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Why should you take additional A Levels

10 DEC 2021

Do you love learning? Are you passionate about a particular subject that you’ve studied in school? Would you like to take your studies in that subject further? Are you looking for ways to improve your chances of getting a place on a competitive university course? This article explains what CGA can do to help you!

What’s a normal A Level study programme in the UK?

Students in the UK normally take an A Level programme with three subjects, and this is the usual requirement to apply to university. Further Maths is an exception, and students taking this will usually earn four separate A Level qualifications: Maths A Level, Further Maths A Level, and two other A Level qualifications in addition.

What’s normal around the world?

The British education system has been criticised internationally for being too narrow in the final two years before university study – taking only three A Level courses doesn’t allow breadth in a study programme. The International Baccalaureate Diploma, in contrast, has six main subjects and then also additional components such as Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay.

Read more about how the A Levels compare to IB and AP courses.

What do you need to demonstrate in applications to university?

Although British universities won’t usually require a student to have more than three A Levels, for applications to competitive courses universities will require that students show evidence that they ‘stand out from the crowd’ – that they have additional academic strengths or achievements which make them the best applicant to offer a place.  The Extended Project, discussed below, can be important to help students achieve this. Taking an additional A Level subject, either to add breadth or depth to a study programme, might also impress a university so that they will offer a place on a competitive course.

How can you add breadth to your study programme?

It might be helpful for you to add an additional subject to your programme so that you have a broader academic profile. Although this won’t usually be a strict requirement in order to gain a place to study at a UK university, an additional subject may help you to thrive and succeed on the university course.

For example, a student wishing to study Medicine at university could take Chemistry, Biology and History in their home school, and then supplement these subjects with Maths at CGA. A Level Maths would be a strong addition to the study programme, and may also be required for medicine courses at some universities.

Architecture is often a difficult subject to choose the best A Levels: a student might take three of Maths, Physics, Art, or Design Technology in their home school, and could then supplement these with History at CGA – another highly regarded subject for Architecture.

All of the various combinations of essential and desirable A Level subjects, for each major subject at university, are detailed in the Informed Choices report, published by the Russell Group of universities. This report is really helpful for any student choosing an A Level programme, so that you can ensure that you take the right subjects to allow you to study the programme that you want at university.

The other important reason for adding an additional A Level with CGA to your programme is to study a subject that you enjoy – in other words to have fun!  This is the best reason of all to take another A Level, because if you enjoy it you’ll be motivated to work hard and do well. For example, CGA student Alison, from Bristol in the UK, takes A Levels in Art, Music and History in her home school, but studies A Level Maths with CGA – solely for the enjoyment of studying a subject that she loves.

Watch why Alison chose CGA below:

What is an Extended Project?

Another way to add breadth to your programme is with CGA’s Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), with the Pearson Edexcel examination board.  This qualification allows you to complete your own research project, under the careful supervision of an experienced CGA teacher. The EPQ is so highly regarded by universities that many will lower their offer of the grades required if a student has taken an EPQ.  Current CGA students have worked on a spectacular set of EPQ projects – here are a few examples of recent project titles:

  • Should Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanisms be implemented against developing economies?
  • Can mathematics be useful in understanding aboriginal kinship?
  • Is COVID-19 having a disproportionate adverse affect on the mental health of post-16 students in Australia?
  • Was Da Vinci more of an artist than a scientist?
  • Could education reform be the most effective way of tackling the problem of ‘fake news’ in the US?
  • Should stem cell treatment be used as an alternative to knee replacement surgery?
  • Aesthetics or Well-being, which is more important for creating buildings?

How can you add depth to your study programme?

Many of the most highly motivated students at CGA have taken an additional subject in order to stretch themselves onto more advanced work.  They usually have a great interest in a particular subject and wish to challenge themselves further.  For example, CGA student Mohammed, from London, studied A Level Maths with CGA while also working on his full set of GCSE subjects in his home school.  Mohammed was achieving excellent results on his GCSE courses, and realised that he had the ability and desire to push himself further in Maths, his favourite subject. CGA was able to facilitate this by offering Mohammed an A Level Maths programme, working alongside other highly motivated students.

Although universities won’t explicitly state that you need to extend yourself onto more advanced courses in this way, it will certainly demonstrate benefit you when applying to competitive, selective courses at university.  It demonstrates that a student is highly motivated and is willing to challenge themselves beyond the normal confines of the school curriculum – universities will be impressed when a student explains this in the personal statement in their application.

How can CGA help you?

If you have a love of learning, and are keen to add breadth or depth to your study programme, then CGA’s programme of additional A Levels may well be a great addition to your academic profile. Completing an additional A Level, or an EPQ qualification, will demonstrate to universities that you stand out from the crowd – that you have pushed yourself further in your academic work, and are motivated to study challenging academic courses.

CGA’s A Level courses are offered on a part-time basis, so that you can study them alongside your full-time programme in your home school, and we offer a flexible timetable so that you can study the courses at a time that suits you. The courses are taught by experienced A Level teachers, with proven track records of achieving great results, and delivered online and synchronously using state-of-the art educational technology. You’ll be working alongside other highly motivated students, and CGA will encourage you to collaborate with your classmates so that you have the best opportunity to succeed in your course.

This article was written by Dr. Andrew Daniel, CGA Associate Principal and Mathematics teacher. Watch him teach a Maths class from the top of a mountain below:

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