How Many GCSEs Can You Take?

How Many GCSEs Do Students Take (In 2024)?

In GCSE by Think Student Editor5 Comments

Not every student will take the same GCSEs or even the same amount of GCSEs. The results of your GCSEs are very important and can be what determines which A-Levels or jobs you do later in life. You might want to take more GCSEs to boost your chances of success, but how many is too many? Counter to this some students may want to take the bare minimum, but what is the lowest amount of GCSEs you can take?

The majority of students will take 8-10 GCSEs, and this amount is perfectly credible to colleges, universities and employers. However, a very small amount of students will take 11 GCSEs and an even fewer amount of students will take 12+ GCSEs.

As you do have to take your GCSEs during school hours, the maximum amount of GCSEs that you could do at once is most likely around 16. GCSE English, Maths and Science are the compulsory subjects in the UK. Due to this, the minimum amount of GCSEs you can take are the compulsory subjects. This is extremely rare for students to do this and usually has extenuating circumstances.

In this article I’ll be taking a look at how many GCSEs you can take, and how many you should take. Read on if you’re interested in GCSEs and what you can do with them.

How many GCSEs should you take?

GCSEs are the final hurdle of secondary school life, and should be taken seriously. You need to take the right amount of them and work hard in all of them to ensure your success.

The average student takes 8 GCSEs, give or take a few. Any more than this can take a toll on your sanity, as the workload becomes too much.

And the more stress you put yourself under, the worse your eventual grades will be. You need to balance the amount of GCSEs you take with how much work you can do for them.

Any less than that and you’ll start to find it harder to get a job, or get into college. If you don’t take enough GCSEs then no matter what grades you get, you’ll find it a lot harder to get into places.

It can also depend on what GCSEs you take, too. Harder GCSEs will mean you’ll want to take less of them, whereas easier GCSEs means you can take more of them.

The table below gives you an idea of how many GCSEs students tend to take. This table shows the number of GCSEs taken in 2022, by 16-year-olds, in England. Further information can be found here on the Ofqual website.

Number of GCSEs taken Number of students Percentage of students
1 8,500 1.4%
2 11,500 1.8%
3 10,000 1.6%
4 10,850 1.7%
5 18,900 3.0%
6 50,300 8.1%
7 106,650 17.1%
8 154,700 24.9%
9 163,050 26.2%
10 78,850 12.2%
11 11,550 1.9%
12+ 500 0.1%
Total 622,350 100%

As you can see from the table above most students are taking between 7 and 10 GCSEs.

What is the most amount of GCSEs that you can take at once?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to take as many GCSEs as you can to succeed in your education. There’s one problem with this – you can overwork yourself to the point of exhaustion.

The most amount of GCSEs I’ve seen a student take is 16. Even then, they seemed to struggle with how much revision was necessary for them to pass.

16 GCSEs is hard for any student, even if they are in the top band. 16 GCSEs will majorly strain your brain, and you’re unlikely to succeed in any of your endeavours if you try this.

If you really want to take 16 GCSEs, and you think you can handle it, then go for it. Only the top students will succeed at this, though, so be careful.

I recommend going for around ten GCSEs, if you want the highest chance of success. You could push it up to 12, if you’re really confident in your abilities.

How many GCSEs do sixth form colleges want you to have?

Whether you are applying for BTEC’s or A-Levels, most sixth form colleges want you to have at least 5 GCSEs graded at 9-4. However, all colleges require you to have at least a grade 4 in both GCSE English and Maths.

To find out more about what subjects sixth form colleges prioritise and why, check out this Think Student article. 

Furthermore, colleges do not necessarily care more about students who have done 15 GCSEs as opposed to students who have only done 10 GCSEs. They care more about what grades you have achieved in the GCSEs that have closely related content to what you will be studying at college.

How many GCSEs do universities want you to have?

Universities these days are looking more and more at your GCSEs as an indicator of your ability, as college students arrive with similar results.

Universities not only look for good GCSE results, but they look for lots of them. Just like they prefer students with 4 A-Levels, the more GCSEs the better.

However, if you’re worried that a university will reject you because you didn’t take enough GCSEs, don’t. Universities look primarily at your college results, then your GCSE results, and finally the amount of GCSEs you took.

Make sure the GCSEs you do take, you have good grades in. University is for the top band of students, and that means students with at least 6-7 A*- C GCSEs.

As long as you have around 9 GCSEs, you shouldn’t worry about getting into university. Just focus on carrying through your grades into college, and university will come easily.

For more info on what universities like to see in your GCSEs, take a look at this article.

How many GCSEs do employers want you to have?

GCSEs are used for more than just the education system, you know. If you want to get into good employment with prospects of a great career, you’re going to need a strong set of GCSEs under your belt.

GCSEs come in especially handy when looking for jobs whilst in college. At this point in your life, GCSEs might be the only thing you can show your employer – aside from your CV and personal statement.

Employers generally look for around 5-6 GCSEs at A*- C grade. For the new grading system, that’s 5-6 GCSEs at 9-4 grade.

If you’ve got this many GCSEs, you should have no trouble finding a job. Even after college, having 5-6 strong GCSEs will get you far.

In fact, there are some jobs you can get that don’t require any GCSEs. Take a look at this Think Student article that has a list of the highest paying jobs you can do that require no GCSEs if you don’t think you’ll pass.

And if you don’t think you’re going to pass, here’s a helpful Think Student article outlining what you can do if you fail all of your GCSEs.

Can you take more GCSEs outside of school?

Your school might not let you take as many GCSEs as you might like, due to their lack of resources or just not enough hours in the day. But, can you take more GCSEs without school’s support?

The answer is yes, if you commit to it. You can take as many GCSEs outside of school as you want, provided you’ve got the materials for it.

Many students decide to hire a private tutor to teach them the content, and then sit the exam at school. This is a great way to learn and increase the number of GCSEs you’ll get, but it can be quite expensive.

Another common way of taking more GCSEs outside of school is to self-teach. I know a few students that have self-taught GCSEs, be it through online materials or straight out of a book.

This can be good (and cost effective too), but you need to be careful that you don’t teach yourself the wrong way. If you somehow mess up teaching yourself, then your exam will be affected, and all your hard work will have gone to waste.

Another important thing to remember is to not spread yourself too thin. By taking GCSEs out of school, you reduce the amount of time you have to revise for your GCSEs in school.

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4 years ago

Hiya! This was amazing to read as I am thinking of taking a maximum 3 extra gcses which would give me 13 in total – this was vary informative tho and is definitely helping me make my decisions!

Just me 💕
2 years ago

If you want to get into Oxford/Cambridge, is it handy to have several extra GCSEs under your belt? This is highly theoretical, I haven’t even picked my GCSE subjects yet…

Last edited 2 years ago by Just me 💕
Reply to  Just me 💕
8 months ago

technically yes but prestigious universities will care more about how many A-levels/What A-levels/A-level grades over GCSEs

2 years ago

I’m not sure, JM. I suppose, in case you fail a few, you might want a couple more… Say, you take twelve (as oxbridge students normally have around 8 GSCEs of 8-9 grades – which is a lot 🙃) and get a couple fives and sixes as well as eights and nines… Iona, that’s so cool! I’m only thinking of taking around average 😅… Anyway, nice article, it really helped 👏 🙏 💯. *Edit: 5 and 6 aren’t really fails though, sorry. I just meant that oxford and cambridge probably wouldn’t really care for them that much – they’re still… Read more »

Last edited 2 years ago by Linn
Jenifer kylie Smith
Jenifer kylie Smith
7 months ago

Hi, sorry but what is the minimum amount of gcse subjects you can take?? Is it 5 or something?? Thank You