Choosing a GCSE Subject

Students studying in secondary school, typically at the ages of 13 and/or 14 years will choose which subjects that they wish to pursue at GCSE level the following September. Students tend to begin to discuss their favourite subjects, career ambitions and what topics that will unlock their potential during the last terms of year 9. The subjects that students choose are optional, and usually include 4 subjects that they study alongside other subjects that either follow the national curriculum, or the curriculum set by the academy, that are compulsory, such as, English, Maths and Science. An English Language and Literature degree, Maths degree, Physics degree, Chemistry degree and a Biology degree will also require you to have these GCSEs.

Although there are many educational opportunities for young people, GCSE choices aid to establish a path for students that will lead them onto A-Levels, Bachelor’s Degrees or even Postgraduate qualifications (Postgraduate personal statements have a different tone to them, however, so be aware of this before you write your UCAS Application).

Undecided future

It is perfectly normal for students at the young age of 13 to not know deep down where their passions lie, or what dream job they have in mind to work towards. Furthermore, some students find that what they previously thought was the subject of their dreams is not suited to them.

Students who have an undecided future, or would like to keep their options open at GCSE level will do best to choose subjects that can lead on to many different pathways at Further or Higher Education level. Studying an array of subjects, which require different skills will show employers and academic institutions that you can juggle differing areas and perform well in all of them besides the differences. Therefore, a Language course, Humanities subject, social science and/or Art course can help students by opening many doors in the near future and can help with degree choices in the future. 

Those who choose to study subjects that are very different to each other, or new to their standard curriculum will be in good practice for when choosing and studying A Levels at college and searching for a degree at university as this will likely be the case. 

Enjoying your time studying GCSE’s

However, it is also essential for students to enjoy their time while studying their GCSE subjects; otherwise, they may find the work stressful, demanding and overwhelming, as also disliking the subject greatly.

Studying several courses simultaneously is difficult, and even though it teaches young people about time-management, organisation and work skills, as the majority of courses are compulsory, and only a small percentage of classes are chosen by the individual, it is key that they enjoy themselves. Year 9 students, when thinking about the GCSE options carefully should discover what subjects they enjoy, and not pick varying subjects solely because they are unsure what they want to do in the future. Choosing to study subjects that they enjoy is important too. Both advantages should be balanced evenly.

Additionally, choosing GCSE subjects based on what your friends, girlfriend/boyfriend or siblings like(d) is irresponsible, as you’re not making a choice based on your own thoughts and feelings. It is also not sensible to choose a class because of a good relationship with a said teacher, as they may not be teaching the class in the following two years and your option will be wasted.

If there are courses on the curriculum options you haven’t studied before, such as Psychology, Childcare, or Politics, etc., students can ask the teachers for a copy of the GCSE syllabus to gain an insight into what they will be studying, how the course will be like and whether they will have to complete coursework, take an exam, or both. Although a Psychology degree, a Childcare degree or a Politics degree, doesn’t necessarily need a qualification in these subjects, it is always advantageous. 

Individuals should spend efficient time choosing their GCSE subjects as these classes will be featured on their school timetable every day for two years – which can be quite tough to handle if it was a bad choice – and could affect what subjects they can then study at college/sixth form or university.

Understanding academic strengths and weaknesses

The majority of students desire to do well in their studies and want to continue their studying at A-Level, Undergraduate, or to gain access onto an apprenticeship.

Another way to ensure an individual will choose a subject that is not only a right fit but unlocks their potential, and a decent grade at the end of the 2 years, is to play to their strengths. If a student is talented at Mathematics, Information Technology (IT), or Physical Education (P.E) then using a choice on one of these subjects will more likely lead to success. In fact, with PE, you are more likely to be entitled to a bursary, grant or scholarship, when you go to university. 

Therefore, individuals should allow themselves a chance to obtain decent grades by understanding what subjects they excel in, and if they enjoy them, find them interesting, and if those courses open up several other academic doors – it is a win-win situation!

Again, similarly to students knowing their strengths, they should look into what is considered their academic weaknesses when choosing GCSE subjects in year 9. As students may find that they are either in too deep with a subject that they don’t enjoy it or find it insightful, too overwhelmed, or are faced with assignments that they can’t complete. Each course, and exam board grades and awards their subjects differently: some may require 100% examinations in the summer, laboratory experiments, assignments to be completed outside of school hours, while others like a mixture of submitted coursework and exams. Students should research their subject’s assessment structure before signing up! If a student prefers coursework over exams, then having to sit 4 GCSE Statistics exams will be tough, when they could have chosen IT, another subject they would enjoy that is fully assessed through the submission of coursework.

Not only will it help students compare all of their options side-by-side, but they will be able to exclude subjects easier by having certain checklists that they want to achieve.

Avoid Feeling Overwhelmed

Dependent on the school or academy students can choose between 4 and 9 extra subjects on top of their compulsory subjects such as English and Science. As mentioned above there are some courses that have more intensive assessments than others, so don’t choose too many that require a lot of coursework to be completed, or that feature several exams if you feel that you won’t be able to cope – especially during exam season, there are plenty of ways to deal with GCSE exam stress.

Speak to all of the course leaders and/or teachers about your concerns and what the workload will realistically be once you start to give you an idea of what your studies will become for two years.

Make your own decision

Lastly, don’t allow anyone else alter your decisions when it comes to your GCSE option choices. Some of your friends will tell you that you only need the three core subjects – as in English, Maths and Science – or that you only need a number of passes to gain enrollment into college. You will receive advice from parents, teachers, friends and information you read online, take all of the opinions into consideration but let the final decision be yours alone.

However, if doesn’t matter how many GCSE qualifications you receive to them, but it does matter to you. Allow yourself enough time to consider all of the options, your career aspirations and what you enjoy before picking any subject. Otherwise, it will be a very long two years of studying a course that you don’t enjoy.