Can You Go to University Without GCSE Maths?

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Universities tend to lean towards focusing on A-Level grades when considering making offers. The infamous GCSE Maths in particular is a widely discussed topic amongst students and parents alike.  

Usually, when you take your GCSEs, university applications and future careers are not on your list of priorities at the time. Therefore, it can be a cause of panic when students realise that some courses may not accept candidates who have not taken GCSE Maths or met the grade requirements for the subject. This article will quell any worries by sorting the fact from fiction about the requirements of GCSE Maths for university admission.  

In short, yes it is possible to go to university without a GCSE Maths qualification*. That being said, you will likely be required to take additional courses such as a functional skills course or a GCSE Maths retake.

* Where it is possible, most universities do require GCSE Maths as well as GCSE English to be able to apply for the course. The majority of university courses consist of content which requires basic mathematical skills and English grammar to learn. This means that if you have not undertaken a GCSE maths exam and obtained the certificate, you will likely not be able to secure a place at some universities.  

While the above hastily summarises the general circumstances upon not having a GCSE Maths qualification,  continue reading to find out more about different ways in which you can enter university without that specific qualification.  

Is GCSE Maths Required for All Undergraduate Courses?

No. That said, it is imperative you check out individual university’s websites for specific course information as there is no general rule.

When you choose the course that you would like to study at university, it should ideally be based off your strengths and passions. This should connect with the A-Levels that you have studied and/or any qualifications that you may have. If you are wanting some tips on how to pick your A-Levels, take a look at this article.

Therefore, if you do not wish to pursue a course that is centred around maths, it will not be your passion or necessarily your strength. It is this reason that many candidates are annoyed by the fact that it is highly unlikely that a course will not ask for GCSE Maths at a minimum level 

Despite having a minimal impact when it came to studying non-Maths A-Levels, the qualification for GCSE Maths plays a significant role in university applications. This is because it clearly demonstrates that you have a basic understanding and skillset for the application of simple mathematics to scenarios that may arise.  

However, if you would like to do your own research, it is useful to shortlist the universities that you would like to apply for and go onto their website. Upon finding the specific course at the university that you would like to study; you can view entry requirements and also minimum grade requirements for specific subjects.  

Typically, the minimum grade for applications in GCSE Maths is a C, or a grade 4/5 according to the new grading system. However, if you feel as though your lack of this qualification could be compensated elsewhere. It is a good idea to contact the university to clarify your personal questions and qualifications as it may turn out that they may still accept you as a candidate. 

Why Do Universities Require GCSE Maths?

Some candidates may find it confusing as to why GCSE Maths is required for all, or at least most, university courses.  

After all, if you’re applying for an art degree, why is maths necessary? To answer your question, it is to do with the basic principles of maths that we learn as part of the GCSE course.  

Whilst we may not realise it initially, a lot of our tasks during A-Levels, university or work require simple maths, whether this be finding the area of land or calculating profit and loss. Maths is essential for processes carried out in almost every course.  

Whilst it is clear that it is utilised in some courses more than others, maths is a basic principle that is cemented into most of the things we do. Hence it is a compulsory core GCSE subject if you are applying to study in a UK university.  

What Should You Do if You Don’t Have a GCSE Maths Qualification?

At first glance, the lack of this qualification can seem problematic to some students and therefore can cause unwarranted worry and panic.  Thankfully, this is not the end of the world, and there are still many alternative pathways that you can take to reach a position where you can apply for your desired course at university.  

Before considering any of the ways to achieve a GCSE or equivalent to complete your application, it is important to reflect on your circumstances and the reasons as to why you were unable to complete or achieve the GCSE qualification.  

Whether this be a physical or mental illness, learning disability or any other valid explanation. You should contact the university explaining your personal circumstances, as they may deem you exempt from the requirement if you are a strong candidate.  

However, there is the chance that you cannot be considered without the qualification, if the university rejects your request for exemption. Whilst disheartening, there are many ways to progress from where you are currently.  

Should You Re-take Your GCSE Maths Exam for University Admission?

The first point of action would be to see if there is a possibility of retaking the GCSE Maths exam. Whilst this may seem daunting, seeing as the time for revision is less and it is during a completely different situation, it is useful to do and there will be many others like you participating in the course.  

If you have not undertaken any course work/learning, then this can be done at a centre such as a local college or even your own sixth form. Similarly, if you just wanted to re-take the test, then this can also be done at the above locations.  

Unfortunately, if you choose to retake the whole course as well as the exam, this may take some time to do and this may mean that your initial plan may need to change course slightly. This is no issue at all, however it can be frustrating. Which is why it is important to check with your prospective universities on whether an exception can be granted for your circumstances.  

What Happens if You Are Unable to Re-take GCSE Maths?

There may be a situation where you are unable to retake the GCSE Maths qualification, or you simply do not have the time to learn a year’s worth of coursework.  

Should this be the case, there is no need to panic, as there is yet another alternative option. However, before proceeding with this, it is important to consider the course that you intend to apply for. You should consider if it would be more beneficial to your learning to take the year-long GCSE course.  

To continue, the alternative option, aside from re-taking GCSE Maths is to take a functional skills course.  

Functional skills courses are a good way to gain the extra grade (typically English, Maths or IT) needed to get into university. They consist of initial and diagnostic assessments followed by learning which can take place in a centre classroom or online.  

Typically, each student will have some sort of mentor to ensure that they are managing their tasks well, by assessing any exams that they undertake and providing them with tailored feedback. Despite this, the courses are also self-directed meaning that it is not necessary or compulsory to have a tutor, and you can conduct it independently. 

What is the Difference Between a GCSE and a Functional Skills Course?

Firstly, it is important to mention that whilst a GCSE course may last up to a year, a Functional Skills course can take significantly less time, usually between 8-12 weeks.  

This embellishes their appealing nature to those who wish to pursue their university course as fast as possible. However, timing is not the only factor to consider when choosing between these courses.  

Whilst there are many small differences between the GCSE course and the Functional Skills course, there is one clear difference between the two.  

The Functional Skills course is specifically designed so that it tests your ability to apply your mathematical knowledge in everyday situations whereas the GCSE course is focused on testing your academic ability as well.  

Many people who have done the Functional Skills course deem it to be more useful in real life scenarios compared with the GCSE course. Therefore, it is clear to say that if carrying out the GCSE course is not necessary and you would like to apply for university sooner, a Functional Skills course may be more beneficial to you.  

Ultimately, ensure that the decisions you make are in your best interests and you know they will provide you with the best possible platform to begin your dream university course.  

Are Mature University Applicants Required to Have GCSE Maths?

Whilst generally, to sixth form students, unless there is specific reason to, the university will not accept applications from students without a grade in GCSE Maths.  

However, if you are a mature applicant, it may be that you were unable to take the GCSE/O-Level. As a result, from this, universities recognise the difficulties and therefore mature applicants are typically exempt from this requirement 

There is no reason for it to hinder you from pursuing the course you wish to study at university, regardless of your age.  

It is important to remember to contact the university, or research on their website to find out if there is an alternative entrance test that you can take to apply. This can be arranged via the university itself (you can contact the university about specific arrangements if required). 

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