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Should I drop Chemistry?

  1. Sep 7, 2010 #1
    I'm currently going into my second year of A-levels and my A-levels are Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry. I didn't take Further Maths from the beginning though so I'm doing the entire A-level in one year on top of A2 Maths.

    My predicted grades are:
    Maths: A*
    Further Maths: A
    Physics: A*
    Chemistry: A*

    I want to do a Maths & Physics joint degree course. Personally I feel dropping Chemistry would allow me to get the best marks possible, maybe even an A* in Further Maths. The extra time I'd get would mean I'd have more time to study the subjects outside of the A-level syllabus. So my question is, should I drop Chemistry?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2010 #2
    You don't mention where you'd like to do the degree!

    I think that will influence the advice, since at Oxbridge (an example, don't know if they do maths & physics joint honours) you would be up against people with 4 A*s or even more. If you pick a less competitive institution, 2 or 3 A*s, or even less, might be fine.

    On the other hand, I don't think chemistry A2 would benefit you much in a maths & physics program, so you wouldn't be any less well prepared for the degree by dropping it. If you do extra study and spend more time on maths & physics, you'd probably be slightly better prepared.

    In addition, consider whether you enjoy chemistry or not. Decisions like this should not be made entirely upon issues surrounding grades and university applications!

    I hope that has helped and not hindered your decision...

  4. Sep 7, 2010 #3
    Oxford (main reason why I'm worried about dropping it, but then there's the aptitude test too. Plus it's only straight Physics)

    I enjoy physical chemistry, so things like atoms and ideal gases etc, so basically I enjoy the physics of it :P. I don't really enjoy everything else that much.

    Durham told me they take no account of any extra A-levels which was positive. I think physics at Warwick automatically make you an offer so long as your predicted grades meet the entry requirements so that's good too.
  5. Sep 8, 2010 #4
    Yeah, I don't anticipate you will have any problem at the latter four. So if you'd be happy at one of those, and wouldn't mind hurting your chances with Oxford, dropping Chemistry seems like a reasonable thing to do.

    If you really want to get into Oxford rather than anywhere else though, you'll either have to keep Chemistry or really impress in the interview.

    Do bear in mind that Oxford has not come out quite so highly in recent league tables as one might expect, with Durham and Glasgow coming joint fourth above Oxford in 6th according to the Times Physics table (much more reliable than the Guardian one).

    Another strategy might be to shift some study time spent on Chemistry to Further Maths, and try and shift the A* accordingly... kinda risky though.

    I can see how this is a tough decision! I'd struggle to decide...

    Also, Warwick are giving out places just like that? Did you know universities are fined £3,700 per student they take on over a government set quota? Either Warwick have very high offers or they are burning a lot of money...

  6. Sep 8, 2010 #5
    To be honest, I'd be VERY happy at Warwick and Durham, happy at Manchester and a but disappointed at Lancaster but it's insurance. I'm actually not that fussed about Oxford, but I figure might as well give it a shot than regret not even trying in a few years.

    Personally, I don't trust the league tables. Manchester is usually ridiculously low down on them and Manchester is a great university. The league tables are based on ridiculous measures, the international ones tend to be better though.

    I know, it's strange the guy from Warwick said that. So I'm taking it with a pinch of salt. But he said ~900 offers are made out of ~1000 applicants. I guess it means a LOT of applicants don't make their offer and Warwick are strict on people meeting their offer.

    Edit: I think I may actually have a problem with the other universities. Overall for my Physics AS I got an A but for the second module I got a B, I still got an overall A though cos I got a really high A in the first module. I think I know why it happened; I was complacent and didn't revise and another reason which is a bit embarrassing =/.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2010
  7. Sep 8, 2010 #6
    Ah, excellent rationale. I very much regret not aiming higher than I did, but that's life! Lancaster's physics department seems to have shot up spectacularly over the last few years.

    Yes, all league tables are wrong, and I guess you just have to try and gauge how wrong. I think a lot of people don't trust the world tables either because some fudge the results in various ways.

    900 is a massive intake, I guess a lot of people must fall short...

    If you get an overall A* as you are predicted, that B will almost certainly not even matter. As long as you work hard, revise, and keep up the grades it's looking like you'll be fine, with or without Chemistry.

  8. Sep 8, 2010 #7


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    I cannot really give academic advice, particularly not personalised.

    I think it is a pity students are put in a position when they have to, or anyway do, think like this.
    To me the only worthwhile things to be put as alternatives are chemistry vs 'outside of the A-level syllabus' as with or without chemistry this is already a fairly narrow spectrum. But if you don't do chemistry will you have the energy and discipline to study these subjects? Probably if it they are set subjects with classes. On the other hand everyone needs some general reading and other things that are not 'subjects'.

    In favour of chemistry, is there is far from any strict conservation law whereby what you save by not doing something augments something else by the same amount, it does not work that way. Another is that more than any other subject I can think of, there are things you can never do anywhere else as well as at school. You will never get the experiences of the colours, smells, etc. of these real substances and their reactions that you do at school - possibly not even in University chemistry, there is not the time and facility for it. (I have even seen physicists and mathematicians a bit afraid of it not to say totally clueless - and therefore unable to deal with its applications and extensions into biology, earthsciences and others).
  9. Sep 8, 2010 #8
    I'm sorry, I'm not quite sure I follow what you are saying. However I do have the discipline to self teach, for example I taught myself core 3 and 4 maths over the summer. There's a lot of other things I want to self teach and I want to try and get the best grades possible in maths & physics. I think chemistry may be detrimental to that since it's such a vast subject which doesn't particularly interest me anymore.

    Also, I could have more time for my other hobbies such as the gym. I would have more time to try harder physics problems too and read more books.
  10. Sep 8, 2010 #9
    From a university's perspective that doesn't really seem that bad of a deal. They get almost as much back in tuition and then probably some more through university housing, other fees that may apply or just through any of the university-run businesses who profit from the greater number of students and hence buying power. Taking extra students also doesn't really cost the university that much, since I'm pretty sure they don't expand their facilities for that, whereas that bit of extra paper they have to give out, administration work etc. isn't something to fuss about, either. The impact this greater potential alumni has, however, is far from trivial and they are sure to reap at least some benefits of it in the future, from getting word spread out about the program, hosting a larger number of program-related clubs to getting that extra bit from students due to more intense competition.
  11. Sep 9, 2010 #10
    The lecturer's union (UCU, I think it is?) seems to perceive the fines as a terrible threat to HE, as in my department there are currently union posters up about it all over...

    Also, because the UK government subsidises the cost of degrees, I don't know if that is just a £3,700 "fine" (i.e. cut in subsidy), or all subsidy is withdrawn + the university is fined £3,700.

    I'm not sure what university you went to, e-penguin, but at mine the chemists spend a huge amount of time in the lab handling real chemicals. Given the right module choices, one could easily spend two out of five days a week in the lab.

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