GCSEs are likely to play a more significant role in university applications than in recent years. The government has scrapped the two-part A level, which means lower sixth formers no longer have AS level grades to show to admissions tutors. GCSE scores will now be the only concrete evidence of academic ability so securing good grades in a respectable number of subjects, rather than mediocre ones in a swathe of exams, is the key.
If your child’s GCSE selections include more vocational choices such as BTECs, it could be difficult to make the jump to more academic A levels, which will then limit the range of universities they can then apply to. Some leading universities, and selected degree courses, will not accept applicants holding A levels that they deem to be less rigorous. It’s worth having a look at the guide to A level choices produced by the Russell Group of 24 high ranking institutions, which includes Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, Imperial, Bristol, Exeter, Durham, and York.
Optional subjects vary from school to school but pupils must be offered at least one course in each of four groups; art, design and technology, humanities and modern foreign languages. Studying a range of subjects at this stage is a good idea, particularly if your teenager has no clue about what they want to do further down the line. Many schools produce an options booklet and their websites will have information about GCSE decisions. Other good sources of information include career advice and further study websites e.g.
Schools vary on the total number of GCSEs pupils will be entered for. Some have a fixed number, others are more flexible. However, there is little to be gained by taking too many. Talk to your child about how many they feel confident juggling. The workload for some subjects may be greater than others – requiring more reading, for example – so look at the span of high-workload options. Quality is more important than quantity.
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