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Choosing subjects to take as a GCSE can often feel like an overwhelming decision.  It’s the first time in a young person’s life that they have had any input into what they would like to study.  Understandably for parents/carers, you want them to make the right decision for their future.

Here’s a few things to consider during the options process.

1.  Play to Strengths

There is no right or wrong subject to take and there will be a lot of subjects that you feel might be right for your young person.  The truth is, as long as they have an interest in the subject, are good at it, or enjoys it then you will be on to a winner  GCSEs won’t limit their future job choice, however if your young person has a career in mind, it is a good idea to work backwards from this to see if they are required to have certain GCSEs, A-Levels, degree etc to progress into it.

2.  Strike a Balance

Ensuring that the young person you are supporting has a good range of subjects allows them to keep their future options open.  It is common that, alongside English and Maths, many college/sixth form courses or apprenticeships will ask for specific subjects at GCSE.  Keeping a wide breadth of subjects allows for more choice in their next step.  Choosing GCSEs this way also means that students will pick up a wider range of transferrable skills to take with them, such as team work, leadership, time management and critical thinking.

3. Hit the Mark

Not all GCSEs have the same assessment methods.  It is always good to do your research on how each subject is assessed.  If your young person doesn’t do well with exams for example, a course that also has some coursework might be a good option. Although there is no such thing as an ‘easy’ GCSE, choosing courses that play to their learning style can play to their advantage.  It is important to note that all courses will have some form of written work, but some may have a higher weighting towards practical learning and assesment.

4. Find the Right Fit

If your young person is finding it hard to choose between two subjects then think about how each option fits with both the compulsory and their other optional GCSEs.  Does the subject go well with the other choices? Does it offer some diversty from the other subjects? If your young person is going to take lots of essay-based subjects, it can be nice to include one choice that has a more practical focus.

5.  Research

Research is an integral part of the GCSE options process.  Talk to teachers, careers advisors and look online at what each subject will entail. Don’t just choose subjects based on what you think you know, and which teacher your young person likes.  If it is a new subject for your young person, ask their teachers to find out more about it.  Attend any specialist events that their school deliver and don’t be afraid to contact the school if you are unsure about something. For students with particular pathways or career goals in mind it's useful to look for the requirements required for their 'dream' role. The National Careeers Service  and Prospects are full of useful information about further learning, training and careers, while UCAS and university websites provide details about the specific academic grades needed for entry on to higher education courses.

See our Outreach Guide to Options, Pathways and Decision Making for further information, resources and activities focused on choosing GCSE options.




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