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Which SubjectWhich subject area?

The subject is the broader area of what you study, whilst the course is more specific. Before you choose a specific course, you need to be sure of the subject area you want to study in.

The subject area is the foundation of any university course, and therefore a huge part of your experience. For instance, Marine Biology is a course that falls within the wider study of the subject Biological Sciences. You will be lectured on, read or write about your subject area nearly every day of your degree. It is vital you pick one that is right for you and that you are right for.

Here are eight key points to consider when deciding on a subject area:

1. You enjoy the subject area

Three to six years of study will feel considerably longer if you do not enjoy what you are studying. You’re also likely to perform better if you are enjoying your studies and feeling motivated. University work should be something you enjoy rather than endure.

2. You understand how the subject area could be taught

Some subject areas can be taught in a number of different ways. Classic examples of this are Archaeology, Economics, Geography and Psychology courses, which can be taught as a BA or as a BSc. There will also be differences in the content of the courses and how they are assessed.

3. You have the right A Levels (or equivalent)

The subjects you already study are always a good place to start when deciding on a course. Often, the first year of a course is a continuation of what is taught at A Level or equivalent and will require you to have studied certain subjects. However, many courses don’t require you to have taken specific subjects prior to university. This is often the case with subjects that are not widely available as A Levels or equivalent. So, if you’re a budding Politics student who wasn’t able to study the subject area before, don’t worry, you can still go down that route.

4. You have aptitude for the subject area 

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Law is one of a number of subjects with
aptitude tests readily available 

There are several online aptitude tests available. Some help you identify a suitable subject while others test your aptitude for a specific course. One example is the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT).

5. You have the required grades

Applying to university requires you to be realistic. When choosing a subject area look at the entry requirements and compare with your predicted grades. Not all courses within a subject area have the same entry requirements. If they are generally much higher, you may have to look at a different university or a similar course with lower grade requirements.

6. Is it offered at a university you like?

This a scenario that many students face. They decide on a subject area, find the perfect course, but it’s not offered at a university they like. For those looking at more obscure subject areas this can be especially frustrating as their ideal course may only be offered at a handful of institutions. You may have to ask yourself what is more important, what you study or where you study?

7. Subject tables

If you have found the perfect at a university you like then you may think you’ve hit the jackpot. However, it is important to check subject tables before you commit to a specific course. These tables show you the research quality as well as student satisfaction and graduate prospects. It could make you even more certain of studying your course of choice, or make you reconsider. Either way they are useful for picking a subject area and course.

8. It leads to a career that you want

Most graduate jobs do not call for a particular degree, but in some industries, one may be preferable or even essential. If you're wanting to pursue a career in accounting for instance, an Accounting & Finance degree would be preferred to one in a humanities or hard sciences subject.