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What's the English Baccalaureate?

The current English Baccalaureate is not a qualification itself, but a particular group of GCSE subjects that are usually looked on favourably by universities.

The existing English Baccalaureate – or EBacc – 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.

Is the English Baccalaureate important? 

So, should you take English Bac subjects?

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.

Find out how GCSEs affect your future choices and studies, and what to do if they don't go to plan.

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