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How To Choose Your GCSE Subjects? Tips and Advice for Back to School

I know we’ve still got a couple of weeks left of our beloved 6 weeks summer holiday BUT it is getting to that time where back to school videos are starting to make a reappearance, the shops are filled with folders, pens, backpacks and white shirts. For the majority of us we will be going back to school as usual with no major changes except for the number our year group is (mine is now Year 10 and I’m sitting my English Lit GCSE, but let’s not think about that until May aha). However for one year group, they are going to have to make some big decisions in the upcoming school year. What to pick for GCSE?

Now all schools do this differently, in some you pick the subjects you wish to study further in Year 9 and begin the courses in Year 10, however other schools (like mine) pick the subjects in Year 8 and begin the courses in Year 9.

When it came to me picking my courses I wanted to try to find other people’s opinion’s and advice (not just my teachers) but when I went to YouTube there was a lack of theses types of videos and blog posts, so now with my experience and have been through one years of all my courses, I thought I would impart some of my wisdom onto you, to help you make the decision.

So I’ll begin by telling you all about how my school works, the pathway I was put on, the options I chose, my experience etc.

As I mentioned earlier at my school we choose our options in Year 8 and begin our courses in Year 9, and there were three pathways available at my school: EBacc, EBacc Choice and GCSE. Now I’m not sure how the GCSE pathway works as I don’t know anyone on that particular one, however if you were put on EBacc Choice it meant that you didn’t have to take a language if you didn’t want to, so you had to choose between either French (the only language my school offers), History or Geography as a mandatory option. If you wanted to take both a language and a humanities and become a EBacc student by choice you could by putting either the language of humanity subject you wanted to take in the further option’s box. You could then choose 5 options and would study 3 courses as allocated by your school. I was put on the EBacc pathway so I had to take a language (French) and a humanities – I chose History but I found it really difficult to choose as I loved both subjects in Year 7 & 8. I then could choose 4 options and would study 2 of the four as allocated by my school. For my options I put (order ranked in favour of subjects):

  1. Music (BTEC)

  2. Art (BTEC)

  3. P.E.

  4. Drama (BTEC)

A couple of months later I received a letter from my school telling me I would be studying Music and Art (my two favoured subjects).

All in all these are the subjects I am now studying:

  1. English Literature

  2. English Language

  3. Maths

  4. Physics

  5. Biology

  6. Chemistry

  7. History

  8. French

  9. Music (BTEC)

  10. Art (BTEC)

There are two things I would like to add about my subjects, the first being that I now take my English Lit exam in Year 10 (this coming May) and I will be the third year at my school to do so – I don’t know why we started doing it this way but we just have. When I was in year 8, the Year 10’s and 11’s sat the English Lit exam at the same time, the year above me were the second year’s to do so, making my year the third. The second thing I want to point out is that my year group were the first to be offered triple science as an option. I didn’t pick this so instead I study ‘Combined Science AQA Trilogy’. If triple science wasn’t an option I would’ve had no choice in the matter as I would’ve had to have taken it as I am top set and in the most able cohort at school.

So without further ado here are my 12 tips for choosing your GCSE subjects:

  1. Don’t Choose Subjects Because Your Friends Are Taking Them – this is probably one of the MOST important tips you are going to read in this whole post. I know it’s scary and daunting to not have your best friends in the same classes as you every day but TRUST me it’s going to be alright. NONE of my friendship group picked the same subjects as me, 4 of them chose Triple Science and P.E. and 1 of them chose Drama and Triple Science. SO TRUST ME you’ll be fine and it’s not going to kill you.

  2.  If You Want To Change Your Options Do It Before It’s Too Late – When you’ve started your courses and it’s totally different to what you imagine and you HATE it and it’s got to the point where you despise the lesson then ask to switch courses before it’s too late. I’d say you’ve got roughly 2 weeks maximum (maybe 3 at an absolute PUSH) before it gets too late. But if you do change don’t expect to have an abundance of options, you’ll most likely have one or two you can switch to because of timetabeling and class sizes.

  3. Give It Time To Make Friends In Your Class – Let me tell you a lil story. I took art. None of my friends did. I hated my class. I hated my seating plan. I knew no one in that class – only a few people I was acquaintances with if you will. It was my first lesson of the year and I hated it. I went home to my dad and told him and was immediately like I WANT TO SWITCH. My mum and dad had a chat with me at the end of the week after I’d had all 3 lessons of art that week and I told them that I still didn’t like it, I never talked to anyone, I just felt isolated and I hated it. My mum and dad said to give it another week and after then we’d see how it was. That next week, a few people got moved in the seating plan and that left me on a table of 3 people: Me, Liva and Dan. Things got better, we didn’t have full on conversations, but it was better. It took me about 4 weeks to feel comfortable in art and find friends, but I stuck with it and it paid off in the end. So you should trust me when I say it won’t kill you. Because it won’t and you’d be surprised at how many people feel the same as you – you’re all in the same boat going on the same unknown endeavours. That’s not to say I like everyone in my class because I don’t and not everybody likes me, but that’s fine because it’s life. Just respect them, you don’t have to go out of your way to make conversation with them, just respect that you’re all on that course, you all chose it whatever your reasons, and that’s that.

  4. Don’t Pick A Subject As A ‘Cop Out’ All Subjects Are Hard – One of my biggest school pet peeves! Just don’t do it. You’re not going to enjoy that class, people are going to get wound up at you when you don’t put the work or effort in. The only reasons you could possibly take a subject as a cop-out is because you want an easy ticket to an 8/Distinction* and you don’t necessarily enjoy the subject. Your teacher will get annoyed and all in all it won’t be a good 2/3 years of your life. So just don’t do it.

  5. BTEC Doesn’t Equal An Easier 2/3 Years – Read that again. Now read it again. And again. And again. I don’t know about A – Levels but for GCSE We were told that BTEC’s are now a solid equivalent of a GCSE it’s just the marking schemes are different and your grade doesn’t rely on just one paper – you have coursework. However, for my music BTEC one of my units is the music industry and I have a 1 hour paper to sit on it. To pass my Music course I have to pass all of my units, meaning my grade does rely on this paper. Plus coursework isn’t the nicest thing. Obviously in art it is because my coursework is my art, but with additional write ups/ research tasks on many artists. But for music I have to write skills audit’s, weekly logs, do write up’s, feedback forms etc. BTEC DOES NOT EQUAL EASY!

  6. Pick What’s Best For You – Not what’s best for your friends. Not what’s best for you dog, cat. teacher, grandma. NO! What is the best option for you? If you know you want to be a sport scientist or sport biochemist, obviously you’re going to choose P.E. and Triple Science.

  7. Yes We Are Young To Be Choosing, But Think About It Seriously – Similar to the last one, not much I can say without just repeating the point.

  8. Pick Things You Enjoy And Are Good At – If you have no idea what you want to be when you are in your 20’s that is perfectly fine. There I said it. It’s ok to not know. Ever heard this “Those who wander aren’t always lost”? Just explore your options, you don’t have to have an end destination, just have fun. Enjoy your subjects, the experience counts for a lot in the end (or so I’ve been told).

  9. Don’t Choose A Subject Just Because Your Parents Want You To Take It – Listen to what they’ve got to say. Yes. Let them express their opinions. Yes.Let them try and force you to take a subject. No. Let them choose your subjects for you. Absolutely not! Your parents are older therefore know more, that’s just life but you can’t let them try and choose your subjects for you. In the long run you’ll most likely end up hating your parents for it because you won’t enjoy your subject and you’ll be miserable.

  10. Don’t Fill Out Your Form Until After Your Presentation Evening – Let me tell you another lil story. I was set on taking Drama and Music. Absolutely set. Nothing was going to make me budge. Or so I thought. Up until my presentation evening, art wasn’t even on my radar. Was I good at art? Yes. Did I like it? Yes. Was I considering it at GCSE? No. Until I went to my presentation evening. So don’t fill out the form until after then.

  11. Talk To Older Students Currently Taking The Course/ Have Taken The Course And Your Subject Teachers – If your school doesn’t have a presentation evening, talk to some other students who are taking the course or have taken the course, there’s a massive chance that the courses haven’t change that much in the last 5 years or so. If you don’t want to/ an’t talk to older students, talk to the subject teachers.

  12. Don’t Stress – I know this is a tad ironic coming from THE stress queen, but honestly please try not to stress.

And that’s it! If you have any tips/ stories/ questions comment them and I’ll be sure to get back to you.



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