A Complete Guide to Planning your Career in O'Levels and A Levels

Choosing your career is undoubtedly the hardest and the most important decision in your life. You have to keep in mind a number of factors, but the two most important factors should always be personal satisfaction and practicality. When you are trying to pick your profession, keep in mind that we are living in an intensely capitalist and competitive world, and unless you have a solid financial backup plan, you need to pick a career that will help you earn a place and a living in this world. Other than that, you also have to keep in mind that this is what you will be doing for the rest of your lives, so it has to be something that makes you happy and not just something that helps you earn money.

For O Level Students

Students who are in O’levels experience their first touch of practical lives when they have to pick the subjects they will appear for in their O’level examinations. Now, this moment can seem daunting to anyone who doesn’t have an ironclad plan for their future. And for starters, not having a solid plan is perfectly okay, you’re just kids and you still have time to figure your life out.

Subject Choice Guide

With that being said, it is always good to at least have a rough idea. The best place to start is to figure out what really intrigues you, or what gives you joy. Start with one or two subjects that you are genuinely interested in and work around it. For instance, if Biology is something that interests you, you take the obvious route and pick the other two sciences that accompany it, Chemistry and Physics. You can even switch it up a notch and go for something more unique like environmental studies. If something like economics interests you, you’re in luck because its a slightly more diverse subject, due to the fact that by nature it is a social sciences subject, yet it also acts as a foundation for many commerce/business-related fields as well and it is a field of study on its own. If you like economics, you can go the traditional route and pair it with accounts and business studies or you can go for a more social sciences route and pair it with something like sociology.

How to deal with confusion

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For students who feel completely and totally lost, who have no idea if they’re more prone towards sciences, commerce or social sciences, a more diverse combination is recommended. You can pick and match whatever meets your fancy and experiment to see what you like. For instance, many students who have a subconscious interest in psychology end up combining social sciences subjects with natural sciences such as sociology with biology and chemistry. And if that doesn't seem to make sense to you, you're still in luck because this is exactly what My Career Dreams was built for. Our aim and purpose is to guide confused students and prevent them from making any sort of mistakes. So, if you’re still confused or even if you need some sort of confirmation, head up to our career advisory chatbot and take a simple assessment to see which subjects work for you.

Some General Tips

1. Don’t Ignore the basics:

It is important to not limit yourself at such an early age, yet it is also important to not just move on impulse and not make any thought out decisions. For instance, students get so preoccupied with choosing and performing in their electives and with juggling a minimum of eight subjects, they tend to forget the importance of their compulsory subjects, or particularly the more infamous compulsory subjects, Islamiat and Pakistan Studies. Two important factors come into play here, with the first being that these are easy subjects to score in and the more A/A*s you have, the better. The second factor is your equivalence certificate. For O’level students applying to local universities, a common requirement is an equivalence certificate obtained from IBCC, which calculates an equivalent grade from Cambridge’s letter grade to a local percentage. And in this, you can forgo an elective when calculating a percentage, but you cannot forgo a compulsory subject, including Pakistan Studies and Islamiat.

2. Don’t get overexcited:

It is quite common for students to see such a wide array of subjects available to them and get over-excited and overwhelmed. They see all these subjects and either they can’t figure out what they want to do, or they want to try everything and sometimes they just want to prove a point, so they pick up more subjects than necessary. As important as it is to be diverse, it is equally if not more important to be smart. Know what you can manage, and only attempt that. Don’t try and take 12 or 13 subjects, in fact, try and stick with the 10 or under range so that you have a choice as well as the manageability factor. You don’t have to do everything, and before everything else comes your own mental health and personal factors, so always keep that in mind.

3. Don’t lose focus:

Just because O’levels is the first step towards your practical life does not mean that it is not as important as the other steps. Sure, jobs you apply to won’t ask you for your transcript but the universities and the colleges you apply to will, and those more or less determine the structure of your life. Many times students who want to go for fields that are locally unconventional such as film making, theatre, media etc get discouraged by the lack of options available to them and end up slacking. Even in the case of students who have solid plans and conventional plans for the future such as engineering or medical, they tend to underestimate the amount of competition present in their fields, simply because their options are readily available. It is important to remember that these results are the foundations of your practical lives and it is vital to give them your 100%.

For A-Level Students

Students in their A-Levels are one step closer to practical life since they have to choose subjects that will define their university choices as well as their careers. The idea of this coupled with the overwhelming stress of university applications and the huge leap from O’levels to A Levels makes these two years particularly tough. However, it is important for students to remember this rather bleak reality: this is how it will be now. Unfortunately, school life is over and now life will be full of challenges, and though some things are easier than others, staying on top of your game is key.

Subject Choice Guide

And as far as subject choices go, A-Levels is all about finding the balance between picking career-defining subjects and playing to your strengths. Students had O’levels as their experimenting phase, and after that, they should know what they're good at and what doesn't suit them or their plans for the future. So, by now they should know what subjects to focus on and what to avoid entirely. Moreover, even though A Levels may seem entirely void of choice, especially in comparison to O’levels, the good thing is that there are no compulsory subjects. Students no longer have to bear with subjects they don't like, and can now focus on those that interest them. Also, A-Levels has more diverse and career-oriented subjects such as psychology and law, that allow students to get experience for their respective degrees.

How to deal with confusion:

The best way to deal with confusion as an A level student is to take a quick overview of the subject structure and theory. Because A Level’s curriculum has been designed to give students a taste of practical life. So a quick look into the structure will help students determine whether it's their cup of tea or not. And if that doesn't work, My Career Dreams to the rescue. This time, the assessment will be longer and a lot less simplistic. It will test you not only on your strengths and weaknesses but also your plans for the future, your practical skills and abilities. In short, it will ask all the necessary questions required to make a smart and informed decision.

Some General Tips

1. Don't go Overboard:

3-4 subjects sound like a piece of cake after O'Levels 8 subjects nightmare. However, it’s called Advanced Level for a reason. These subjects and their respective exams have been designed to give students a taste of university life, and that's why they are much more advanced in comparison to whatever level students are used to. So, unless you're absolutely sure of your abilities, don't go overboard. Stick to the maximum of four subjects and give them you’re all. Take command of the theory, understand the concepts and familiarize yourself with all the past papers of your three to four subjects rather than trying to do more than what you can manage.

2. Organize and Plan:

A Level is an overwhelming period. Not just because you have to deal with such advanced studies, but because of everything you have to deal with during this period. For all those who don't understand the intensity of the matter, let us break it down. By the start of a level or at least by the end of the first year, students must know where they want to be career-wise because even before the second year starts, they have to deal with the overwhelming weight of university applications and entrance exams. So, the way around this? Organize and plan. Make sure you know deadlines for universities, whether they're your first priority or backup plan, just so you don't miss out on any opportunity. Spend up to a maximum of the first couple of months of your first year figuring out your plan for the future. Then, apply for the SAT, even if you have a local university in mind. Most universities in Pakistan accept SAT scores and if you have a good one then you can avoid the hassle of giving multiple entrance exams in your last year.

For Aspiring University Applicants:

Firstly, good job on making it this far. Just deciding what program you wish to pursue in this deeply competitive world is a feat on its own. But now that you made it, let’s get straight into it.

1. For Medical/Engineering aspirants:

You have both, incredible good luck and terrible misfortune. As far as good luck goes, you are fortunate because you have picked the only two career paths valued by your and everyone else’s parents. All jokes aside though, despite seeing an oversaturation in the past couple of years, the medical and engineering professions are still going incredibly strong in Pakistan, and these are perhaps some of the very few fields in which Pakistan’s university programs are internationally competitive. This means that students who wish to pursue medical or engineering don’t have to worry about the lack of resources available locally and can apply at the low costs that come with local degrees. Other than that, almost every guidance counsellor in the country can guarantee great advice about the programs since information is widespread about the programs and how to get into them. But coming to the misfortune part, the bad luck steps in with the fact that there is intense competition in both fields. Almost every other student seems to want either medical or engineering, and every student seems to be more advanced than the previous. All of this means admission tests are very tough and designed to only let the best and the best candidates into the university. Other than that, universities that offer these programs such as AKU, Dow, Ziauddin, NUST, GIKI etc have such a prestigious position that they only allow the smartest students into their midst.

2. For Business/ Accounting Aspirants:

Yet again, another incredibly competitive field. And no surprise there, of course. In today’s capitalist society, all business-oriented work is highly valued. Here, there is both fortune and misfortune. The fortunate element is that demand keeps increasing. Even Pakistan, despite its status as a third world country, is going through massive growth, allowing business more room to flourish and therefore employ more people, giving business and accounting majors amazing job opportunities. Moreover, most of the programs offered locally are incredibly advanced and very on the mark with international standards, allowing our student’s great education and training. However, much like the medical profession, there is an oversaturation of business and accounting aspirants in a deeply competitive world. It is hard to believe that anyone even vaguely aware of accounts or the world of commerce hasn’t heard of the dreaded CFA exams that plague students for years and years on end. And even though Pakistan has some great universities with great programs, with IBA and LUMS being the top contenders, they are all incredibly competitive and as many claims, very hard to get into.

3. Social Sciences Aspirants:

As luck and desi uncles would have it, social sciences or humanities aspirants really do have it the worst. Of course, all the rumours you hear in drawing rooms about social science majors dying unemployed are just forms of exaggerations, but the real misfortune exists in how undervalued these degrees tend to be when it comes to our society. Getting a degree in any social science or humanities discipline is not an easy task, yet most people in our society treat it like it’s equivalent to getting a degree with no work. And it is because of this negative attitude that Pakistan is very slow when it comes to providing any social sciences program. However, the scenario of the world is changing. Academia, the major source of employment for social sciences majors is growing more and more by the minute, providing not only job opportunities but space for growth for these fields of study. Universities such as LUMS already offer excellent and very competitive social sciences programs, but now even universities such as IBA and NUST are following suit. In fact, universities focused totally on social sciences such as Habib University Karachi are now also coming into the picture.