Please note that this subject is in the process of being reformed for first teaching in September 2017. The information below reflects what is currently known about the new course. Further details will be available in the Autumn Term 2016, when the specification (syllabus) has been finalised and published.
What is the course about?
AS and A Level mathematics build on the skills and knowledge developed at GCSE level. A Level mathematics emphasises how mathematical ideas are interconnected and how mathematics can be applied to model situations mathematically using algebra, to help make sense of data, to understand the physical world and to solve problems in a variety of real life contexts. It prepares students for further study and employment in a wide range of disciplines involving the use of mathematics.
A major part of the course is Pure Maths which is the study of mathematical ideas and methods for their own sake and to give a ‘toolkit’ for solving mathematical problems. All Pure Maths is expressed in terms of algebra. All students will also study both statistics and mechanics as part of their AS Level course and again in the second year of their A Level.
Statistics involves learning how to draw conclusions from data. It is very different from Statistics at GCSE and the focus is on probability, looking at whether or not apparent patterns in certain types of situation could be the result merely of chance and random variation, or whether the pattern in the data is unlikely to have arisen in this way.
Studying mechanics allows us to understand the physical world and to work out how objects move when forces such as gravity act on them.
What will I study in the first year?
In the first year you will cover topics in Pure Maths, Statistics and Mechanics. In Pure Maths you will study a wide range of topics including differentiation, trigonometry and vectors. In Statistics you will learn about sampling and probability and in Mechanics you will learn about kinematics (displacement, velocity and acceleration).
What will I study in the second year?
In the second year you will develop your mathematical problem solving skills and algebraic skills further and you will study more Pure Maths including logarithms and integration. In Statistics you will learn about the normal distribution and in Mechanics you will learn about projectiles and friction.
How is the course assessed?
The course is assessed through examinations at the end of the second year.
What skills will I develop in this course?
There is a strong emphasis on developing skills in logical reasoning and problem solving and you will be solving problems by reasoning clearly in a step-by-step, logical way using algebra. You will learn how to represent situations mathematically and then to find solutions to them. In Statistics you will spend time interpreting and investigating real data and drawing conclusions from it. In Mechanics you will study how objects move under the influence of gravity and you will learn about forces and Newton’s laws.
What can the course lead to in terms of higher education and future careers?
A Level Mathematics is required for most university courses in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry (straight Chemistry degrees), Engineering, Architecture (many courses but not all), Economics (the more mathematical courses), Management Science (some courses) and Computer Science (but not IT more broadly).
A Level Maths provides a helpful background for the mathematical parts of university courses in Biological and Environmental Sciences, Business Studies (at least on some of the more mathematical courses) and Psychology (because of its Statistics content). Students who have not taken Maths beyond GCSE often struggle with the mathematical parts of these courses.
What are the formal entry requirements for A level Mathematics?
A Level Mathematics builds on Higher Tier GCSE Mathematics and, aside from the College’s general entry criteria, a minimum of Grade 6 on Higher Tier GCSE Maths is required. (For A Level Statistics where there is far less algebra, the entry requirement for GCSE Maths is lower.)
Which aspects of GCSE Mathematics are important for the A level Course?
Fluency in algebra is vital for success on this course. It is easy to underestimate this. Can you ……
- Solve equations, including simultaneous and quadratic equations (factorising and the formula)?
- Rearrange formulas?
- Work with fractions and negative numbers without a calculator (absolutely essential)?
- Solve problems - for example using trigonometry?
- Draw graphs of functions from their equations without calculating values point by point?
Subject combination advice
Subject combination advice:
In order to enable progression to university courses with a high mathematical content, A Level Mathematics can be a particularly important complement to A Level Physics and Chemistry and also to A Levels in Economics and Biology. However Mathematics is an interesting, stimulating and valuable subject in its own right and there is no need to take any of these subjects alongside it.
What is the difference between A Level Mathematics and A Level Statistics?
A Level Mathematics is very dependent on algebraic understanding and fluency. This forms the main area of progression within the course. A Level Statistics focuses on using Mathematics to explain and draw inferences from data and is much less dependent on algebraic understanding and fluency.