GCSEs & early choices

What’s the English Baccalaureate?

By Andy Gardner (Careers Adviser) - 07 February 2013

English Bac and what universities think of it

The current English Baccalaureate is not a qualification itself but a particular group of GCSE subjects that are usually looked on favourably by universities. But plans to introduce English Baccalaureate Certificates, which would have replaced certain GCSE exams, have now been scrapped.

Our expert helps to explain the distinction between the two... 

We're also explaining why your GCSE choices count when it comes to university

The English Baccalaureate Certificate

Update: plans to replace certain GCSE subjects with English Baccalaureate Certificates - including English, maths and science from 2015 and expanding out to history, geography and language subjects - have now been shelved. GCSEs in these subjects will remain.

The proposed EBaccs would have included a single end-of-course exam rather than a modular exam structure, scrapped coursework for English and maths and been managed through one exam board for each subject.

What is the English Bac?

The existing English Bac isn't a qualification. Put simply, it's a way for the government, and parents looking at school league tables, to measure and compare how many pupils in a school are getting grade C or above in certain academically-focused GCSEs.

These subjects also happen to be the ones most regularly asked for by college and university courses – worth bearing in mind when deciding which GCSEs to take.

You don’t need to have studied all of these to go to university, but having your GCSE mix steered towards English Bac subjects will help keep your options open:

  • English
  • maths
  • the sciences (including computer science) 
  • history or geography
  • a modern or ancient foreign language.

What the Department for Education? (DfE) says

The English Baccalaureate - though not a qualification in itself - is a measure of success in core academic subjects; specifically English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences and a language.

These are subjects most likely to be required or preferred for entry to degree courses and ones that will keep the most doors open. The English Bac aims to reverse the long-term drift away from students taking the likes of history, geography, French, Spanish and other modern languages.

You can find out more on the DfE website.

The English Bac and university

So, should you take English Bac subjects? It’s best to break it down.

Universities will be most likely to look for specific GCSE grades in English, maths and possibly science – but these subjects are compulsory for you to take anyway.

It’s up to you to decide whether to take one or more of the optional subjects. On the plus side, taking a mix of these will ensure you can be more flexible in your university course choices later down the line – especially if you’re not sure what you want to do yet. But if you feel you’re weaker in these subjects, don’t feel that you must take them in order to go to university.
 

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