What A-Levels Do I Need To Study Engineering?

Thinking of applying for Engineering at university? Understanding what A-Levels to take to guarantee the best chances of getting a place is essential.

Last Updated: 14th January 2022

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Picking the right A-Levels is crucial when applying to study Engineering at a top university. 

Having your heart set on a course only to find out you have not taken the required subjects will be incredibly disheartening.

For those wishing to pursue Engineering, we will go through what A-Levels you require to have the best chance at securing a place.

A-Levels For Engineering

To get into an Engineering degree, you will usually require a minimum of two A-Levels – but for the most popular courses, three A-Levels at A/B grade are commonly needed. Entry requirements range from CCC to A*A*A, with universities commonly asking for ABB. 

What Subjects Do You Need For Engineering?

A-Level Mathematics is usually essential, with many universities requiring or preferring a second A-Level in Physics. Other universities may accept subjects linked to Science, Computing, Mathematics, or Design as an alternative to Physics.

MathematicsFurther MathematicsComputing
PhysicsDesign Technology
Science (Biology/Chemistry)

As you can see from the table above, it outlines the A-Levels that are required for an Engineering degree. Mathematics will generally be essential, however, it is possible to study Engineering without an A-Level in Mathematics. 

It is also important to consider the requirements for the Engineering field you may be considering. For example, if you are considering Chemical Engineering, Chemistry will be preferred over Physics which is favoured for the majority of Engineering degrees. Always check the specific requirements on the course website if you are unsure. 

Some universities may require students not taking A-Level Mathematics to complete an additional aptitude test in Mathematics and/or Mechanics. One such example of this is the University of Bristol, which understands that an Engineering degree is difficult for those who have not studied A-Level Mathematics. 

The point of the test is to assess ability – not existing knowledge – in lieu of A-Level Mathematics. This is to ensure candidates are able to handle the mathematical challenges of the first year. It also means they can offer additional support throughout the first year to those that need it. 

Another option to consider if you do not have A-Level Mathematics is a Foundation Degree such as that offered by the University of Nottingham, which requires three A-Levels at BBB in no specific subjects. 

Further to this, University College London offers a Civil Engineering course requiring A*AA in no specific subjects – however, UCL does have a general preferred subjects list. 

Demonstrating problem-solving capability, creating thinking, 3-D imagination, and designing goes a long way into helping you emerge as an expert engineer.  

This is all relevant if you do have a genuine aptitude and keen enthusiasm for Engineering. It is a tough application process, especially when applying to study at Oxford or Cambridge, so is an essential component to succeed.

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Engineering A-Level Requirements At Cambridge

Students wishing to apply for Cambridge will typically receive an offer of A*A*A, with an A* required in Mathematics.

All the colleges require Mathematics and Physics to be two of the subjects you take at A-Level. Furthermore, some colleges require a third Science/Mathematics subject.

Some require Sixth Term Examination Paper (STEP) There are two STEP papers, and applicants are typically asked to take both. Peterhouse is likely to request STEP 2.

A-Level Further Mathematics is very strongly encouraged by Cambridge Admissions; however, if it is not available to you or you have realised its desirability too late, you are advised to do as much additional pure maths and mechanics as possible. This can be achieved by studying advanced material or taking Further Mathematics at AS Level.

With the exception of Trinity, all colleges welcome applications from students taking A Level Mathematics and a suitable vocational qualification – such as a BTEC Higher National Diploma in an Engineering discipline.

Applicants are expected to achieve the highest possible grades in A-Level Mathematics and vocational qualification.

Those taking the Single Award Applied A-Level in Engineering or the Principal Learning components of the Advanced Diploma in Engineering must also be taking A-Levels in Mathematics and Physics.

T-Levels, launched in September 2020, which are equivalent to three A-Levels, are not considered appropriate preparation for the Cambridge Engineering degree and are subsequently not accepted for entry.

All colleges welcome applications from students wishing to defer entry to pursue an Engineering related gap – some are particularly keen to support applicants who want to do this.

All of this will be considered alongside the applicants’ score in the Engineering Admissions Assessment that they will have to undergo.

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Engineering A-Level Requirements At Oxford

Applicants to Oxford will typically receive an offer of A*A*A, with an A* in A-Level Mathematics required and a second A* in either Further Mathematics or Physics.

Given certain mitigating circumstances such as a bereavement or school change, Oxford may make changes to their standard offer, given that this has been clearly stated in your application.

Candidates are expected to have Physics and Mathematics as they are essential to the Engineering course. Further Mathematics can be helpful to students in completing the course; however, it is not required for admission.

If you have chosen to take any Science at A-Level, you will be expected to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

Providing that the subject requirements have been met, all A-Levels are approved for admissions purposes with the exception of:

  • General Studies
  • Critical Thinking and Thinking Skills

Candidates with vocational or technical qualifications equivalent to A-Levels, including T-Levels, unlike Cambridge, are welcome to apply. However, they may need to take additional academic qualifications to make a competitive application.

BTEC National Extended Diploma with grades D*D*D or BTEC National Foundation Diploma with grade D* will be considered for Engineering if accompanied by A*A grades in A-Level Mathematics and Physics.

Of the colleges at Oxford, 27 of them accept Engineering Science students, so there is plenty of choice for you, but keep in mind any additional work they may require you to submit.

Just as with Cambridge, applicants must sit an Admissions Test to be considered alongside their grades. All candidates must take the Physics Aptitude Test (PAT), consisting of Maths and Physics questions.


The A-Levels that you choose to study are incredibly important and selecting them requires careful consideration. 

What is clear, is that anyone wishing to undertake a degree in Engineering will require A-Level Mathematics with Physics a preferred second subject. 

With that in mind, you can make your choices based on what you feel is best for you. 

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