As you probably already know, in England, there are three main subjects that schools, colleges and employers all want to hear about: English, Maths and Science. But why is it that these subjects are so important to them and take priority over others as the means of assessing your competencies in academia?
You don’t, of course, have to get top marks in all of these areas in order to get a good job, because ultimately a bank or accountancy firm will be looking primarily for your skillset in Maths. However, you must still display a certain level of academic ability in the other two areas if you want more opportunities in life.
English, Maths and Science are currently taught to pupils as young as 5, with some nurseries and pre-schools even introducing numeracy and literacy to toddlers. It is at this age that the mind is like a sponge so, with any luck, you will already have a reasonable understanding and practice of the skills required of you as you head into your A Level Maths and beyond.
There may come a time when creativity is valued as much as English, Maths and Science are in this world but, as it stands, the majority of colleges, universities and recruiters are more concerned with these so-called core educational subjects than how talented you are as an artist, how competent you may be as a musician or how unique or inventive your ideas are.
If Maths is all you have ever really known and all you’ve ever wanted to do, then studying towards yet another qualification in the subject area will feel as comforting as going home.
If Maths simply comes naturally to you, then you could be off to a very good start in life!
You might have experienced, for instance, entry exams to get a place in your chosen secondary school. You may even have been asked to come in for an interview by your prospective sixth form college, during which they will no doubt discuss your level of education, including areas which you are doing well in and ones which you have clearly struggled with.
Even primary schools sometimes check that pupils are achieving a high enough level in these core areas before accepting them, especially private schools with strong reputations to uphold.
Bear in mind that your all-round grades are more likely to be scrutinised in detail if you are looking to take the International Baccalaureate, which requires you to take English, Maths and a Science as higher or standard level subjects.
These individual areas, along with three additional subjects (usually Arts, Business Studies and Humanities subjects) are marked out of 7, and candidates must receive a minimum of 24 points to pass the course. This means that you must do relatively well in all subjects, achieving on average a 4 in each.
Furthermore, if you haven’t already got a part-time job, you may not yet have completed an application form.
You’ll soon see that, on any professional application form for any type of role, you will be asked to confirm your qualifications to date, with a particular focus on the three aforementioned subjects. This is so that establishments can get a feel for your overall academic competencies, which reflect a number of key skills in business.
The reason for this is that your grade in English showcases just how well you can communicate, especially in writing, while the Sciences display your ability to think logically and rationally.
Similarly, Maths shows recruiters that you are able to take logical steps to problem-solving and, of course, that you have at the very least basic numeracy skills. You would be surprised how many people in the workplace struggle if they can’t add up, multiply or use fractions and ratios.
So, for those who always thought that businesses asking to see your grades was just a way for them to tick professional boxes, this may well be correct but there is an alterior motive too.
Although each company might take a different view on what is seen as acceptable, most recruiters are generally looking for signs of your ability to apply yourself to the demands of their role.
If you consider that your grades are, as yet, the only real evidence of your ability to cope with pressure and the other implications of a professional surrounding, it is easy to see why they are so valuable to both you and the interested party.
On a side note, many recruiting companies happily admit that a candidate who displays a lower set of grades yet worked part-time and served as a class captain throughout their studies very easily becomes a more attractive candidate, as it shows that they can juggle responsibilities reasonably well.
We are not implying that you should take on more than you can handle, because your education is at this time the biggest focus of your life, however it won’t harm you to start to consider how certain responsibilities can enhance your portfolio in the future.
Finally, if you are applying to study a technical subject at college, then your Maths GCSE will almost certainly be a deciding factor in whether you can proceed on this route. Budding mathematicians will in no uncertain terms have to prove that they are cut out for the challenging next level of this area of study.
Furthermore, if your ambition is to fulfil a role directly linked to numbers and therefore Maths, then you may not have a choice in the matter!
If this is the case, then you really do not need to worry about whether or not you are choosing the right subject path, instead you should be looking to the future and what the subject can do for you beyond your education.
Maths is like a universal technical language, so any achievements you have in the subject will be recognised in other countries. While there may not be equivalent qualifications in all parts of the world, you can rest assured that your level of mathematic understanding will stay up there no matter where you are studying or working.
It is quite fascinating to think that Maths is the only language that is exactly the same for all humans, regardless of nationality, culture, religion or gender, isn’t it?
As an example, while students in France might use a slightly different method to work out the answer to a division than those in the UK, they will still arrive at the same answer because there is no other possible answer. Just like Pi is always going to be roughly 3.14 no matter what your coordinates are!
When it comes to Maths A Level, there are actually no pre-learning requirements. Your acceptance on a course will usually be left down to the discretion of your chosen college, who will assess your suitability for their course based on a number of internally determined factors.
For example, if you are applying to study at a technical college whose primary aim is to mould scientific or mathematic pupils, then they may be more picky about who can study at their establishment.
Similarly, schools who feature high up in the league table won’t allow you to pick a subject that you’re unlikely to succeed in, as this will reflect badly on them. You can, however, assume that if you have a relatively good GCSE maths grade, you I’ll probably have no problem enrolling on a Maths A Level.
On the other hand, if you didn’t do very well in your GCSE Maths exams but are still keen to pursue Maths going forward, you might need to consider re-taking your exam to bring you up to the level required of you as you begin your A Level specification.
In addition to all of the above, by studying Maths, you can develop a range of skills that are sought after by employers and that will also help you throughout your day to day life. For example, Maths encourages logical thinking, decision-making and problem-solving.
Without these properties deep-rooted into your senses and responses, you would not be able to get by in our modern and complex Western society.
What’s more, with the world very quickly turning towards technical solutions and automation, we are constantly interacting with machines and devices. These interactions and functions require us to have a basic understanding of logic, analytics as well as other technical or mathematical skills if we are to move forward with our lives with ease, embracing newfound technologies.
Maths as a subject is vital to those seeking a career as a bookkeeper or accountant.
To add to that, Maths is a key area of study for those seeking a career in the Finance, Engineering and Information Technology industries. Just some jobs that are directly related to a Maths qualification are Chartered Accountant, Investment Analyst, Systems Developer and Secondary School Teacher of Maths.
Find out where to find A level Maths past papers with our blog, here.