Clare College Cambridge

Choice of A-level subjects

The Russell group universities have produced a guide to post-16 study options: Informed Choices. Many university courses require particular subjects to be taken at A-level (or equivalent qualifications). The subjects which are most often required are sometimes called "facilitating subjects" and these are:

  • Mathematics and Further Mathematics
  • English Literature
  • Physics
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • History
  • Languages (Classical and Modern)

There are also subjects which are not on this list, such as Economics, Geology and Religious Studies, which provide a good preparation for university study but which are rarely a requirement for university entry.

Most of our successful applicants over the last couple of years have offered facilitating subjects for most or all of their A-levels. The details depend on the subject, of course. Applicants for economics often have economics A-level, although this is not a requirement. Applicants for music usually have music A-level, although Grade 8 theory also provides the necessary technical skills for the course. As much science as possible is useful for science applicants and four science/maths A-levels are frequently offered by candidates from schools which can teach such combinations.

Only a few of our successful applicants have offered just one facilitating subjects. For these people, their A-levels have usually included subjects that are particularly relevant to (but not requirements for) their chosen course, such as Economics, Music, Politics, History of Art or Religious Studies.

Sixty per cent of our successful applicants over the last two years offered A-level maths, so this is a useful subject for the arts as well as the sciences, as is chemistry, the second most popular A-level. Languages (either modern languages or Greek or Latin) were also chosen by many applicants. History, English Literature, Physics, Further Mathematics and Biology were also popular choices. Economics and Politics were the top two choices outside the list of facilitating subjects. Our successful applicants offered a total of about forty different A-level subjects, as well as a range of subjects from the International Baccalaureate, Pre-U, and other examination systems.

Dr Tim Chesters
Prof Howard Griffiths
Admissions Tutors