By Lillian So Chan

Genetics influence choices we made?


The decision for higher education and the choice of study subjects may both be influenced by genetic factors, UK researchers concluded in a new study published in Nature’s Scientific Reports.

How students made choices

Students in England and Wales have to take compulsory subjects in school until age 16. After that, they can decide whether to take A-Levels, a two-year course as a prerequisite for higher education. They are also free to choose A-level study subjects from over 80 different subjects.

By comparing identical and non-identical twins from a UK-representative sample of 6,584 twin pairs, the researchers investigated whether genetic or environmental factors influenced a student’s decision to study A-levels, the choice of subjects, and their subsequent A-levels achievement.


Results of the study show that the choice of which subjects to study was influenced 52-80% by genetic factors and 18-23% by environment.

The decision to study A-levels was influenced in equal measure by genetic (44%) and shared environmental factors (47%). Achievement after two years was also highly heritable (35–76%).


Rimfeld, Kaili, et al (2016) Genetics affects choice of academic subjects as well as achievement, Nature Scientific Reports 6, article number 26373, published June 16, 2016, doi