Choosing GCSEs

Making decisions about university might seem like a long way off, but it makes sense to give yourself the best possible chance of doing what you want when the time comes.

Think of your GCSEs like the first steps in a journey. The subjects you choose and the results you getwill influence your A-level choices. In turn, they can affect your options for further education – even the rest of your life.

How do I know which GCSE subjects to choose? There are certain GCSEs everyone has to take, such as English, Maths and Science, but you have a few other options too.

If you have no idea yet about which job or career you want:

  1. Choose the GCSE subjects you like most and feel you’re good at, as your future interests and talents will probably follow a similar path.
  2. As you work through your GCSEs, your best subjects will become more obvious. This will help when it’s time to choose your A-levels – and when you decide whether uni is for you.

If you’re already interested in a particular career, you need to work backwards:

  1. Find out if a university degree is required to do the job you’re interested in.
  2. Find out which A-levels you need to get on your chosen university course.
  3. Find out which GCSE subjects and grades you need to study those A-levels.

How do I find out the information I need?

It’s all very well being told to ‘find out’, but where do you start?!

  • Do some online research – the government’s National Careers Service has lots of useful information about different jobs and the qualifications you need to do them.
  • Talk to your teachers – your teachers know you and your work better than you might think. They can also give you advice about your options and help point you in the right direction. 
  • Talk to careers advisers – your school may have its own careers adviser, who’ll have access to lots of information about subjects, careers and qualifications.
  • Check out our FAQs – we’ve got the answers to some of the most common ‘What if...?’ GCSE situations.

What if my school offers BTECs?

BTEC (Business and Technician Education Council) qualifications are equivalent to GCSEs, but have a more vocational or work-related focus. BTECS can lead to further study at uni or an apprenticeship. Popular BTEC subjects include:

  • health and social care
  • engineering
  • performing arts

I’m already studying the International Baccalaureate (IB)

You study the IB from the ages of three to 19, with the middle years programme (for students aged 11 to 16) equivalent to GCSEs. Pupils focus on eight different subjects designed to give a balanced education, and you can go on to study the IB Advance Diploma or A-levels. Universities around the world recognise the IB as an acceptable qualification. Talk to your teachers if you have any questions.

I’m already taking the E-Bac

Your school may encourage you to follow the English Baccalaureate (E-Bac), which is really a performance measure set up by the government. You are judged to have the E-Bac if you get a grade C or above in core academic subjects – English, Maths, History, Geography, the sciences, and a language. Some schools also encourage you to study broader subjects, such as music, computing or PE. You may not need an E-Bac to study the uni course you want.