The Complete Parent's Guide to GCSEs

GCSE Options: Expert Q&As To Make Choices A Breeze

Students usually choose their GCSE subjects during Year 9 (between the ages of 13-14). It can feel like the most important decision of their entire lives, but that doesn’t mean it has to be scary.

A teenager will have a fair few questions at this point in their education. Not having clear answers can cause stress to build, which can have a direct effect on attainment. So we’re here to give you answers.

Q. How many GCSEs do you need?

A. 10 is the average number of GCSEs taken in the UK. How many you need will be dependent on what it is you’re looking to do in your future. There tends to be two main questions student ask about the number of choices they consider...

Q. How many GCSEs do you need to get a job?

A. Most companies will expect students to have at least 5 GCSEs, graded 9 to 4, including Maths, Science, and English. If you’re looking for a job requiring good GCSEs, it’s worth bearing in mind that the majority of other applicants will have around 10 good GCSEs.

Q. How many GCSEs do you need for A Levels?

A. Most schools and colleges will expect you to have gained grades 9 to 4 in your GCSEs, including the subject you want to study at university. Requirements can vary from four passes to six passes, so you should check with your school or college.

Q. How many GCSEs do you need for university?

A. Universities primarily care about A-Level performance. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that top universities will look at your GCSEs. If you feel like taking more GCES than necessary will affect your performance, it’s worth taking fewer to focus on quality over quantity. For example; 10 GCSEs graded 9 to 4 will appear a wiser decision to universities than taking 13 GCSEs graded 6 to 3.

Q. What GCSEs do you have to take?

A. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t bat an eyelid if a student doesn’t love a compulsory GCSE subject, but they're necessary and well worth nailing to better job prospects and A-Level choices.

GCSE students must take:

  • English (Language and Literature)
  • Welsh (if in Wales)
  • Maths
  • Science (choose from single, double, or even triple science)

Students also have to take these foundation GCSE subjects:

  • Computing
  • PE
  • Citizenship

Q. What GCSE options can you choose from?

A. Schools must also offer at least one subject from each of these areas, giving students scope to explore many subjects they may not have touched upon in the past:

  • Humanities (e.g. History and Geography)
  • Arts (e.g. Fashion and Textiles and Product Design)
  • Design and Technology (e.g. Fashion and Textiles and Product Design)
  • Modern Foreign Languages (e.g. Spanish and French)


Common GCSE options dilemmas: Solved


Q. Which subjects will help me get a job?

This is a pretty vague question, but one we hear students ask a lot. There are no subjects you could take that would be a sure-fire way into your dream job.

If you have a career path in mind, think logically which subjects are most relevant, and choose based on how well you think you’ll be able to execute them. Ultimately, most of the subject choices offered by schools will help you in some way.

Q. What if my friends don’t do the same subject as me?

Friends can sometimes help make learning that little bit more digestible, and we all know the benefits of bouncing revision ideas from your classmates when it comes to it. However, we’re sure your friends will still be there once you’re out of class.

If you learn to love a subject as much as you love your friends - this will really help you focus on your own personal development for the bright future ahead of you.

Q, Should I choose a GCSE with a good teacher?

It can be tempting to carry on learning a subject if you like a particular teacher. We suggest that you picture yourself in a situation where you’re learning with a different teacher in the classroom. As long as you can see yourself enjoying your lessons, you’re on to a GCSE winner. Not so keen? Consider taking something else.

A final note on GCSE choices: At 14, it is just not fair to expect every teenager to be set in their life-long career choices. There’s no point pressuring a decision like this, as it can often cause anxiety. As parents, it is your job to get through to your teens the most important thing to bear in mind when picking GCSEs: study what you love!

 Board Games Night

If you haven’t invested in a great collaborative board game for your family yet - you’re really missing out. Schedule an evening well in advance so you all can make it, buy copious amounts of snacks, and create a leaderboard for future board game nights. Absolute Balderdash is always a winner amongst teenagers and adults alike, and will really test your creative imagination!

Up Next: Top Revision advice Parents Need Around Exam Times

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