Page Links: Frequently Asked Questions
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Frequently Asked Question
Why do you not have an Open Evening?
We are proud of our new building and you will not be disappointed by the facilities. The other function of the open evening is to choose your subjects. This needs more than a 2 minute conversation and should be done over many weeks. You can ask questions during your interview and when you are touring the building. This is quality time when we can talk about you and not the subjects in general.
Have you got a Sixth Form prospectus?
We have a school prospectus which shows all aspects of our school. We are now proud to be an all-through school from Reception to year 13. It is far easier to keep up to date with Loxford by visiting the website.
Why are the subjects you chose so important?
The subjects you choose will open doors into different degrees or jobs and not doing a particular subject will also stop you from studying certain degrees. This doesn’t mean you should do a subject if you are not good at it! Your GCSE results will help you see where your strengths lie. You might be creative, a linguist, a scientist; not many students are excellent in every subject. We strongly suggest you:-
• Read the subject descriptions on this website.
• Look for the subjects on the examination board websites
• Think about what you want to do at university or after year 13, what subjects do you need to study? Visit the university websites to research into different degree or look for information on apprenterships.
For much more detail read by our guide – Choosing your subjects for A level.
Why are the different grades needed to do different subjects?
There is a vast difference between GCSE and A level. Some subjects have specific skills which need a high level of success at GCSE if you are going to stand a chance of passing them at A level. For this reason we have a list of additional entry requirements. This shows what grades you need to get if you want to study that subject.
Why do you suggest I study a BTEC Level 3 and not A levels?
A levels are not for everyone. We offer 4 courses which are Level 3 qualifications. These courses are worth the same as 3 A levels and you can go to university if you pass them well. We have offered these courses for many years and know that for some students they are much better than A levels. If you are a student who gets a range of C grades at GCSE then you will get higher grades and more UCAS points if you take one of the Level 3 BTEC/Diploma courses. Please read the course descriptions, these will show how you are assessed without examinations. You can also read this guide – BTEC Parents Guide.
I am going to be away on the results day, what do I do?
Everyone who is offered a place will be given a short interview after they have got their results. This will confirm if you have the right grades to start the courses your chose. If you cannot attend on the date we give you then other students might take the places on courses which fill up fast. Therefore the choice of subjects will be smaller. If you are attending Loxford already then you must tell your ATL about this issue. If you are an external applicant then please tell the person who interviews you. We strongly suggest that you make your holiday arrangement so that you can be available for the GCSE results day or the day after.
Do you have a bursary scheme?
You will be eligible for a small amount of financial support if you are in either in care or you are on free school meals. For 2012/13
this will be £10 per week if you meet the requirements of the Home School Agreement e.g. 90%+ attendance. The Bursary is only guaranteed for students in care. All other students MUST apply for free school meals and have this given to them by their local council,
please go to the relevant website. This scheme relies on funds given to the school by the government, if these funds change then the scheme will be reviewed accordingly.
We talk to hundreds of students every year about A-level choices. Here are answers to some of the questions they ask about choosing subjects.
What are AS / A2 and how do they relate to A level?
An A level consists of two parts, AS and A2. A2 builds on AS knowledge and skills, and is therefore more challenging. AS and A2 in a subject have their own separate syllabuses and exams. Most AS and A2 subjects each consist of two ‘units’.
It is quite possible to take AS on its own, but A2 isn’t a separate qualification: you take it after (or, in some courses, alongside) the AS. Your marks for AS and A2 are added together to determine your final A-level grade. Because you will generally sit AS exams at the end of lower sixth you can’t afford to take it easy during the first year in the sixth-form. In the second year you take A2 exams (and will possibly retake some parts of AS in order to boost your marks).
All AS and A2 exams can be taken in the May / June exam session. A more limited number can also be taken in January. Some sixth-forms only use the summer exams, others also use the January sessions (eg for retakes of AS)
How many subjects should I take?
Unless your GCSE performance suggests that you are likely to struggle in the sixth-form you will probably be advised to take 4 AS subjects in lower sixth. You will drop one of these subjects at the end of the year in order to concentrate on the 3 A2 courses for your final year.
Because you will drop one of the first-year subjects, and you don’t have to decide which to drop until late in the first year, this pattern gives you welcome flexibility. The fourth AS allows you to broaden your programme or try new subjects out. Some students choose AS subjects which inter-relate, others use the opportunity to pick a subject area which contrasts with their main area of interest.
The 4 AS, 3 A2 pattern tends to be the one which competitive universities prefer. If you do not take that fourth subject they may think that you only took 3 AS because you weren’t capable of more (unless there are good reasons, such as taking A levels in less time, or in a sixth-form which discourages 4 subjects).
If you do not do reasonably well at GCSE, you may be better off sticking to three AS in lower sixth. That gives you an easier workload, and if everything goes (very) well you may be able to pick up another AS in your second year. Talk to your school about this, but if you are undecided it is probably better to start off with four AS; it is easier to drop from four to three than it is to pick up an extra subject part-way through.
Is there any advantage in taking a fifth AS (which you would do in the upper sixth)? In general the answer is ‘No’, particularly given the high work load. See for example this advice from King’s College Cambridge.
What if I find I’ve chosen the wrong subjects?
If one of your subjects turns out to be not quite right you may find that your college allows you to change so long as you do so early in lower sixth. Or you might decide it’s worth carrying on, knowing that you can drop it after AS. Talk to your teachers / year tutor sooner rather than later if you think you’ve chosen all the wrong subjects.
If this happens and it’s not possible to change, or if your AS results are really disappointing, you may face the need to change college or / and to restart the sixth-form. It is possible to do complete A levels in one year: most CIFE colleges offer one-year A-level courses and are very happy to give advice.
What are the difference between BTEC National and A levels?
In our school students usually take 3 or 4 A levels. We also offer BTEC National or similar level 3 courses in Business, Media, Science and Information Technology. These are full time courses which are the equivalent of 3 A levels if you pass at the highest level. The work is advanced level standard and students need to get 5 or more passes at ‘C’ or higher to take the course.
BTECs offer a practical, hands-on approach that can be lacking in more traditional courses. Students have to undertake a number of units for which they present evidence, based on actual work and studies. This allows them to demonstrate their skill and knowledge. When studying the BTEC way, progress is measured throughout their course, allowing the student to gauge their own performance on a continuing basis, just like in a real workplace. Students are more engaged and motivated as a result, as they can see their own progress through the course rather than waiting to the end to sit an exam. For many learners, the BTEC route with all work assessed through the year and no final exams could be the better option.
Will my GCSE results affect my subject choice?
Yes. They might affect whether you can join our sixth-form at all. They provide an important guide to how well you are likely to cope with particular subjects, and they may influence the number of AS levels it is sensible to take on. At Loxford there is a general requirement you have to meet in order to start A levels. If your GCSE predictions show that you will have trouble meeting the requirement you ought to have a Plan B, just in case!
The same applies to taking particular AS levels. For most subjects you should have reached a particular level of skills and/or knowledge to succeed in the sixth form; for instance, you are likely to find Maths and French A levels very challenging if you have not been achieving at A or B grade standard in the year 11. We set minimum entry standards in every subjects and you can see these on our website. However, there are a few A levels which don’t require a specific subject GCSE background.
Your GCSE performance can also affect the general pattern of your course. As mentioned earlier, it might affect the number of AS levels you take and if you discover you haven’t passed Maths or English GCSE you have to make room in your timetable for retakes of these essential subjects.
Are some subjects better for university entrance?
You may be at a disadvantage applying for ‘academic’ degrees if universities think you are undertaking a less challenging A-level programme. In certain universities it is thought that a combination such as Business Studies, Economics and Accounts - subjects which are similar in approach and subject matter - is felt to be too easy. The same applies if your A2 subjects do not include at least two different ‘academic’ A levels. Art and Drama are seen by some universities as less academic, but the jury is out on subjects like Film and Media Studies. Of course this is less of a concern if you’re aiming at those areas for your degree. Read Cambridge University’s ‘Subject Matters’ advice to see how a top university regards A-level subject combinations.
It is more important that you choose a subject combination you will enjoy, and which will support your degree-level studies than that you find a fourth AS level which is very different from the other three.
My chosen degree has no specific A-level requirement. Can I choose whatever I want?
Yes, though you might find some A-level subjects provide you with relevant skills or complementary background. For example, if you want to do a Business degree you could take Business Studies A level (even though it’s not required it will show you what the subject is like), or you might go for A levels such as Economics, Government & Politics, History. Bear in mind the earlier FAQ about avoiding narrow programmes.
I can’t take the subject combination I want. What should I do?
In Loxford we have four sets of subjects called option blocks. You can see these on the application form and you have to choose one from each. If this doesn’t fit with what you want to do then say when you have your interview. There is flexibility in the timetable and it may still be possible for subjects to move to other option blocks. This is especially possible with small subjects like French or very large subjects like Maths. If a subject you want really is not available, look into similar subjects to check whether they may actually be just as acceptable. Only you can decide how much of a compromise is acceptable.