How do I pick subjects in IGCSE / AS & A Levels? 4 Easy Steps

17 June 2021 — Written by Arpit Chhikara

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It is not easy to pick subjects in IGCSE / AS & A levels. That is why we decided to share our 4-step process to guide your decision when it comes to opting for the right set of subjects. To get rid of confusion and help you make a smart decision, below are a few guidelines to fine-tune your subject choice in IGCSE / AS & A levels.

Use the VARK model to pick the right IGCSE/ AS & A level subjects based on your learning style

This is a model which Neil Fleming developed. VARK means - visual, auditory, reading/writing, kinesthetic. These are the learning styles of a person but it is not necessary you’ve only one type of learning style. You could learn cooking by watching YouTube tutorials (V+A) and also by standing in the kitchen and observing your mother (K). A student thus utilizes all the learning styles at different times in different situations. One style is dominant while others are non-dominant. Now, if you’ve chosen Physics to be your focus subject, how will the VARK model help in choosing the additional ones?

Physics is a subject that uses R, V and K. It might make sense to combine it with an A type, such as learning a musical instrument. This will train your brain to learn using all 4 styles and you may become a sound engineer in the future. Fun fact - Albert Einstein used to play the piano in between his work breaks. You could also opt for visual design, a V focused subject. Doing so, you may very well be on the path to becoming an architect or a 3D simulation designer for high-end machines. Simply put, pick subjects that add value to your natural talent and reduce your shortcomings.

Know what is your intelligence type to pick subjects that lead to interdisciplinary learning

Take this test based on the model which Dr Howard Gardner from Harvard came up with because IQ tests were an insufficient measure of a student’s intelligence. It says that people have 9 types of intelligence:-

We all have all these types of intelligence in us. But like the VARK model, some are dominant while others not so much. An IGCSE / AS & A level curriculum allows you to self-design what you plan to learn based on your innate talent and intelligence. If your focus subject is Psychology, you’ll build a great deal of interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence. You could pair it up with biology to get better at naturalistic intelligence and become a human behaviour researcher. Or you could pick economics and become a decision making advisor to business owners by using your logical-mathematical intelligence alongside the intra and inter personal kind. Elon Musk extensively studied two subjects - physics and economics. Because of which he became good at logical-mathematical and visual-spatial types of intelligence. That’s why he today can make effective rockets and cars and manage his bigger than big businesses exceptionally well.

Think back from the end to proceed ahead when you pick subjects

This is a commonly used logical reasoning technique. In the words of Steve Jobs, you can only connect the dots looking backwards. Imagine yourself doing the work you wish to do 10 years from now. Let’s say you’re a manager in an organisation that makes automation software. For this to happen, you need knowledge of computers and management, of course. You also should communicate well, interpret data and have a problem-solving approach. It may make sense for you to study Computers and combine it with Business Studies, Language and Accounting. To use backwards induction and apply it to pick subjects in IGCSE / AS & A levels, you need to be sure of your long and short term career goals. But a lot of young learners before their bachelor’s degree are still in the process of figuring out their passion, therefore, it is important to reduce their confusion. This brings us to the final guideline.

Keep in mind the connect of passion-work to pick subjects that best fit your career goals

This is a model which Cal Newport describes in his book - So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Success lies at the intersection of what you love doing, what pays bills and what you’re good at. Let’s say that you’re good at drawing portraits. But can you use it to feed yourself? If not, can you learn design and become a graphics designer or a professional illustrator? Seems possible because you love to make art. It won’t be too hard for you to learn digital tools which can visually convey ideas. Now, if you also learn psychology and marketing, you can find work as a designer who helps clients reach their audience via eye-catching social media posts. Paying the bills will now be much more convenient. In short, you combine your natural talent and curiosity to learn something that has a marketplace and offers employment opportunities. This is a reason why a lot of fiction writers were also journalists, including Hemingway who started his career as a freelance writer. They had to feed themselves while doing what they loved. So they first built their skills at what excited them and with time, brought skills on-board with their natural talent and marketplace.

Conclusion

Use the insights in this article as guidelines but don’t restrict yourself to following them. A common practice is to opt for some version of maths and literature with social sciences and arts. But you must get creative when you pick subjects. This is what the essence of interdisciplinary studies really is - seek new ways to choose subjects and combine them in your IGCSE / AS & A curriculum. Afterall, it is all about having and exercising the freedom to take a heutagogical outlook towards learning.

At Beyond 8, we help young learners explore their dream careers through comprehensive dream mapping sessions with our expert facilitators. If you or your aspiring child would like to know more, reach out to us at contact@beyond8.in or on our website, www.beyond8.in

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