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Electronics A Level?

Discussion in 'Design and technology' started by ViolaClef, Jun 16, 2019.

  1. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    Enquiring on behalf on a teenager, who’s studying GCSE Electronics and wants to go to university to study Electronic Engineering. His school doesn’t offer A Level Electronics - a subject which would be perfect for him and in which he could gain high marks. Is there any way of studying A Level Electronics with a tutor - or is too much equipment required for the practical aspects? Any suggestions or advice?
  2. sparks

    sparks New commenter

    I suggest he might like to try to locate an amateur radio club, explains he's trying to do, completes the foundation, intermediate then advanced exams. This will cover A-level electronics for the most part. If the tutor is willing to help 'fill in the blanks' as far as the A level syllabus is concerned, then that's great. Speak to your exams officer and ask if he can entered at the most suitable time. Of course, it goes without saying you need to organise mocks and past papers.
    ViolaClef likes this.
  3. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    Thank you, @sparks for taking the time to reply and for your advice.
  4. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    I used to teach A-level electronics until I retired. This is a subject in decline due to the iron grip of the E-bac subjects and the fact that A-level groups tend to be smallish and the cost of apparatus makes it an expensive subject to teach in schools.

    However, it could be taught at home but there are problems. The students need to complete practical tasks on prototyping boards, stripboard or pcb and this needs supervision to ensure that it's the student's work. The components needed can be obtained online


    The student would need access to an oscilloscope but you can get boxes that plug into a pc or laptop. Here's an example.


    The student would also need some system to programme microcontrollers in assembler language which may be a bit trickier to find.

    Finally, some circuit simulation software like Circuit Wizard really worked for me and my groups


    The only exam board to now offer electronics A-level is Eduquas the Welsh board - AQA and OCR ditched A-level electronics a couple of years ago probably because they weren't making enough profit from it.

    If I'm being honest, I think studying the electronics A-level outside of school is going to be a bit of a challenge on top of all the other school work the student will have. Because so few schools offer A-level electronics A-level these days, virtually all new students on electronic engineering courses will have had little electronics experience beyond what they have tinkered with at home or done in their physics courses and so the subject will be taught from a pretty basic level at the start.

    My advice would be to encourage the student to pursue electronics as a hobby developing some projects through to final circuits that they can take along to their university interviews and pull out of their bag to show their interviewers. It also gives them something positive they can discuss in their UCAS personal statements rather than the usual drivel. It gives students practical skills they will need for their future electronics courses. Many students turn up at university to do electronics never having used a breadboard, done any soldering or used an oscilloscope.

    Violaclef, good luck to your student. Britain is desperately short of electronic engineers and there is a very bright future for those who enter the profession. We're never going to become less electronic in our society and as the latest boom in telecoms has shown, the future is electronic!
    ViolaClef likes this.
  5. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    @Shedman - Thank you so much for your time in giving such a comprehensive reply! I seemed to remember you were an Electronics person and was hoping you might reply! I will pass on all your advice - that’s really helpful.

    With the future being electronic, as you say, it is very short-sighted that we are not encouraging more Electronics courses in schools!
  6. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Violaclef, thank you for your kind words. The decline in electronics is due to shortage of money especially at A-level. Schools want to teach A-level to big groups to reduce staffing costs. Electronics A-level attracted about a dozen students a year, a reasonable group in years gone by but now A-level can be taught in groups of up to 30. Also, electronics gets through a lot of consumables, components, wire etc and investment in instruments like oscilloscopes, signal generators and so on whereas many other subjects just require paper and text books.

    The new GCSE Technology single title specifications have side-lined electronics to such an extent that the amount of electronics content in basically negligible. If students don't get a worthwhile introduction to the subject lower down the school it's unlikely they'll want to carry it through to A-level. Another nail in the electronics coffin.
    ViolaClef likes this.
  7. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    Yes, @Shedman - it all boils down to money in education, doesn’t it? People in high places don’t seem prepared to look ahead to the pupils’ future and offer the variety of courses to tap into the talents and interests of young people today - and the needs of industry/the economy etc. tomorrow.

    The teenager in question is very lucky to be doing GCSE Electronics, though sadly not taught by a specialist such as yourself. However, there is no prospect of ‘A’ Level, which would have been a bit of a dream come true for this individual - I know very few schools offer it now.

    I wonder how many other degree courses commence with no-one in the group possessing an ‘A’ Level in the subject being studied? Would it happen with Maths or English? I think not!
    Shedman likes this.

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