Courses in Classical Studies and Classical Civilizations have no special requirements Modern foreign language, English literature, History.
English English literature/English literature and language (some courses accept English language) History, Religious Studies, a foreign language
European Studies A modern foreign language Another modern foreign language, English literature, History, Politics
French French Another modern foreign language, English literature, History, Politics
German German Another modern foreign language, English literature, History, Politics
Italian Italian or another language such as French, German or Spanish Another modern foreign language, English literature, History, Politics
Spanish Spanish (some degrees will also consider French, German or Italian) Another modern foreign language, English literature, History, Politics

History/Philosophy/RE

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Anthropology None A small number of courses like a Science AS level like Biology. Sociology is very relevant
Archaeology None Archaeology, History, Chemistry
History Usually history. Economics, English literature, Philosophy, Politics, Sociology and Theology/Religious Studies
History of Art None Art, English literature, History, Theology/Religious Studies, French, German, Spanish and Italian
Philosophy None Maths, Classical Civilizations, Philosophy and Religious Education/Theology

Education (teacher training)

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Teacher Training Useful and sometimes essential: at least one from Art, Biology, CACHE, Chemistry, Design and Technology, Drama (theatre studies), English, French, Geography, German, History, ICT, Italian, Maths, Music, Physics, Physical Education, Religious Studies (theology), Spanish CACHE meets the entry requirements for early years primary teaching and a large number of primary education teacher training degrees

Biology and Psychology

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Biochemistry Always Chemistry; sometimes Biology. Sometimes one from Maths/Physics/Biology  
Biology Biology and Chemistry Maths or Physics
Psychology A few ask for one from Biology, Chemistry, Maths or Physics Biology, Maths, Psychology, Sociology
Sports science/Physical Education Many courses want to see one from Biology/Chemistry/Maths/Physics Physical Education, Psychology.

Pharmacy/Physiotherapy and other medical related subjects (not medicine)

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Dietetics Chemistry and Biology  
Nursing and midwifery Some ask for Biology or another Science Biology, CACHE, Sociology, Psychology, Chemistry
Occupational Therapy Some ask for Biology. Pthers also consider Psychology, Physical Education, Sociology or another Science  
Optometry (ophthalmic optics) Two from Biology, Chemistry, Maths or Physics (some prefer Biology as one of the choices)  
Pharmacy To keep most courses open: Chemistry and two from Biology, Maths and Physics. Some courses ask for Chemistry, Biology and Maths.  
Physiotherapy Biology. Some also ask for Chemistry, Maths or Physics  
Speech therapy Some degrees ask for a science such as Biology, Chemistry or Physics. Some specify Biology A modern foreign language (i.e. French, German, Spanish, Italian), English language (and literature), Psychology.

Communication/Media Studies

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Media Studies (include communication studies) A few ask for English or Media Studies English, Media Studies, Sociology, Psychology

Vets/Agriculture

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Veterinary Science Chemistry, Biology and one from Maths/Physics  

Arts/Design/Music

Some narrow subject areasEssential A-level (or equivalent) subjects.Useful A-level (or equivalent) subjects
Art and Design Art or DT including AGCSE/National  
Drama Some require English literature. A few require courses in English and/or theatre studies English literature, English literature and language, Theatre Studies
Music For most traditional courses Music and Grade VII/VIII  
 
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