Studying maths beyond GCSE

Do you know what you want to do in the future?

If so, have you thought about how continuing to studying maths will help you? It could make a huge difference to whether you achieve your aims.

If you don’t know what you want to do, then studying maths will help to keep your options open.

Here’s how:

It opens up opportunities
Advanced maths qualifications are highly regarded by employers and universities. They are often required or recommended, and may lead to reduced offers for entry to university and degree apprenticeship programmes, even for subjects that don't have a large amount of mathematical content. What's more, if you're well-qualified in maths you tend to earn more.
It keeps your maths skills fresh

The chances are that at some point you’ll be asked to take a numeracy test.

Many university courses, including subjects other than maths, such as medicine and teaching, require applicants to take an additional admission test with some mathematical content.

What’s more, many employers use numeracy tests to filter applicants.

Students who have studied maths beyond GCSE are likely to be better prepared for such tests.

It develops useful skills

Studying maths develops your numeracy, graphical and problem-solving skills. These skills are really useful preparation for the maths used in many university degree courses, higher apprenticeships, and the workplace. It can also increase your confidence and fluency in the maths used in everyday life.

It can improve your results

Many other subjects studied after GCSE include mathematical content.

Maths skills are included in the assessment of around a third of all non-maths A levels. For example, 10% of the marks in A level Psychology assess maths skills at Higher Tier GCSE level.

Many level 3 vocational courses, such as engineering and applied science, also include a lot of maths.

It’s likely that if you study maths alongside subjects like these you’ll achieve better results in them.

So, what are the options?

There are three main paths involving advanced maths qualifications:

Core Maths

Core Maths is a relatively new type of qualification. It’s designed for students who have passed GCSE Mathematics at grade 4 or above, but who have not chosen to study AS or A level Mathematics.

You’ll learn some new topics, but it mostly involves maths you’ll have already used for your GCSE. Where it differs is its focus on developing the skills you need to apply maths to the kinds of real-life problems you’ll meet in study, work and life. There’s also a strong emphasis on problem-solving.

Core maths is usually studied over two years. It’s equal in size to an AS level and is graded A-E. It has the same number of UCAS tariff points as an AS level.

AS/A level Mathematics

A level Mathematics is the most popular A level subject. It involves studying

  • pure maths – use of algebra, graphical techniques and new material such as calculus

  • statistics - including analysis of data, interpretation of graphs such as scatter diagrams, and new topics including the Normal distribution and hypothesis testing

  • mechanics– studying the motion of objects by considering forces, using ‘suvat’ equations and interpreting graphs representing motion

A level Mathematics is a requirement for certain degree courses and apprenticeships, and is recommended for many more.

AS/A level Mathematics with AS/A level Further Mathematics
A level Further Mathematics is a second A level in maths, designed to broaden and deepen the maths covered in A level Mathematics. It’s usually taken alongside A level Mathematics.

Which is the right maths qualification for me?

The subjects you choose for your A levels are very important when it comes to applying to university or for a higher/degree apprenticeship. Before you choose, make sure you look into the typical requirements for the university courses and higher and degree apprenticeships that interest you. A great place to start is the Russell Group Informed Choices guide.

A level Mathematics is a particularly useful subject. Research has found that it makes the biggest difference to the offer you’ll receive from a top university, even if it’s not required for the course you’ve applied for.

If you’re thinking of taking a degree in maths or a degree apprenticeship programmes that involves a lot of maths, consider also taking AS/A level Further Mathematics. Not only is it preferred for many maths degree courses, it can also help with the mathematical admission tests, required by some prestigious universities. It introduces you to new maths topics and supports a smooth transition to degree level maths. It provides enjoyable, more challenging material and the chance to explore more sophisticated mathematical ideas. Interestingly, it’s also been found that if you study AS/A level Further Mathematics it can help you improve your results in AS/A level Mathematics.

Of course, as well as thinking about your aims for the future, you also need to consider how much you enjoy maths, and what you’ve achieved with it so far.

If you’re on track for a grade 4 or better in GCSE Mathematics, and decide not to take maths at AS/A level, consider taking Core Maths. It can usually be studied alongside 3 A levels, and it’s a great way to keep your maths skills fresh, support your other subjects, and develop skills that will be really useful for study, work and life in general. It can also lead to reduced offers for a wide range of degree subjects.

If you’re predicted grade 5 or higher, think about taking AS/A level Mathematics, and if it’s grade 6 or higher, consider taking both AS/A level Mathematics and AS/A level Further Mathematics. Be sure to ask the school/college at which you intend to take A levels about their entry requirements for each of these courses, as different schools/college may have different policies.

What if I can’t take the maths course I want?

Most colleges and 11-18 schools offer AS/A level Mathematics.

Most also offer AS/A level Further Mathematics. If yours doesn’t, the AMSP can help you, either by providing all of your tuition (with the cooperation of your school/college), or by sharing the teaching with your school/college.

Core Maths is a relatively new qualification and, although not yet as common as AS/A level Mathematics, it is becoming more widely available. The AMSP does not offer tuition in it, but we are developing an online platform of resources to support schools and colleges offering it.

If you can’t take the maths options you want, talk to your maths teacher to see whether your school/college could find a way to make it available. If it’s still not possible, contact your AMSP Area Coordinator.