Making Subject Choices in Year 9
Below are some common questions students (and parents/carers) ask around options time:
What GCSEs do I need to find a job?
When it comes to finding a job, most employers will look at your GCSE qualifications to see if the subjects that you studied are relevant to the type of work that they do. Although every job is different, most companies will expect you to have at least 5 GCSEs including English, Maths and Science from levels A to C. In some cases, students leave secondary school with 10 GCSEs or more.
The vast majority of people also don’t go straight into employment at 16. Most students continue their education either at Sixth Form or College. All students at 16 will be expected to gain a minimum of a C grade in GCSE English or Maths, if that is not achieved it will not affect your progression but it means you will continue to study GCSE English and/or Maths (or another Level 2 equivalent course) with your post-16 education provider or employer (in the case of apprenticeships).
How should I choose my GCSE subjects?
There’s no ‘right’ way to choose your GCSE options, but it does help if you think about your future when making your decisions. For example, it could be worth checking the entry requirements for post-16 study.
What career do I want to have?
You should also consider whether your chosen career will require you to get more qualifications in the future. For example, in order to become a doctor, you’ll also need to have A-Levels and then go on to study medicine at university. Although it may seem like a long way away, you might want to consider what qualifications you’ll need to get into university (if that’s your plan) because the subjects you take at GCSE level could have an impact.
Should I keep my GCSE options open?
On the other hand, if you don’t have a clue what career you want in the future (like most students in Year 9, 10 and 11), then you should probably aim to keep your options open. Studying a range of subjects will provide you with a good overview of different topics and different ways of studying, which can help you identify what subjects you’re best at.
Should I take the same GCSE subjects as my friends?
A lot of students make the mistake of choosing the same subjects as their friends. Although being in the same classes as your friends has its advantages, you should bear in mind that everybody is different and everyone has subjects that they’re better at than others. Just because your friends are taking a certain subject, that doesn’t mean that you should take it too.
Should I choose my GCSEs based on my teachers?
Although it can be tempting to choose your subjects based on what teacher you might get, we suggest that you resist. Everyone has their favourite teachers but there’s no guarantee of who you’ll get for your GCSEs. You should base your decisions on the subject itself rather than the teacher who will be teaching you.
How will my GCSEs affect my Future?
As a general rule, the more qualifications you gain throughout your life, the less important your GCSE options become. For example, if you end up studying at university and gaining a degree, potential employers are more likely to be interested in what you studied there, rather than what you studied when you were 16. However, for some careers specific grades at GCSE are very important. For example, in order to become a teacher you need a minimum C grade in English, Maths and a Science subject, regardless of any other qualifications.
However, everyone’s career path is different and you might decide that continuing in academic education just isn’t for you. If this is the case, you’ll want to have the best GCSE qualifications you can get in subjects that are most relevant to what you want to do.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you do leave school after your GCSEs, there nothing stopping you from going back into education in the future to study for A-Levels.
National Careers Service (aged 13-16)
Success at School
Brightside (GCSEs explained/What subjects should I choose?)
Plotr (Choosing GCSE options/Guide to making the right choice)
iCould (Choosing your options advice)
Future Morph (information about taking Maths and Science at KS4 and beyond)
Parental Guidance (information for parents)