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Choosing your GCSEs

On here you’ll find some ideas and resources for making your choices about your next steps. Always make your own choices and do your research however. These are just ideas and guidelines and is in no way there to make the choice for you.

  In general   How best not to choose (and where to be careful)
  How it all works   Useful links


Depending on the school you go to, you need to make some important choices in either year 8 or year 9. These choices are in the main GCSEs but can include a variety of other options and subjects as well, including some practical subjects.

In general:

No doubt, your choice for your GCSEs is important. You will have to do the subjects you’ve chosen for another two or three years, so it’s a good idea to choose subjects that keep you going. However; depending on what you want to do later, your choice is likely not going to stop you at this point (but the grades you get at the end of your GCSEs might) because:

  • The core subjects you have to do will keep doors open to a lot of different areas later on. There are some exceptions, such as art. If you want to do a university course in an art related subject later on, then you will have to take an art subject as a GCSE. If you want to train as a doctor, then you will have to be excellent at science, but this is one subject you have to take. It’s a core subject.
  • It’s very likely that you will choose subjects you want to build on later on, for your job or career, anyway because you will most likely have some interest in them already. Have a look at the ‘how can I plan‘ pages to get some ideas of how this works. Especially the part about two ways of planning could be useful. 

On the other hand, if you are aiming for sixth form and A levels especially, you have to choose options in line with what you may want to choose there. Have a look at the entry requirements for A levels on the school website to see what I mean. If you would like to take a geography A level, then not taking geography as a GCSE is not necessarily the best idea.

The key point to making good choices at this point is to keep your options open, even if you’re determined in what you do for a job or career later on. Your ideas may change even if it doesn’t feel like they will right now. GCSE choices will to some extent do that automatically because of the subjects you have to take, whatever else you choose.

Considering subjects you like and are good at is a very good starting point, but do your research and explore!

Very generally, you can think of course choice and the number of courses you do as a sort of funnel towards your future and what you do then. The further on you go in your education and training, the more specific your choices will be, but it’s your choice. Make sure you choose wisely and do your research! Look at the links at the bottom of this page to help you with that.

Some ideas on how it all works

The way choices work, could be as follows:

Core subjects: subjects you will have to do and in which there is no choice.

Option choices: the subjects you can choose with guidance from your parents/carers, teachers, etc… 3 things are important to keep in mind:

  • School options: what subjects are available? Shortlist the ones you really like and are good at, then you could look at the option blocks and also what they can lead on to or whether they fit in with any ideas you have about the future. Especially when you want to take A levels later on, or if this is an option, it’s a good idea to explore what they require on the school sixth form website already. You can find more information on (alphabetically):
  • Ideas of what you want to do in the future: For certain careers you need to have taken certain subjects. Fortunately, for a lot of these, the subjects you need are included in the core subject offer (English, maths, science). For others, you will need to make a particular choice. Especially if you are thinking about going to university, it may be important to make the right choice already. You can explore on www.ucas.com but don’t feel you need to make any fixed choices! This is just exploration at this point, so it’s best to keep it broad! I also already mentioned art related subjects for which you often need to have a ‘portfolio’ of art work to show your next opportunity, whether this is sixth form, college, or university… or maybe even an employer for an apprenticeship, even though they are relatively rare. 


How not to choose:

It’s best not to choose by:

  • What your friends are taking: you are no doubt different from your friends in many ways and it’s your future as well, not theirs. Also, choosing the same subjects as your friends doesn’t guarantee you’ll be in the same class as them.
  • Who the teacher is: you’re never guaranteed you will have a certain teacher. On the other hand, a teacher can be very motivating but you can’t take them with you into adulthood, so the subject they teach has to be of interest beyond who the teacher is.

Also think carefully when:

  • Someone tells you a subject is a ‘sensible choice’: they may well be right, they will have a good reason for saying so and it may be the best choice for you. So don’t automatically discard what they say. Think about why they are saying that. They will normally have a good reason, but have a good think about what is sensible for you while taking on board what the people who know you well say about this.  For instance, if you’re desperate to be a graphic designer, not taking art or graphic design may not be the best idea. But what if you change your mind along the way? If you ask, most adults will say that they are doing something different now than the idea they had when they were your age. So changing your mind between now and when you’re older is the rule, not the exception! Again, do your research and keep your options open. Most choices for your GCSEs will do just that but there are exceptions. People who know you well can be an excellent source of feedback and information for your choice but always reflect, research and explore.


Useful links:

For exploring different career ideas:

For helping you think about your choices:

For parents and carers also: