|Feb11-11, 03:37 PM||#1|
Taking A-Level Early (Maths)
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...
|Feb11-11, 06:21 PM||#2|
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!
|Feb11-11, 07:22 PM||#3|
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
|Feb12-11, 05:00 AM||#4|
Taking A-Level Early (Maths)
Thank you very much for your replies.
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.
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?
|Feb12-11, 09:07 AM||#5|
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:
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.
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.
|Feb16-11, 04:32 PM||#6|
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...
|Feb16-11, 05:35 PM||#7|
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.
|Feb16-11, 05:43 PM||#8|
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?
|Mar3-11, 02:51 PM||#9|
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
|Mar3-11, 09:42 PM||#10|
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. (:
|Mar4-11, 11:24 AM||#11|
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...
|Mar5-11, 10:47 AM||#12|
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.
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.
Thank you all for your comments and advice, it was much appreciated!
|Mar5-11, 10:38 PM||#13|
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. ;)
|Mar15-11, 02:50 PM||#14|
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.
|Mar15-11, 04:09 PM||#15|
|Mar15-11, 06:19 PM||#16|
I did not know those were the prices. I was told Oxbridge's prices were far greater... thank you for your reply!
|Mar16-11, 09:35 AM||#17|
Some advice here:
Interesting they say that going for five A levels is worse than going for four!
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:
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!)
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