A level choices – chemistry or biology?

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  • A level choices – chemistry or biology?
  • FunkyDunc
    Member

    No direct knowledge myself, but careers tend to be very specific that require the sciences and get it wrong now they could completely limit one area.

    I did maths physics and chemistry at a level and chemistry at uni, in my line of work for the last 8 years biology would have been more helpful, and I think it has potentially more real world applications, however I did what enjoyed at the time!

    joshvegas
    Member

    I took Maths Physics and Chemistry.

    I agree with endurogangster.

    Is this having done AS into A2 or starting A2? If hes starting AS could he start all 4 and see which he prefers? Without any firm career choice its just pick the one you prefer both are bloody hard and respected by uni’s.

    Premier Icon honeybadgerx
    Subscriber

    Good that he’s doing maths and phsyics, I changed course at uni and the admissions chap in my new department basically said ‘ah, you’ve done maths and physics at A-level – you’re obviously a good thinker so will be able to pick things up.’ Obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but I think it does stand you in good stead. Which one doe he enjoy the most? Think I’d be tempted by biology as its somehow seems more ‘different’ to maths and physics. Either way he’ll not go wrong, and be proud he’s taking it seriously.

    deepreddave
    Member

    Cheers so far. It’s for AS but he’s after a none science as well which he’ll drop after year 1. Taking all 4 is an option but one the school generally counsels against due to workload etc.

    BillMC
    Member

    I agree with A A. Having been a sixth form tutor for 20+ years my advice is start both. Both subjects can typically go very wrong for students after one and a bit terms (it seems to take that long before they realise they’re drowning not waving), then at least one can be dropped and you keep your best three. All of those subjects would get you into Oxbridge and anywhere else, given the right grades.

    Premier Icon jambalaya
    Subscriber

    Stands by for potential flaming …

    Biology is much easier than Chemistry, given your son is doing Maths and Physics it would suggest he is a smart lad and strong Maths will help a lot in Chemistry. My daughter did Chemistry (for potential dentistry school) and she struggled with it as its tough and her maths wasn’t really strong enough.

    So if your son is uncertain and worried about grades take the Biology and take some stress off. Yo might want to think what he will do as his 4th subject in first year, how about something like Economics – gives him some more flex for second year choices (he could drop say Biology/Chemistry and keep Economics) and might be more useful in terms of career choices.

    You want to make sure he’s got subjects he likes, he is good at so he gets good grades. Have a look at potential degrees and what the subject requirements, look at likely good Unis he will aim for as the better ones will likely have quite specific subject requirements

    Best of luck to him, I don’t envy the kids today after all the pressure of GCSE you then have AS1 and AS2 and Uni applications, its a tough few years and at a transitionary phase in their life.

    EDIT I did maths, further maths, physics and computer science – I’ve worked in banking/finance for 35 years. Quant skills are always in demand

    tall_martin
    Member

    Chemistry opens more doors.

    You used to be able to do a biochemistry degree with chemistry but no biology but not the other way round at some universities.

    Although having checked a couple on the ucas website, this appears to no longer be the case

    http://search.ucas.com/course/summary/85950/biochemistry-molecular-and-cellular?Vac=1&AvailableIn=2014&Query=biochemistry&ProviderQuery=oxford&groupingNumber=1038709635&ret=results

    sobriety
    Member

    I took maths, physics, chemistry and history at a-level, but then I knew I wanted to be and engineer of some sort, and the first 3 were the A-levels to take for engineering, I did history for fun.

    My degree was in chemical engineering, and that’s more or less what I do now…

    So now would be a good time for him to make a general choice about what kind of career he actually wants!

    tall_martin
    Member

    And I’d agree that bilogy is easier than chemistry 🙂

    Premier Icon honeybadgerx
    Subscriber

    This may also help….

    [video]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60P1xG32Feo[/video]

    Premier Icon howsyourdad1
    Subscriber

    What does he enjoy the most?

    I did maths, physics, chemistry and geography AS as at that time (2002-2004) geography AS was final exam essay based and the others obviously aren’t and I felt the need to do something written but still science related.

    I ended up getting 100% in 2/3 of the AS geography exams (it’s as much technique and knowing how the marking scheme awards marks as anything) and had a word with the teachers abd we agreed I’d do 4 full A-levels, but Geography would be optional when it came to stuff like homework (as all courses were setting a theoretical 1.5hours per day and everyone else got 2 free periods a day to my 1). I only really had to turn up and write my name to get a C at that point so it seemed sensible. In the end I did do 90% of the homework, studied a lot of it in the textbook in advance to makelife easier and it ended up being my highest mark!

    As for chemistry Vs biology, whatever he enjoys, I was going into chemical engineering so it was fairly obvious what to pick!

    All the research suggests biology is as hard as chemistry, both are equally valid as facilitating subjects.

    willard
    Member

    Chemistry is awesome, but biology is too. I went the maths, physics & chemistry route to Applied Biochemistry at uni and am now working in infosec, so the choice of A-level and degree wasn’t that important.

    To be honest, I wish I’d either done Industrial Chemistry at uni (as my other offer, but was put off with it being in Hull), or really pushed myself into computing. I think I would have done better later with either of those than biochemistry.

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Subscriber

    I all depends on your brain

    I teach Physics A-level. Most of my students who are good a physics and maths find Biology harder as its more writing and memory. which they find hard. Of course another group of my students find Biology easier and struggle with physics and maths

    My advice is to do he one he believes he will get a higher grade in. Asking people who taught him science in school might help. In my experience taking a subject because you or your parents thought it would help with a career is often a disaster if its not soemthing you love and are good at

    If computing or electronic is on offer then look at those as well

    dare we ask for the relevant gcse grades and whether he is carrying on at the same school

    I all depends on your brain

    Well clearly, but on average neither are any easier as suggested above. Biology chemistry and physics all come out harder than maths, further maths etc.m

    Freester
    Member

    I did Maths / Physics / Chemistry A’s a few* years back. There’s more overlap in the subjects than Maths / Physics / Biology.

    That said which did he do better in? Which does he prefer? If he ain’t into his choice he won’t do so well.

    Mind you it’s worth pointing out there tends to be more females at Uni studying Life Sciences.

    *maybe a slight under estimate

    Premier Icon seadog101
    Subscriber

    Seadog the daughter shied away from biology in her A level choices, and has stuck with Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chem (and Geography, ‘because I like it’). She found Biology at GCSE too vague and waffley. Cut and dried, black and white answers is what she needed.

    deepreddave
    Member

    Hi, my eldest is choosing maths and physics but isn’t sure whether to take chemistry or biology. What are the STW experiences as to which may open more doors/be preferred by Unis? My research suggests Chemistry probably and it’s more understanding over learning content possibly. Career wise he’s typically uncertain and feels maths and physics are the 2 most likely to determine his degree/career.

    Any observations welcome, thanks!

    Premier Icon ampthill
    Subscriber

    Well clearly, but on average neither are any easier as suggested above. Biology chemistry and physics all come out harder than maths, further maths etc.m

    how are you judging how hard a subject is?

    Tom_W1987
    Member

    Does he want to be an engineer or a Doctor or a Bio/Chem scientist?

    If the latter, go with Maths, Chemistry and Biology. That combination will be far more useful.

    Freester
    Member

    Just to add to the above. Chem+Bio are a good combo as is Physics+Chem. As for the Maths we were recommended Pure&Applied Maths with Physics/Chem A’s and Maths with Stats with Chem / Bio A’s. If you get those choices any more?

    Tom_W1987
    Member

    Also, lots of Bioinformatics/cheminformatics types needed at the moment, if he could get an AS level in computing then he would be pretty well setup. Individuals with good interdisciplinary skills are needed at the moment within the scientific world.

    Danny79
    Member

    I’d recommend biology but only because we had a brewery trip a part of microbiology module, which included a generous tasting session. 😀

    http://www.score-education.org/media/3194/relativedifficulty.pdf&cd=1&ved=0CBwQFjAA&usg=AFQjCNF0lTcCOW-FRPGAhDwUFNWN-plcEg

    Cant seem to post the link with phone. Just google relative difficulty of a levels..uses 5 different measures if i recall correctly

    You can do medicine with chem and not bio. There is more overlap with chem and the other two than between the other two. Or as I used to put it to parents. Sparky and squidgy don’t mix.

    deepreddave
    Member

    Thanks again. He hasn’t a genuine preference for either and is leaning towards physics based careers more than not i.e. engineering but he’s a typical 16yr old boy! I feel chemistry and physics is a better combo than physics and biology but agree that I’m all for him doing subjects he likes and is good at rather than just one of the two. My post was more for experiences as the decision is entirely his but he’s a bit more ‘go with the flow’ than ‘driven’ right now. He did better in biology but he’s always been equally good at both up until the gcse.

    Premier Icon miketually
    Subscriber

    The best thing to do is talk to the school/college, but we have loads of students doing maths with all three sciences, so don’t entirely discount doing that. Having said that, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of variety, so maths, two sciences and another subject makes sense.

    If he’s interested in Engineering then it would depend on the dicipline, for most it won’t matter though, but if he’s any kind of inkling for Chemical or Process Engineering then I’d go with chemistry, IIRC it wasn’t a required A-level (like physics or maths) anywhere except Cambridge, but it would make the first year easier rather than having to learn it all then.

    I’d think about the 4th AS level quite carefully as well, whether it was luck or subconciously it’s what I actualy quite like doing, the meterology and environmental aspects of it seem to crop up more often in my job than maths (and I’m an engineer!).

    More fit girls* do biology

    EDIT: *FROM THE PERSPECTIVE ON ADOLESCENT MALE STUDENT

    Tom_W1987
    Member

    You can do medicine with chem and not bio. There is more overlap with chem and the other two than between the other two. Or as I used to put it to parents. Sparky and squidgy don’t mix.

    Very few medical schools will allow this.

    Premier Icon mikewsmith
    Subscriber

    Physics, maths, further maths and chemistry last century.

    Also having a surname starting with S they didn’t get round to doing my careers advice stuff will it was all too late.

    It was a combo that seemed to rule more in than out, with the exception of pure bio stuff. If your brain is wired for chemistry then go for it. I went on to study chemistry which was one of my worst choices ever though….

    Premier Icon tonyg2003
    Subscriber

    I’ve got to laugh at the biology is easier than chemistry comment from someone who studied biology +25yrs ago. Both have moved on, in fact biology is advancing excredibly quickly at the moment.

    That is true Tom but the point is some will.

    DanW
    Member

    I did Maths, Physics, Chemistry and German (the one for fun) as these were what I enjoyed. I had a vague idea that Engineering fitted these subjects I enjoyed although I had very little idea what an Engineering course actually entailed at the time! Biology wasn’t even on my radar as my brain just couldn’t tune in to the way of working required for the subject. I did well at GCSE but I knew it wasn’t for me.

    I’m not sure how it works for all courses but having started as a mechanical engineer I switched to medical engineering part way through the course. This had a biology requirement which I just learnt as I went during the course just the same as the other mech engs who didn’t study chemistry had to pick up the chemistry elements of the course. Day one of getting the timetable included a Maths test to determine who would need extra help taking on the Maths parts of the course too, so at least in my case the course and the Uni worked quite hard to get everyone up to the required level knowing there would be some variation amongst new students. I’m sure other Uni course are less flexible but Engineering by and large seems to be pretty flexible most places.

    Now, this is a quite specific example but I’d have though both are difficult courses requiring a brain cell or two so he really has to be happy and confident in his ability to do well in whichever he chooses. I found Chemistry quite a step up from previous years whereas friends studying Biology found it an easier progression but this is highly subjective. Has he has to make choices towards Uni/ career yet as this will be a big factor no doubt?

    deepreddave
    Member

    Thanks to all, good food for thought in what he needs to consider. Much appreciated.
    He’s only starting AS so Uni choices are a while away yet but I’m just keen for him to make an informed decision rather than a ‘yeah that sounds ok easy can I get back to online gaming please’ one 😉

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