best A Level subjects
Choosing the right A Level subjects can be challenging, so here's a guide to steer you in the right direction. Source: Oli Scarff/AFP

If you’re a GCSE candidate who is considering attending university, your next difficult decision will be deciding which A Level subjects to choose.

Picking the right combination of subjects will likely be easy for some, but a struggle for others.

In making a decision, it’s essential that you leverage your interests and strengths to improve your chances of obtaining good grades. This would also help you pursue your desired course in university.

Before we delve into what A Level subjects to choose, you should first consider whether A Levels is the right study pathway for you.

Is A Levels the right fit for me?

For starters, A Levels are significantly harder than your GCSEs as you will be studying subjects with more depth and grip.

They can be a good option if you want to keep your options open about your study and career pathway.

The International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma is an alternative to A Levels. Students study six subjects for the IB Diploma; in comparison, students typically study four subjects at AS Level and three subjects at A Level.

Both IB and A Levels are recognised by universities worldwide. One is not necessarily better than the other; which one you choose would depend on your skills and interests.

If you’ve decided that A Levels is the one for you, here are five essential things to consider when picking your A Level subjects:

Picking the right A Level subjects: 5 things to consider

Ensure your A Level subject combination aligns with what you plan on studying at uni

Did you know that some universities hold certain subjects in high regard while some even have a list of “non-preferred” subjects?

This is echoed by Oxford Royale, which notes: “The entrance requirements don’t always say it, but there are some subjects that aren’t looked on with much respect by many universities, particularly top ones. This is because some subjects don’t necessarily develop or demonstrate the academic and scholarly skills needed to succeed at undergraduate level.”

To prepare for university, it helps to read about the types of degrees that you’re interested in, and explore which A Level subjects serve as good preparation for it. If in doubt, contact the university admissions for advice.

Below are some degrees and their A Level combinations typically required to gain entry into a university course:

  • Pharmacy degree: Chemistry. At least one of the following — biology, maths and physics.
  • English literature or language degree: English literature, English literature and language, English.
  • Geology or Earth sciences degree: At least two of the following — maths, physics, chemistry and biology.
  • Economics degree: Might require maths or economics (rarely).
  • LLB (Law degree): English literature, history or psychology (essay-based subjects).

The workload you can handle 

Some subjects such as A Level law, English Language, government and politics as well as psychology involve a lot of essay writing, so it’s important to consider the amount of work you’re willing to do before considering an essay-based A Level subject.

Pick subjects you’ll enjoy

Your A Levels will take you some two years to complete, so you’ll want to ensure that you’re studying something you enjoy!

You might need to reconsider your degree preferences if the subject choices involve those that you do not like.

Doing an A Level subject you can excel in

Were you good in a particular subject at GCSE? Chances are you can retain that excellence during A Levels. Knowing where your strength lies can help you decide which A Level subjects to choose.

Remember — your career and degree plans may change. Getting good grades however, could help keep your university and career options open, so it’s best to pursue something you know you’ll excel in.

Get to know the syllabus

Go to your local library or the bookstore, flip through some A Level textbooks or course materials and see if they fit your niche or interest.

This can help you decide which A Level subjects are suitable for you in the long run.