University courses requiring specific A Level subjects or grades

Course entry requirements are used to help admissions staff at universities pick students for their courses.

Many courses will have far more applicants than places so they will set an entry requirement that will allow them to reduce the numbers of students that they are considering.

Specific course requirements (e.g. Chemistry and Biology for a Biochemistry course) are there to ensure students can cope with the pressures of the course content itself.

The majority of university courses look for at least Cs in GCSE English, Maths. Other courses may have other requirements:

  • Some university courses go further and list specific subjects and grades they expect you to have. Make sure you look at for this during the application. 
  • Also remember that some courses may only consider certain A level qualifications, or only accept certain qualifications when taken with another.
  • This will depend on what the university department is looking for. For example, a history department may be looking for students who can write essays and handle exams, and might therefore have a preference for A level or Highers students. If you’re a BTEC student, look out for courses that name specific units you need to pass with specific grades.
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© playstuff – fotolia.com

Some warnings

Some universities discourage students from taking certain combinations of A Level subjects.

  • This tends to be for very similar subjects (such as business studies and economics, or maths and further maths), so bear this in mind when making your choices.
  • However, if you are a mathematician intending to study maths at university, most maths departments will be happy to see you've studied both maths and further maths.
  • Research the entry requirements for the universities and courses you are interested in.

Core Maths is generally not a suitable substitute for AS or A level maths, or further maths.

  • Core Maths refers to a new group of mathematics qualifications designed for students who have achieved a grade A*–C in GCSE, who are not taking the subject to AS or A level, but who wish to continue studying maths beyond GCSE.
  • Russell Group or elite universities value mathematics skills for many different degree courses, and many have GCSE or equivalent requirements. Many degree courses require maths at A level or AS level, and some courses require further maths.
  • Universities will not generally require Core Maths qualifications for entry onto degree courses and furthermore where a university requires AS or A level maths or further maths, a Core Maths qualification would generally not be a suitable substitute. It is important to check entry requirements carefully.

If you do too many practical or vocational subjects – such as PE, music technology, media studies, textiles or drama – it may limit what you can study at university.

  • Some universities include these subjects in lists of 'non-preferred' subjects.
  • Taking subjects such as history of art, classical civilisation, economics, geology, government and politics, law, media studies, philosophy, psychology, religious studies and sociology – in conjunction with at least one (ideally two) of the facilitating subjects – shouldn’t be an issue if you get the grades.

Some highly selective courses such as medicine may state that A levels should be taken at the same sitting, after no more than two years of study.

  • This can affect you if you are looking to repeat some exams after sixth form, or if you’ve taken some exams early.