GCSE options – a few tips on how to make the right choices

At this point in the Spring Term, many year 9 students are thinking about subject choices for GCSE study over the next two years. Until this point, the curriculum has been about breadth and experiencing lots of subjects, to identify areas of strength and interest.

However, this is the first point in a child’s education career that choices have to be made. For some, the choices may be obvious. While for others who are perhaps equally strong in all areas, making decisions can be quite tricky.

The Core subjects are compulsory. Sadly for some, there’s no giving up English, Maths or Science at this point. Many schools also have their own rules on compulsory core subjects to add to this list. For example, students must study an additional language or Religious Studies.

Here are a few tips to bear in mind when firming up choices:

 It’s better to achieve top grades in 8 – 10 subjects, rather than spreading yourself too thin and diluting the grades you can achieve.

 Be realistic when evaluating your capabilities and listen to advice from subject teachers as to where they feel your best strengths lie. For example, if you struggle with essay writing, read how each subject is assessed and limit your choices in areas where this is key to success in the course. If you find timed exams challenging, choose subjects which have an element of coursework or a research project element.

 You will probably have to make choices within Option Blocks which will be defined by timetabling. Ask your tutor for advice on how to make these option blocks work best for your individual strengths.

 Choose subjects you enjoy. This may be because you get the best marks and have a talent for this subject. However, it might also be because you enjoy class discussion, doing experiments or research projects, or you have a particular interest in the topics covered in the syllabus. Your school will give you a booklet outlining what each subject entails. Read this through carefully, so you know what you will spend the next two years studying.

 Choose the subject, not the teacher or follow peers. Teachers change and peers can be a distraction.

 Any subject you know you would like to study in the sixth form should be studied at GCSE, if available.

 Give some initial thought to potential career areas and hence what subjects you might want to study in sixth form. Your GCSE choices will not usually limit your choices at sixth form. However, it is useful to give this some thought. For example, if you are passionate about becoming a Doctor or Vet, studying Triple Science GCSE (Physics, Chemistry and Biology) will give a better foundation of knowledge than Dual Award Science. It’s still feasible to study Science A Levels after the latter. However, if you know for certain that this is the pathway you plan to take, more depth in Sciences might make life easier later on.

 Even if not compulsory in your school, keeping up another language in addition to English will widen your options later on. It also demonstrates to potential universities or employers that you have breadth of talent. Useful for holiday communication too.

 Keep up with at least one creative subject. This develops a different skill set, challenges a different part of the brain and offers relief from more wordy essay writing subjects.