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AEA Physics/STEP

  1. Jun 1, 2010 #1
    Hi there, I'm halfway through taking my AS levels at the moment, and I'm looking ahead to universities applications. I stumbled across AEA and STEP exams and I am interested in taking them (the past papers look reasonable to me) but I have a couple of questions to you, the wise members of PF...

    a) How much will these exams (if done well) improve my chances of being accepted into my first choice universities? (I'm looking at Warwick and Imperial as being my top choices at the moment) On the AEA website it says that a distinction is worth 40 UCAS points, and a merit is worth 20 UCAS points, but will a university look at good marks on AEA above looking at UCAS scores, which essentially are only there to get you into an interview?

    b) Is the AEA paper taken at the end of A2, or at the end of AS (in which case I am afraid I will have missed the boat)? If it is taken at the end of A2, then surely it is entirely futile with regards to university applications as you will have already received an offer (and may even be at university?) by the time results come out...

    c) Is it worth it? It seems like quite a punishing 3-hour exam which is only going to add stress to exams...

    d) Off-track slightly, would you advise that I look into taking one of the STEP exams if I am going to be applying for (Theoretical) Physics courses at university?

    Sorry for the ramble, cheers in advance for your help :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2010 #2
    First word before I answer, the information i'm posting is based on open/acceptance days i've attended at UK universities (one of them being warwick). Things may have changed (i applied this year, will be going to university in September).

    a) Not at all i'm afraid, they won't hurt your chances at all, but Universities use strict criteria when assessing applicants. Such as 1) Grades/Subjects (cut out people below a baseline instantly), 2) Personal Statement. and 3) Depending on the University, interviews. When i was at an open day at Leeds someone asked "Would taking a Step exam help an applicant?" the reply was "if the person chooses to stretch themselves in that way we encourage them to do so however the exam won't be taken into account in offers or required grades." There was a similar question at Warwick. From experience Imperial is slightly different, I know one person who's offer takes into account AEA but their offer is AAAA or AAA & a distinction in AEA. So the AEA offer is much harder anyway. Unless it's specifically in their standard offer, it's unlikely it'll have any effect at all on your application.

    b) The end of A2, it will have no effect on your application for Physics/Theoretical Physics, indeed. (For pure maths AEA/step is required at a select few universities, Imperial/Cambridge/Warwick offers can all include them, but none for Theoretical physics (at least when i applied)).

    c) You could argue it's not worth it in terms of grades, but you'd push yourself to be a much much better physicist/mathematician which A-Levels (including f.maths) needs you to be. It can be a fantastic challenge. One which I regret not taking (i'm taking fmath/phys/chem having already got an a* in maths). Unfortunately my school didn't really push anyone non-mathsy towards AEA or Step, so despite being predicted A*A*A*A I didn't really end up considering AEA properly until past the deadline. It's good that you're considering it yourself.

    d) Look into it, sure, as I said above, it would push you to be a better mathematician and put you ahead of the curve in your first year, but I think it would have little impact on your application.

    Best of luck, if you have any questions feel free to ask.
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2010
  4. Jun 1, 2010 #3
    You sound like a similar (but academically superior) version of me :P

    I'm taking Maths/Phys/Chem/Economics this year, and Maths/Phys/Chem/FMaths AS as my school doesn't really allow for people to take FMaths as a full A-level yadda yadda... it's a stupid system, I know. Hopefully after AS results i'll be predicted A*A*A for my three full A Level subjects, with A's in both Economics and Fmaths.

    I'm all for personal development, so I think I will enquire about taking both STEP and AEA just to have a higher target to aim for than A-levels as i've done a lot of background reading but nowhere to really apply it at the moment.

    May I ask which universities you applied to/received offers from?

    Thanks for the fast reply and helpful demeanour :)
  5. Jun 1, 2010 #4
    I'd definitely go for it if i were you, but my advice is secure the A-Level grades you need - this can be done by January of A2 year if you work hard enough for the AS & January modules (i need 16/120 in my final physics exam for an A because I did so much work for the previous ones). Then go crazy on Step/AEA, you won't regret it.

    I really wanted to do a year abroad in France so I mainly applied to Universities where that's possible/ are part of the Erasmus scheme. Received offers from Birmingham/UCL/Bristol/Warwick and rejected from Oxford, will be studying at Birmingham in October hopefully. Money was quite a big factor for me so that's why I chose Birmingham. I'd definitely consider doing a year abroad if I were you, i'm looking forward to it already and i'm hoping it'll really break up my course nicely.

    Which universities are you thinking of applying to? Apart from warwick/imperial? It's an exciting experience.
  6. Jun 1, 2010 #5
    I think AEA is just for kicks. The questions are actually interesting sometimes though.
    STEP isn't really for kicks. It was probably the worst experience of my life lol. Including the lead up to it too.
    (I did well but I got so little sleep and made myself sick and so on. And didn't enjoy our leavers' prom which was directly after. Guess it was worth it though xD)
  7. Jun 2, 2010 #6
    Again, another annoyance of my school is that we don't do any modules in January (mainly so that those applying for Medicine can be accomodated for because they have to do all their exams in one sitting from what I've heard - which is fair enough) but I'm confident with my AS exams so far, I've got the three unit 2 exams for Chem/Phys/Econ to go though... I'll enquire at my school about AEA when I get back.

    I'm not really interested in a year abroad, I can see why many people are, it does sound like a great opportunity, but I don't think it would really be for me. I'm hopefully going to go for a Masters, what degree have you actually applied for?

    I'm 90% sure that I'll be applying to Imperial, Warwick, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham, depending on my AS (I may replace Imperial with say, Southampton).

    Haha, one of my friends had a similar experience to this, he absolutely hated but then came out with a great mark. I just hope my school can facilitate for AEA exams now. >.<
  8. Jun 2, 2010 #7
    Ah that really sucks that you can't do January modules, that'll make it alot more challenging, especially for Chemistry which is a bit of a nightmare at A2, so much to learn ;P (at least for me). I've applied to do an MSci Physics with International Study so i'll go away in my third year.

    Best of luck in your following AS modules, i've still got to take s3/m3/fp1/2/3 aswell as chem & phys 5 in the next few weeks so i'm trying to do alot of work aswell =P.
  9. Jun 2, 2010 #8
    Yeah, I am not looking forward to Chemistry A2 really... I'm counting on it being more interesting than AS so at least I might apply myself more during the year. Good choice on the masters :P.

    And thanks, I wish you every success in your exams aswell. Thanks a lot for your help :)
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