Uni, a degree and a career may seem a long way off when you make your GCSE option choices in Year 9, but your choices are important – because they can directly impact which paths are open to you later down the line.
Here’s what you need to know. We're also revealing how important your GCSE grades are.
Note that if you're starting GCSEs in September 2015, you'll be taking new-style GCSEs in English (language and literature) and maths, which will be graded on a 9-1 scale - with nine equivalent to a very good A* grade. All your other subjects will still follow the older A*-E grade structure (new-style GCSEs for other subjects will be rolled out later). Regardless of which type of GCSE you're taking, the choices you make will matter.
Dig about a bit into the entry requirements of most university courses and there, sitting quietly alongside the A-level or other advanced course grades you need, will probably be a section on specific GCSE conditions.
Don’t panic, though. Maths and English are the GCSEs mentioned in the majority of cases – and you don’t get the option of dropping these. So whatever you choose, you’ll still have a broad range of unis to make up your mind over (if you get the right GCSE grades, that is).
Of course, there are a few exceptions to that rule…
While most unis require English and maths GCSEs, some specific courses, involving biology, chemistry, physics, history, geography, foreign languages, music and art and design, may also ask for particular Advanced level (A-level, Scottish Highers and so on) choices.
Work it back and you’ll realise how important your GCSE choices are – because you’ll need the GCSE in order to take the A-level, to then meet the university course requirements!
If you’re not sure what you want to take at uni - or maybe you’ve got a few ideas bubbling away – our list of subjects and typical A-level requirements will help get you thinking.
GCSE science is another compulsory option, but you can choose to study it in different ways. This can limit which science A-levels - and therefore science-related uni courses – you can take later on.
A university course such as Nursing may require or prefer you to have a science A-level in chemistry, biology or physics. But:
Yes, sometimes you can do an A-level without having studied it at GCSE – in the same way as you don’t necessarily need to take a subject at A-level to study it at degree level. Examples include:
Opt for these subjects if you’re interested in them and think you’ll do well – but you won’t limit your options if you don’t.
If you were applying for a BSc in Psychology at the University of Sussex, for instance, you’ll typically need AAB at A-level, and a maths grade B (not just a C) at GCSE – but you don’t specifically need any qualifications in psychology.
Here are a few pointers or how – and how not – to make the right GCSE choices:
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