A guide to choosing GCSEs

It's important to choose GCSE subjects that you enjoy and that will help you with your chosen career

It's important to choose GCSE subjects that you enjoy and that will help you with your chosen career or further education path. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Most year nine secondary school pupils will have to think about selecting their GCSE options this coming school year.

Most schools ask pupils to select during the spring term, but it's something that needs to be thought about beforehand.

This can be daunting if you don't have a clear affinity to certain subjects or have no idea what you want to do after 16.

Most educational experts agree that it's important for students to choose the right subjects, because you will be studying them for a year or two.

GCSEs are the main qualifications that young people do in key stage 4, usually in year 10 and 11, although some schools may start in year nine.

Students should think about what subjects are on offer, which subjects they enjoy or dislike, and any subjects they need to study for their chosen career or further education path.

If you are still unable to decide, having a broad and balanced range of GCSE subjects will make you a more attractive candidate to higher education and the world of work, as is the best possible combination of grades.

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A good way to start is to look at all the options open to you and talk to someone whose views you value, possibly someone you know who had to make a decision about their future last year.

GCSEs you have to do

Although you are able to choose some of your GCSE subjects, some are compulsory. The compulsory courses are English (English Literature and English Language or a single English GCSE), maths and science (core science, double science or triple science).

Some schools make other subjects compulsory, so it's worth checking what your school requires.

Whatever you are planning to do in the future, it's now a requirement for you to retake both maths and English Language GCSEs until you obtain a C Grade (or a Grade 4 in the new GCSE grading system).


Optional subjects vary from school to school, but you must be offered at least one course in each of four groups of subjects: arts, design and technology, humanities and modern foreign languages.

Schools offer a varying range of GCSE subjects from which you can choose, so it's best to find out what GCSE subjects and combinations are available at your school.

Changes to GSCEs

In 2015, the government changed GCSEs to make them more challenging and to help young people to be better prepared for further academic or vocational study, or for work.

The changes include a new grading scale which uses the numbers 1 to 9 to identify levels of performance, with 9 being the top grade; a shift to assessment just at the end of the course and without a split between modules; and more use of exams rather than coursework.