The River Thames outside DLD College London

What A-level subjects should you choose if you want to start preparing for a career in engineering – Interview with past student

Engineering courses are some of the most popular undergraduate programmes offered by UK universities. The UK has a long-established reputation for excellence in engineering teaching and practice; from groundbreaking engineering achievements, such as the Industrial revolution, which laid the foundation stones for modern engineering practice. This reputation has established the UK as a hub for engineering education and research.

UK universities are known for their high academic standards and rigorous curriculum. Engineering undergraduate programs in the UK often have a strong emphasis on theoretical knowledge, practical skills, and industry practice. Uk universities have a strong focus on engineering research and innovation, often conducting world-leading research in various engineering disciplines and contributing to advances in areas like aerospace and automotive engineering, and civil engineering. UK universities also actively collaborate with industry partners, fostering strong links between academia and industry.

Here at DLD College London, we have a strong track-record of helping students progress on to study a wide range of engineering based courses at top UK universities, we recently asked a group of DLD alumni, who are now studying engineering undergraduate courses, for their tops tips and advice for our current A-Level students who are hoping to apply to engineering courses.

What different Engineering disciplines can I study at University?

There is a wide-range of engineering courses on offer at UK universities, here are some of the main engineering disciplines our students have progressed on to study:

  1. Civil Engineering: This course focuses on the design, construction, and maintenance of infrastructure projects such as buildings, bridges, roads, dams, and water supply systems.
  2. Mechanical Engineering: Mechanical engineering deals with the design, analysis, and manufacturing of mechanical systems and components, including engines, machinery, vehicles, and heating/cooling systems.
  3. Electrical and Electronic Engineering: Electrical engineering involves the study of electrical systems, electronics, power generation, transmission, and distribution. It covers areas such as electric circuits, power systems, telecommunications, and control systems.
  4. Chemical Engineering: Chemical engineering combines chemistry, physics, and biology principles to design and develop processes for the production of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, fuels, and materials. It involves areas like chemical reactions, process design, and optimisation.
  5. Aerospace Engineering: Aerospace engineering focuses on the design, development, and production of aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and related systems. It covers areas such as aerodynamics, propulsion, flight mechanics, and avionics.
  6. Computer Engineering: Computer engineering combines elements of electrical engineering and computer science. It involves the design and development of computer hardware and software systems, including computer networks, embedded systems, and digital systems.
  7. Biomedical Engineering: Biomedical engineering applies engineering principles to healthcare and medicine. It involves the development and implementation of medical devices, diagnostic tools, prosthetics, and imaging systems.
  8. Environmental Engineering: Environmental engineering focuses on the study and management of environmental issues, including water and air pollution, waste management, sustainable development, and environmental impact assessment.
  9. Industrial Engineering: Industrial engineering is concerned with optimizing complex systems and processes. It involves the application of engineering principles to improve efficiency, productivity, and quality in manufacturing, logistics, and service industries.
  10. Materials Engineering: Materials engineering involves the study of the properties, processing, and design of materials used in various applications. It covers areas such as metallurgy, polymers, ceramics, and composites.

The field of engineering is ever-evolving, and this list is a brief summary of the most popular courses. You can find a wider range of engineering subjects, including many opportunities for cross-disciplinary study, by searching on the websites of the universities themselves. The UCAS website also features a useful engineering course search tool.

How many A-Level Subjects do I need to take to study Engineering at University? 

Many students looking to apply to study an engineering course at university will typically take 3 or 4 A–Level subjects with the aim of achieving high grades to meet the entry requirements of top engineering universities. In short, getting a strong set of A-Level results in the right subjects is the first step toward a career in Engineering.

A-Level students should aim to study a minimum of 3 A-Level subjects. Most A-Level courses take 2 years to complete, but at some schools you can also opt for ‘fast-track’ programmes of 18 months or 1 year. Many students applying to top-ranking engineering universities will take 4 A-Level Subjects. Achieving good grades in 4 A-Level subjects will help to demonstrate to competitive universities that you are a high-calibre candidate with strong academic capabilities and the ability to manage and prioritise heavier workloads, skills which will certainly impress admissions tutors at top engineering universities.

What A-Level Subjects are best for Engineering at University? 

Firstly, a student should ask themselves whether they have an aptitude for doing engineering and a keen enthusiasm to study engineering-relevant subjects, otherwise they will not be able to complete their engineering studies successfully.

Secondly, students should be able to demonstrate strong problem-solving capabilities, creative thinking, and the ability to plan and design complex 3-D models. These qualities will certainly help the student to emerge as an expert engineer.

Thirdly, students should think about the subjects that they enjoy studying at the moment and how these will fit with engineering. If you are more interested in arts and humanities subjects than in science and mathematics A-Level Subjects, then it is probably better to avoid studying engineering and look at other subjects instead.

Fourth, studying A-Level Subjects for engineering will involve hard work and dedication. You will need to be well organised and plan your learning journey meticulously. So if you are not used to working hard in complex mathematics and science subjects then they might want to select another degree course.

Fifth, students should approach and ask their teachers for advice on selecting the right A-Level Subjects for engineering. A good teacher will be able to provide expert university selection and careers guidance.

Sixth, students should take enough time to go through the criteria and requirements for engineering at various universities before selecting the appropriate A-Level Subjects to take. Entry-level qualifications and additional requirements vary for each university. Be realistic about whether you can achieve the A-Level grades needed in each of your subjects to progress and pursue an engineering course at your chosen university.

A-Level Subjects to be chosen for a career in Engineering 

For almost all engineering courses at UK universities the most important A-Level Subjects to study are Maths and Physics. Students can opt to study Further Maths in addition to Maths, which is of great value at many top universities. Many students opt for another science subject such as Chemistry or Biology as their third or fourth A-Level subject because they are highly valued by UK universities and can help to lead on to specialist engineering fields such as chemical engineering or biomechanical engineering.

Students can choose a non-science related third or fourth subject such as a Business, Art, or a humanities-based subject. For example, many students combine Maths, Physics and Art to apply for architectural or design-based engineering courses.

What grades do I need to achieve in my A-Level Subjects for Engineering? 

The UK’s world-class engineering universities generally expect students to achieve A*-A grades in their Maths and Physics A-Levels. Achieving A*-A in your third and fourth A-Level Subjects will certainly help improve your chances of success, and may well be a compulsory requirement for some courses such as Chemical Engineering. Therefore, for top-ranked engineering universities A-Level grades around A*A*AA in four A-Level Subjects will usually ensure admission to most top engineering universities of high.

B grades in your third and fourth A-Level subject might be accepted by the second-tier ranked engineering universities. Do remember though, that Engineering courses tend to be some of the most competitive programmes at UK universities.

What Engineering disciplines available if A-Level Subjects are completed? 

There is a wide range of engineering disciplines, which means that A-Level students have a wide-range of engineering undergraduate courses to choose from.

Branches of engineering include Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Automobile Engineering, Aviation and Aeronautical Engineering, Bio Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Marine Engineering, Materials Science Engineering, Power and Energy Engineering and Robotics.

A-Level students will often have the option to study on a BEng course which is a three years course, or an MEng course, which is four years course. Upon completion of the MEng course the student will be able to register as a Chartered Engineer, and MEng graduates are often the most sought-after by many reputed companies.

What are the four major branches of Engineering a student can join after passing A-Level Subjects? 

Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Chemical Engineering are the four oldest and major branches of Engineering. Most students will join one of these courses when they complete their A-Level Subjects.

What A Levels subjects are needed to study Civil Engineering? 

Top-ranked Chemical Engineering Universities generally expect students to study A-Level Subjects, Further Maths and Physics as the first 2 subjects with A* Grades in both the subjects. The third subject should be Chemistry with a minimum of A grade and the fourth A-Level Subject as Geology or Geography with a minimum of A grade. This selection of A-Level Subjects will certainly give students a good chance of a successful application to civil engineering.

What A Levels subjects are needed to study Mechanical Engineering? 

Top Mechanical Engineering Universities expect the students to study Maths/Further Maths and Physics as their A-Level subjects with A*/A Grades in both subjects. An ideal third/fourth subject should be Chemistry with a minimum of A grade.  Another good A-Level Subject would be Computer Science with a minimum of A grade as this will give useful transferrable skills in computing and digital design. This selection of A-Level subjects will ensure a student is an attractive applicant to mechanical engineering universities.

What ALevels subjects are needed to study Chemical Engineering? 

When students select A-Level Subjects for Chemical Engineering at university, they should choose Maths and Chemistry as their primary subjects with a target grade of A*/A in both. The other two A-Level Subjects could be Physics and Biology. This selection will enable the students to move on to world-class chemical engineering universities. Tier 2 universities expect grades of A*A*AB in the four A-Level Subjects. 

What A Levels subjects are needed to study Electrical Engineering? 

Electrical Engineering is considered to be the toughest of all engineering subjects for admission. The subject requires strong problem-solving abilities and an in-depth knowledge of Instrumentation. Students should opt for  A-Level Subjects such as, Maths/Further Maths and Physics with A*/A Grades in both subjects. Students should keep in mind that Further Maths is a priority subject here. The third subject should be Chemistry with a minimum of A grade, and the fourth A-Level Subject could be a technical subject such as Computer Science with a minimum of A grade as this will have useful application to designing, creating, and maintaining electrical machines and devices. This is a strong selection of A-Level Subjects for admission to electrical engineering. 

Interview with former DLD College London students on studying A-Level Subjects 

It is always useful to get some advice from past students regarding the preparation of A-Level Subjects. Here are a few tips given by former DLD College London A-Level students who have gone on to study engineering subjects at university. 

1. Practice and Revise as many A-Level past papers as you can 

”While preparing for your A-Level final exams, it is good to practice the old question papers as much as possible because every year the same type of topics and questions come up. Revising past papers will help you to score get the best grades in all your A-Level subject exams. Revising past papers also helps to make connections between different parts of the A-Level syllabus and helps you answer questions more quickly and efficiently in the exams. This is very important because A-Level Subjects such as Maths, Physics and Chemistry are very hard to study and remember as a whole. It is also a good idea to time yourself whilst completing past papers as this will help you to manage your time effectively in the final exam.” 

2. Get feedback on your A-Level past paper answers 

”After trying to answer A-Level past paper questions, ask your teachers to mark and provide feedback on your answers. Your teacher’s expertise will give you a much better idea of how to improve your answer presentation, and to identify any common mistakes you might make, and correct them before taking the final A-Level exam. Your teachers are a great resource as they have many years experience of teaching A-Level subjects, and they might even have set and marked A-Level exam questions in the past.” 

3. Draw up a timetable for revision of your A-Level Subjects 

”Make a revision timetable to organise your revision and preparation in each subject. This ensures that you will allocate enough revision and study time for each subject without confusion. This makes you highly organised, and you will also be able to have separate time to eat, sleep, socialise and rest, which is good for your physical and mental health as you will not feel stressed or anxious about exams. Ultimately this means better A-Level grades and a place at a better university.” 

4. Eat a balanced Diet and have Hobbies outside of your A-Level Subjects 

”Eating healthy, nutritious and tasty food keeps your body fit and sharpens your memory to prepare for A-Level study. Don’t skip your breakfast or any other meals and take time to pursue your hobbies and games which will help to maintain good health and relax your mind. Having a good balance between your life and your studies will help you to pass your A-Levels with flying colours.”

5. Broaden your knowledge outside from the curriculum of your A-Level Subjects 

”Make it a point to study outside the syllabus of your A-Level Subjects, and not just the question and answers alone. This helps in upgrading your knowledge and widen your academic perspective, which would be of great use when you are studying engineering at university and later in your career also.”

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