Choosing your GCSE options
1st February 2019
Starting work may seem a long way off, but the subjects you study now can make a real difference to your future. Check out our guide to choosing your options.
What’s the deal?
- In year 9, you can select some of the subjects you would like to study in years 10 and 11. This is called choosing your options
- Everyone has to study maths, English and science, usually at GCSE-level
- The other subjects you can take will depend on your school. You should be able to choose at least one course from each of the following areas: arts (such as music and drama), design and technology; humanities (such as history and geography); and modern foreign languages. Sometimes you can also choose new subjects, such as law or sociology
- Alongside GCSEs, you can study for work-related qualifications, also called vocational qualifications or Technical Awards. They can help you develop practical skills in subjects such as construction, computing and childcare
Why does it matter?
You’ll be studying the subjects you choose for the next two years, and it’s no fun being stuck with one you don’t really like.
It’s also worth looking ahead as decisions you make now may narrow your choices later. What do want to do after year 11? Can this help you decide which subjects to choose?
Sometimes you need a GCSE in a subject in order to study it at A-level. In the same way, university courses have set entry requirements and often require certain subjects at A-level. Check carefully as this is not always the case and you can start some subjects from scratch, both at A-level and university.
Who can help?
Talk to a range of people to get different views.
- Ask your subject teachers, form tutor, or careers teachers for advice
- Speak to your parents, carers or relatives
- Look out for special options assemblies or evenings at school
- Read any information or handouts you are given
What to think about
Take time to think things through.
- Consider which subjects you are good at, are interested in or enjoy
- Look at the way courses are marked. If you don’t like exams, you may prefer some subjects which include coursework, such as art or drama
- Choosing a balance of subjects may help to keep your future options open. The English Baccalaureate (EBacc) is a standard for schools. The EBacc measures how many students gain a GCSE grade C or above across a number of set subjects (English, maths, history or geography, the sciences and a language). EBacc subjects can prove a useful guide when choosing your options, especially if you want to continue with your studies
- If you’re trying to choose between two subjects, think about how each option fits with your other GCSEs. Does a subject go well with your other choices? Or does a subject provide a welcome change? If you’re taking lots of essay-based subjects, it can be nice to include one choice with a more practical focus
What to study?
In this short video, people reflect on making their GCSE choices and how they shaped their future.
Find out more
Get career ideas by watching icould video stories – search by your favourite school subject or job type.
Take the Buzz Quiz to find out what you’re like and what you could do.
Want careers advice? Speak to a careers adviser for free on the phone or online at the National Careers Service.
Can’t decide? Tactics for making decisions is a useful list to work through to help you make choices, and includes examples around GCSE subjects.
Choosing well: how to pick the right path for you is a more detailed guide to making decisions.