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new system:
A Levels have changed and they are now all studied on a two-year linear basis. This
means that the A Level course will be like most of the IGCSEs you are taking and you
will be examined on everything you have studied at the end of your two years in the
sixth form. With the exception of Art, the school will no longer be offering AS Level
exams at the end of Year 12, though you may have the option to study some
subjects at AS (Maths for example) over two years and then take the AS exam at the
same time as your A Levels at the end of Year 13.

The new system will allow teachers to teach their subjects from the outset with the
demands of the full A Level in mind.

Play to your strengths to keep your options open

It is tempting to look a long way down the line when deciding what subjects to study.
This is a consideration, and for some career paths is essential, but simply choosing
the subjects you are best at and that you enjoy the most is likely to be sound advice.
The exception to this rule is Economics which is not studied at Runnymede at IGCSE.
However, in this case you might choose the subject because you have looked into it
and think it will suit your strengths and interests as a student.

Put simply, doing the subjects that you are good at and that you enjoy is likely to
prepare you effectively for doing a university course that you are good at and enjoy.
In turn this university course is likely to prepare you for a career that you are good at
and enjoy (remember that in the UK at least, apart from medicine and architecture,
most graduate jobs require no specific degree as qualification).

Choosing a subject because you feel you ought to study it can lead to a great deal of
stress and can cause underperformance in other subjects because of the need to
dedicate extra time to the subject you are not so good at. It is vital that you are good
enough at the subjects you choose and interested in them.

Many students (and parents) want to keep their options open. Studying extra
subjects or specific subjects can have this result, but a common result is shutting
down options because the results are not as good as they might be. IGCSE results
(particularly a B grade or above) are often good enough to demonstrate the level of
numeracy/literacy required. The best way to keep your options open is to do well in
your exams. Good grades give you more options!

Match up your skills:

Different A Levels can need different skills such as essay writing, discussion and
debate skills, mathematical skills, practical techniques and so on. In deciding which A
Levels to take you should consider how your own skills match up with those needed
to do each subject. However, your A Levels are also designed to help you develop
new skills that will equip you for study at degree level and beyond.
What grades do I need?
You are usually expected to have at least a B grade to be admitted onto that
subject's A level course. This is a sign that you have the necessary level of
proficiency to make the success of the A level course (these are academic courses).
However, even an A grade without any interest or enthusiasm is likely to mean you
are not suited to the course.
For some courses, some additional qualifications are expected:
- Biology: also a B grade in chemistry and in maths
- Further Maths: an A* in maths
- Economics: at least a B grade in maths and an A in a humanities subject (e.g.
geography or history)

How many subjects to choose

While UK universities are clear that they only require students to take three subjects
at A Level, many students at Runnymede will begin studying four A Levels (especially
if their choices involve Spanish or Further Maths). This will allow them to engage
with four subjects in Year 12 and will provide them with a greater breadth of study.
Many students may continue with four subjects into Year 13, others may decide to
focus on just three, although these decisions should only be taken after consultation
with all subject teachers, your tutor and the heads of sixth form.

If you are thinking of going to a Spanish university, the latest agreement with the
Ministry of Education mean that your potential grade for bachillerato will be based
on your best four A Levels and no more. You will need to study a minimum of three
A Levels, but no more than four will not count towards your final score.

Additional points will continue to be accessible via “pruebas especificas” but also by
using individual A Level subject grades, for certain approved subjects which are
relevant to your degree.

Given the linear nature of the new A Levels, a student may not receive a formal
qualification if a subject is dropped at the end of Year 12. However, the academic
enrichment of having studied a fourth subject can still form a valued part of a
university application.

Subjects that complement each other

Whilst the British system does not require that any specific subject is studied and, in
theory, any A Levels could be studied together, many students do sensibly choose
subjects that complement each other. This is likely to happen anyway if students
stick to their interests and talents, but some subjects do support each other. Some
obvious examples are: Maths and Physics; Physics and Chemistry; Chemistry and
Biology; French and Spanish; History and English; Literature and French.
Sometimes people worry about the excessive workload of doing subjects requiring a
similar style of work, but the skills required will improve more quickly by making
such a choice.
It is also possible to do one subject from a completely different part of the
curriculum and this can add variety and interest and way well reflect very well on a
student with a wide range of interests (e.g. sciences and literature, humanities and

Subjects that are required for specific degree courses.

For many university courses, specific subjects are required, but the requirements can
vary from university and it is essential to look on department pages to see exactly
what is required (it is not always as you might imagine). A good place to start is the
UCAS website. Sometimes there are requirements in terms of IGCSE grades (e.g. a B
in maths for business is often required, but not the A Level).

Should I do Spanish A level?

Because many Runnymedians are native Spanish speakers and nearly all have lived a
large portion of their life in Madrid, some universities will not accept Spanish as one
of the 3 A Levels to be included in a conditional offer (this A Level is designed
principally for British students living in the UK, after all). That said, many will, and it
depends on both the course and the university. The rules here are not fixed and we
can only offer guidelines as to where it is likely to be accepted based on past
experience. It is, much more likely to be accepted for a language degree than an
engineering one, for example.
The course does offer the opportunity to study Spanish history, literature, society etc
and should be considered by students interested in this. Students wanting to study
in a public Spanish university should choose it because it is counted as any other A
level in the conversion to the Spanish grading system.
Doing Spanish as a fourth A Level is a sensible option for many students, but this is a
serious undertaking and recent syllabus changes have made the course much more
demanding. Anything less than an A* does not reflect very well on a native speaker
and there is a substantial amount of content to learn about.

Who to speak to
Subject teachers
These are the people who know best what your ability is in their subject. They also
know about the A Level course. Take their advice seriously if they tell you are well
suited to the course (and also if they dissuade you). Remember, though, that the
decision should be yours.
Form teachers
Your form teacher has a good overall picture of where your strengths lie, and you
will already have had conversations with them about your future plans.
Heads of VI Form
If you want to know more about the best way to choose A Levels or about the
university application process then seek out the Heads of VI Form.
Your parents are not the ones who will be studying the A Level courses and going to
university, but they do know you better than anyone and are a key part of the
decisions about your future (particularly deciding which country you will go to
university in). Involve them in your decision making, but be clear about what YOU
want to do.
VI Form students
If you want to find out about what it is like to study a specific A Level (workload, type
of homework tasks etc) then who better than current VI Formers. Do be careful
about asking about specific teachers (you might not have the same teacher anyway!)
and remember that some courses have been changed recently.

What will I learn?

It is tempting to think of some A Level subjects being useful and others not. This
often comes from a misunderstanding of what we actually learn and what is typically
applicable in "real life". Being able to speak French is a skill that has an obvious real
life purpose, but that is not the case for all subjects. As well as looking at the content
that you study, you should also think of the skills that you will learn and develop.
Some examples:
History: the skill of researching, interpreting, evaluating and reporting.
Maths: the skill of problem solving.
Geography: the skill of analysing data and responding.
Literature: the skill interpreting and responding creatively.
Physics: the skill of planning and carrying out an experiment.
Whilst some of the topics studied might not have an immediately applicable use in
the job market, these are all skills that are hugely in demand from employers.

As well as researching here, talk with your teachers about what you will actually be
learning in terms of skills.
Key Skills:
Time-management. Your timetable is likely to be lighter at A Level than it was at
IGCSE, but the reason for this is you are expected to do much more independent
study outside lessons. You are expected to take more responsibility for your own
learning and you should organise your study time alongside other commitments you
have inside and outside school. You are expected to put in at least four hours study
time for each subject each week outside the classroom. During this time you will be
doing set tasks, reviewing your work, reading around the subject and so on.
Communication skills. You will be expected to develop your communication skills,
both written and spoken so that you can explain your thoughts, ideas and
conclusions in a clear and fluent fashion. This is one of the reasons why all students
will be doing English language lessons in the sixth form.
The use of IT. This is something you will need to master before you go to university
and you should ensure you can use IT in an effective way to support and extend your