Open doors by studying a language at GCSE

icould Youth Board member Millie Ross suggests how to choose the right GCSE options. 

When choosing GCSE options my first piece of advice would be to study a language, even if it is not compulsory.

Languages are great for the future and many university courses and employers view them favourably, especially if you choose to study and/or work abroad at any point. Since becoming a non compulsory option in many comprehensive schools in the UK, having a language GCSE is a great way to stand out from the crowd later on in life.

When choosing my options I decided not to take the advice that was given to me and I didn’t take any practical subjects, instead doing 13 academic subjects. Whilst admittedly practical subjects offer some respite from examswhen it comes to the summer, the subjects are equally as difficult in the long run when it comes to projects and coursework. I don’t regret my decision, as it meant I had a wide range of subjects I could continue with if I wanted to at A-level, as I had no idea what I wanted to take when I was 14 and choosing my GCSEs. I consoled myself with the idea that I could teach myself to sew/cook/paint etc later in life without having to have a GCSE in it!

An important thing to remember is to play to your strengths. If you are creative then opt for practical subjects; if you are better at more academic subjects, then prioritise those. Remember that it is YOU that will have to be studying the subject and taking the exams in it, not your parents, tutors, friends or siblings that may be influencing your decisions.

Try to plan ahead. Although most people have not got much of an idea what they want to do in the future when they choose their GCSEs, try to keep your options open to something you might like to do in the future. Remember that lots of university courses such as Law and Politics, which tend not to be studied at GCSE or A-level, look favourably on subjects such as English and History.

Finally, aim high. If you have done a GCSE early and achieved a B or an A, then ask yourself “can I retake this and get an A or and A*?”. Do difficult subjects which will impress universities and employers, and do it because you want to achieve. Most of all do subjects that you enjoy and will work hard at.

Millie Ross, icould Youth Board member


More on Choices at 14

Choosing your options

Leave your GCSE options open and pick what you enjoy!

To see how studying certain subjects can lead to different careers, search icould videos by subject, or if you’ve hit a stumbling block, try searching icould videos by life decision for inspiration.