Choosing GCSEs. Can You Help?

DD1 is 14 and in Y9 of school and it’s time for her to make some choices.

Those of you who have children in Y9 or above will know exactly what I’m talking about; she has to choose what subjects to do for her GCSEs.

And this year it’s especially difficult as the curriculum is changing and she will be doing the ‘new’ GCSEs. No seems to know exactly how these are going to work, or what they will entail yet. Just that they will require more exams and less internal assessment, and they will be much harder. This knowledge is not doing anything for DD’s anxiety.

One of the confusing things ( for me, at least) about GCSEs, is that different schools require their pupils to do different subjects. At our school, the kids have to do the core subjects- maths, English, science-but aren’t required to do the exam component of PE and RS. They do have to choose a humanity ( RS, classics, history or geography) and a language ( French, German, Spanish or Latin), and then they get two ‘free’ choices.

DD has decided to do RS as her humanity as she enjoys the philosophy component, and is pretty sure she will take Spanish as her language but is struggling with her two free choices. Our secondary school is academically inclined so the list of other subjects is possibly not as comprehensive as it is at other schools.

DD feels that part of her problem is that she doesn’t yet know what she wants to do ‘when she grows up’. She’s a bright girl with good work habits and could pretty much do anything she wanted to. She’s not especially drawn to maths or languages but gets good marks for all her subjects.

She likes kids and animals, and likes helping people. She’s good at science, but doesn’t want to do a science for an A level and is good at music, but doesn’t want to do it for GCSE. She thinks she could possibly teach, or become a therapist of some sort but she doesn’t know.  And I can’t help as I wanted to be a vet from the age 4, and had my sights set on that throughout my school career.

A lot of her friends know what they want to do already, and this adds to her sense of unease. But surely at 14, it’s not that unusual to not know what direction you are going to go in as an adult?

Do you have older children who were in the same situation? Maybe you didn’t know either? Has anyone got any advice for my worried daughter?

choose subjects for GCSE


9 comments on “Choosing GCSEs. Can You Help?

  1. My son took his options in November after only a few tasters of the new subjects (here they start a new school in yr9) and starts those courses next week.
    He has no idea what he wants to do as a career. Academically, he’s a good all rounder. We (and school) encouraged him to choose subjects he enjoys so he gleefully dropped French (languages not compulsory), and picked Computer Science, Geography, Business Studies and a DT subject. Hopefully he’ll enjoy them!

  2. Harry has been stressing over his. I’ve ended up letting him narrow the choice to a few things and then taking over. He’s got three free choices (although has a choice between 2 languages as well and has to do RE) and is using those for Business Studies, History and PE. But although he has a few ideas of things he might like to do when he’s older he’s by no means certain and isn’t choosing exams based on that. They have been given a weblink to a site where you out in details about your likes and interests etc and it helps guide you towards things you might want to consider for a career. I want my kids to know all the things that don’t come up in a normal careers conversation. 14 is a time to starting understanding what’s out there in the world, not to make final choices in life as far as I’m concerned 😉

  3. We had to choose DD’s options really quickly as she changed school and is taking the IGCSEs a year early (we are overseas – it’s complicated!) It only took an hour, and all apart from maths and English, were optional.
    Like me all those years ago when the things were called O levels, she has absolutely no idea what she wants to do. So, using my dear mother’s advice; take a range of subjects, and my advice; do what you enjoy, preferably with an arts to counteract the academia.
    It seems your DD has little choice with only two ‘free options’? I’m afraid I don’t understand the English system, but can she choose ANY other subject offered, or do they clash? Only one science?
    I’ve only experience of a certain exam board, but business studies looked really interesting. As does drama.
    Not much help, sorry! Just recent experience 🙂

  4. My daughter is in year 8 and is choosing hers too (they seem to do it a year early). They’ve been advised not to specialise too early and to choose 4 subjects they think they’ll enjoy (must include a language and a humanity). She’s probably choosing French, Geography, Psychology and Food Tech but is a little undecided at the moment. She does know which ones she doesn’t want to do though!

  5. Rylan has 3 free options and chose Spanish, History and the third is proving tricky. He can’t decide between Geography and mandarin. I’ve tried to do the usual, choose the subjects you enjoy the most and are confident you will nail the mark. I was slightly against him soon Mandarin, as he would be taking 3 languages at GCSE and I wanted him to have a balanced selection of subjects. I’ve just left him to decide now.

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