Sixth Form

The Curriculum

Diagram to guide you through the process of  joining the Sixth Form 

Why A Levels & not IB or Pre-U? 

The A Level exam system has been undergoing a period of reform in recent years, and this has given us a very good opportunity to review all that is on offer as a potential Sixth Form academic curriculum.  There are a number of reasons why we continue to offer A Levels at St Catherine’s, rather than IB or Pre U, or a mixture, but chief amongst these is that they continue to be the best guide to potential.  University admissions tutors have told us that they like the fact that A Level students have studied topics in depth.  

The A Level structure also offers students much more flexibility and personal choice; for example, in IB you may not study all three sciences together, which many girls wish to do at St Catherine’s, and indeed do so with great distinction. We believe students about to enter the Sixth Form are already highly qualified at GCSE across a broad range of subjects; they are more than capable of making well-informed choices, fully ready to focus on subjects they enjoy and which will prepare them for Higher Education and potential career choices. Girls can choose freely from 28 subjects.  Additional languages such as Mandarin, Cantonese and Russian are also available by arrangement.  It may be possible to pick up GCSE Italian in the L6.


Alongside the A Level subjects, the Sixth Form curriculum also includes SCOPE (St Catherine’s Ongoing Programme of Enrichment), which is an hour-long session each week, designed to complement academic study.  
Education encompasses more than specialised areas of study and in SCOPE lessons you will encounter a broad range of topics, which will help you to approach the challenges of adult life, the world of work and university study.  As part of this programme, students are given an overview of higher education, work experience, Gap Year information, student finance, interview techniques and careers guidance, as well as specialist support with their UCAS or overseas applications via the BridgeU online resource.  

The programme also covers a select range of healthcare and citizenship issues.  Topics include advice on personal safety, sexual health, alcohol and drug awareness, safe driving, digital skills and other relevant subjects, which will be useful as you gain independence.  

SCOPE incorporates visiting lecturers, cultural and current affairs sessions, and is excellent pre-university experience.  

House study / Subject ‘clinics’

On Tuesday - Friday, a supervised House Study period of 30 minutes allows you to begin your prep in the Speech Hall Library or access subject clinics.  You may also be asked to help lead in clinics and teach younger girls, consolidating your own subject knowledge and confidence as you do so.  Subject mentors particularly enjoy this opportunity.

Physical Education

You will take part in a general programme which takes place on Tuesday afternoons each week. A range of interesting activities is offered, designed to encourage you to think in terms of exercise and fitness for fun and for life. The sports facilities at St Catherine’s are second to none.


The Chapel at St Catherine’s offers a quiet place for reflection and contemplation in an otherwise busy environment.  All Sixth Formers attend a short weekly Chapel Service conducted by our very popular Chaplain, Rev’d Dr McNair Scott.

Choosing Your A Level Subjects

There is lots of flexibility at St Catherine’s over the choice of subjects, enabling you to specialise in those you most enjoy and at which you are most successful. If you do have a specific career in your sights, then bear this in mind when you make your choices. If you do not, do not panic. You are almost certainly in the majority at this stage which is absolutely fine!  We do emphasise, however, that study in the L6 year is very important and will provide you with a sound platform for A Level in the U6, and for your future career.

It is never too early to start researching your subjects and trying to glean as much information as you can. If you are already a St Catherine’s student, as well as talks from the respective Heads of Departments, you will also have an interview with a senior member of staff.  Ask students already studying the subjects you are considering taking as well as friends and family. Make sure, however, that the information is as up to date and accurate as possible.   You will see from the table that each department has chosen the method of examining that is most appropriate for the subject and for our students. Please do not select your four choices on the basis of the system of examination. Instead, focus on what you most enjoy and in which you are most successful. Trust our team of highly experienced Heads of Departments, many of them experienced examiners, who have chosen the approach that best suits their students and helps them gain the right outcomes at the end of U6.

The flexibility of the above system enables you to choose four subjects, one of which may be a deliberate choice to AS Level only. This may be a subject that you want to pursue to complement your other A Level subjects and have recognised in a formal qualification after a year.  You can then focus on 3 full A Levels, knowing that your university application will be enhanced by having that extra qualification. 

In making your subject choices, you will find a great deal of advice on hand, both if you are a current student or an applicant for a place at St Catherine’s.   Just ask us. 

Linear, no option to take AS Level AS Level compulsory Linear but students can take AS Level if they wish
Art Biology*  Chemistry 
Computer Science Business  Classical Civilisation
Design & Technology Economics  French
Drama & Theatre Studies English*  German
Further Maths  PE  Greek
Geography Psychology Latin
History   Maths
History of Art    Music 
Photography   Physics 
Politics   RS 

* International A-Level qualification

Subject Choices & Implications for University Courses

There are particular subjects which may be required or expected for entry to certain degree courses. These requirements may change as universities adjust their expectations, but at present the following guidelines should be borne in mind: 

Career Area Useful A Levels 
Architecture Some universities express a preference for art A level, most will want to see a portfolio of visual work – drawings, sketches, photography, painting, or collage. A few may ask for maths or science at A level.
Business Studies, Management Mathematics helpful, but not essential
Computing Mathematics required, Further Mathematics is advantageous
Economics, PPE Mathematics essential for Economics (except Scottish universities which may accept only AS Level), History and Maths may be useful for PPE
Engineering Mathematics and Physics essential; Further Mathematics very useful
Foreign languages Two languages (modern or classical) desirable, but many universities will allow you to start a language ab initio, that is, from scratch inconjunction with a language that you have already studied to A Level
Law Any A-levels at the highest grade, ideally with one essay based subject e.g. English, History, R.S.
Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Science, Pharmacy Chemistry is almost always required and and Biology is strongly advised
Natural Science Mathematics plus at least two of the three sciences advise
Psychology Two sciences required for BSc, (of which one can be Psychology) but entry via arts subjects for BA courses is possible

Preparation for University Applications

Please see our Post A Level Pathway booklet (below) which explains our guidance process for UCAS applications for university admissions.  Girls are also prepared for examinations and interviews for Oxbridge admissions and for competitive courses, such as Medicine, Vet Med, Dentistry and Physiotherapy.  Those students considering a career in the creative arts areas will also find guidance within and will receive specific personalised advice from the appropriate Heads of Department, eg: art, drama, music, textiles etc. 

Post A Level Pathways Booklet