Taking A-Level Early (Maths)


by FeDeX_LaTeX
Tags: alevel, early, maths
FeDeX_LaTeX
FeDeX_LaTeX is offline
#1
Feb11-11, 03:37 PM
P: 425
Hello;

Since year 9 I have wanted to take my A-Level in maths early, in the hope that it will lighten the load for my studies when I reach the A-Level stage (for example, most people who have an intention to study science at higher education end up studying 4AS x 4A2). Or, if I feel I will be able to handle my time well, I could choose another A-Level...

The way it would have worked is;

July 2011 - finished 6 modules for maths, gaining an AS in mathematics and an A2 in mathematics
January 2012 - since I would have finished maths A-level I would be set with a class a year older to study the further maths course. By this point I would have completed half the course of further maths.
July 2012 - end of year 12; should have finished A-level in further maths by this stage.
Sep 2012 to July 2013 - do rest of A-levels as normal, and maybe take an extra AS (such as Spanish or Psychology or Human Biology) if I feel I can manage the time well.

I talked to my teacher about it, and he said that he would be happy to enter me. I was very pleased, because after arguing so much with my school in year 9 and year 10 to take it early, I was finally getting the chance to do it.

Later I learned that, since I was not technically part of my sixth form, I would have to be entered as a private candidate, and therefore would have to pay for each paper sat, usually at least £25 per paper or potentially £75 per paper. So, I would have to pay between £150 and £450... which I can't afford. The school is willing to pay for 1 or 2 of the modules, but I have to pay the rest. I have talked to my parents about this, and they have said that they will be willing to pay no matter what the cost, but, the thing is, I don't want them to... if I can do it for free next year, why pay so much to do it early? I come from a fairly... well, not privileged background, so I fear that doing this may make it harder for my family to cope financially.

My original plan, before knowing I could take it early, was to do;

First year - AS in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Biology
Second year - A2 in Physics, Chemistry, Further Mathematics

If I did the exams early it would look like this;

Pre-first year - AS in Maths, A2 in Maths
First year - AS in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, A2 in Further Maths
Second year - A2 in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, + extra AS in one subject (Spanish/Human Biology/Psychology etc.)

So, do you think it is worth it, sitting the exams early? My ambition is to go to Oxbridge when I am older - so far I am doing well at GCSE (I am predicted all A* grades, and I am on track to achieve around 9 A* and 3 A grades). The only issue here is the cost. With the 'potential' plan, I would end up having 5 AS x 6 A2, but do universities really care if I do this compared to if I do 4 AS x 4 A2, or 4 AS x 3 A2?

As for if I can do the exams now, it's fine, I can achieve A or A* in past papers at the moment, with the 16 weeks or so I have to study the 6 modules it can push my grades up to A* with hard work.

So, is it worth it paying that amount to sit A-Levels early (i.e. if you could go back in time to do A-Levels early would you do this)?

I have yet to receive the actual costs from the examination officer at my school (I'm crossing my fingers that maybe they offer something where I can manage to do it for free or a very low/payable amount), but I just don't think it is worth it myself, and if I get an A and not an A*, then I will feel bad, because my parents will have paid for me to not get what I wanted...

Any advice?
Thanks.
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JesseC
JesseC is offline
#2
Feb11-11, 06:21 PM
P: 281
Not QUITE sure I understand your plan but I get the gist of it.

Aiming for 6 A2's seems like massive overkill to me! I understand your motivations, but with such a heavy workload would you have any time for a social life, or anything other than work? You must be what... around 15yrs old? Would you be able to do both maths AS and A2 on top of GCSEs? Only you know of course.

It's really up to what you think you're capable of, but in my opinion you're at the age where you should be relaxing and taking life a bit easy!!

Whatever degree you want to study at university, they're only really going to care about A levels relevant to the degree! So applying for physics, they won't care if you got A* in Psychology AS, so don't waste your time with it! On the other hand, I think Psychology degrees don't even require Psychology A level to apply...

Of course, if you want to take all these subjects because of a personal quest for knowledge, thats commendable and don't let me get in the way!

Speaking from personal experience, I got an interview for Natural Sciences at Cambridge with 3 A2 and 4 AS grades. I got an offer for Physics at Imperial College without having done further maths. Turns out you'll learn the whole of a further maths A-level and more in about the first 6 weeks of a physics degree, so its not particularly important.

As for money constraints, I really can't give you advice there. I don't come from a wealthy background either but I know my parents would have been upset if I wasn't sitting exams because of the expense to them!
Awesomesauce
Awesomesauce is offline
#3
Feb11-11, 07:22 PM
P: 23
6 AS or A2 is a definite overkill. I went to a oxbridge talk a couple of weeks ago, and the tutors said, if the entry requirements don't state it, they don't want it. Simples. The average applicant has around 7 A* at gcses and about 89-92% Average alevel per unit.

Man, I thought I was relatively hardworking during my gcses, but you are impressive. Kudos to you.
Also, Oxbridge don't care about extracurriculars apparently as they said. However, I'm a bit skeptical of this, as it would only put you in a stronger position seeing the comp is so great, bit grades are the main importance.

Sorry about typos, I'm on my iPod in the dark. :O

FeDeX_LaTeX
FeDeX_LaTeX is offline
#4
Feb12-11, 05:00 AM
P: 425

Taking A-Level Early (Maths)


Hello;

Thank you very much for your replies.

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
Aiming for 6 A2's seems like massive overkill to me! I understand your motivations, but with such a heavy workload would you have any time for a social life, or anything other than work? You must be what... around 15yrs old? Would you be able to do both maths AS and A2 on top of GCSEs? Only you know of course.
A few of my GCSEs are very easy for me to do well in - mathematics, geography, chemistry, physics, statistics, etc. - I could handle the maths AS and A2 on top of GCSEs, definitely. I am ready to sit the C1 paper now, and I have learned most of the material in M1. I turned 16 recently, and I don't really have a big social life... I mean, I socialise, but it is not a priority for me. I feel fine if I study during the holidays and only see my friends when I go back to school. With the maths A-level course, I already know quite a bit of it without having studied it, through experience; for example, I know how to manipulate matrices in the way that FP1 and FP3 modules require, but I may have left a couple things out in those modules too having not studied them.

The way I learned calculus first was not by A-level, but using the American system (learning Calculus I, then Calculus II, etc.), and as a result this is why there are some gaps in my knowledge of the modules. Of course I do not want to overestimate myself, because I could easily slip and end up with all B-grades (although, this is impossible with some subjects, such as physics or chemistry, as I have only one more exam to do, and I only have to answer 30% of the paper correct to finish with an A*). However, anything is possible, I could end up with grades like 5C and 6B instead of what I wanted... so I don't rest until, I am sure I will do well.

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
It's really up to what you think you're capable of, but in my opinion you're at the age where you should be relaxing and taking life a bit easy!!
I understand what you mean, but I have never really 'relaxed'... I feel relaxed when I learn, and since I can no longer play tennis due to injury my 'outlet' is mathematics.

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
Whatever degree you want to study at university, they're only really going to care about A levels relevant to the degree! So applying for physics, they won't care if you got A* in Psychology AS, so don't waste your time with it! On the other hand, I think Psychology degrees don't even require Psychology A level to apply...
Thanks for your advice... is this really true? So, does it make a difference if, for example, I wanted to do a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics, and had an AS in Spanish? Would this benefit me at all. So, if I got A* in biology, chemistry, physics and further maths at A2, I would have no advantage over someone who got A* in just chemistry, physics and further maths?

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
Of course, if you want to take all these subjects because of a personal quest for knowledge, thats commendable and don't let me get in the way!
To me, any knowledge is valuable, but to me, advice from people (like yourself) who have already achieved what I want to achieve in life is invaluable.

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
Speaking from personal experience, I got an interview for Natural Sciences at Cambridge with 3 A2 and 4 AS grades. I got an offer for Physics at Imperial College without having done further maths. Turns out you'll learn the whole of a further maths A-level and more in about the first 6 weeks of a physics degree, so its not particularly important.
Hmm... to be truthful, I want to do further maths also because it is one of the subjects that I am confident I can do well in because of my history with the subject. What were your AS and A2 subjects and grades to get you those offers, if you don't mind me asking?

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
As for money constraints, I really can't give you advice there. I don't come from a wealthy background either but I know my parents would have been upset if I wasn't sitting exams because of the expense to them!
I have some money that I have saved over the course of my life thus far but it is saved for me being able to afford to be at a university (should I get there), especially with the recent abolishment of the EMA. I sometimes worry about getting a part-time job to pay for everything when I am at university too, because, I am just so practically useless with my hands and in real-life situations I can be a bit clumsy. Thanks for your advice!

Quote Quote by Awesomesauce View Post
6 AS or A2 is a definite overkill. I went to a oxbridge talk a couple of weeks ago, and the tutors said, if the entry requirements don't state it, they don't want it. Simples. The average applicant has around 7 A* at gcses and about 89-92% Average alevel per unit.
That sounds difficult to achieve... I hope I can do it. I have not yet studied any A-levels other than mathematics... so, in effect you are saying that the 'bare minimum' is really all they want, anything else they don't care about?

Quote Quote by Awesomesauce View Post
Man, I thought I was relatively hardworking during my gcses, but you are impressive. Kudos to you.
Also, Oxbridge don't care about extracurriculars apparently as they said. However, I'm a bit skeptical of this, as it would only put you in a stronger position seeing the comp is so great, bit grades are the main importance.

Sorry about typos, I'm on my iPod in the dark. :O
Thank you for your kind words, but I can be very lazy when studying, it has cost me good grades too... (like getting a B in the english mock, it was only an A because of coursework marks)

How would it put me in a stronger position if they only care about the grades in the subjects that are relevant to my degree?

Thank you for your advice!

Also; do you think I should pay to take the A-level early at all? I have heard it can be as low as £12.50 per module (so £75 in total). My teacher said they would "be prepared to pay for some of the modules". Is it worth it just for an extra A-level?
JesseC
JesseC is offline
#5
Feb12-11, 09:07 AM
P: 281
Quote Quote by FeDeX_LaTeX View Post
A few of my GCSEs are very easy for me to do well in - mathematics, geography, chemistry, physics, statistics, etc. - I could handle the maths AS and A2 on top of GCSEs, definitely.
So long as you're confident, and not worried about time constraints, it certainly won't be a bad thing to take it early. Make sure not to give yourself more work than you can handle.

Quote Quote by FeDeX_LaTeX View Post
... is this really true? So, does it make a difference if, for example, I wanted to do a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics, and had an AS in Spanish? Would this benefit me at all. So, if I got A* in biology, chemistry, physics and further maths at A2, I would have no advantage over someone who got A* in just chemistry, physics and further maths?
AS Spanish won't benefit you when applying for mathematics and theoretical physics in the UK unless you want to do a course with a year abroad in Europe. However! In the future you may be looking at foreign internships, international jobs or something like that, and a foreign language is really, really worthwhile skill! Not just Spanish, but any common foreign language would really broaden your opportunities. I wish I'd done Spanish AS instead of Economics, so I'm going to apply for additional Spanish courses next year.

It would certainly not hinder your application to take biology as well, and the universities would like to see you'd done so much science (they like 'hard' subjects). However, some schools and colleges don't allow students to do more than 3 A-levels, and some don't provide further maths courses. Thus it would be unfair on those students if universities required extra A-levels or further maths, and I don't think they're even allowed to.

If you're interested in the entry requirements of Russel Group universities, just browse some:

http://www.manchester.ac.uk/undergra.../atoz/?index=P
http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/under...ses/index.html
http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/ugprospectus/whatcanyoustudy

Notice than none actually require further maths - its a bonus which they'll like, but not essential. None ask for more than three A levels.

I really stress that you shouldn't worry about it now! Just do what subjects really interest you, and then think about university when you start doing A-levels properly.

Quote Quote by FeDeX_LaTeX View Post
Hmm... to be truthful, I want to do further maths also because it is one of the subjects that I am confident I can do well in because of my history with the subject. What were your AS and A2 subjects and grades to get you those offers, if you don't mind me asking?
Well I got A levels in Physics, Chemistry and Maths with an additional AS in Economics.


Quote Quote by FeDeX_LaTeX View Post
Also; do you think I should pay to take the A-level early at all? I have heard it can be as low as £12.50 per module (so £75 in total). My teacher said they would "be prepared to pay for some of the modules". Is it worth it just for an extra A-level?
Don't know why your school wouldn't pay for it all frankly. They love to show off students with excellent academic achievement so its in their interest. Don't forget, universities will give good bursaries or scholarships to students who get good grades and are not from a wealthy background.

Example, a while back Manchester were offering £5000 per year scholarship for anyone who got 3 A's and whos family income was less than some threshold. (Don't know if its still the case) Compare that to the £75 for a maths A-level? Not much is it! :D Oxford and Imperial had similar schemes.
FeDeX_LaTeX
FeDeX_LaTeX is offline
#6
Feb16-11, 04:32 PM
P: 425
Hello;

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
So long as you're confident, and not worried about time constraints, it certainly won't be a bad thing to take it early. Make sure not to give yourself more work than you can handle.
Nah, it's okay! I don't really have a social life, my breaks and lunchtimes are often spent studying. It's not that I feel lonely, but my love to learn makes me feel comfortable being alone. My maths teacher has not yet found out the prices for the modules, but she has said I could potentially sit them for free. However, instead of sitting 6 modules in June 2011 with 3 modules in Jan 2012 and 3 modules in June 2012, I'll be sitting 4 modules in June 2011, Jan 2012 and June 2012 (making 12 in total, making up the further maths). I think this would be easier too, because it would mean I can spend more time on other subjects where I am less able, like Spanish or biology. I started learning the S1 module this week, and I have covered a fair amount; I just do as many past paper exam questions on the stuff I've learned that I can, and once I can do every single variation of question on that topic I move on (to revisit it later once I've learned the rest of the module). The thing is, though, there is a lot riding on the line... my teacher says it is unlikely that I could sit them all for free, and that I may have to pay. But if I end up paying, I fear that I may disappoint my parents, if I don't get A*s. I don't want to have to pay valuable money to fail. It bothers me if I let them down in that way... it would be okay if it was my own money, but it isn't. It's theirs, and that makes me feel uneasy.

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
AS Spanish won't benefit you when applying for mathematics and theoretical physics in the UK unless you want to do a course with a year abroad in Europe. However! In the future you may be looking at foreign internships, international jobs or something like that, and a foreign language is really, really worthwhile skill! Not just Spanish, but any common foreign language would really broaden your opportunities. I wish I'd done Spanish AS instead of Economics, so I'm going to apply for additional Spanish courses next year.
That's good to hear! The thing is though, do I have to do AS Spanish to prove I can speak/write/read some Spanish? I mean, by the time I do the AS and get whatever grade I achieve, I may forget it by the time I have to use it... if that happens then I will have a qualification that shows that I was formerly able to speak the language at a satisfactory level, but not at present.

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
It would certainly not hinder your application to take biology as well, and the universities would like to see you'd done so much science (they like 'hard' subjects). However, some schools and colleges don't allow students to do more than 3 A-levels, and some don't provide further maths courses. Thus it would be unfair on those students if universities required extra A-levels or further maths, and I don't think they're even allowed to.
If they like 'hard' subjects, then that is good news. I am planning to do AS/A2 that are all science-oriented (besides Spanish). The thing is, though, I am finding GCSE biology really boring... I fear that I may be taking an A-level that I may do poorly in because I am not interested in it. I can do well in something I don't like... but is it okay to pursue an A-level that doesn't interest you just to say you can get an A* in a 'hard' subject like biology?

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
If you're interested in the entry requirements of Russel Group universities, just browse some:

http://www.manchester.ac.uk/undergra.../atoz/?index=P
http://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/under...ses/index.html
http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/ugprospectus/whatcanyoustudy

Notice than none actually require further maths - its a bonus which they'll like, but not essential. None ask for more than three A levels.
Thank you for the links. I am looking at potentially courses that would match what I would like to do.

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
I really stress that you shouldn't worry about it now! Just do what subjects really interest you, and then think about university when you start doing A-levels properly.
The subjects that interest me are maths, chemistry, and physics. I used to enjoy English (analysis/deconstruction of literary texts/poetry, that sort of stuff), but now I've gone completely off of that, and I probably won't get higher than an A at GCSE for them (A* if I am lucky as the coursework marks will push up my grade).

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
Don't know why your school wouldn't pay for it all frankly. They love to show off students with excellent academic achievement so its in their interest. Don't forget, universities will give good bursaries or scholarships to students who get good grades and are not from a wealthy background.
My school doesn't have a history of people doing exceptionally well; we are pretty much average, getting the 'right' number of A*-C / passes at GCSE and A-level. I would also be the first person in my school's history to do a maths A-level early (or so I am told)... so it is understandable to be reluctant to enter me, I guess. But, I don't think I will get a scholarship... I mean I know there will always be millions of people who will do better than me and will be better than me in every aspect, so I just want to increase the probability of getting in. I would really like a scholarship, but for me it seems like a dream.

Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
Example, a while back Manchester were offering £5000 per year scholarship for anyone who got 3 A's and whos family income was less than some threshold. (Don't know if its still the case) Compare that to the £75 for a maths A-level? Not much is it! :D Oxford and Imperial had similar schemes.
That is interesting... so do you think it is worth it to pay £75 for a maths A-level? (It would mean I would leave with 5 AS x 5 A2 instead of 4 AS x 4 A2.)

Thank you for your reply! It was very helpful.

Sometimes I just feel like I am underachieving. When I was a year 9 student, I wanted to understand Galois theory by Year 11, for example. Now, here I am, I know some very, very simple basics about Galois theory, but really when I think about it I know nothing at all. I feel like I haven't progressed. I feel like what I've done in 2 years I could have learned in 2 months...
JesseC
JesseC is offline
#7
Feb16-11, 05:35 PM
P: 281
You're the only person capable of weighing up all the factors about coming to a decision on taking maths early. Whatever you decide, you'll be fine in the long run I'm sure.

I mean... give it a little while and you'll forget you even did A-levels, let alone GCSEs! :)

So don't worry! Carry on doing what you're doing and you'll be fine.
FeDeX_LaTeX
FeDeX_LaTeX is offline
#8
Feb16-11, 05:43 PM
P: 425
Hello;

Thank you for your reply.

I was also thinking about the possibilities of workload-shortening... e.g. doing 2 A-levels in Year 13, as I would have already done 1-2 A-levels in Year 11-12. Do you think that is wise?
FeDeX_LaTeX
FeDeX_LaTeX is offline
#9
Mar3-11, 02:51 PM
P: 425
Hello;

By tomorrow (4th March 2011) I must decide whether or not I will be entering for 4 modules or 6 modules.

I will be able to enter 4 modules for free, but if I enter 6, I will have to pay at least £20 per module, maximum £25 (so between £40-50 in total). I must achieve a minimum grade of B to be entered for the rest for free in the next year.

I will be doing C1, C2, C3, C4, M1, and S1. Here are the exam dates;

C1 - 18th May AM (76 days)
M1 - 18th May AM (76 days)
S1 - 20th May PM (78 days)
C2 - 26th May AM (84 days)
C3 - 16th June PM (105 days)
C4 - 20th June AM (109 days)

I am aiming for A* in all of these modules as I would have to pay for a resit and doing resit supposedly compromises my place at Oxbridge (they apparently "don't like people doing resits").

Do Oxbridge really care about what mark you get in each module? For example, if I get an 85 in S1, and 93+ in the rest and get A* overall, will they care? Or do they just look at the overall grade?

Also, do you think it is better to do 4 modules in June 2011, 4 modules in Jan 2012, 4 modules in June 2012? This way it is more 'even' and I have more time to focus on GCSEs too. I could do 6 modules in June 2011, 3 modules in Jan 2012 and 3 modules in June 2012, but this would mean I would have to work harder, and average a little over learning a module every 2 weeks. That's manageable, but I have other GCSEs/coursework to work on as well.

Have to make decision by tomorrow (13 hours). If I did 6 in June, then I would have the satisfaction of completing the whole A-level maths and wouldn't have to worry about it next year (where I'd focus only on Further Maths, with no independent study). But I think taking 4 modules now in June, then 4 in Jan and 4 in June 2012 would be best since I'd end up with the same result. However it would just mean I'd be a bit behind compared to the Further Maths group, who would be 2 modules ahead (they would've done C4 + S1). The 4 that I would have done would be C1, C2, C3 and M1.

Assuming I do 6, then my studies would look like this, according to my 'timetable';

Finish learning C1 + S1 by 20th March (17 days)
Finish learning M1 by 3rd April (31 days)
Finish learning C2 by 24th April (52 days)
Finish learning C3 by 15th May (73 days)
Finish learning C4 by 5th June (94 days)

At present I have almost finished C1 and about half-way through S1. With C1 I just need to go through solomon papers, since, although I can answer about 95% of questions, the solomon papers throw in the hardest possible type of question they would ask, so I want to be able to get 100% in a solomon paper too.

I also have other exams to do...

Business - 2 exams
Spanish - 2 exams + 1 oral exam
Physics - 2 exams
Chemistry - 1 exam
Biology - 1 exam
English - 1 exam
English Lit. - 1 exam
Geography - 4 exams + 10-hour controlled coursework assessment in one day
Maths - 2 exams
Statistics - 1 exam
R.E. - 1 exam
Mépris
Mépris is offline
#10
Mar3-11, 09:42 PM
P: 826
I've been reading a fair bit about Oxford and Cambridge as of late. With regards to applying and offers; if they say extra curricular activities don't matter, who are we to say they do? Grades, a good interview and a good PS, are what gets you an offer, from what I gather, at least.

I really don't want to give out the wrong advice, but hey, I admire you for all the work you put in. At sixteen, I was far, very far from a quarter of the work you seem to be doing.

Man, if you want to do Physics or Engineering, all you need are Maths, Further Maths and Physics at A2. Maybe Chemistry too; which would also allow you to do Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry and Medicine (yes, without Bio!), among other subjects. Anything else is overkill, I think, unless it's a language which might help you if, like one of the above posters mentioned, if you want to do a "Year in Europe". Imperial offers that and I just checked their page for "Physics with a Year in Europe" and they say that a GCSE in the language is all that's enough but an A2 or AS level would only give the candidate an edge.

As for Biology, I might be biased but I was in a similar spot for it, there were some parts I really enjoyed and there were some others I just couldn't be bothered about and I ended up not liking the subject at all, mostly because of bad school teachers though. I got a B without much work and I doubt I'd want to do this em, "thing" at school again! Yes, if you feel Bio can get boring, simple, don't do it. As I said above, I am fairly confident that Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry are more than enough.

I'm doing Maths, Chemistry and Physics at A2, with French at AS (only because I know I can get an A after a bit of work, on it) and General Studies. (because it's compulsory if I want to be eligible for a national scholarship)
I would have done further maths if I could but it's not offered at the school I go to, nor at the one I was at before. At any rate, I have to finish that mother by October, so I can sit for exams then. I'm doing this in one year, if that fails, I'm doing it again next year. So much for having f'd up Year 12. Anyway, good luck man. I hope my advice is of some kind of use/help to you. (:
mal4mac
mal4mac is offline
#11
Mar4-11, 11:24 AM
P: 1,036
FeDeX_LaTeX - Why are you thinking of taking biology A level if you are finding GCSE boring? I did biology A level, but I liked the subject! I found languages boring so I didn't take a language! It's great being able to drop subjects that bore you when you get to A level... Your original plan, slightly modified, sounds better to me:

First year - AS in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, [Subject you like, not Biology...]
Second year - A2 in Physics, Chemistry, Further Mathematics

Socialising at lunchtime gets a lot better in the sixth form, take time and off and play darts or chat to girls...

Oxbridge are looking for *rounded* individuals, not *just* exam machines. You'll need the three A's certainly, but instead of doing all that extra exam stuff why not, for instance, volunteer for some kind of community work, take up a sport, learn to play a musical instrument, work in Spain as a tennis coach - whatever floats your boat - rather than taking another A level...
FeDeX_LaTeX
FeDeX_LaTeX is offline
#12
Mar5-11, 10:47 AM
P: 425
Hello;

Thank you for all your comments. I have just been entered by my teacher for 4 modular exams in May/June (C1, C2, C3, M1). It was completely free, and I will complete the Further Maths course by the end of Year 12. The great thing is that if I ever feel too stressed about the exams and feel like I'm not going to be able to do it, she can withdraw me from the exams and I can do the normal Maths + Further Maths course in Years 12 and 13.

Man, if you want to do Physics or Engineering, all you need are Maths, Further Maths and Physics at A2. Maybe Chemistry too; which would also allow you to do Chemical Engineering, Biochemistry and Medicine (yes, without Bio!), among other subjects. Anything else is overkill, I think, unless it's a language which might help you if, like one of the above posters mentioned, if you want to do a "Year in Europe". Imperial offers that and I just checked their page for "Physics with a Year in Europe" and they say that a GCSE in the language is all that's enough but an A2 or AS level would only give the candidate an edge.
I would like to pursue a career in mathematics or physics. I did not know that you could study medicine without studying biology at A-level! A language I am a little wary of; I would be studying it in Year 13 having done no language in Year 12 if that were the case. The "Year in Europe" course sounds interesting, I will research this.

As for Biology, I might be biased but I was in a similar spot for it, there were some parts I really enjoyed and there were some others I just couldn't be bothered about and I ended up not liking the subject at all, mostly because of bad school teachers though. I got a B without much work and I doubt I'd want to do this em, "thing" at school again! Yes, if you feel Bio can get boring, simple, don't do it. As I said above, I am fairly confident that Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry are more than enough.
I think I could learn to like Biology if I did not get taught it by a teacher, because I tend to find it boring if a teacher teaches it. My current teacher is poor and absent from our lessons at least 70% of the time. The thing is, I don't really know what else to pick in place of Biology... there are lots of subjects that I don't enjoy either. Business, Geography, RE, English, ICT... they all seem very boring to me. Spanish is the only one that I prefer a little bit more. I just can't seem to make up my mind between Spanish and Biology... I don't see myself picking anything else, except maybe Psychology which I would only do for AS.

I'm doing Maths, Chemistry and Physics at A2, with French at AS (only because I know I can get an A after a bit of work, on it) and General Studies. (because it's compulsory if I want to be eligible for a national scholarship)
I would have done further maths if I could but it's not offered at the school I go to, nor at the one I was at before. At any rate, I have to finish that mother by October, so I can sit for exams then. I'm doing this in one year, if that fails, I'm doing it again next year. So much for having f'd up Year 12. Anyway, good luck man. I hope my advice is of some kind of use/help to you. (:
Do you really need General Studies to get a national scholarship? Hmm... I will have to look into this. Thanks, your advice was really useful!

FeDeX_LaTeX - Why are you thinking of taking biology A level if you are finding GCSE boring? I did biology A level, but I liked the subject! I found languages boring so I didn't take a language! It's great being able to drop subjects that bore you when you get to A level... Your original plan, slightly modified, sounds better to me:

First year - AS in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, [Subject you like, not Biology...]
Second year - A2 in Physics, Chemistry, Further Mathematics
The main reason is that I don't really know what else to take. I am quite sure that the reason I am finding it boring is because of my teacher, and if I did more study independently (which will happen at A-level) I might begin to enjoy it more. The teacher makes it awful at GCSE.

By the end of the "first year" I will have finished Further Maths, so a spot is freed up in Year 13. I can do well in a subject even if I find it boring, and I am prepared to do something boring if I can get a good grade in it; for example I hate Religious Studies very much but it is easy to get an A* in it.

One reason I like being able to do the AS/A2 maths/further maths early is that I have a lot of control over the workload in Year 13 - I can choose to do only Physics in Year 13 for example, which would still be sufficient for university. Although, I probably would end up picking another A-level at the very least because it seems a little lazy to do just one subject in a year.

Oxbridge are looking for *rounded* individuals, not *just* exam machines. You'll need the three A's certainly, but instead of doing all that extra exam stuff why not, for instance, volunteer for some kind of community work, take up a sport, learn to play a musical instrument, work in Spain as a tennis coach - whatever floats your boat - rather than taking another A level...
I agree with doing extra-curricular activities. I have done a lot of things in school that I can say, for example, performing in multiple musical performances at my school, starting/helping with running of after-school clubs, being a speaker (doing speeches, etc), and other stuff too. I also voluntarily work for a company that helps to stimulate learning in young children. However I think I can do this as well as take another A-level...

Socialising at lunchtime gets a lot better in the sixth form, take time and off and play darts or chat to girls...
My whole life I have socialised not a lot, but enough so that I don't turn into a socially awkward person. I am the type of person who doesn't really like to chill out because it starts to feel like I am wasting time. Sure I can play darts and chat to girls and whatnot, but when I do these things I feel like my time would be better spent with something more productive... I can't think of another way of putting it.

Thank you all for your comments and advice, it was much appreciated!
Mépris
Mépris is offline
#13
Mar5-11, 10:38 PM
P: 826
King's College, London, for one, does require Biology and Chemistry at A2. Imperial College London, Oxford and Cambridge, on the other hand, only require Chemistry and any other two of: Biology, Physics or Maths. My point was, with these subjects, you can do lots, lots of things.

You're sixteen. You'll be surprised as to how quickly your thoughts and ambitions can change at that age but I'll give you that, I think you're on the right track. Most sixteen year olds I've known throughout my life, including me, had barely an inkling of what they'd be interested in.

As for the national scholarship I talked about; yes, we do the Higher School Certificate here, which consists of 3 A2 subjects and 2 at AS, with one of them having to be General Studies. We actually call it General Paper but yeah, you gotta do it in that format to be eligible to compete for it and it's a crazy race; I've heard of people with straight A*s who fell short. ;)
FeDeX_LaTeX
FeDeX_LaTeX is offline
#14
Mar15-11, 02:50 PM
P: 425
Hello;

Thank you for your reply.

The way it stands is, I am unsure whether I want to be a mathematician or a physicist. It is most likely one of the two; I simply can't see myself being anything else. I don't exhibit any kind of passion for any other subject like I do with mathematics or physics; there is an intrinsic satisfaction that I achieve from doing it, that I don't feel with anything else. It's difficult to explain, because everyone in my year hates mathematics, and I am the only one who will be doing Further Mathematics (there is one person who wants to do it, but he is currently achieving grade G in GCSE Mathematics, so it will be a bit more difficult for him I think, as my college requires minimum A to take the course, preferably A*).

I am aware that my ambitions may change; but I don't know what that may change to. Since I was nine, perhaps even younger, I have wanted to be a mathematician... when I was a young child, for example, aged about 5, I could compute calculations such as 1332*167 within 10 seconds mentally. Of course, mental arithmetic is such a small part of mathematics, but I liked the fact that I was able to do it, and what's more is that I very much enjoyed it (more so other kinds of mathematics than arithmetic). At my current age I am not that much quicker but I'm still able to do it. But the main point is that I have always wanted to be a mathematician.

However, I have wanted to be a physicist for not very long. I was unaware of how mathematical physics can be in my ignorance; when I was 13-14, my physics class involved teaching moments and forces, which I found a little bit boring. I thought that that was all physics was, and if I hadn't met my current teacher I would have continued to think that. I had no idea that physics could produce such incredible concepts and provoke such deep thought. So I have thought about becoming a physicist only since a few months before my 15th birthday.

The problem lies in that I am very useless with my hands. Extremely useless. For example, when setting up a parallel circuit with a bulb, voltmeter and variable resistor, I took about 7 minutes to set it up when other people could do it in a matter of seconds. I don't know why, but no matter how hard I practice, I am still slow, yet on paper I can do it very easily. And what really bothers me is that there is a practical exam for A-level physics, where this is assessed under timed conditions. I can set up a circuit, it's just so much harder for me to visualise when I have to deal with all the loopy wires. Does this mean that I am simply not cut out for experimental physics at all, since I can't even set up a simple circuit without being extremely hesistant to connect everything together?

Ideally, I would like my option selections to look like this;

Year 11 - AS Mathematics + A2 Mathematics
Year 12 - AS Further Mathematics + A2 Further Mathematics, AS Biology, AS Chemistry, AS Physics
Year 13 - AS Further Mathematics (Additional) + A2 Further Mathematics (Additional), A2 Biology, A2 Chemistry, A2 Physics, AS Spanish

Leading to 7 AS and 6 A2. However, you can think of this as a bit like studying 5 AS and 4 A2; due to timetabling issues this is impossible, of course, but AS/A2 Further Mathematics (Additional) in Year 13 will be studied independently and I will enter as a private candidate. My rationale for doing this and not simply stopping after Further Maths is simple; by the end of Year 12 I will have finished Further Maths, and will not be studying mathematics in Year 13. If I am not studying any kind of mathematics, I fear I may become worse, so I will consistently be trying to ready my mathematical knowledge. I feel that being entered for formal exams will motivate me to study harder. I am able to pick up modules quite quickly (thus far), and hopefully I will achieve the grades I want in the mathematics A-levels. The Further Mathematics (Additional) course is more for knowledge and a love for mathematics, rather than the qualification.

However, I worry that, at GCSE, I won't get the same as my mock grades... for example, coursework was not taken into account. For statistics, I got full marks in the mock paper, but in the coursework, due to me being absent I received only an hour to complete statistics coursework compared to 5 hours which was supposed to be given, so I rushed and got something like 12/40. So my statistics grade may be borderline A/B. This feeds on me all the time, and I worry about it to the extent that I fear it may compromise my university place. It is the same with my chemistry coursework. I achieved 100 UMS in both chemistry exams, but because I had to rush it I will probably end up with a worse grade than I could have potentially achieved, and this may affect me overall considering the final exam is more difficult than the previous two.

What if I end up getting 3A*, 6A and 3B instead of a stream of A*s that my teachers, my peers, my parents, and my college expect me to get? Will this make it impossible for me to go to Oxbridge? It so happens that the APS I would get from those grades is enough to be entered for the course I want at LaSwap... but I just feel that I will face several years of disappointment if I end up getting 3 A* compared to my predicted 12 A*. What if this happens at A-level? Then my career ambitions are dashed...

Also, if I do get into a university, but it is one that no one has ever heard of or is generally considered to be a poor university (for example, it is associated with students doing poorly in examinations), would that compromise my career pathways? If I became a physicist at such a university, would I forever not feel fulfilment?

I understand that, my life cannot be represented by a piece of paper. But I have been told bluntly that, if I don't get good GCSE grades, then my life is in trouble and suddenly all the things that I want to achieve become almost impossible. For example, in the future, I would like to make some kind of contribution to mathematics or physics that is new in the field - not something big (although that would be nice), just something, anything in my lifetime so that I can say I helped the field in some way. But would this be made impossible if I did not do well at school?

Thanks for all of your replies.
Series
Series is offline
#15
Mar15-11, 04:09 PM
P: 31
Quote Quote by JesseC View Post
Example, a while back Manchester were offering £5000 per year scholarship for anyone who got 3 A's and whos family income was less than some threshold. (Don't know if its still the case) Compare that to the £75 for a maths A-level? Not much is it! :D Oxford and Imperial had similar schemes.
Manchester offer £3000 per year, and similar for Oxford and Cambridge. Imperial offers £3,500 per year which is the largest that I know of.
FeDeX_LaTeX
FeDeX_LaTeX is offline
#16
Mar15-11, 06:19 PM
P: 425
Hello;

I did not know those were the prices. I was told Oxbridge's prices were far greater... thank you for your reply!
mal4mac
mal4mac is offline
#17
Mar16-11, 09:35 AM
P: 1,036
Some advice here:

http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Into-Oxbridge

Interesting they say that going for five A levels is worse than going for four!

Quote Quote by FeDeX_LaTeX View Post

... I am unsure whether I want to be a mathematician or a physicist. It is most likely one of the two; I simply can't see myself being anything else. I don't exhibit any kind of passion for any other subject like I do with mathematics or physics; there is an intrinsic satisfaction that I achieve from doing it, that I don't feel with anything else. It's difficult to explain, because everyone in my year hates mathematics, and I am the only one who will be doing Further Mathematics ...
This is a great personal statement, stick it on the application form for the Cambridge "Mathematics + Physics" course:

http://www.cam.ac.uk/admissions/unde...courses/maths/

Quote Quote by FeDeX_LaTeX View Post
I am aware that my ambitions may change; but I don't know what that may change to. Since I was nine, perhaps even younger, I have wanted to be a mathematician...
In the UK it is better to be certain at 16 than in the US! You have to get real about what you want to do when choosing A levels. As "wikihow" says, such *total* commitment will look good on the application form. Any dithering about "I wanna do physics, but I might wanna do medicine cause mummy says it's the right thing to do" will get you rejected for procrastination.

Quote Quote by FeDeX_LaTeX View Post
The problem lies in that I am very useless with my hands. Extremely useless. For example, when setting up a parallel circuit with a bulb, voltmeter and variable resistor, I took about 7 minutes to set it up when other people could do it in a matter of seconds. I don't know why, but no matter how hard I practice, I am still slow, yet on paper I can do it very easily. And what really bothers me is that there is a practical exam for A-level physics, where this is assessed under timed conditions. I can set up a circuit, it's just so much harder for me to visualise when I have to deal with all the loopy wires. Does this mean that I am simply not cut out for experimental physics at all, since I can't even set up a simple circuit without being extremely hesistant to connect everything together?
Probably! But don't worry, not all physicists (and no mathematicians!) get their hands dirty. Many theoretical physicists have been proud about their lack of practical ability, and talk about Max Planck, who had zero practical ability - supposedly every experiment in physics failed when he was in town for a conference :)

Why on Earth are you thinking of doing Biology, Chemistry, Spanish. All a waste of time! Makes you look like a waverer, the interviewer will think you are not really interested enough in Mathematics (Physics) Read carefully, and read between the lines:

http://www.maths.cam.ac.uk/undergrad...ions/guide.pdf

It says "do as much mathematics as possible". It would be far better to prepare for STEP than doing all those other subjects. Knowing this guide *backwards* and *carefully* taking all the steps it recommends would probably be the equivalent of doing A levels in Spanish and Biology - and a whole heap more useful.

Look *really* hard at what Cambridge, and other universities you apply for, like Imperial want from their applicants. Don't listen to parents or teachers - the colleges are *the* experts in this! The only people that matter...

Some holiday reading: Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction by Timothy Gowers (Fields medallist and Cambridge prof., with lots of advice for prospective candidates as well as great advice about studying mathematics/physics!)
FeDeX_LaTeX
FeDeX_LaTeX is offline
#18
Mar21-11, 04:34 PM
P: 425
Hello;

Thanks for your reply. (I accidentally closed my window while writing a much longer reply so this reply is a little short, my apologies)

Quote Quote by mal4mac View Post
In the UK it is better to be certain at 16 than in the US! You have to get real about what you want to do when choosing A levels. As "wikihow" says, such *total* commitment will look good on the application form. Any dithering about "I wanna do physics, but I might wanna do medicine cause mummy says it's the right thing to do" will get you rejected for procrastination.
In truth, I would love to study maths and physics for A-level and nothing else, given the choice. I have always loved mathematics, and I have developed a passion for physics, too. However, I have heard of people who were rejected from universities for not taking an A-level in chemistry, or another science. Regarding the 'Maths with Physics' course at Cambridge, I have seen this too! For me, this sounds like the ideal course I would take. Unfortunately, there is a high probability I may not get into Cambridge given the competition that there is. Therefore, I don't want to be put in a bad position because I only took 4 A-levels, but only in maths and physics (3 maths + 1 physics).

I have been told that universities like 'diverse' people whose lives are not entirely maths-oriented, so I want to try and show this 'diversity' by taking other subjects, such as biology, chemistry, or Spanish. In addition, if I were to only take the 3 maths a-levels and physics, this would put me in an awkward situation. This would mean that, in Year 13, whilst most of my peers would be doing 3-4 A-levels, I would be doing 2; 1 of which I would not even be attending lessons for. This sounds like a very nice idea at first, but I don't think my school would approve of this because the workload is seemingly small (1 A-level + self study of another).

Of course during this time I would also be preparing for STEP, which is another reason for wanting to do this. I essentially 'already have' an AS in maths, though I have not taken it yet (I have studied C1 + C2 modules for maths and have yet to drop a mark in any test papers, and M1 is almost finished). Therefore we can decrease the workload like so;

Year 11 - AS Maths + A2 Maths
Year 12 - AS Further Maths + A2 Further Maths + AS Physics + AS Chemistry
Year 13 - AS Further Maths Additional + A2 Further Maths Additional + A2 Physics

This leads to me achieving 5 AS x 4 A2. I think, now that I have considered what you have told me, this seems better. Now I just need to find out if they'll let me do this...

Probably! But don't worry, not all physicists (and no mathematicians!) get their hands dirty. Many theoretical physicists have been proud about their lack of practical ability, and talk about Max Planck, who had zero practical ability - supposedly every experiment in physics failed when he was in town for a conference :)
Haha, I didn't know that! I hope I don't have to do too many practicals at university if I pick a course that involves maths and physics. I had a friend who picked Astrophysics as one of her courses simply because it would involve no practicals! My physics teacher on the other hand, told me that I would never become a physicist if I couldn't set up a circuit with ease.

Why on Earth are you thinking of doing Biology, Chemistry, Spanish. All a waste of time! Makes you look like a waverer, the interviewer will think you are not really interested enough in Mathematics (Physics) Read carefully, and read between the lines:

http://www.maths.cam.ac.uk/undergrad...ions/guide.pdf

It says "do as much mathematics as possible". It would be far better to prepare for STEP than doing all those other subjects. Knowing this guide *backwards* and *carefully* taking all the steps it recommends would probably be the equivalent of doing A levels in Spanish and Biology - and a whole heap more useful.
I am not doing the biology anymore. I have come to terms with what I want to study and what I don't, and disecting hearts and testing pondwater on field trips just isn't for me (this is what is done in the A-level specification). Whilst biology may be interesting to study independently, it's not something I would ever do as a career or for formal study.

Do you think that, when they say "do as much mathematics as possible", do they mean that in terms of what you study, or can this be things such as maths tutoring, or volunteering to be a teacher for a maths class, or writing for a mathematics magazine, or conducting independent mathematical research, etc.?

My rationale for taking Spanish at AS would be because of the physics course someone mentioned at Imperial, where it would put me at an advantage. But having thought about it, given that I am set to achieve A* in GCSE Spanish and I would be able to do the course with this, I don't see a need to do the AS as it would just be a little more advantageous, but not necessary.

Look *really* hard at what Cambridge, and other universities you apply for, like Imperial want from their applicants. Don't listen to parents or teachers - the colleges are *the* experts in this! The only people that matter...

Some holiday reading: Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction by Timothy Gowers (Fields medallist and Cambridge prof., with lots of advice for prospective candidates as well as great advice about studying mathematics/physics!)
Thank you for your post. I have been thinking very hard about what I should do. I have decided to scrap biology and potentially Spanish as well. Chemistry AS I obviously have to keep, because my college won't let me do so little in Year 12 (I would be expected to be doing at least 3 AS, if I scrapped chemistry that number would be reduced to 2 AS, which doesn't sound very impressive).

Do you think I could, perhaps, do something like this? I don't know if my college would allow it but I like this idea;

Year 11 - AS Maths, A2 Maths
Year 12 - AS Further Maths, A2 Further Maths, AS Physics
Year 13 - AS Further Maths Additional, A2 Further Maths Additional, A2 Physics

I end up with 4AS x 4A2, which I have heard is average for a Cambridge applicant, plus the majority will not have studied all 18 modules of mathematics. Not only that but I hate chemistry practicals and the course that my college offers is really boring, almost no mathematical reasoning is applied...

Thanks!

EDIT: Also, now that I think about it, would I be putting myself at a slight disadvantage by doing this? For example, in future, if an employer looked at me and saw that I only had 3 A-levels in Maths and 1 in Physics (and the same for AS), would they not employ me because it isn't very "diverse"?


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