When choosing your options, it can be confusing to work out how many GCSEs each subject you are taking is worth, especially when some have different options with different numbers of exams to take. It is important to know how many GCSEs you are going to take because some colleges and sixth forms require a certain number of GCSE for you to be admitted onto a specific set of courses there. This article will let you know exactly how many GCSEs you will gain from each subject, so you can effectively plan your option choices, and know what to expect come results day.
In short, GCSE Maths is worth one GCSE, but you can work for extra qualifications which are related to maths which may or may not add to your GCSEs. English is split into two separate GCSEs; Language and Literature, each of which yields one GCSE. There are two types of science GCSE, Double science which gives you two GCSE grades at the end of the course, and Triple science, which gives you three separate GCSEs and their subsequent grades at the end. Most other subjects give one full GCSE at the end of the course. The number of GCSEs you get for a certain subject is regulated and is therefore the same across all exam boards. Below is a shortlist of how many GCSEs you get for each subject:
|Subject||Amount of GCSE Qualifications You Receive|
|GCSE English||1 for English Literature
1 for English Language
|GCSE Science||2 for Double Science
3 for Triple Science
Although this gives a short answer to your question, for the details of specific qualifications such as further maths and the sciences, as well as specific details for optional subjects and short courses, please read on below.
How Many GCSEs is Maths Worth?
On its own, maths is worth one GCSE overall, and you receive one grade for the course.
However, there is one main reason why some people believe maths is worth more than one GCSE: maths is double-counted on the attainment 8 or progress 8 score for your school due to being a core subject. Progress 8 and Attainment 8 are measures of how much pupils have progressed over their time at school, based on comparing GCSE results to SATs, but they do not reflect personally on students, they are used as a measure for the whole school and its academic results.
Some schools may offer options such as statistics and further maths, which are worth one GCSE each, separately from maths. There is also additional maths, which is not a GCSE and is different to further maths. Additional Mathematics (otherwise known as an FMSQ) is a separate free-standing qualification that is intended to introduce A-Level style maths to students who are planning to take it at A-Level, and who are expected to achieve 7, 8, or 9. Additional maths carries a Level 3 Qualification status, similar to the old AS Levels (GCSE is Level 2), so it will not give you another GCSE.
However, it is important to note that not all schools offer these subjects, so check with your teachers and choices before setting your heart on one of these qualifications. For more information on further and additional mathematics, this link is useful: Further and Additional Maths
How Many GCSEs is English Worth?
English is made up of two subjects, English Language and English Literature. These would give you one GCSE each, meaning you receive two grades for the course. Even though you may not have a separate teacher or be taught two easily distinguishable courses, they are separate; you will take different exams for each one.
Some schools choose to only do the English language GCSE, if you are doing this you will get one GCSE, but it is most common to do both. Check with your school to find out if you are unsure which qualifications you are taking.
In the past, the spoken language endorsement, where you perform a speech about a topic of your interest or which your teacher chooses, has been part of your GCSE grade. It is important to note that this now only appears as a single letter next to your English Language result as either Pass (P), Merit (M), or Distinction (D) and does not contribute to your overall grade in English Language. It is not worth a GCSE.
How Many GCSEs is Science Worth?
There are two options for doing science at GCSE level: triple science or combined science. In Combined Science, (also known as Double Science) you learn roughly ¾ of the content in the Triple GCSEs, and at the end gain the equivalent of 2 GCSEs. You will still study all three sciences, just at a less detailed level. It is important to bear in mind that you may actually be able to take another GCSE instead of the extra science lessons if you are doing Combined, so check with your teachers on the arrangements for your school.
In Triple Science, you study all three sciences separately and at the end gain three separate GCSEs, in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. This means you take each science as a separate subject and likely have different teachers for each one. If you are planning to take science at A level, it is usually important to take GCSE Triple science, to have the correct grounding and grades, however, check with your school for more information on this. It also means that if you have a weaker science which you are less confident in, it will not drag your entire grade down as you take it separately in different and distinct exams, unlike combined where all sciences are taken together in combined exam papers.
This website explains more about the grading process for each science. These grading processes are the same across all science exam boards, and therefore you gain the same number of GCSE grades no matter which exam board you sit your GCSE with.
How Can You Tell Whether You are Doing Triple or Double/Combined Science?
The easiest way to tell when you are currently studying for a GCSE is to ask your teacher which course you are studying or check your options choices. If you have not yet chosen your subjects, it likely shows which is which in the options choice form you need to fill in, so check this and if you are still unsure ask the teacher who oversees science at your school. Some schools only offer triple science, so check this before choosing to do one of these specifically.
For more information about whether to take triple or double science, this article is particularly useful.
How Many GSCEs are Other Subjects Worth?
In general, other options subjects are worth one GCSE each. This includes subjects like Languages, Arts, and ICT. These courses may have multiple exams to take or even multiple types of exams (such as speaking, listening, and reading in Languages), but this does not mean you get separate grades. All the results from the exams are taken into account when deciding the overall GCSE grade, and you still only get one qualification. The only Double award GCSE (worth more than one GCSE for a single course) is Double Science (see earlier).
In addition to normal GCSEs, some schools may offer short course GCSEs (such as short course P.E) or courses like GCSE Citizenship, which are worth half of a GCSE each. These are often taken instead of Triple Science and are useful as they give the chance to gain more qualifications in less time, and study useful new subjects you would not otherwise be able to study. You may be able to take one of these within one year, meaning you gain extra qualifications in less time; however, it is not necessary to take these to get a good set of results, and some schools do not offer them.
How Many GCSEs is a BTEC Worth?
A BTEC is a different type of qualification focussed on vocational subjects, which are seen as more technical and applied to the world of work. Generally, a Level 1 or 2 BTEC is studied alongside GCSE and is equivalent to GCSE in difficulty. However, it is difficult to compare them in terms of how many they are worth as they are different courses. A Level 2 BTEC at Merit is usually equal to a 7 at GCSE.
If you are thinking of taking a BTEC, check out this link for more information on BTEC qualifications and their application at university.
Why Does it Matter How Many GCSEs Your Subjects are Worth?
It is important to know how many GCSEs you will achieve at the end of your courses for a few reasons. Firstly, it helps when planning your options if you know how many GCSEs you are going to get and can then plan them appropriately. Similarly, you may need to take certain options, or a certain number to get into college, so it is important to know which you require to ensure that you achieve the right amount, and which of your options you need to focus on. Also, if you are home-schooled it can be especially confusing to figure out how many GCSEs you are working for, and this may lead to getting more or less than you will need for any pathway you take post-16. More information on this can be found here.
Another very important factor to note is that it does not matter how many exam papers you take for a subject; you will generally still receive 1 grade. The number of GCSEs you get for each subject is regulated and is therefore the same across all exam boards. This means that schools can choose which exam board they prefer for their students to take, and they will not be disadvantaged by the choice. The only exception to this is short course subjects (see above section for more information on short courses). If you have any concerns about which GCSEs you are taking, speaking to your school or teachers is a good way to get more information and personal support.
What is a GCSE and How Can You Take Them?
GCSEs (General Certificates of Secondary Education) are qualifications generally taken by pupils in Secondary Education in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. GCSE exams can be taken in many subjects and each qualification stands alone but they are generally achieved as part of a set in year 11, after two or three years of study. They are also taken by home-schooled pupils in the UK as private candidates and pupils around the world (though other countries are more likely to take IGCSEs – information about these specific exams can be found in this link).
To gain a GCSE from a subject, you need to pass it. To gain a pass at GCSE, you need to get a grade 4 overall, equivalent to a ‘low C’ under the old system. (more information about the grading system can be found here.)
If the subject uses a tiered entry system (such as in Science, English, Languages, or Maths), you can take higher or foundation. On the higher paper, getting lower than a 3 will result in a U or ungraded result (3 would still be a failing grade). On the foundation paper you will still be given a numerical grade (e.g. 1, 3, 4), but again getting below a 4 is a fail, and foundation paper gives the ability to achieve up to a 5 in marks. It is most important that you take the paper which you are most suited for, and your teachers should be able to advise you on which this is.
Some people will take their GCSEs early, or do more than others, however this is absolutely not necessary, you should only do GCSE exams when you are ready and confident you can take them to the best of your abilities. There is no need to do extra GCSEs in order to get into college or 6th form, as most colleges only look at 5 or 8 of your grades, depending on how academically selective they are.
If you want to take GCSEs and do not currently attend a UK secondary school, more information on how to take them as a private candidate, including the full process you must go through to apply, can be found in this Think Student article.