Everybody has a subject they don’t particularly like or aren’t particularly good at. It’s a natural part of school; not everything is smooth sailing, and this can often be difficult for students to take part in. However, students may often struggle with subjects they dislike, which can make school life more difficult in general. Therefore, a common question for students nearing their GCSEs is whether or not they can drop a GCSE option in Year 10.
To put it briefly, it really depends on the option you are dropping and your individual circumstances. There are core subjects that vary slightly school by school, but the non-negotiable subjects that you can’t drop include English and Maths (and Science in most schools). In Year 10, you still have time to drop other GCSE subjects, but you must have a good reason.
While this may have given you a brief insight into if you can drop a GCSE option in Year 10, it may be helpful to read on.
Table of Contents
Can you drop a GCSE option in Year 10?
In short, yes, it’s possible to drop GCSE options in Year 10 – however, it depends on your circumstances, and which subject you’re dropping. Of course, no one can physically force students into sitting the actual exam, but this isn’t considered dropping the subject.
For one, many schools don’t allow students to drop what is considered a ‘core’ subject: something like Maths or English Language, and in practically every case, Science. Maths, English Language and Science are usually non-negotiable (however, you can choose between Single or Combined Science). Some schools also consider one of the humanities as a core subject (like History or Geography), and even a foreign language!
These additional core subjects – like languages – can be dropped if there are extenuating circumstances; for example, a learning disability such as dyslexia. Of course, this doesn’t apply to Maths or English (and Science).
Other subjects, such as Art or Business, can be dropped in Year 10 more easily – such as if a student is struggling with the course. The process is the same: talking to your Head of Year to figure out the best course of action. If a student drops a subject in Year 10, and doesn’t take on a different subject, they’ll typically get a free study period – this allows for more time to focus on revising.
Taking on less subjects can be a lot less stressful, and beneficial for students who want to put more focus into their other subjects. The average student does 8 or 9 GCSEs, so the usual demographic dropping a subject is the student that does 9 GCSEs.
To read about choosing GCSE options, and finding the best fit for you, check out this article from Think Student.
To read more about compulsory subjects at GCSE, check out this article from Think Student!
Can you change GCSE options in Year 10?
Changing GCSE options instead of dropping them is a tad more complicated! Firstly, the timing and which subject you’re switching to matters a lot more.
For example, if a student decides they desperately want to study History instead of Geography around half-way through the year, it likely won’t be approved. This is because, unfortunately, there is a LOT of missed content which can severely impact a student’s grade.
If you feel in your gut that another subject would be better for you, talk to your head of year as soon as possible. Preferably, in the first few weeks of Year 10. It is crucial to do any switch as early as possible so there’s no missed key information – and of course, it’s easier to settle in if you switch early.
Some students may choose to add on a subject instead of switching. However, this typically isn’t done with non-language subjects (though in those cases it’s done through an extensive check with the pupil). It’s a lot easier to pick up an extra language. From personal experience, students can pick up an extra language GCSE until around January of Year 11, but only do this if you are fluent or native to that language!
To summarise, if you are planning to switch subjects, do it as early as possible – but if that’s not doable, you may not be able to change if you’ve already missed a lot of content.
When do you pick your GCSE options?
In the vast majority of cases, students pick their GCSE options in Year 9. This is a big decision, and is done this way because you start learning key GCSE content in Year 10. Some schools allow their students to pick in Year 8, instead of Year 9 – meaning students have 3 years to learn the GCSE content instead of 2.
For very few subjects, like GCSE Further Maths, this choice is typically done later – and it’s only offered to a select few students in Year 11. Of course, if you decide to pick up an extra language GCSE – like if you’re fluent already – this can be arranged until around January of Year 11 (where the students are entered in for exams officially).
To read more about when students pick their GCSE options, click here for a helpful guide from Think Student!
Can you drop or change your A-Level options in Year 12?
At A-Level, both the schedule and content are a LOT more fast paced than at GCSE – if you want to drop or change a subject, schools will typically only allow it within the first few weeks. There’s simply too much content and learning to do otherwise.
That being said, it’s definitely possible to switch or drop a subject. In the case of dropping, some schools allow you to drop it within the first few months – but some will have a much shorter time limit, so it’s very important to check.
Picking your A-Level options is also more important than picking your GCSE options. Therefore, while it may be possible, you should try to avoid dropping or changing your A-Level options. To do this you should make sure that the options you do pick are right for you.
A good way to figure out whether an A-Level is good for you is to check out the content beforehand. This can be anything from watching some YouTube videos to talking with teachers about what to expect.
Personally, I found it useful to check out the A-Level revision courses on Seneca Learning so that I could get a feel for the content.
Some students may also have a hard time choosing between subjects. It can help to look at the pros and cons of each of the subjects that you’re considering and to make your decision based on this.
Alternatively, some students might be struggling to pick subjects in general. If you already have some idea of what you want to do in the future, work backwards! Find out what courses at university you need for your desired career, then find out what A-Levels you need to do that specific course.
If you also don’t know what career you want and feel completely lost, pick the subjects that you’re good at or ones that you like. It can also be a good idea to pick at least one all-round subject that can offer you multiple opportunities – such as Maths.
Here are some tips for picking A-Levels from Think Student.