There’s no doubt that certain A-Level subjects work better together than others, not only from a learning perspective but also from a university and future career viewpoint too. When selecting your A-Level subjects, you should always use your desired university course or career path as a basis for your initial choices. The problem comes after this when it can be difficult to decide on the last one or two subjects.
In this guide, we will run through some of the most popular subjects and the A-Levels that complement them to help you out in your decision.
Maths is the most popular A-Level choice and for good reason. Not only does it require a lot of skill and dedication, but the logical nature of the subject helps to refine skills that are applicable in almost every field of work. If you’re thinking of taking Maths then you’re in luck because there are plenty of subjects that work well alongside it.
- Physical Sciences – The physical sciences include Physics, Chemistry and Biology, all of which use and benefit from the skills learnt in Maths. As well as helping in the actual learning of the physical sciences, there is an added benefit in that most university courses and careers that are science-based require or look kindly on applications that include Maths. These two points combined make Maths and the physical sciences a perfect A-Level subject combination
- Psychology/Sociology – Psychology and sociology are both members of an umbrella category called social sciences. Social sciences are extremely varied in topic and approach but all focus on how society functions and many of them are essay-based, theoretical subjects. However, more logical fields like psychology and sociology benefit greatly from the logical skills that Maths brings, primarily because they involve research methods and statistical analysis which both require excellent Maths skills. These two subjects tend to be more valuable if you’re seeking a course or career in relevant fields, otherwise, the physical sciences are usually more valued by universities and employers, but they still make a great addition to your A-Level options
- Economics – A highly specialised social science, economics involves lots of statistical analysis and data manipulation which are both mathematical skills. This is why they make a great A-Level subject combination, compounding each other’s techniques to help you learn the best statistical practices
- Business Studies – Much of business involves arithmetic, from statistical analysis to budgeting and wage management. All these topics can benefit from Maths
Made up of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, physical sciences are the foundation of how we understand the universe. This makes them all highly versatile and useful in a variety of fields, though learning can be assisted by some other A-Level choices too.
- Other Physical Sciences – Arguably the best A-Levels to complement your physical science subject are the other physical sciences. Each one of the physical sciences compounds the knowledge of the others, with Physics/Chemistry and Biology/Chemistry being particularly common A-Level subject combinations
- Maths – As mentioned in the previous section, the physical sciences all make use of different mathematical techniques and can benefit from the support of a Maths A-Level. In particular, Physics and Chemistry rely heavily on mathematical equations, so you should strongly consider Maths as an option if you’re going to study one of those two subjects
English epitomises the classic essay subject, focusing on comprehension, text analysis and strong argument construction. Fortunately, the analytical skills developed in English Literature are a life skill that’s useful in most fields, though if you’re looking to focus on English as your main choice, then you’ll want to add other essay-based, argument-focused subjects to your choices.
- History – History is the perfect subject to complement English Literature. Building on the same investigative and critical thinking skills, History is a great method of refining the same techniques you’ll be using in English
- Philosophy – Another essay-based, argument-focused subject, Philosophy is great for extending your abstract thought processes and understanding of hypothetical topics. This is an especially good subject combination for thought-heavy course choices such as Law
- Modern Foreign Languages – Displaying an excellent grasp of the technicalities behind language, Modern Foreign Languages can help polish understanding of linguistic rules and systems, benefitting your writing in English Literature. On top of the improvement to ease of learning, a Modern Foreign Languages A-Level looks great with both employers and universities
- Specialised Subjects – Depending on the course you’re targeting, English Literature can be complemented greatly by more specialised subjects. For example, if you are looking to enter a film or scriptwriting career, then taking Media Studies along with your English Literature course can be invaluable, though sticking to more versatile subjects is usually a better idea. To be sure, check the entry requirements of your desired course or contact the university
Another essay subject, History has applications in a wide variety of fields and is regularly chosen to help develop analytical skills or argument construction.
- English Literature – Both subjects utilise the same testing methods of essays and argument creation, making them a perfect A-Level subject combination
- Psychology – Psychology also makes use of essay skills and offers great statistical analysis skills, which do become useful in the understanding of historical data
Modern Foreign Languages
If you’re looking to focus your A-Level subject choices around a Modern Foreign Language, the likelihood is that you’re looking at a Language-based university course. Most language courses have very loose entry requirements, focusing on at least one relevant language A-Level. This gives you the freedom to pick subjects that you like and are good at, without concern for whether they complement your Modern Foreign Languages option. However, there are still some subjects that will benefit your studies or future applications.
- Other Modern Foreign Languages – Whilst it can be difficult to juggle very similar languages like Spanish and Italian if you can become competent in multiple languages this will greatly benefit your university application and open doors for dual-honours courses. In a more technical sense, studying multiple Modern Foreign Languages also develops your understanding of linguistic rules and systems, making future language learning easier
- English Literature – Great for learning how to understand and construct a logical argument from a piece of text, which is exactly what you’ll be doing in your Modern Foreign Languages exams, just in a different language
- History – A great combination with Modern Foreign Languages for the same reason as English. Practice your analytical skills and learn how to structure an essay; even if it’s in a different language, the same concepts are still applicable
Practical subjects like P.E. and Art are great for specialised courses like Sports Physiotherapy and Fine Art respectively, but there are usually better choices if you’re looking to enter a different field. Still, there are some subjects suitable for supporting these practical options – namely Biology for P.E. and language-based subjects like English Literature due to the writing aspect of the Art examinations. If you’re still unsure, the best way to find other desirable subjects is to research your course and contact the relevant university about what they would like to see on an application.
Two Final Points…
Whilst these guidelines will help you decide on your last few A-Level subjects, there are two key points to consider before you finalise your choices.
Don’t Pick a Subject You Hate
Even if you think that a subject might complement your chosen career path or course, you won’t get a good grade if you hate what you’re studying. Ensure that you enjoy each of your subject choices, otherwise, you’ll spend your A-Levels suffering instead of excelling.
Some Subjects are Useful Regardless
Whilst many of the recommended A-Level subject combinations mentioned in this guide are highly specific, there are some subjects that are great choices for all courses. These are perfect if you’re completely stuck and just want a respectable A-Level under your belt.
- Maths – Versatile and applicable in almost every field, Maths is a great choice for all careers or course applications
- Modern Foreign Languages – Great for displaying your versatile abilities whilst opening many doors for future jobs, applications and experiences; you can’t go wrong with a Modern Foreign Language A-Level
- History – The essays and analytical abilities developed in History become useful in almost all university courses, as well as many job roles
- Any Physical Science – The physical sciences aren’t the most versatile subjects, but they encompass multiple career paths and hundreds of courses, as well as illustrating your ability to comprehend logical processes and subjects. They make a great choice if you’re unsure of what to study next, just to keep future career doors open
If you’re still unsure about which A-Level subjects complement your initial choices, make sure to discuss your options with a trusted family member, teacher or careers adviser. If in doubt – pick the subjects that will lead you to your dream job!
For more information on selecting your initial A-Level subjects, click here.