- Education and Science
Choosing your GCSEs
How to choose your GCSEs!
I suppose you've come here, with the hope that this webpage will tell you which subjects you should take, and consequently, how your life will pan out after that! Well you won't find that here! - I mean, I'll try my best to give you some great pointers, but don't take my word for all this - its always your choice, so ask and ask again! Ask teachers and your parents/siblings/important people in your life about what choices work best for you and your future.
So, you ask, bewildered by the fact you won't get your subjects suggested to you, what exactly can I do for you? Well, I have experience and tips to help you decide on your choice of subjects! - No I'm not a careers advisor, nor am I a teacher or parent or important person in education; I'm a regular person, just a few years older than you (I think).
So! Lets get on with it shall we!
(I will highlight early on that this is UK orientated, although may help others in other countries!)
Who am I?
A lovely philosophical question to begin with!
My name is Dan, and I'm a Year 12 student in a sixth form in south-east London. I've been in your situation, except I also have many siblings who have been through this process and a younger sister who has just made this large step. I'm currently doing something called the International Baccalaureate (IB) which is similar to the A levels, but international - which is the way the world is going! But that's something to talk about later!
For my GCSEs, I did: English (Lang and Lit), Maths, All sciences, 2 languages (German and Japanese), Religious Education, Geography, ICT, and Music. 12 subjects that were not easy, but I got through them! My grades are not important, but what is important is why I chose them - which I will explain soon!
But, now I've introduced myself, I shall begin to help you. I will share my tips for precisely nothing in return - but I would like you to read this fully (I understand that is difficult but it could help?)! Enjoy, and welcome!
Why don't you tell us a bit about yourself! We're all very different people, and it could help you or others decide what to do!
How I chose my GCSEs
If you look back, you'll work out that i did 12 subjects (3 sciences, 2 English, 2 Languages, Maths, RE, Geog., ICT and Music), but the reason why I did most of them is simple - my school mades me do them. Unfair? Maybe, but I wouldn't have chosen any different myself. So here are my reasons!
English Language - Compulsory subject
English Literature - Compulsory subject
Maths - Compulsory subject
German - Compulsory subject (were assigned either French or German as a first language choice in year 7; I was assigned German)
Japanese - Compulsory subject (year 8 we got to choose a second language, but Chinese was full, so I chose Japanese!)
RE - Compulsory subject - trust me, boring as hell! (see what I did there, hell, religion...)
Sciences - Compulsory subject - although if you were doing badly in one, you could drop it and concentrate on only 2 sciences - but I didn't need to do that.
The next 3 subjects were the ones my school allowed me to choose for myself:
Geography - My school made us choose a humanities subject to study (Geog, Hist, Economics or Business Studies) and i enjoyed Geography most of all!
ICT - Love(d) computers and software, and I found it fun in the lower years, so I thought I'd continue! - Consequently got the best in the year in ICT GCSE!
Music - Started playing the Tenor saxophone at xmas of year 9, and love singing, playing and music, so I took it up!
My mind set, initially, was to have 2 good subjects that were traditional (I will explain what a traditional subject is later) and hard-ish, and 1 that was more relaxing. Music was meant to be my relaxing subject, but I came to find that ICT became the most calming of lessons!
So, that was my process of making a decision! 1 relaxing subject, and 2 hard working subjects. But my tip here: I chose subjects I enjoyed rather than ones that look good or are really 'clever'. If you pick the ones you find most interesting, you will do better in those subjects than the others.
Have you already done your GCSEs, or other equivalant subjects in your country (middle school exams)? What did you pick and why did you pick them? It could really help people out!
Now every school is different in the ways in which they will let you choose your subjects: some leave it until year 9, others year 8; some let you choose everything, some let you choose a few, some say you must do a certain few subjects, and some don't let you decide (although very rare!). However, if you fit the category of "let you choose everything", this is where you start.
My number 1 tip, however much you may hate these subjects, is do the basics: English (literature or language (preferably both)), Maths, ALL sciences (although it may be difficult, it will give you more choices later in your education), and a Language. Now heres why:
English - all jobs will need English - especially if you want to be rich and famous! Anything you wish to do will usually require you to have a grade ? and above in English. It lets employers know that you are literate, able to spell (most words) and are able to communicate and write in a satisfactory manner, and lets collages/ universities know that you have the basics and know how to write essays and reports properly. Almost all jobs need it and almost all collages and universities will not accept you if you dont have it - so tick that box!
Maths - the same reasons as above really! Employers and collages/ universities normally ask for a grade ? and above in Maths so they can clearly see that you are able to add, subtract, factorise formulas and know circle theorms! (If you don't get that joke yet, you obviously haven't asked your teacher at what point in your life you will be using half the stuff you learn!)
Science - Although Biology, Chemistry and Physics aren't ALL necessary, I would personally recommend them all. They may seem hard but they are good, solid, traditional subjects that everyone knows and understands. But also, you might find out that you really enjoy science, and want to become the next famous micro-astro-quantum physicist (who was the last?!?!) or a Geo-biochemist (I admit that would require you doing Geography)!
And a Language - not as common as i think it should be, but hey, who am i to say what goes is right! Languages work well in 3 ways: 1, if you go on holiday, you will be able to make basic conversation and enjoy your trip more! 2, you will be more likely to get a better paying job if its international and you have shown a willingness to learn a language. 3, not everyone speaks English. And before the person in the corner say "why doesn't everyone just learn English then?!", maybe they want you to learn their language. Think about it, if you're in a country doing business and you can speak their language, they will appreaciate you trying, whereas, if you go in speaking only English, they may see you as a bit arrogant as you expect everyone to speak their language. So its useful - and necessary for the future of the internationalised world!
I will repeat again, this is not the definitive guide to choosing your GCSEs, but is a guide that I would always follow again and again, as it has allowed me to do whatever i want to do with my life. It's always your choice.
Stop and chat for a bit!
Did you do the Basics? Do you think they are good/ necessary? Will you do the Basics?
If you are in the bracket of people who are allowed to decide, all, some or some with criteria (I had to choose at least one humanities), you start here (unless you're part of the 'all' people and in that case, you continue)! So welcome!
I would always recommend a Humanities. What's a Humanities subject? Well, Wikipedia says "The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences." Or put more simply, Social Sciences/ Human Sciences, etc..
Theses subjects are not the definitive list, but are the ones that I wish to talk about.
These subjects include:
English* - language and literature
We've already talked about English and RE, which we won't talk about again as they are usually compulsory, and - especially RE - is very easy to get good marks - provided you listen and take notes!
But why the others? Well Geography, History, Economics and Business studies especially are good subjects as they have transferable skills - skills, such as essay writing, analytical, statical and investigative skills, which will help with other subjects, like sciences. That's the main reason. The other reason is that some of these subjects, the ones with the *, are seen as Traditional subjects, and again, I will explain these later but they are slightly better than the others.
This is most likely going to have the biggest collection of subjects and be the hardest choice to make. And this is where most of my recommendations and tips stop. All I'll say here is do something you'll enjoy and be able to work hard in - think of this as the 2 subjects you really really want to do!
My choices were simple: Music as I really enjoyed singing, playing my tenor sax and listening to music, and ICT as I had a real passion for computing! And as I was really passionate about my subjects, I was able to do well in them, and got an A and A* in them respectively.
My sister chose to do Food tech DT and Economics, as well as her choice of Geography for the Humanities section. This is a choice that she thinks she will enjoy - which is the most important thing! Food tech as she enjoys cooking, and would like a relaxing subject. Economics as she wanted something challenging, but also wants to be a successful business woman when she is older, so Economics will really help.'
I chose my subjects as they were ones that i was passionate in and had good skills in. My sister chose something that would help her in the future, and something that she enjoys and loves doing. You should do the same. Pick things you enjoy: maybe Maths? - Pick analytical and statistical subjects. The World? - Pick a subject that is world orientated, maybe Economics. Acting? - Drama, theatre studies, or Music? Playing Music? - Music, duh! Football and sports? - PE. Those are your subjects to choose.
If you take anything from this section, be it this: play to your strengths, if you can do things well, try get a GCSE in them! Why not - you'll always to better in those subjects.
Did you do a Humanities? Did you do one of the Others?
Believe it or not, there are such things as Traditional Subjects. But they are a little more important than you think. You see, these 'Traditional' subjects are ones that top universities like to see. Now there is no actual list of traditional subjects, but the traditional ones are subjects usually taken at private schools, such as the Basic subjects and the ones in the humanities list that have an *. To give you that list, they are:
(+ a few more)
They are hard and difficult, but give you many good skills. But they are also ones that universities will 'accept'.
See that was in inverted commas? Yes they will accept any subject, technically, and if you're doing Media studies, or Business studies at university then they will accept them both at GCSE and A-level. But there is a few subjects that universities don't like.
Rumour has it, that there are black listed subjects! Now ideally, there shouldn't be. Every person should have equal right for a place at university. But the top top ones have this list of subjects which they don't like. A general rule is any subject with the word 'Studies' at the end, is one to steer clear of. Some universities openly admit this, such as London School of Economics, which gives this list of A-level subjects which they do not like:
Art and Design
Design and Technology
Information and Communication Technology
Travel and Tourism
This does not mean that you cannot do them for GCSE, but just keep them in mind as subjects that are frowned upon - notice I did ICT, but I also did other traditional subjects, such as Geography and Music, as well as 2 Languages, so my list of GCSEs are mostly good ones.
However, if you have a passion for one of these subjects, do it! And if you wish to study Sports or Media at university, then take those for GCSE, just make sure you leave yourself enough space in case you want to do something else, such as Engineering.
Whats your views on the Traditional subjects?
The English Baccalaureate
This is a very good scheme that business leaders, universities, schools and politicians devised to get students doing at least some good, traditional subjects. The reason why it was created is because more and more children took up vocational and soft subjects which carry little or no weight and make it hard for these children to get good jobs and into higher education.
The subjects that make up the English Baccalaureate are: English, Mathematics, History or Geography, the sciences and a Language. This is similar to my Basic subjects that everyone should take.
This Baccalaureate basically allows students to be well rounded and challenged, but also give students the chance to get good jobs and qualifications at collage and university so we can continue being one of the top countries in the world!
For more information: Visit the Department of Education website
This is the part where you look at your Future! Yay, fortune telling time!
Now, I won't be the one telling you what and what you shouldn't be doing at collage and university as it is your life you will live.
But look back and tailor your subjects to what you wish to do! I had no idea what I wanted to do at university until a few months ago when I found my passion for Geography - luckily I did Geography for GCSE and am doing it in my IB, and LOVING IT! And if you're someone who doesn't know what they want to do in life, pick general subjects - Geography, History and Economics are really good general Humanities! And if you choose things you really enjoy for your other subjects, you should have no regrets in your subjects!
Also, look at the different collage courses: BTECs, Vocational courses, A-levels, IB, etc. All of which have their own ups and downs! So keep looking!
And remember: this is your life.
This is only a guide.
I am just Dan.
So enjoy life.
Be happy everyday.
And thanks for reading!
I will always admit, I'm not the definitive source of information. So are there any topics I missed off?