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GCSEs explained

GCSEs explainedDuring Year 9, your teachers start talking about GCSEs a lot, and you may have friends in older years already taking them. Not sure what all the fuss is about? Get the lowdown here.

GCSEs normally take two years and you take the final exams when you’re 16. While you don’t have to do GCSEs, it is the qualification taken by most people between 14 and 16 years old.


As well as giving you useful skills and knowledge in themselves, GSCEs are an important stepping stone if you want to get a job or continue studying. Many employers and colleges ask for candidates to have at least five GCSEs, so they will come in useful, whatever you choose to do.

If you think this sounds like you’re being forced to follow the crowd, don’t worry. There are a range of subjects with some courses being really practical and hands-on and others being more academic (more reading and writing), so you should be able to find something to suit you.

What are your choices?

As well as GCSEs, there are other qualifications and courses you can do in Years 10 and 11. At the moment these are either Functional Skill courses and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). Either way, there are some things you have to do, and then a certain amount of choice. Here is a list of subjects you will have to continue, in one form or another, over the next two years:

  • English
  • Maths
  • ICT
  • Science
  • PE
  • Religious education
  • Sex education
  • Careers education
  • Citizenship

English, Maths and science are usually taken at GCSE level, but some schools will offer the other subjects at different levels.
The fun bit is deciding which subjects to take on in the next few years. Your school will offer a range of courses, which will usually be a combination of the subjects below:

  • Arts (including Art and design, Music, Dance, Drama and Media Arts)
  • Design and technology
  • Humanities (History and Geography)
  • Modern foreign languages
  • Business studies
  • Engineering
  • Health and social care
  • Leisure and tourism
  • Life skills
  • Manufacturing
  • Social sciences

Every school is a bit different in what they offer, so make sure you talk to your teachers about what you’re interested in, and hopefully you will be able to come up with a time-table you can look forward to next year.

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