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Year 11 students are in the throes of selecting subjects to study at A level. The announcement about A level changes starting in 2015 has thrown up the phrase facilitating subjects. This is a term used by the Russell Group of top universities to identify A levels which, in their view, are particularly effective in equipping students with the skills they need for a large number of competitive courses and in increasing a student's chances of getting on to those courses.

Economics, alongside a number of other traditional theoretically orientated disciplines, does not make the list of identified facilitating subjects but this does not mean it is considered ‘soft’ or second rate when compared to say Geography and Chemistry.

There are some advanced level subjects which provide suitable preparation for entry to university generally, but which the Russell Group  do not include within the facilitating subjects, because there are relatively few degree programmes where an advanced level qualification in these subjects would be a requirement for entry. Examples of such subjects include Economics, and Religious Studies

Source: Informed Choiceshttp://www.russellgroup.ac.uk/media/informed-choices/InformedChoices-latest.pdf  

There are good reasons not to take economics – its status in the eyes of universities is not one of them. Economics is a good choice for those from whom facilitating subjects have little appeal; are curious to analyse issues such as European integration or development using rigorous concepts; want to learn something new that will help them understand the world better. Success in Economics tells universities you can master a complex system of thinking.

If you start a subject from scratch like Economics you have the challenge getting to an A level standard without the benefits of prior GCSE learning. There is a risk that you won’t enjoy the subject, or will find it particularly difficult. Take more than one new subject and you multiply the risk. But think of the rewards!

Deciding on which A levels to study, or not, is a difficult choice. Whatever you choose now will commit you to certain directions at university and perhaps rule out certain careers. It is important that your decisions are taken on the basis of complete and accurate information, and clear thinking.

A good starting point is the Russell Groups Informed Choices which offers a 5 step plan for making post 16 choices:

1.  Know what you want to study? – Check out the entry requirements

2.  Not sure yet? – Keep your options open! Try to choose at least two facilitating subjects

3.  Make sure you understand the GCSE requirements for entry to a competitive university.

4.  Think balance: do you have a balance of subject choices that reflect your abilities, strengths and interests? Have you considered how certain subject combinations relate to university courses?

5.  Make sure you know WHY you want to take a subject. Do you have an aptitude for it? Will you find it interesting to study? Does the subject choice help with your degree or future career options?

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