Ordinary Level results recently came out – both ZIMSEC and Cambridge. Concluding one’s Ordinary Level marks a critically important turning point in life. The wrong choice of whether or not to proceed to Advanced Level can derail one’s life irreparably. The thing is, for some of you it is not the best move to go to Advanced Level. Many people literally wasted 2 years of their life doing stuff that amounted to nothing. In the event, one opts to proceed to Advanced Level the choice of the wrong combination can also have grave consequences. That is why I thought I must do an article detailing how you can practically determine which Advanced Level combination to settle for. Let us not be blinded by dogma or certain norms.

For instance, when one gets straight A’s at the Ordinary Level the norm is that they should go for a science combination. I know a lady who got straight A’s like that but they instead settled for an Arts combination. They ended up scoring 15 points and today they are a lawyer. It is important to be contextual, critical, and empirical – this lady clearly knew her area of strength.

Strength In Numbers

How good are you with numbers? I mean how good you are inaccurately measuring, interpreting, and drawing well-informed and actionable insights quantitatively. If you are extremely good at this then you must consider Sciences or Commercials. Commercials-wise you can lean towards Mathematics, Economics, Statistics, or Accounting. On the Sciences side, we are looking at Mathematics, Physics, and Chemistry in particular.

Verbal Strength

Here I am referring to how good you are at clearly and logically expressing things through the use of written or spoken language (English in particular). When given a piece of writing are you good at logically interpreting it and also analysing it through written or spoken words. If these are your areas of strength then Arts are for you – subjects like English Literature, Divinity, or History. Lawyers, Journalists and the like are born from this.

A funny observation I made: in high school, I had two great friends who ended up pursuing law. One of them is the one I mentioned in my introduction. I always noticed about them how exceptional they were (and still are) in speech and in expressing themselves through written words. It was during the era of handwritten notes and I always enjoyed reading notes they would write. So they are indeed indicators in this domain.

Spatial Awareness Or Ability

The ability to visualize things using one’s mind is priceless; not all of us have that. How good are you at accurately visualizing how things look from different views? I once did Woodwork early on in high school and I can relate to this. Even in varsity, I did Engineering Drawing – both physical and computer-aided. You have to have a solid appreciation of visualizing stuff in different dimensions e.g. 2D and 3D. If you are top-notch in these things then subjects like Technical Graphics and Fashion Design are your areas.

Your Strength In Abstract Things

It has been found that students who are quite good at logical reasoning in areas such as geometry, and any design-related stuff are good for science subjects such as Chemistry, Physics, and Biology. It essentially looks at how good you are at interpreting structural stuff that is intangible or conceptual.


Mechanics deals with the dynamics of action of forces on material objects. It also deals with the design and construction of machines. If you have a high affinity for, interest in, and exceptional acumen in these areas then subjects like Physics, design-related subjects, Applied Mathematics, and the like are for you.

These guidelines are obviously not comprehensive because so many variables are involved in this decision-making process. However, they go a long way in helping you gravitate towards the best-case scenario.

Weighing how you fare in these 5 areas can inform you on what Advanced Level combination would be best for you. This is approach is borne out of numerous studies that have been done. If possible you can actually look for ways to test yourself to see how you perform in these 5 different areas. You might be good in all 5 but you have to objectively and honestly figure where you perform the highest. Several more variables are at play but this significantly helps steer you in the right direction. Do not just settle for what society labels the norm.

It is also important to do some study to find out the entry requirements for your tertiary studies area of focus. Many people make the mistake of finding out once they are done with their Advanced Level that they pursued the wrong combination.

I was recently having a discussion where someone cited that there are skills shortages in Zimbabwe in Engineering and Science disciplines. I also want to strongly advise parents and siblings on being wary of their role in the decision-making process. Some want their children to follow paths they themselves also took – let us not impose decisions on our kids. Some useful advice from the wrong sources.

I recall in high school there was a guy who had to repeat Advanced Level thrice because he was failing to score good points to do Medicine. The best he ever attained was 8 points and he ended up going to pursue Medicine in some other African country. This was all because his dad is a medical doctor and as such he wanted him to become the same. He ended up being a medical doctor but there have been several complaints about his poor performance as a doctor. All this because the dad imposed a decision on him to pursue sciences – a field that clearly was not his area of strength.