Picking your GCSEs can be a tricky task for many – in Year 8 and 9, most students find it difficult to choose which subjects to carry on with and which ones to drop. It’s important to remember that the GCSEs you pick do not completely shape your career, though they are an opportunity to find out what career paths may interest you. So, aside from the mandatory subjects of English, Maths and the three Sciences, how do you choose the best GCSEs for you? The answer may be different for different people, so some of these tips may not help and some will.
The short answer is that you should choose the subjects that you enjoy, and which allow you to display your strengths. Although you should take other people’s advice into account, you should not be fully influenced by friends or family members. Remember, these are the GCSEs that you will be taking, so it is ultimately no one else’s choice. You should also try and consider the career that you want to do (if you have an idea!), and choose subjects that will enable you to start developing useful skills.
In this article, I will be listing some tips to keep in mind when choosing your GCSEs, so make sure that you read on to get a full understanding of the things that are important when choosing your GCSEs.
1. Do Your Research on Each Potential GCSE Choice
Perhaps you are unsure as to which GCSEs are available to you at your school or how many you can take? If this is the case, the best thing for you to do would be to contact your school and your teachers and ask them! Some schools require that every student takes a language at GCSE as well as the other mandatory subjects, so it is worth checking. Not knowing what options there are for you will definitely detract from your decision-making. You may even discover a course you didn’t know was run which is perfect for you!
Another good idea for you would be to check out actual past GCSE papers of subjects you intend to take. This allows you to find out exactly how the questions are set out on the exams and the content you would be taught should you choose to take them. The format of the final exam can play a huge role in whether you enjoy a subject or not. Some subjects have a large coursework element which may suit you if you feel that you do not perform well in traditional tests and may take some pressure off you when exams season rolls round in Year 11. The format of the final exam can play a huge role in whether you enjoy a subject or not.
2. Choose GCSEs That Suit You
The most important thing to remember while choosing your GCSEs is that you must choose them for yourself. Every year, students make the same mistake of thinking that their classmates are more important than the subject they learn. Do not just take a subject because your friends are taking it – it is unlikely you will be put in the same classes and, if you don’t enjoy the subject, you will just make yourself miserable. Blindly following your friends into taking a subject is not the way to go! This will be no good for you personally or for your final grades at the end of Year 11.
Moreover, you shouldn’t take a subject simply because your family wants you to. Of course, listening to your family about which subjects to take might steer you in the right direction, and you may even agree with them. However, if you strongly disagree with what your family are suggesting you do, then you should tell them, and pick the options you know you will enjoy and succeed in. The only person who truly knows which options are best for you is yourself, but others can help you along the way.
By listening to your gut and picking whichever subjects stand out to you, you will be doing your future self a favour in terms of both mental health and academic success!
3. Think About Your Possible Career Path
While choosing your GCSEs, it is worth thinking about what you want to do in the future, career-wise. It is completely understandable if you haven’t begun to think about it yet – the majority of Year 8 and 9 students haven’t – but if you have your mind set on a specific career for yourself, researching which GCSEs can assist you in pursuing that career will give you useful ideas. Many schools even hold careers fairs in which you can talk to people from many different sectors about which subjects they studied in order to pursue their particular careers and take their advice on which subjects it would be a good idea to choose which will allow you to follow in their career footsteps.
Certain subjects go together well for certain career choices – options which an aspiring lawyers may choose to take are completely different to those an aspiring doctor would. It all depends on which path you want to take. You can find many online sources of information about which options are appropriate for which careers. The best place to research information on the best combinations of subjects to take for a variety of future career paths, is definitely BBC Bitesize’s Careers Page, which includes concise information from trusted sources. You could also have a look at Think Student’s career page, which recommends which GCSEs you should take in order to go into particular professions.
Despite all of this, it is important to remember that your future career absolutely does not completely depend on which GCSEs you pick. By taking your chosen subjects, you are discovering which subjects you enjoy and which ones you would not like to continue with in the future, therefore slimming down the options enough for you to decide on your own career path and giving you a better idea of which areas you may like to pursue in the future.
4. Think About Your Academic Strengths And Weaknesses
Obviously, the best subjects to take at GCSE are the ones that you feel you are good at or see yourself improving in. These subjects will ultimately be the best ones for you.
If you really believe that there is a subject that you aren’t any good at or don’t enjoy, and you don’t see yourself improving in the future, then taking it at GCSE is not a good idea.
Despite this, you must take into account the fact that you have 2 – 3 years to improve before you take the exams. Don’t just rule out subjects that you find challenging. GCSEs are meant to be tough and challenge you to learn new skills.
5. Don’t Choose a GCSE Subject For a Teacher
Most students have a favourite teacher – maybe they’re more lenient with grades, behaviour or you simply love how they teach. Be that as it may, you shouldn’t pick a GCSE option because you like the teacher.
For one thing, you probably won’t enjoy the GCSE course if you’re not bothered about the subject. In addition to this, the novelty of having your favourite teacher will most likely wear off quickly if you’re not invested in your studies. It’s better for everyone if you pick your own options, without worrying about what your friends are doing or whether you are taught by your favourite teacher, to prevent having to go to the trouble of changing your options once the year has started and having to catch up on your missed content. You will still see your friends in other lessons, breaktimes and lunchtimes anyway!
Secondly, there is a relatively small chance that you will be placed in your favourite teacher’s class. The majority of GCSE subjects have multiple teachers and it’s really the luck of the draw as to which teachers you are assigned for your GCSE classes. Seriously, the best thing you can do is to ignore who teaches what and make your decisions based on the content.
6. Ask For Others’ Opinions
If you really are still struggling to select your options, then there are many places where you can seek advice. Teachers and school careers advisors are the best people to ask for tips on which GCSEs to pick if you are undecided.
These people know which are your strong subjects and can give you help as to which GCSEs help with which career path (if you already know what you would like to do in the future). They may even point you in the direction of other sources of information so it’s worth asking simply for the networking factor!
Checking out GCSE advice online can help as well. Lots of websites can tell you the answers to frequently asked questions about GCSE choices and online forums such as The Student Room can give you a chance to socialise with students in the same position as you. What are you waiting for? Get talking!
7. Keep As Calm As Possible
There is no use in stressing out over your options – you have most likely been given plenty of time to make informed choices and have many chances to change them if you feel as if you have chosen unwisely. If you are feeling particularly anxious about picking your options, it may be a good idea to talk to someone you trust about how you are feeling. Your form tutor, head of year or a member of your school’s pastoral team can all provide support if you need it.
The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and remember that there are millions of students just like you, making the same tough decisions. You are not alone in your feelings!