Choosing what to study at sixth form is an important decision as it can influence the options open to you in the future. All courses offered by schools/colleges fit into a national framework of difficulty levels - the higher the level, the more demanding they are. At the age of 16, you will typically have completed Level 2 (i.e. GCSEs) and then move onto Level 3 in sixth form.
At the College, we offer two types of Level 3 courses:
Short for Advanced Level, A Levels are the Level 3 qualifications that are traditionally offered after GCSEs and are usually focused on academic subjects. We offer 28 A Level options: some will be subjects you've studied at GCSE and some will be new. A Levels are highly valued by universities and employers so they can open doors to further study and careers. All A Levels are now assessed by exams at the end of the two year course and graded A* to E.
An alternative to A Levels, BTECs are more vocational and can be useful if you know what career you're working towards. Unlike A Levels, BTECs are continually assessed throughout the course with a combination of coursework, practical projects and exams. BTECs are awarded Pass, Merit, Distinction or Distinction*. They are accepted by universities and depending on which type you choose, a BTEC at the College can be equivalent to one or two A Level options.
Choosing Your Subjects
From the moment you apply, right through to when you join us, we'll work with you closely to ensure we guide you onto the appropriate courses that suit your career aspirations and allow you to reach your full potential.
Students at the College are required to study three course options - this can be a choice of three A Levels or a combination of A Levels and BTECs.
Your course choices are based on your starting point and ambitions - there are no timetable restrictions on what combination of subjects you can study.
Our Deputy Principal, Rob Myatt, answers some questions that you may have about choosing the right A Levels and BTECs for you.
How do I even start to choose my A Levels?
It’s best to start by thinking about what you want to do for your career or your job, because your choice of A Levels can play a major part in carving out your pathway towards that. Where do you picture yourself in a few years’ time?
If you have a set field you’d like to go into, it’s likely that there is a combination of A Levels that would be best suited to, or even vital for, achieving that goal. For example, if you wanted to go into medicine, then the sciences are essential; or if you’re interested in going into media in some way, then there are the English subjects and Media or Film Studies that may help you get to where you want to be.
Put in the time to research what your future employers are going to want to see. Some careers and university courses have more flexibility when it comes to necessary qualifications to have, whereas others are very particular, so you need to know which applies to you.
UCAS offers a lot of advice on their website, so it’s worth reading up on what they have to say. Our expert staff are on hand during your interview, your Freshers' Days at the start of July, and on your Enrolment Day to advise you too.
If you’re not sure what you want to do in the future yet, don’t worry. Every subject that you study will give you transferrable skills to take into any line of work, but it’s worth choosing A Level subjects that you have interest in or enjoy.
Do I choose subjects that I enjoy or subjects that I’m best at?
This is a difficult one, but you tend to find that the two go hand-in-hand: if you’re interested in something then you’re likely to work harder at it and come out with better results. All A Levels are challenging and there aren’t any easy options, so choosing subjects that interest you is critical when it comes to making the step up from GCSEs. You need to be fully committed in your studies and having a real interest in what you’re learning makes hard work a lot easier, and it means that you’ll have more fun!
There are also many subjects that complement each other, so if you’re interested in History, for example, you may want to think about taking another humanities subject or English, as taking the courses together may further enhance the important skills that you’re after.
How many subjects do I choose?
At Birkenhead Sixth Form College, you study three subject option blocks for the duration of your two year courses. Those subject blocks can be three A Level subjects or a combination of A Levels and BTECs so that they add up to three.
Each A Level subject is ONE subject option of your three;
A BTEC Extended Certificate is equivalent to ONE subject option;
A BTEC Diploma (IT, Applied Science and Health & Social Care) is equivalent to TWO subject options
Nothing really stands out that I’d like to do from GCSEs. What can I do that’s different?
We actually offer the widest choice of courses of any sixth form in the country, and that includes quite a number of subjects that you may never have studied before. Law, Psychology and Sociology are always popular subjects at the College, which people often won’t have studied at GCSE level. Film Studies, Media Studies, Drama, Dance, Health & Social Care – there are so many options that we’re sure that you can find the right subjects for you and your future.
Also, don’t worry if you feel that you haven’t got all the knowledge or skills in a new subject to start studying it with us - we don’t expect you to join us as a fully-trained psychologist or lawyer, for instance. If you’re willing to work hard, then our teachers will equip you with everything else that you need to be successful during your two years with us.
What if I choose the wrong subjects?
By the time you come to enrol with us, you will have had your interview and discussed some options with the Tutor who interviewed you. You will also have received your GCSE results and had the chance to do plenty of research into what subjects you’d like to take, plus, you will have attended our Taster Days in February/March to try out your choice of courses. At enrolment, you’ll have an in-depth discussion with our Tutors again and then make your final decisions, so if you’re not confident of your choices, you’ll have all the time you need on Enrolment Day to speak to our expert staff who can give guidance and advice. By the end of the enrolment session, you should feel ready and raring to start on courses that are best suited for your individual journey. Importantly too, all the way through College, you’ll have our specialist support through your personally assigned Tutor and your subject teachers to help you along your way.