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What A-Levels Do You Need to Study Architecture?

What A-Levels Do You Need to Study Architecture?

10 min Read|April 13 2024
|Written by:

Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa


If you aspire to become an architect, choosing the right A-Level subjects is a crucial step toward achieving your goal. The specific A-Level subjects required for architecture programs may vary depending on the university and the specialisation within architecture you wish to pursue. In general, subjects that develop your creativity, critical thinking, and technical skills are highly recommended.

In this article, we will explore the A-Level requirements for studying architecture, facilitating A-Level subjects, and our recommended subject combinations. Take note that it is important while contemplating your subject choice for A-levels, that you have a good understanding of the difference between GCSEs and A-levels.

Whether you're a high school student looking to pursue architecture or a parent, this article will guide you on the appropriate A-level subject choices to support your chosen career.

For broader guidance on how to select A-level subjects, read our complete guide on choosing your A-Levels.

Architecture as a Career Choice and the Importance of A-levels

Architecture is a dynamic and rewarding career that blends art, design, and technical skills. As an architect, you have the opportunity to shape the physical environment, create innovative structures, and impact communities. The demand for architectural professionals continues to grow, with an expected 1.4 million job openings by 2028 in the United Kingdom alone. This degree opens up many career possibilities as highlighted below:

12 Jobs for Architecture Majors | The University Network

Architecture offers a diverse range of specialisations, including residential, commercial, sustainable design, historic preservation, and urban planning. With advancements in technology and a global focus on sustainability, architects play a crucial role in addressing environmental challenges and creating sustainable built environments.

One of the key reasons why A-Levels are important for architecture education is that they develop critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. These skills are vital for architects, who need to analyse complex design challenges and develop innovative solutions. A-Levels contribute to developing creativity and design sensibilities.

Recommended A-Levels for Architecture

When considering A-Level subjects for architecture, it is important to choose subjects that align with the skills and knowledge required in the field. Our professional A-Level tutors recommend the following A-levels for architecture:

1. A-Level Maths: A-Level Mathematics develops analytical thinking, problem-solving skills, and an understanding of mathematical concepts applied in architectural calculations and structural design. Enhance your Maths skills with our experienced A-Level Maths tutors to stand out among other students.

2. A-Level Art and Design or Design and Technology: These subjects help nurture creativity, visual communication skills, and an understanding of aesthetics. They provide a foundation for developing architectural drawings, models, and presentations.

3. A-Level Physics: A-Level Physics offers insights into the physical properties of materials, structural concepts, and the principles of mechanics, which are important for designing safe and functional structures.

4. A-Level Geography: A-Level Geography helps develop an understanding of environmental factors, sustainability, and urban planning, which are significant considerations in architectural design.

5. A-Level Further Maths: While not always a requirement, A-Level Further Mathematics can be beneficial, particularly for students with a strong mathematical aptitude and a desire to delve deeper into mathematical concepts applied in architecture.

These recommendations are not exhaustive, and universities may have varying subject preferences. Therefore, it is essential for students to research the specific A-Level requirements and recommendations of their chosen institutions, and seek the help of an online tutor if necessary. In order to ace your A-Level exams, it is also crucial to utilise the best A-Level resources available.

Recommended Facilitating A-Level Subjects for Architecture

In addition to the core subjects directly related to architecture, there are other A-Level subjects that can provide a broader skill set and enhance your capabilities as an aspiring architect. These subjects, often referred to as "facilitating subjects," are highly regarded by universities and can open up a wide range of degree options, including architecture.

1. A-Level English Literature or English Language: A-Level English develops strong communication, critical thinking, and written expression skills. These skills are invaluable for architects, as effective communication and writing are essential in presenting design proposals and collaborating with clients and colleagues.

2. A-Level Chemistry: A-Level Chemistry offers insights into the properties of materials, sustainability aspects, and the chemical reactions involved in construction materials. This knowledge can be valuable in architectural design, particularly when considering material selection and environmental impact. A-Level Chemistry tutors can prove to be quite helpful in scoring good grades in this subject.

3. A-Level History: A-Level History enhances your understanding of historical contexts, cultural influences, and architectural heritage. Architecture is deeply connected to history, and knowledge of architectural styles, movements, and past design achievements can inform and inspire your own design approach.

4. A-Level Modern Languages: A-Level modern languages, such as French, German, or Spanish, can be advantageous in an increasingly globalised profession. Communication with clients, contractors, and stakeholders from different cultures and regions is becoming more common in architectural practice.

By choosing these facilitating A-Level subjects, you not only broaden your academic profile but also develop transferable skills that will benefit you in architecture and beyond.

Before making a final decision, you may find it useful to understand what are the hardest A-level subjects and what are the easiest A-level subjects to complete. Understanding the complexity or ease of each subject will help you make the final choice based on your interest and skillset.

Factors to Consider When Choosing A-Level Subjects for Architecture

When selecting A-Level subjects for architecture, there are key factors to keep in mind:

1. Personal Interests and Strengths: Choose subjects that align with your passions and strengths. Pursuing subjects you enjoy can enhance motivation and contribute to academic success.

2. University Requirements: Research the A-Level subject requirements of the universities or colleges you are interested in. Each institution may have specific subject preferences or requirements for architecture programs. Understanding these requirements will help you tailor your subject choices accordingly.

3. Balance of Subjects: Strive for a balance between arts/humanities and sciences. Architecture is a multidisciplinary field that combines creativity with technical knowledge. A well-rounded combination of subjects can provide a broad skill set and enhance your ability to think critically and holistically about design challenges.

4. Future Specialisations: Consider your potential areas of specialisation within architecture. Different specialisations may have specific subject preferences. For example, if you are interested in sustainable architecture, subjects such as Environmental Science or Biology could be beneficial.

5. Combination Compatibility: Evaluate how your chosen subjects complement each other. Look for connections and overlaps between subjects that can strengthen your understanding and provide a holistic approach to architectural education.

6. Career Goals: Reflect on your long-term career goals. Certain subjects may align more closely with specific career paths within architecture. Research the skills and knowledge required for your desired career trajectory and choose subjects that support those goals.

By considering these factors and conducting thorough research, you can make informed decisions about your A-Level subject choices. Remember to consult university websites, admission guidelines, and speak with academic advisors to ensure you meet the necessary requirements.

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A-Level Subject Combinations for Architecture

The overall combination of subjects you choose should provide a comprehensive skill set and knowledge base. Here are our recommended A-Level subject combinations for aspiring architects:

1. Mathematics, Physics, and Art and Design: This combination strikes a balance between analytical thinking and creative expression. Mathematics equips students with problem-solving skills and logical thinking, while Physics provides insights into structural concepts and material properties. Art and Design nurtures creativity, spatial awareness, and visual communication, which are essential in architectural design.

2. Mathematics, Physics, and Design and Technology: This combination focuses on the technical aspects of architecture. Mathematics develops analytical and quantitative skills necessary for structural calculations and spatial planning. Physics enhances understanding of forces, energy efficiency, and environmental considerations. Design and Technology provides practical skills, hands-on experience with materials, and an understanding of manufacturing processes relevant to architecture.

3. Mathematics, Art and Design, and Design and Technology: This combination offers a well-rounded preparation for studying architecture. Mathematics provides the logical framework for understanding complex architectural concepts. Art and Design fosters creativity, artistic techniques, and an appreciation for aesthetics. Design and Technology complements the other subjects by providing practical skills, knowledge of materials, and an understanding of construction techniques.

For insight into what other students have chosen, below is a sample of students who have successfully passed Year One of Architecture at Queen’s University in 2014 / 2015 and the A-level subjects they selected:

A-levels taken by students studying Architecture.xlsx

Remember, while these subject combinations are recommended, it is also important to consider your personal interests and strengths. Choose subjects that align with your passion for architecture and allow you to develop a diverse skill set. You can read more about our subject combination recommendations for Architecture and other careers here.

A-Level Subject Choices for Specific Architecture Specialisations

Architecture encompasses various specialisations, and your A-Level subject choices can align with your specific interests and future career goals within the field. Here are some recommended A-Level subject choices for specific architecture specialisations:

1. Sustainable Architecture: If you are interested in sustainable design and environmentally conscious architecture, consider combining Mathematics, Physics, and Environmental Science. Mathematics and Physics provide a solid foundation in technical aspects, while Environmental Science offers insights into sustainability practices and the impact of architectural design on the environment.

2. Urban Design and Planning: For those interested in urban design and planning, a combination of Geography, Art and Design, and Mathematics can be advantageous. Geography provides knowledge of urban contexts, while Art and Design nurtures creativity in envisioning urban spaces. Mathematics is essential for analysing and implementing design plans.

3. Architectural Conservation: If your interest lies in architectural conservation and heritage preservation, consider combining History, Art and Design, and Chemistry. History provides a deep understanding of architectural heritage, while Art and Design develop skills in documentation and restoration. Chemistry offers insights into the conservation of materials and historical structures.

4. Interior Design: For aspiring interior designers, a combination of Art and Design, Textiles, and Psychology can be beneficial. Art and Design develop creativity and visual communication skills, Textiles enhance knowledge of materials and finishes, and Psychology provides an understanding of human behaviour and ergonomics in interior spaces.

5. Digital Architecture: If you are inclined towards digital architecture and parametric design, consider combining Mathematics, Computing/Computer Science, and Physics. Mathematics and Physics provide the necessary foundation for computational design, while Computing/Computer Science offers programming skills and knowledge of digital modelling tools.

Balancing A-Level Subjects with Extracurricular Activities for Architecture Applications

When applying for architecture programs, it's not only your A-Level subject choices that matter but also your extracurricular activities. Balancing your A-Level subjects with relevant extracurricular pursuits can enhance your application and demonstrate your commitment and passion for the field. Here are some tips to consider:

1. Architectural Societies and Clubs: Joining architectural societies or clubs in your school or local community can provide opportunities to engage in design projects, workshops, and competitions. Active participation in such activities showcases your dedication and practical involvement in architecture beyond the classroom.

2. Work Experience or Internships: Seek work experience or internships with architectural firms, design studios, or construction companies. This hands-on experience allows you to gain practical insights into the profession, develop technical skills, and demonstrate your commitment to pursuing a career in architecture.

3. Volunteering: Engage in community projects related to architecture, such as helping with the design and construction of community spaces or participating in architectural initiatives for social good. Volunteering demonstrates your social responsibility and application of architectural skills to benefit society.

4. Model Making and Design Portfolio: Invest time in creating a strong design portfolio showcasing your creative abilities and design thinking. Include examples of your design projects, drawings, sketches, and models. A well-curated portfolio highlights your artistic skills and design process.

5. Relevant Competitions and Awards: Participate in architectural design competitions or apply for awards specific to the field of architecture. These achievements demonstrate your ability to think critically, solve design problems, and stand out among your peers.

Remember, universities and colleges look beyond academic qualifications when assessing architecture applicants. They seek individuals who show a genuine passion for the subject and a willingness to go beyond the curriculum. By balancing your A-Level subjects with relevant extracurricular activities, you can strengthen your application and present a well-rounded profile to admissions committees.

Admissions Tests for Architecture

In addition to A-Level subject choices, some universities or colleges may require prospective architecture students to take admissions tests to assess their aptitude and suitability for the program. These tests aim to evaluate key skills and qualities necessary for success in architecture. Here are some commonly used admissions tests for architecture:

1. Architectural Aptitude Tests: These tests assess spatial awareness, design thinking, problem-solving abilities, and visual perception. They often include tasks such as drawing, sketching, and 3D visualisation.

2. Mathematics Tests: As mathematics plays a significant role in architecture, some institutions may include mathematics tests to assess applicants' numerical reasoning, mathematical concepts, and their ability to apply mathematical principles to architectural problems.

3. Personal Statement and Portfolio Evaluation: While not a traditional test format, some universities evaluate applicants' personal statements and design portfolios as part of the admissions process. These documents provide insights into the applicants' motivations, creative abilities, and suitability for the architecture program.

It is important to research the specific admissions requirements of the institutions you are interested in to determine if they require any admissions tests. Additionally, consider the application deadlines and any preparation materials or resources provided by the institutions to familiarise yourself with the test format and content.

Preparing for admissions tests can involve practice exercises, reviewing sample questions, and refining your design skills. Seek guidance from teachers, attend workshops or preparatory courses, and make use of online resources to enhance your preparation for these tests.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, choosing the right A-Level subjects for studying architecture plays a crucial role in shaping your educational foundation and future career prospects. The combination of subjects you choose should reflect your interests, strengths, and the specific requirements of the universities or colleges you plan to apply to. Consider the facilitating subjects that provide a solid foundation in architecture, strike a balance between sciences and arts, and seek guidance from professionals to make informed decisions. Remember to conduct thorough research, consult with educators and industry experts, and stay proactive in your pursuit of knowledge and skills. By taking these steps, you'll be well-prepared to embark on an exciting journey towards a successful career in architecture.


What marks do you need to study architecture?

The A-level grades required to gain admission to an architecture program at a UK university can vary across institutions. However, certain subject requirements are generally expected. For example, the University College London (UCL) typically requires AAA grades, including A grades in Mathematics and Art or a Design-related subject. The University of Bath usually asks for AAB grades, with A grades in Mathematics and an Art or Design-related subject. The University of Cambridge, one of the top-ranking institutions for architecture, typically seeks A*A*A grades with A* grades in Mathematics and an Arts, Humanities, or Science subject. To understand more about A-level grades, read on here.

Do you need pure maths to study architecture?

Pure Mathematics is not typically a requirement for studying architecture in the UK. While some universities may recommend or prefer applicants to have studied Mathematics at A-level, it is usually not necessary to have taken pure mathematics specifically. The focus is often on Mathematics as a whole, which covers a range of topics including algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. This broader understanding of mathematical concepts is relevant to architectural studies, particularly in areas such as structural analysis and spatial reasoning.

What qualifications do I need to be an architect?

To become an architect in the UK, you typically need to fulfill certain qualifications. Firstly, you should obtain a recognised degree in architecture, such as a Bachelor's degree (BA or BSc) in Architecture from an institution accredited by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) or the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Following that, gaining practical experience through a period of supervised work, known as the Professional Experience and Development Record (PEDR) or Practical Training Year (PTY), is important. Additionally, pursuing a Master's degree (MArch) in Architecture is commonly recommended to further advance your architectural studies.

How much do architects earn?

The salary of architects in the UK can vary based on factors such as experience, location, and the size and reputation of the firm. According to the latest available data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2020, the median annual salary for architects in the UK was around £38,940. However, this figure can range significantly. Starting salaries for newly qualified architects typically range from £24,000 to £34,000 per year, while experienced architects or those in senior positions can earn considerably higher, with salaries reaching £70,000 or more. It's important to note that these figures are approximate and can vary based on individual circumstances and the prevailing market conditions. Additionally, architects who work in prestigious firms or have a strong reputation may command higher salaries.

How long does it take to become an architect in the UK?

Becoming an architect in the UK typically takes around 7 to 8 years. This includes completing a 3-year undergraduate degree in architecture, gaining 1 to 2 years of practical work experience, pursuing a 1 to 2-year master's degree, engaging in 1 to 2 years of professional practice, and successfully passing the final Part 3 examination. The duration may vary based on individual circumstances and the pace at which qualifications and experience are obtained.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Written by: Dr Rahil Sachak-Patwa

Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Rahil spent ten years working as private tutor, teaching students for GCSEs, A-Levels, and university admissions. During his PhD he published papers on modelling infectious disease epidemics and was a tutor to undergraduate and masters students for mathematics courses.

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