Choosing which AS subject to drop? The subject you got your lowest grade in might seem like the obvious choice, but make sure you weigh up all these factors before deciding which subjects to continue to A2…
Which? University reveals why your AS grades really matter, plus six things you should know about your A-level choices.
'I already have a course in mind'
If you already know what course you want to study at university, then dropping the subject which is least relevant to your chosen course could be the best option. The easiest way to do this is to identify which subjects are the essential, useful and typical A-levels studied for the degree you’re interested in – see our A-level checklists.
But many degree courses don’t require specific subjects. In this case, it’s best to keep a good mix of subjects (bear in mind that certain A-level combinations are considered too narrow by some universities).
Maybe you haven’t done as well as hoped in the subject you wanted to go on to study at university – if you are genuinely passionate about the subject and feel you have the self-motivation to bring your grades back up, then you could still go with it. Retakes are one way to lift your grades come A2, but will add to your workload (and aren’t always looked on favourably by universities).
'Surely I should drop my lowest grade?'
This is often the most obvious option – a grade substantially lower than others is the one you will most likely drop.
"If the degree course you're looking at will consider applicants with a wide range of A-level subjects, grades should trump subject choice when it comes to picking your A-levels. This will give you the best chance of getting into uni." - Andy Gardner | Careers Adviser - Jfs School
If you missed out on a predicted grade or felt you were harshly marked then it is worth considering other options. Re-sitting your exam or (if there's a strong case for doing this) sending your result off for a re-mark, can help you amend a disappointing grade – and your A2s will offer the opportunity to bag extra marks.
'Keep a mix of subjects?'
Having a mix of the most commonly asked-for, ‘facilitating subjects’ – sciences, English, geography, history, maths or languages – in your A-level line-up will keep most university options open to you. Or, if you're pursuing a creative subject at university such as music or art, you might find those courses require the relevant A-levels.
But while some universities have ‘non-preferred subjects’, many universities and courses will consider you regardless of the subjects you study. Have a look at what many universities really think of the likes of A-level media studies or A-level law, for instance – you might be surprised!
'Wait for your grades and maybe keep them all?'
Before making any decision as to what you will drop, wait for your results.
"You should definitely wait until AS results are in, and then make sure you have considered the decision from all the angles. Take some time to make sure your decision is the right one."- David Hawkins | Head Of Careers - Taunton School
Even if you feel you have done badly in an exam, you may be pleasantly surprised. Once you have a set of overall grades you are in the best position to make the right choice. Think wisely about the factors mentioned above and which one suits your needs.
Remember, you don’t have to drop a subject - if you feel confident you can handle the workload without jeopardising your grades, you could continue all your subjects to A2. For the most competitive courses at top universities, some students will have four or five As or A*s under their belt – but ultimately, three good A-level grades are better than five average ones.
It’s a good idea to stick with the subjects you most enjoy – if you like studying them, chances are they’re the subjects you’ll do best in!
Visit Which? University for more advice.