Ask Sadia: A-level Options

Sara asked: “I’m a year 12 student, and, having achieved all A stars at GCSE, I’m now conflicted as to which A levels to do. I’m currently taking History, Maths, Chemistry and Biology – initially I thought that I wanted to be a doctor since it offered stability, but I’ve realized the humanities are my passion – and I’d like to do philosophy, PPE or English. It’s late in the year, but I’m thinking of adding English – as somebody my age who writes this informed, intelligent, and engaging blog, what would your advice be?”

Dear Sara,


Firstly, congratulations on your outstanding GCSE results, and secondly thank you for visiting my blog.

I must admit, I was (and to some extent, still am) in the exact same boat as you; I received all A*s at GCSE, and since I liked each of my subjects more or less equally, I had to make the huge decision of whether to pursue the sciences, or the humanities, further. I ended up choosing the humanities.

I think it’s fairly normal for Year 12s to question their subject choices. It feels like the rest of our lives depends on the academic subjects we are studying now. At first, I was worried that my options (Maths, English, History, and Economics) wouldn’t give me the kind of ‘stability’ that you alluded to in your question. Now I’m convinced I have made the right decision- I’m really enjoying studying these things. Like you, I also considered becoming a doctor for security purposes, but then I realised that I would be devoting a huge chunk of my life to something I’m not particularly passionate about.

With regard to taking English this late into the year, I personally wouldn’t recommend it. We’ve already covered so much content, and it would probably take a whole year to catch up. That being said, if English is definitely something you would like to pursue further, it might be worth looking into retaking Year 12; I know a few people who are doing this.

English is a subject that you don’t necessarily require an A-level to thoroughly enjoy. It is centred on literature, and you certainly don’t need a qualification to enjoy books, plays and poems!

Universities are looking for prospective students who demonstrate a strong passion for their subjects by reading outside of the curriculum; if you are keenly interested in Philosophy or PPE, start reading some related books, and going to public lectures.

The good thing about your current subjects is that they are facilitating ones, and you could enter virtually any career path with them.

I hope this helped a little! And remember, you’re not alone; we all have meltdowns and question our life decisions from time to time.

Sadia Ahmed, 2018

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