What Happens After You Take Your GCSEs?

Uni Compare  · Feb 16th 2022

Many students may start wondering what happens after they take their GCSE exams in the summer, whether they need to go to college or get a job instead.


There are many options for students after GCSE results day comes around! The majority of students will choose to keep on studying, and one popular choice is to begin A Levels and begin to decide between choosing a Sixth Form or College.

Taking A Levels

A Levels are a great prerequisite for students who wish to continue onto a degree at university, as most university courses will ask their students to hold at least 3 A Levels or to have a specific amount of UCAS Tariff points. Students tend to study 3 AS Levels in year one and then continue these for the second year to obtain full A Levels. The first year of study is called an AS Level as if a student decided to drop the course, it is still a qualification, and an AS Level can still be converted to UCAS Tariff points.

There may be many reasons as to why a student will stop studying an A Level after the first year. Some students may decide to change courses as they either dislike studying the subject, found it too hard, or found that they have a different career path now, which makes deciding what A levels should be studied an important part of the process, Some institutions allow individuals to take up four subjects in the first year, and drop one in the second year so that they can complete 3 A Levels, and drop the subject that they liked the least or scored less on. However, not all colleges and sixth forms offer all students four subjects in the first year.

A Levels are more intense and in depth than GCSEs and students will feel the difference between the two. Further education requires more independent study and a larger amount of work, which students may find slightly tough to grow accustomed to at the beginning of the course. Although most students get used to the change in pace after a couple of months, and even if they feel a bit hard to start with, it is easier only concentrating on 3 or 4 subjects instead of 13 or 14!

Studying the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB Diploma)

Other students may prefer to study different qualifications, such as BTEC, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme, or a Diploma – such as a National First Diploma. Each offer varying course options and career offers when completed.

Studying for an IB Diploma Programme can be tough, as students study six subjects and core components that stretch across all disciplines. The IB can also be tailored for students who wish to pursue certain subjects. Students explore the connections that can be found between their six different subject areas, conduct independent research, reflect critically on knowledge, and apply their knowledge through community and local service. Students are assessed throughout the two-year programme by their teachers and external assessments. The IB diploma is recognised by colleges and universities around the world.

A row of empty desks with cards on them in an empty exam hall.

Studying BTECs at college or sixth form

BTEC’s are a specialist to work-related qualifications, as they combine practical learning with theoretical study. There are over 2000 BTECs across 16 subject areas, and include entry levels, up to level 7 which is equivalent to postgraduate study. Students can choose to study a BTEC in an array of subjects, including; Applied Science, Art and Design, Business, Construction, Media, Childcare, Hospitality, Engineering, Health and Social Care, Travel and Tourism, Sport, ICT, Public Services and Performing Arts.

BTECS are typically broken down into three main areas to study, BTEC Firsts (which include entry level, to level 2 which are equivalent to GCSEs), BTEC Nationals (which are found in level 3 and are similar to A Levels), BTEC Apprenticeships (which are available from level 2 to 5 over 25 subject areas).

Studying a Higher First Certificate/Diploma

Higher National Certificates (HNCS) and Higher National Diplomas (HNDs) focus heavily on a practical aspect as part of the learning and assessment process. They focus on giving students skills that they can use in a particular job. Both qualifications can be taken at specific further and higher education colleges. HNCs typically take one year to complete full-time and two years part-time, and HNDs take two years full-time and can be studied part-time. HNCs and HNDs are available in a variety of subjects, such as: computing, construction, engineering, business, management, agriculture, civil engineering, sport, performing arts, hospitality management, retail and distribution. They are assessed through projects, practical tasks and assignments, and students can either obtain a pass, merit and distinction, which translates to a C, B, or an A respectively.

Working after GCSES

The law now requires students to stay in either part-time or full-time education up until the age of 18, and this can either be a sixth form school, college, further education institution, apprenticeship, or even an apprenticeship abroad! Students are able to get a job part-time after they are 16 and taking their GCSEs, but they do still have to stay in education, however, when you have completed your GCSEs, you will have the chance to leave school permanently and look for positions, however, you cannot leave until your GCSEs are completed.

However, some students prefer to enter the world of work after taking their GCSEs, and either knows it is along their desired career path, and can work their way up, or just to save some money and quickly start earning.

Working is entirely up to the student, and if you do decide to work, then try talking to your parents and family about contracts, working hours and other ways to gain knowledge and common sense about the workplace – so you aren’t taken advantage of due to your age. And remember, there are legal restrictions against students who are under the age of 18. Students aren’t able to work longer than 8 hours a day, or more than 40 hours a week. Ensure your employer understands these requirements.

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