If you’ve decided law is the university course for you, then nice one; you’re over the first decision hurdle. You’ll be well aware that you’ll be expected to earn your place at your university of choice by meeting their specified law degree entry requirements.
Law, particularly the LLB, is a popular choice for many prospective university students. There were 127,640 law applications via UCAS in the 2018-19 application session—that’s an increase of 4% compared to the previous year.
Owing to this amount of competition and the challenging nature of the subject, universities are keen to attract the top students to their courses. This can only mean one thing: high entry requirements…
Typical law degree entry requirements…
The combination of grades you’ll be expected to achieve in order to earn a place on an LLB course will differ slightly depending on the university.
Most students who attend school and college in England and Wales still currently follow the academic route of GCSEs, followed by A-Levels.
The majority of UK universities generally look for a minimum of grade C or B, or level 4 or above, at GCSE in English, maths, and at times a subject such as foreign languages.
The top universities will then also require their prospective students to have studied at least three A Levels with results of AAA or AAB, and in some cases at least one A*.
Courses for the most popular universities are often over-subscribed, so meeting your entry requirements may not always guarantee you’ll get your first choice; universities will also take your personal statement into account, and some will look at your score on the LNAT.
Other accepted equivalent qualifications are generally:
- Scottish Highers
- International Baccalaureate
- University Foundation Programmes
- Cambridge Pre-University (Pre-U) Certificates.
Universities will outline their own entry requirements regarding these qualifications.
Preferred A-Levels: is there a subject blacklist?
You’ve probably heard a lot about top UK universities supposedly having a “blacklist” of A-Level subjects and the contentious issue of “hard” subjects vs. “soft” subjects.
“Hard” subjects are otherwise referred to as traditional academic subjects, such as English literature, history, maths, foreign languages and the core science subjects (i.e. physics, biology and chemistry).
The so-called “soft” subjects, on the other hand, are those that are more recent editions to the range of A-Levels available and tend to involve more vocational or practical elements in their syllabus, such as in theatre studies, media studies, business studies or psychology.
It has been reported that the top universities will not consider an applicant if they have studied one or more of the so-called soft subjects. In reality, it’s not as clear-cut as chucking an application in the bin as soon as they spot a “softie”.
Some universities have, however, stated they have a list of “preferred” subjects; though this will not necessarily be a determining factor in their final decision.
This leaves budding university students in a bit of a pickle when it comes to choosing their A-Level subjects, and quite rightly questioning how on Earth they are supposed to know which subject combination will be best for their chosen degree and institute (and that’s if they even know at this stage!)
So what’s the best A-Level choices for law?
Institutions will often give specific subject requirements for courses such as medicine. But what’s the guideline for an LLB?
Ultimately the subjects you choose should teach you skills that will be valuable in your law degree and the rest of your legal career. For example, a law degree is going to involve A LOT of essay writing, so it’s a good idea to take at least one subject that will develop these skills, for example, English language or literature (or combined) or history.
Take a look at your top choice universities and take note of any prerequisites they highlight for the course; if they have a list of “preferred” subjects, you should aim to tailor you subject choices to reflect those requirements—and your strengths!
Universities also recommend that a good spread of subjects is appealing, so a good mix will be wise. General Studies and Critical Thinking are NOT usually counted as one of these main A-Levels.
They can definitely look good alongside three or four strong A-Level results, but most universities will now not accept either of these subjects as a part of their entry requirements.
It is perfectly acceptable to apply for law without a law A-Level, so if someone at school or college keeps harping on that they will be taking law A-Level because it’s necessary, then they are most definitely mistaken!
Myth-buster: You need an LLB to become a lawyer…
And while we’re at it, sit down that smug character in the front row, because you are wrong, sir, wrong! Well, in an undergraduate sense at least.
You DON’T have to have studied a BA or LLB in law in order to become a lawyer once you’ve graduated. In fact, even law graduates are only halfway there once they’ve completed their degree; they still need to complete either an LPC or BPTC before securing a training contract or pupillage!
Non-law graduates can take the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)—the law conversion course—to get on track to train as a solicitor at barrister. There is also the opportunity to miss out university completely, choosing a legal apprenticeship instead. At this stage, choose to study law at undergraduate level because you want to, not because you think you have to.