When talking to students about to make the transition from Year 11 to Year 12, this is one of the questions I get asked most often. And each time I counter that question with a series of others. Asking yourself these questions should help you decide whether studying A Level Maths is for you.
Question #1: Do you want to study A Level Maths?
It may seem like I am stating the blindingly obvious here, but all too often I have seen students choose A Level Maths for reasons other than enjoying Maths. “I need it for my chosen career/degree path” is the most common of these reasons. And whilst it may at the time seem like a good reason, it is very likely that during the two years of your sixth form study that your mind will change multiple times over your career/degree path.
Question #2: Do you enjoy Maths?
If the answer to this question is yes, then you definitely ought to explore further the idea of studying A Level Maths. In particular, a love of algebra is imperative as most of the A Level Maths requires you to be able to manipulate algebra to a high standard.
If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t choose it as an option. Any A Level in any subject is a big commitment and a commitment that will last two years. Choosing subjects that you later find that you don’t enjoy could jeopardise your enjoyment of sixth form and almost certainly will result in underachievement.
Question #3: What grades are you expecting at GCSE?
Now we know that you want to study and enjoy studying A Level Maths, we can start getting into the grade requirements. In my experience, in order to study A Level Maths you should have achieved a grade 7 or higher in GCSE Maths. Students with a grade 6 or below tend to struggle with the basic concepts and this is apparent from the outset. But if you are currently working at grade 6, don’t be put off by what I have just said. You still have time to improve your grade and get that grade 7. But you really should be aiming for 7 or higher.
Question #4: What mix of subjects are you wanting to study?
A Level Maths is a subject that goes hand-in-hand with many others, in particular the sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Engineering among others). It is a very well-respected subject that opens a broad range of career options and degree paths. Don’t be put off, however, if you are wanting to embark upon a more varied programme of study. I’ve seen very successful students in the past study Maths in more unusual combinations of subjects including languages, art, music among others.
In summary, the right reason to study A Level Maths is because you want to, you enjoy maths and you have the prerequisite grades. But seek advice on your A Level choices from as many of your teachers as possible. They will know a lot about you both personally and academically and will be ideally placed to advise you on what the best A Level choices are for you.