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Choosing which A-levels to study is one of the most important decisions you will make as it will affect your subject choices and chances of acceptance when you start to apply for a university place.  The good news is that A-level Mathematics is one of the most widely accepted and respected subject choices by universities and is likely to enhance your options rather than close them down.  The same goes for studying A-level Further Mathematics which is also a highly regarded subject choice among universities.

What if I don’t know what I want to study at University?

When choosing your A-levels it is important to think about the obvious questions such as: “Do I enjoy the subject?” and “Am I good at the subject?”, but it is also important to think carefully about how your choices will affect what you can study at university.

For some A-level students they already have a degree course and even a university in mind, which will enable them to choose their A-levels to meet the needs of this course.  For most students this is not the case and they don’t know what they would like to study.  They may have a broad area in mind such as “I would like to study sciences”, but they may not even have got that far.   If you are one of those students, then how do you choose your A-levels if there are perhaps six or seven subjects which you both enjoy and are good at?

A-level Mathematics – a “facilitating” subject

A'level mathematics workThe Russell Group, which is a group of 24 research-intensive universities have produced a website called Informed Choices which helps students to decide which A-levels they should study.  Mathematics and Further Mathematics are “facilitating” subjects.  This means that they are among a list of A-level subjects which are asked for most frequently by universities.

This means that if you study a group of facilitating subjects, then you will still have a large number of degree options open to you.  Facilitating subjects are also highly respected and will give you the best chances of being accepted onto many degree programmes. Therefore if you don’t have any idea about degree choice it could be best to start by considering what are known as the facilitating subjects.

Facilitating A-level Subjects

Further Mathematics
English Literature
Languages (Classical and Modern)

Which degree courses require A-level Mathematics for entry?

Different universities have different entry requirements for courses with the same name, therefore it is always important to check individual entry requirements.  However it is still possible to say in general which courses say that A-level Mathematics is essential or useful for entry.  Nobody wants to be left in a position where they can’t apply for a course because they are missing one of the essential entry requirements.

Degree choices where A-level Mathematics is an essential requirement of nearly all universities

  • Actuarial Science
  • Aeronautical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Civil Engineering
  • Economics
  • Electrical/Electronic Engineering
  • Engineering (General)
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Physics
  • Statistics

Degree Choices where A-level Mathematics is an essential requirement by some, but not all universities

Degree Choices where A-level Mathematics can make up one of an essential combination of subjects

  • Biochemistry – some will say Chemistry plus one from Mathematics/Physics/Biology. Doing Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics or Physics will keep all Biochemistry courses open to you.
  • Biomedical Sciences (including Medical Science) – Normally two from Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics.
  • Chemistry – Most courses require Chemistry and would like Mathematics and one other science subject (for example, Physics or Biology).
  • Dentistry – Some require Mathematics or Physics.
  • Environmental Science/Studies – Many courses will ask for two from Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics and Geography.
  • Geology/Earth Sciences – Usually two from Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology.
  • Materials Science (including Biomedical Materials Science) – Normally two from Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Biology (also Design Technology for some universities).
  • Medicine – If you do Chemistry, Biology and one from Mathematics or Physics you will keep all the medical schools open to you.
  • Optometry (Opthalmic Optics) – Two from Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics (some courses prefer Biology as one of the choices).
  • Pharmacy – Chemistry and one from Biology, Mathematics and Physics keeps the vast majority of courses open to you. Some courses like to see Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics.
  • Physiotherapy – Most courses will consider you with just Biology. However, some also require a second science from Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics.
  • Psychology – A few courses ask for one from Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics.
  • Sports Science/Physical Education – Many courses want to see one from Biology/Chemistry/ Mathematics/Physics (some courses will treat Physical Education as a science equivalent).
  • Teacher Training – Mathematics can contribute to the list of essential A-levels.
  • Veterinary Science – You should do Chemistry and Biology and one from Mathematics/Physics so that you have all universities open to you.

Degree choices where A-level Mathematics is listed as useful by most universities

  • Accountancy
  • Architecture
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Biomedical Sciences (including Medical Science)
  • Business Studies
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Dentistry
  • Dietetics
  • Geography – Some Geography BSc (science) degrees prefer one from Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics or Physics.
  • Law – facilitating subjects at A-level are useful when applying for Law
  • Management Studies
  • Nursing and Midwifery
  • Orthoptics
  • Pharmacy
  • Philosophy
  • Physiotherapy
  • Planning
  • Psychology
  • Surveying
  • Teacher Training

Degree choices where A-level Further Mathematics is listed as essential

pile of A-level mathematicsbooksOnly a small number of Mathematics degrees list Further Mathematics A-level as essential, due to the fact that some students are unable to study the subject due to it not being offered by their school or college.  (Even though the Further Mathematics Support Programme has vastly improved access to the subject.)

For many Mathematics courses there is however a strong implication that if you are able to access studying A-level Further Mathematics then you should do and on some courses only a handful of Mathematics undergraduates won’t have studied Further Mathematics.

Degree choices where A-level Further Mathematics is listed as useful

  • Actuarial Science
  • Aeronautical Engineering
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Sciences (including Medical Science)
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Dentistry
  • Electrical/Electronic Engineering
  • Engineering (General)
  • Law – facilitating subjects at A-level are useful when applying for Law
  • Materials Science (including Biomedical Materials Science)
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Medicine
  • Optometry (Opthalmic Optics)
  • Physics
  • Veterinary Science

What if I study a degree like Biology where A-level Mathematics is only listed as a useful entry requirement?

Having A-level Mathematics is a great advantage when applying to study a science like Biology even though it isn’t listed as essential.  Firstly it will give you a head start during the admissions process and may mean you have a better chance of being admitted onto the course of your choice.  However you will also have an advantage during your degree, as subjects like Biology need students to have good mathematical skills and A-level Mathematics may mean that you are able to thrive and achieve higher grades during your degree.  Particularly at Postgraduate level, sciences are becoming more and more reliant on mathematics and computing and you will give yourself the best possible chance to make a career in Science if you have studied A-level Maths.   Many universities report that their Science undergraduates struggle due to a lack of mathematical skills.

What if I apply for a degree where A-level Mathematics is not listed at all as a specific entry requirement?

Some degrees don’t have many specific entry requirements –  perhaps because they are a subject which is not usually studied at A-level such as Archaeology.  As long as you meet all the other requirements for admission, then A-level Maths is a good subject choice as it is a highly respected A-level which demonstrates that a student can think logically and solve problems.

What if I don’t get an A/A* in A-level Mathematics – will it be worth anything?

Many universities and employers still look very favourably on A-level maths, even if a top grade hasn’t been achieved.  Completing the course demonstrates that a student understands maths at a much higher level than GCSE level which is very important for many university courses and subsequent careers.  Some students are put off from choosing A-level maths, simply because they weren’t top of their class, even if they got a strong grade at GCSE.

What if I want to know more about the usefulness of studying Further Mathematics A-level?

A-level Further Mathematics is rarely listed as an essential entry requirement, probably because some students don’t have the option to study the qualification at their school or college.  There are however Mathematics and Engineering courses where the vast majority of students will have studied A-level Further Mathematics so it is worth considering the advantages that studying it could give you.  Take a look at the Further Mathematics Support Programme’s advice on University entry requirements.  The Further Mathematics Support Programme also provides tuition and support for students who are not able to study the subject in their own school or college.

Are there any other benefits to studying A-level Mathematics?

Even if you go on to study an arts degree at university, then having A-level Maths on your CV can be a great advantage for your future career, especially if you go on to work in the film visual effects industry.  When you apply for a job it will show that you have got a head for numbers which may well also make you stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs in management, business or teaching.