Choosing Courses

1. Which courses should I choose?

Choose courses that:

  • You know you can do well in.
  • You find interesting - these are likely to lead you on to university courses and careers that you enjoy!
  • Reflect your interests and personal qualities.
  • Courses that suit your learning style.
  • Will help keep your options open in the future.

2. What about courses in subjects that are new to me?

It is always possible to take new subjects that you have never studied before, such as Business Applied even if you didn’t study it at GCSE or Psychology which is not offered at KS4. If you are thinking of doing this, it is important that you find out about the course to make sure you will enjoy it. You must:

  • Sign up for A Level Master Classes to get a taster for this course.
  • Speak to the subject teacher and look at text books/research on line to find out which topics you will be studying (check the Home page of the Gateway for Course Content Flyers).
  • Talk to students currently on the course to find out more about it.

3. How do I choose a good subject combination?

It is important that you choose a combination of subjects that go well together and that they will get you onto the courses you want to do. For example, if you are hoping to do Medicine you will need to take Biology and Chemistry A Levels, other courses to choose with this subject combination could be Physics, Maths or Further Maths.

Do your research, if you know the career you are interested in, or the course you want to do at university, then which subjects will you need in KS5? Which courses complement each other to help you reach your goal?

Check out course choices on:

Or read advice online, such as:

Level 3 Qualifications

There are a lot of different qualifications you can get. The main ones that you will come across are A Levels, BTECs and Diplomas. Woolwich Polytechnic Sixth Form offers a range of A Level courses and some Level 3 BTECs.

A levels

All A level courses are level 3 courses. The educational landscape has changed with new A Levels introduced from September 2015. The difference between these new A Levels and the former A Levels is that the new AS Level will no longer form part of the final grade in their final year. Woolwich Polytechnic Sixth Form will still continue to sit students for AS exams as a stepping stone to A Levels, for the majority of their courses. University admission tutors will most likely use these grades to form their offers on UCAS. A full A Level generally takes two years to complete.

A level examinations test memory and organisation. They also test your understanding, your ability to pose and solve problems, listening, and other practical skills, sometimes this is done through course work.

Russell Group universities (the country’s top universities) will expect students to have a full A level in at least three subjects. Two out of three of these A Levels should be in traditional subjects. They also like students to have AS levels in one or two other subjects. For example, in their first year a potential Russell Group student might take AS levels in English Literature, English Language, History and Geography. During their second year, they might go on to take English Literature, English Language and History at as they hope to go to Durham University to study English Literature.

Applied General A Levels and Tech Levels

Applied General A Levels and Tech Levels are not offered at the Poly. Applied General qualifications primarily support progression onto a higher level of learning or possibly to employment. Tech Levels support progression in specific vocational areas either directly or via Higher Education.


The Poly currently offers the Extended Certificate BTEC in Business, as well as the BTEC Diploma in Business. We also offer the Cambridge Technical in Sports and ICT. These courses test how you would apply your learning in the context of work. These qualifications are just as valuable as A Levels but can be taken at a range of levels. You will now need to take into account that vocational courses are generally no longer 100% coursework. 60% will be externally assessed including exams and 40% will be internally assessed.

Depending on the sixth form or college you chose, you can take BTECs at level 1, 2 or 3, whereas A Levels are always level 3 courses. See below the different types of qualification offered at Level 3 and their equivalent to A Levels:

  • Certificate equivalent in size to: 0.5 A Levels
  • Extended Certificate equivalent in size to: 1 A Level
  • Foundation Diploma Equivalent in size to: 1.5 A Levels
  • Diploma Equivalent in size to: 2 A Levels
  • Extended Diploma Equivalent in size to: 3 A Levels

Again, the advice might be that you should do no more than one as these are considered to be ‘non traditional’ by many top universities.

If you are considering a variety of university institution and courses, it may be appropriate for you to do a spread of non-traditional courses.

Visit this website for more information about diplomas.


Diplomas/NVQs are not offered at the Poly. These courses can be taken at a range of levels (level 1,2 or 3). They offer students a mixture of classroom based learning along with practical work and work experience.

If this is the option you choose at KS5, you will need to discuss this with your form tutor and consult the Connexions advisor to assist you with your choice of provider and course.

Traditional versus non-traditional subjects at A Level

There has been a lot of debate in the press about the ‘value’ of certain subjects when compared to others. You may be aiming for admission into one of the country’s top universities. This might include applying to Oxford or Cambridge (known as Oxbridge) or other Russell Group universities. Russell Group universities are considered by some to be the top 20 universities in the UK and include universities such as: Bristol, Leeds, LSE, Warwick, Edinburgh, Imperial and Kings. Many of these top universities expect applicants to have taken A Levels in at least two ‘traditional’ subjects. Listed on the below are subjects that are generally considered to be ‘traditional’ and ‘non traditional.’

It is important that you bare this in mind when you are making your choices.

Universities like a breadth of subjects and often appreciate students that do AS levels or enrichment activities that offer students broader knowledge of the world.

'Traditional' subjects 'Non traditional' subjects
English Language
English Literature
Fine Art
Further Maths
Philosophy *
Sociology *
Accounting *
BTEC Art and Design *
BTEC Business Studies
Communication Studies *
Dance *
Product Design *
Film Studies *
Financial Services
D.T. Graphics
D.T Resistant Materials
Health and Social Care *
Food Technology *
Leisure Studies *
Media Studies *
Music Technology
Physical Education
BTEC Sports Studies
Travel and Tourism *

* = subjects not offered at Woolwich Polytechnic due to low demand.

What else should I consider?

If you:

  • have a general idea of the broad area of work you’d like to go into, find out what courses it is recommended that you take.
  • are considering applying to Oxford, Cambridge or other Russell Group universities, look into what standards you need to meet and consider not only which courses to take but what enrichment and extra-curricular activities you are doing.
  • don’t have any clear ideas about which career or course you are aiming for, don’t worry – choose a range of courses that you enjoy and will do well in, and that will keep your options open.
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