You can study a wide range of GCSE subjects (General Certificate of Secondary Education). If you are taking your GCSEs at school there will be some subjects that you will have to study; for example science, maths and English. You may also be able to take a double award in some subjects that will be worth two GCSEs (for example double award science). Your school will be able to give you information about which subjects they offer and help you put together a timetable for your subject choices.
If you don’t get the results you need, you can carry forward your coursework marks and repeat the examination part of the qualification within 12 months. You could also retake the whole course and/or take GCSEs in new subjects. GCSE courses usually last for one year for over 16s. However it’s worth thinking about your options carefully before retaking GCSEs, you may not have the motivation to do the work again and might not improve your grade the second time round. If you’re thinking about retaking talk to your teachers or Connexions adviser about your options.
Students may be offered a place at college on the basis of their GCSE point score and/or you may be asked for five GCSEs at grades A* – C to study AS levels. Schools and colleges can vary, so talk to the teachers to find out what you will need.
GCSE short courses
Your school might do GCSE short courses. These are like full GCSEs but cover fewer topics, so they only take half the time to do. You need to do two short courses to make up a full GCSE – one short course will count as half a GCSE. GCSE short courses give more options – you can take:
- An extra short course on top of the usual number of subjects
- A short course in religious education, ICT or physical education instead of a full GCSE, if it fits better with the other options
- A GCSE short course in the time usually set for a full GCSE
The English Baccalaureate (EBacc)
The English Baccalaureate is not a qualification, it is the name given to a combination of five particular GCSE subjects passed at grade A*-C. These are English, maths, a science, a language and either history or geography. The Government would like students who are able to achieve them to take these subjects because they offer a broad education, keeping your options open for the future.
A levels and AS levels
The GCE (General Certificate of Education) A level qualification is a level up from GCSEs. An A level has two parts, the AS and the A2. The AS (Advanced Subsidiary) is a qualification in its own right, valued as half a full A level qualification - it has three units that make up 50% of the full A level. The A2 is the second half of an A level - it has three units that make up the remaining 50% of the full A level qualification. AS levels can help you keep your options open by allowing you to take up to five AS qualifications in your first year and only narrowing down to three A2 subjects in your second year.
Advanced Extension Awards (AEAs) are designed to challenge the most able students. AEAs are available in 19 subject areas but require greater depth of understanding and analysis than A levels. You can take an AEA in critical thinking with A levels in any subjects, for all other AEAs you will need to have studied the subject at A level.
Universities may offer you a place on the basis of your total point Tariff. An offer based on 240 points could be made up of three C grades or an A, C and an E grade. For more information on A level points Tariffs including points for all other qualifications accepted for entry on to Higher Education courses see the UCAS website.