Informed Choices

Subject choices at school and college

The Russell Group’s guide Informed Choices provides students with information, advice and guidance about their post-16 subject choices.

Choosing your A-level (or equivalent) subjects carefully is really important – especially if you have aspirations to study at a leading university. The Russell Group’s guide, Informed Choices, includes advice from admissions professionals on the best subject combinations for a wide range of university courses as well as the best choices for students who want to keep their options open.


Choosing your A-level, Higher, IB and equivalent subjects

Universities look for students who not only have good grades, but grades in the right subjects for the course they want to apply for. If you already know what you want to study at university, you should think about choosing subjects which give you the best possible preparation for your chosen degree course. If you’re not sure what you want to study at university yet, it’s important to choose subjects which will leave as many options open as possible.


Many courses at university build on knowledge and skills which students gain while still at school. For this reason, some university courses require you to have studied a particular subject already. For example, for general engineering degrees, mathematics and physics are typically essential A-level qualifications.

Some advanced level subjects are more frequently required for entry to degree courses than others. We call these subjects ‘facilitating’ because choosing them at advanced level leaves open a wide range of options for university study. These facilitating subjects are:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • English literature
  • Geography
  • History
  • Physics
  • Modern and classical languages
  • Maths and further maths


If you don’t know what you want to study at university then it’s a really good rule of thumb that taking two facilitating subjects will keep a wide range of degree courses open to you.


While Informed Choices brings together advice about subject choices from across the Russell Group, each university and each course will have its own entry requirements. Some institutions publish a list of preferred A-level subjects which are acceptable for general admission, as well as specific requirements for individual courses. We advise students to check the guidance given by institutions very carefully. This information should be easily accessible on universities’ websites or in their prospectuses.


We hope that you find our guide useful, and wish you every success in your studies.



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