Choosing Your GCSE Options: A Students Guide

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Often, the first major decision students will have to make about their education is what GCSE qualifications they are going to take. Choosing your GCSE options can be a tricky task as there is often quite a lot you have to consider. This can make you feel slightly pressured, and you may even feel slightly unsure about what you should choose. This makes it so important to truly know what choosing your GCSE options is all about and what is involved in doing so.

Continue reading to learn more about choosing your GCSEs and what your options are. This article will include information on how many options you can choose, which subjects you can choose from and even when you do it.

How do GCSE options work?

Choosing your GCSE options can be difficult to figure out as it will be unlike anything you’ve had to do before. It can be confusing to know what you’re actually choosing and what these options actually are.

At GCSE level, students normally take about 9 subjects, although this may be slightly more or less depending on your school as well as your situation. Within these 9 subjects, there will typically be compulsory subjects that you have to take regardless of your choices and your options, which you have personally chosen.

Compulsory GCSE subjects can be compulsory across the country, such as GCSE Maths and GCSE English Language and some form of science, either GCSE Combined Science or the separate sciences as GCSEs. Alternatively, they may just be compulsory at your school, this is common for subjects such as GCSE English Literature, GCSE Religious Education and languages. To learn more about compulsory GCSEs, check out this Think Student article.

Your GCSE options will make up the remaining GCSEs subjects that you study. The systems used to allow you to choose them will depend on your school. For example, some schools may use a form where you pick your options and others may use a digital system. Once again, this will fully depend on what your school choses and so to learn more it is best to ask them.

To learn more about how GCSE options work as a whole, check out this guide by BBC Bitesize.

How many GCSE options can you take?

As mentioned above, you will generally do around 9 GCSEs altogether. However, as some of these will be compulsory, you may be wondering how many options you will actually get.

The exact answer to this will depend on your school and what they have chosen to be compulsory. However, students will generally have about 4 options but as said this will depend. This figure is based on personal experience and so to learn more about the number of options it is best to ask your school directly.

Which GCSE subjects can you choose from?

Choosing your GCSE options is often the first time when you’ll get to study what you want. This allows you to tailor your studies to your own strengths and weaknesses as well as what you enjoy.

In total, there are over 60 GCSE subjects that you can take. However, what is available for you to choose as one of your options will depend on what your secondary school offers.

Other than the compulsory subjects of GCSE Maths, GCSE English Language and some form of GCSE Science, the GCSE subjects can be split up into 4 main categories. These are languages, humanities, arts and technical subjects.

For languages subjects, students can often take French, Spanish and German. However, some schools may also offer other modern languages, such as Mandarin or Japanese or even some ancient languages, such as Latin.

The humanities subjects are generally essay-based subjects. They include subjects like GCSE History, GCSE Geography and GCSE Religious Education as well as some less common ones, such as GCSE Psychology and GCSE Sociology.

Arts subjects are much more creative and practical. They include GCSE Music, GCSE Dance, GCSE Media Studies and of course GCSE Art and Design, as the name suggests.

Technical subjects are a little more miscellaneous in that they include a much wider range of subjects. However, all of these subjects will generally require a great deal of application of theory knowledge to something more practical. These include subjects like GCSE Food Technology, GCSE Computer Science, GCSE Engineering and GCSE Physical Education.

To learn more about these subjects and their categories, check out this Think Student article. For the complete extensive list of GCSE subjects, check out this governmental guide.

What are the easiest GCSE options?

Secondary school is hard enough as it is and GCSEs can simply make it worse. When it comes to choosing your GCSE subjects, one of the best ways to reduce some of the pressure for your future self is to pick options that are easier.

Deciding which subjects are easiest is an incredibly subjective process and it will fully depend on the strengths and weaknesses of each person for themselves to decide if it really is the easiest. You may even look at the following list and feel that these ‘easiest’ options aren’t for you.

Based on several factors, including pass rates and students’ personal opinions, the following list includes the 10 easiest GCSE subject options.

  • GCSE Food Technology
  • GCSE Drama
  • GCSE Film Studies
  • GCSE Religious Studies
  • GCSE Physical Education
  • GCSE Music
  • GCSE Geography
  • GCSE Design and Technology
  • GCSE Catering
  • GCSE Business Studies

This list of the 10 easiest GCSE subjects comes from this Think Student article, where you can find out a little more about why it’s on the list, including the pass rate and what it involves.

What are the hardest GCSE options?

Often, the subjects you study at GCSE will be a mixture of ones you find easier or just more enjoyable and ones you find a lot harder. Choosing harder GCSE options may be an opportunity for you to challenge yourself academically.

Once again, please note that the following list of the ‘hardest’ GCSEs options is incredibly subjective, and you may agree or disagree about the ones included. According to Think Student, the 10 hardest GCSE subjects are as follows.

  • GCSE Further Maths
  • GCSE Physics
  • GCSE English Literature
  • GCSE Chemistry
  • GCSE Maths
  • GCSE Biology
  • GCSE History
  • GCSE Modern Foreign Languages

To learn more about why these 10 are considered the hardest, including an overview on the difficulty of the course itself as well as information about the pass rates, check out this Think Student article.

When do you chose your GCSE options?

Students will typically study for their GCSEs in Years 10 and 11 (or Years 11 and 12 in Northern Ireland). This gives them the most part of two academic years to study their GCSEs before taking final exams at the end of Year 11. If you want to learn more about when GCSEs are taken, check out this Think Student article.

Due to this, students will typically choose their GCSE options in Year 9. However, some schools may choose to do this at a slightly different time. For example, if your school starts teaching GCSE content in Year 9, you will need to choose your options before this.

To learn more about this, check out this article by Think Student. To get specific information to your situation, it is best that you double check with your school first.

Can you choose your GCSE options early?

If you’re eager to get started with your GCSEs, you may be wondering if you can choose your options for them early. This could be beneficial in allowing you more time to learn the content or could even just allow you to get the exams over with quicker.

However, when you choose your GCSE options will generally not be up to you, instead it will be up to your school. Due to this, it will generally not be possible to do them earlier than when your school has set.

However, some schools will instead choose to have all students start studying for GCSEs in Year 9, rather than Year 10. This means that these students will end up choosing their GCSE options early, this will typically be done in Year 8.

Also, as home-schooled children aren’t required to follow the National Curriculum, there is no obligation for them to do GCSEs at all. This also means that with home schooling, students are able to do their GCSEs at any point as long as the education is considered age-appropriate, and so would be able to choose their GCSE options and take the exams earlier than in a state school.

To learn more about when you choose your GCSE options, check out this Think Student article. To learn more about home schooling and GCSEs, check out this Think Student article.

Do your GCSE options matter?

GCSE options are important as they can often affect what you are able to do in the future. This is especially true if you want to continue your studies into further or even higher education.

For certain subjects, sixth forms or colleges will require you to have done the GCSE and maybe even have gotten a certain grade before they allow you to do the A-Level. From my own experience, I’d say that this is especially true for options like languages, where the basis knowledge from GCSE is essential.

For some universities, you will need to have done specific subjects at GCSE to be able to study the course. To learn more about this, check out this page by the University of Bristol.

However, when it comes to job applications, which GCSE subjects you have chosen will generally not matter so much. Instead, employers will often care more about whether you have GCSEs in compulsory subjects, particularly GCSE English Language and GCSE Maths.

They may also be more interested in how many GCSEs you have rather than what specific options you chose. To learn more about this, check out this Think Student article.

Do your GCSE options effect your college application?

As mentioned above, GCSE options can be important as sixth forms or colleges may require you to have done certain subjects to enable you to do the further education course, such as A-levels, that you’ve applied for. Due to these certain requirements, it is certainly possible for your GCSE options to affect your college application.

However, this won’t be the case for every course. This is especially as subjects, such as psychology or even media studies, aren’t as widely available at GCSE level and so they won’t normally require you to have done this beforehand.

To learn more, it is best to check with a specific college or sixth form to know their policies on the GCSEs you have done. It could even be possible that they still accept you onto a course if you’re application is otherwise strong enough.

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