Seren Foundation alumni’s key advice on how to ace your A level subject choices

With so many subjects to choose from, deciding what A levels to take can be tough and can even feel a bit overwhelming, but there are things you can do to help you make the choices that are right for you.

Here, Seren Academy learners, Olivia Lloyd and Abigail Thomas, who know only too well how difficult subject choice decisions can be, offer their key pieces of advice on how to confidently pick your A level subjects.

This post is the second in a serious of blogs from Olivia and Abigail and you can view the first, covering GCSE revision tips here.

Introduce yourselves…

Olivia: I’m Olivia and I’m in my first year studying A levels in Psychology, Sociology, Chemistry, and English Literature at St Josephs’ School in Neath. My A levels are all subjects I absolutely love but are completely different to my GCSE choices of Spanish, Drama and ICT!

Abigail: Hi everyone, I’m Abigail and I’m a Year 12 learner currently studying Biology, Chemistry, Criminology and Psychology at Neath College.

How did you go about choosing your A level subjects?

Abigail: For both my GCSEs and A levels, I was determined to choose subjects I knew I’d enjoy while making sure they would relate to my academic aspirations. Picking subjects based on what I felt was best for me and my goals enabled me to feel confident that I was doing what was best for my future self.

Olivia: When you come to pick your subjects, you’ll be guided to some extent by which subjects are in each of the columns you can choose from. If you’re lucky, none of your subjects will clash and you’ll be able to study all of your favourites but that isn’t guaranteed, and you may need to pick between two you love or select one out of a bunch you’re not as interested in.  

If you’re really unhappy with the way options are laid out, speak to your teachers. I was very lucky as I had a super supportive school that amended the chart based on the most popular subjects, meaning that very few of us were upset by our final subject choices. This alone made choosing my subjects much easier and meant I could really focus on what subjects I needed the most and which were least valuable to me.

How did choosing your A levels compare to choosing your GCSEs?

Abigail: Putting so much consideration into my GCSEs and choosing subjects that were important to my future set me in good stead for choosing my A levels. By the time it came to choosing A levels, I felt less nervous as I was comfortable and confident in the subjects I wanted to pick.

Olivia: By the time I had completed my GCSEs I had not only had the benefit of experiencing exams, but I had a lot more knowledge in particular subjects and had a clearer vision of what career path I wanted to follow, all of which helped influence my A-level choices. That might not be the case for everyone, but GCSEs can certainly help you see what subjects you do and don’t like which will assist you with your decisions.

What were you most worried about when choosing your A levels?

Olivia: My biggest concern was that I would choose something I wouldn’t enjoy. I think this is a worry shared by many learners, but it’s important to remember that once you choose your subjects, that isn’t the end of the road, and you can change your mind if you feel stuck.

Abigail: My main concern was whether I would still be interested in the same career route and subjects in the future and I hoped that I wouldn’t change my mind as I got older. But ultimately, all you can do is think very carefully about your future dreams, both academic and personal, based on how you are feeling now and make the best decisions for them.

What would be your top pieces of advice for learners choosing their A level subjects?

Olivia: Where to begin! My main piece of advice would be to make sure you choose a subject you know you enjoy and that you will want to apply yourself to. For me, knowing that I would enjoy my A level subjects made me feel 100% more confident in choosing them. You are also far more likely to work hard and thrive if you are enjoying the topic.

Secondly, I would recommend making the most out of your Seren coordinator. I reached out for so much support from them during the run-up to my GCSE and A level choices and they pointed me in the direction of a wealth of resources, opportunities and advice that eased my nerves. These included university trips that gave me an insight into a range of different degrees available which helped me understand what subjects I would need to study specific courses.

Abigail: I agree with Olivia that you should select subjects based on what you enjoy. If you know at that stage that you would like to pursue a particular career, look into what subjects you might need.  Choosing subjects using this approach, rather than aimlessly choosing a subject and hoping to get good marks, will mean you have a strong reason for studying them which will keep you motivated.

Taking part in opportunities through Seren also helped me with my decisions. I found Seren’s masterclass programmes and guidance sessions really helpful as they gave me the chance to explore different subjects and make educated decisions. These sessions helped me to see whether I might like to study a particular subject at university and enabled me to get a realistic taste of them before making my decisions. 

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