Tips for choosing between common and unusual A-level subjects

Students who go on to university are less likely to choose more unusual A-levels such as drama

Students who go on to university are less likely to choose more unusual A-levels such as drama - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How to pick between core A-level subjects like maths and science and more unusual options

Drama, film studies, photography or environmental science aren't your typical A-level choices and students wishing to go to university tend to stick to more traditional subjects.

This may be a wise decision for some but others will want to step outside the box.

According to Which? University, A-level maths is the most popular A-level taken by students who go onto university. Biology, chemistry, psychology and English literature also fall into the top ten most popular university route subjects.

But what if you have a desire to study a more unusual A-level?

The problem is that not all schools and colleges offer many subjects other than the traditional ones at A-level.

In fact, A-level archaeology has been scrapped. The exam board AQA said there would be no more new entrants for the subject. Alongside archaeology, history of art and classics A-levels have also been withdrawn.

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Archaeology teacher Daniel Boatright, who is campaigning against the loss of the subject, said: "AQA is extremely naïve if it believes UK students will benefit from a curriculum of only the major subjects."

But the Russell Group says some advanced level subjects are more frequently required for entry to degree courses than others. These are known as 'facilitating' because choosing them at advanced level leaves open a wide range of options for university study. Facilitating subjects are biology, English Literature, history, geography, physics, maths and modern and classical languages.

The Russell Group advises: "If you don't know what you want to study at university, then it's a really good rule of thumb that taking two facilitating subjects will keep a wide range of degree courses open to you."

But does that still leave room for a non-traditional subject that could purely be chosen on grounds of enjoyment?

Many Russell Group universities publish a list of non-preferred subjects such as communication studies, accounting, home economics or music technology and if you do take them at A-level, they advise taking them as a fourth subject if you want to get into university.