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Are certain A-level combinations too narrow?

Worrying that your A-level subjects are too narrow? Our careers expert gives us the do’s and don’ts for university-approved A-level combinations.

There isn’t a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to this one - while you should choose the A-level subjects you think you’ll enjoy, too much of a similar thing won’t always be looked upon favourably by universities. As ever, it depends on your personal situation.

It’s certainly true that some universities openly discourage students from taking certain combinations of A-level subjects – a quick flick through some online prospectuses confirms this:

  • University of Warwick: ‘breadth of subjects is valued by our selectors and therefore subjects with significantly overlapping curricula should be avoided where possible, for example economics and business studies.’
  • London School of Economics and Political Science: ‘the combination of business studies and economics as two separate A-levels is best avoided.’
  • University of Edinburgh: ‘subjects of study in closely related areas or which contain a high proportion of common material (such as biology and human biology) will not normally be counted separately.’

The issue usually comes up when you choose subjects covering a similar curriculum, rather than thinking about which subjects are essential or preferred for the university course you’re interested in. For instance, if you want to study a degree in economics, it’s probably a better idea to study maths at A-level than either economics or business studies.

Go to our article on key things you need to know about A-level choices for more info.

A little too creative or practical?

If you do too many practical or vocational subjects – such as PE, music technology, media studies, textiles or drama it may restrict what you can do later down the line at university, because some unis include these in lists of ‘non-preferred’ subjects.

This only really becomes a potential problem when you choose more than one of these subjects. To keep your university course options as flexible as possible, you’re better off combining one of these subjects with A-levels that universities traditionally look more favourably upon, such as the sciences, English, maths, history, geography and languages.

But what about…?

Sometimes, though, keeping your choices focused can be a good thing.

  • Languages: languages are good – do take more than one of them if you’re lucky enough to be a talented linguist and are looking to work in a language-related field.
  • Social sciences: you shouldn’t find there’s any problem studying a couple of social science subjects such as politics, psychology, sociology or economics - provided you meet the right entry requirements for the course.


Remember, A-levels are changing...

Over the next few years, the structure of A-levels will be changing following reforms announced in July 2015. These will be rolled out across subjects slowly with changes completed for A-level courses commencing in September 2017. Make sure you're aware of how the subjects you choose will be taught. Learn more about the A-level structure changes here.


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