Education Blog

Question: Business or economics: How can I help my son choose which A-levels to take? 

The Telegraph, 27 October 2016 – Read the article in full here.

Vivienne Durham: Mathematics would be an ideal A-level

As a head, I would always advise parents to take a healthy interest in the A-level options being chosen by their teenagers, but the ultimate decision should be taken by your son.

A-level economics is intellectually demanding. The ability to understand and apply economic theory, explain complex ideas succinctly, write with semantic precision and think analytically in response to data,  is also required.

Strong ability in maths GCSE (or IGCSE) can be a good indicator of likely success at economics A-level. 

A distinguished university professor of economics once stated that economics is: “the study of emotional chemistry”. That, to me, sums up the  fascination of this subject.

A good grasp of logic, plus cause and effect, is at the heart of economics. Understanding of human nature is also essential. All skills that would be valuable in a business/management degree.

Business studies A-level focuses on problem solving, decision-making and developing a range of business skills.

All A-levels are created equal, but economics is still regarded as a more academic A-level than business studies.

Syllabus details for economics and business studies A-levels can be accessed online. Content will vary according to the A-level exam board(s) chosen, so you might want to ask your son’s school for confirmation of this. 

Since the introduction of new guidelines for A-levels by Ofqual, intended to ensure that all A-level subjects are intellectually rigorous and comparable, AQA, one of the three national public examination boards, created a new business A-level to replace its previous business studies specification.

Edexcel offers an A-level in economics and business, which might appeal, if your son’s school offers this combined syllabus. 

All A-levels are created equal, but economics is still regarded as a more academic A-level than business studies, by many peopleEconomics would certainly be an excellent A-level subject option, prior to a business/management degree at any British university.

I would advise your son against studying both subjects. Mathematics A-level would be an ideal complement for either economics or business studies, if your son enjoys the subject and achieves a high GCSE grade in maths.

History, politics, geography and any of the three sciences are other A-level subjects which are often studied successfully with economics.  

Vivienne Durham, schools advisory director at Enjoy Education and former head at Francis Holland School, Regent’s Park

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