Whether you're choosing your GCSEs, A Levels, T Levels, Scottish N5s or Highers, or other vocational courses, the pressure to pick the 'perfect combination' of subjects can feel overwhelming.
Despite your subjects being stepping stones to greater things, they are by no means the be-all and end-all of your career journey or life.
Our first tip is to try to think in reverse if you can. Where can you see yourself in 5 years’ time?
This doesn’t have to be a specific pathway or even job role, but just figuring out what interests you, and what subjects can enable you to get to this place can be a good place to start.
If you're wanting to go to uni, looking ahead to different universities and their departments' requirements can be the perfect way of seeing which subjects you should take. Even if you're not 100% about the degree subject you want to take, notice if there's a particular pattern with which subjects are preferred by universities and their different departments.
Some subject combinations are preferred by universities, due to providing you with a diverse skillset going to uni, whereas some subject combinations are less preferred by unis if they cover too much common ground.
The degree subjects which specify which subjects to study usually include:
- Medicine - chemistry and usually one other science - some require biology
- Chemistry - chemistry and sometimes maths and one other science
- Dentistry - chemistry and one or two other sciences
- Biology - biology and another science/maths
- Maths - maths
- Veterinary Science - chemistry and one other science
- Modern Languages - usually the language to be studied
For our 'Ultimate Guide to Choosing your A Levels', click here.
3 questions to ask yourself...
What do I enjoy?
It might seem straightforward, but choosing the subjects that you have more fun in and are more passionate about is going to increase the likelihood that you'll achieve higher grades when it comes to results day.
What am I good at?
What do you get the best grades in? If you struggle academically and are worried that none of the subjects you pick will give you good grades, speak to your teachers about the subjects that you have the best potential in.
For example, if you know that you struggle with writing and don’t enjoy reading, choosing essay-based subjects like history may not be the best thing for you. You'd be surprised at the number of students who pick the subjects that they feel they should be doing rather than the ones that they're actually going to do well in.
How do I enjoy learning?
Do you enjoy working independently or do you enjoy group discussions?
Do you like using your hands and thrive in practical environments, or do you enjoy reading and writing?
How do you like being assessed - coursework, practically, or exams?
Thinking about where your interests and skills lie will help inform your subject choices. Again, speak to your teachers if you're not sure about your learning-style - they might be more help than you realise.
Using Sort to help decide your options
If you haven't checked out our job role quiz yet to get matched to the most suitable job roles (1000+), this could be a great way of discovering which industries and jobs require particular subjects.
Let's say that after filling in your interests, skills and hobbies, the job role at the top of your list is Animator.
By scrolling down to the 'You'll Need' section, you'll be able to see the variety of entry routes to this role, and what subjects are recommended to study at school. For this particular role, we recommend studying arts or technology subjects.
Older and wiser?
Speak to those who have recently had to make the same choices you're about to. This may not be available to every student, but see if your school or college offers the opportunity for you to be able to speak with older students who have studied particular subjects, to find out their experience.
Or, if you have a friend with an older sibling who can speak of their recent experience of choosing subjects, reach out to them to have a chat to help you weigh up your options.
- ...let anybody else tell you what you should be studying. They’re your subjects after all, and you’ll be the one dedicating your time and energy to study them. Try not to succumb to pressure from friends or parents.
- ...study subjects just because your best friends are if they're subjects that you're not interested in. You'll only be harming your chances to achieve good grades further down the line.
A final thought...
Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to remember that the choices you make now don’t have to define your future. It’s likely that you will change your mind about something along the way, and that’s fine.
You always have choices, and there are always routes through. What’s most important right now is that you choose something that you can feel comfortable and happy with and that will leave you looking forward to the next stage in your journey...
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