Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Discerning A level subjects.

A levels are often the next step of the educational ladder after sitting IGCSEs or, in schools, GCSEs. In school most students will be nowadays be studying an average of 10 to 12 GCSEs over the two years.This sounds a handful but much of the work is done in coursework and assignments and therefore, staggered, and less emphasis is placed on the final exams, unlike with the IGCSEs where everything rests upon the two or three long exams at the end of the course...

So, my question, or pondering really, is how much former studying of the chosen subjects for A level will a child require? And is it imperative for success at A level?

The transition between GCSEs to A levels is alike to taking a fifty mile pilgrimage on bare feet after a soft country stroll around a pretty garden!
A levels are challenging- they are demanding courses and onerous exams and no one can dispute this. Depending upon where the child goes to school or sixth form (or home - which is a rarity for A levels) will depend on how they master and understand their subjects. A levels are the important transition between being spoon fed (if at school anyway!) at GCSE stage to independent learning, thinking, analysing and research all of which is essential for both future studying and life in general.

Most schools and colleges will require a standard six to seven GCSEs grades A to C to enable them to study for A levels. A prestigious private school will require many more than that and most if not all of these will need A*s in order to be short listed for entry.

 Yet what should the student need in the subjects they desire to learn at A levels? Is it imperative do you think to have an A in Maths in order to study A level Maths? or  an A in English to study Literature?

Now, after a few months in sixth form with four AS level exams about to begin next week, Ben would say it is absolutely essential for the student to have gained a very high grade in their IGCSE subject in which they want to take an A level in.

This applies even more if the subject was a GCSE and not an IGSCE. IGSCE really does prepare the student for the AS level  - it is far more rigorous, more in depth and one cannot re-do course work as there is no course work!

Using Maths as an example as this is close to our hearts at the moment it being Ben's fourth 'extra' AS.
He wasn't brilliant at Maths, and certainly never even contemplated taking it at A level standard. Yet once he was faced with his A level choices (which, remember, in some schools are not vast), he wasn't left with that much variety and decided to try Maths.

Whilst he ended up attaining a (high) B in GCSE, he would definitely have benefited more from the IGCSE Maths (Maths, like Latin, Greek, and a few other subjects doesn't require course work and can therefore be taken as a GCSE) as this would have been a more appropriate stepping stone to the A level.

One also needs to take into account the standard of teaching if the child has gone into school and the amount of work necessary for A levels is vastly more than GCSEs/IGCSEs.

In hindsight, Ben would say an A/A* in Maths GCSE is almost essential in order to tackle the A level with relative ease, and the same really applies to all A level subjects- one wouldn't take the sciences without an adequate background of work and qualifications either.

May the Holy Family help and guide all our young scholars in their studies!