Making GCSE choices

Choosing your GCSE Options is exciting as it’s the first big decision in your career!  Your school will have various options for you to choose from and it is important that you make sure you fully understand what your options are.

How do I decide what to pick?

Deciding on your option choices is a very personal thing, but the good news is that it’s difficult to go too far wrong!  Talking to your family and friends can be helpful, but remember that you have to make your own mind up.  Your teachers are a great resource – they may well try to persuade you to do their subject (which is flattering!), but you can always ask them to tell you honestly how they think you would do at GCSE.

The following list of recommendations should help you feel confident about your choices:

  • Which qualifications?  You may have the option to do different qualifications alongside your GCSEs, such as BTEC qualifications.  These courses can offer you different opportunities to learn in a different way, so make sure to find out more.
  • Which science?  If you have a choice about science qualifications it is a very good idea to talk to your Science teacher about which option they think would suit you best.  If you do think you might like to study a science subject as an A Level (after Year 11), then you need at least 2 Science GCSEs (a Combined Science pathway) or Triple Science (3 GCSEs).
  • Why a language?  If you are wondering why your school is encouraging you to do a language, then wonder no more!  Languages are rising in popularity again because they are part of the English Baccalaureate (see below), but also because there are major languages skills shortages in the UK.  Learning a language can help to set you apart in your future career.
  • Do I want to do it for A Level?  As a general rule, if you think you might want to do a subject at A Level or college, then it is a good idea to do it at GCSE (if it’s on offer).  This gives you a very good chance to see what it’s like!
  • What if I don’t know what I want to do in the future?  Don’t panic!  You certainly don’t need to know what you want to do for a job in the future in order to decide on your GCSE options.  Apart from the above points, you can’t really make a choice now that will stop you from getting onto a job in the future.  Isn’t that a relief?  If you do have ideas on jobs for the future, make sure to do your research.

Still worried you might get it wrong?  

Ultimately, there are only three things you need to consider when looking at your option choices:

  1. Future plans: check the above recommendations to make sure your choices tie in with your future plans
  2. Balance: make sure your subjects balance well for you; this will mean different things for different people, but basically you should be able to cover all your interests in your subjects (e.g. you can cover essay writing, creativity and logic from History, Art and Maths).
  3. Enjoyment: this is the last, but most important, criteria – pick option choices you will enjoy; you’re far more likely to get good grades in something you are interested in and can get enthusiastic about.

What is the English Baccalaureate?

The English Baccalaureate was introduced in 2010 as a method of measuring GCSE performance in schools across certain subjects.  The English Baccalaureate is not a qualification itself, rather it is a way of expressing that a student has achieved a certain number of GCSEs across a certain range of subjects at a certain grade.

Currently a student can be said to have achieved the English Baccalaureate if they gain GCSEs at 5 grade or above in all of the following subjects:

  • English (both Language and Literature)
  • Maths
  • Science (either Combined or Triple Science)
  • Humanities (History or Geography)
  • Languages

Find out more about the English Baccalaureate here.