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Choosing GCSE Options

Your GCSE subject options will be firmly in your sight if you're in Year 9 right now, or coming up to that stage of life.

We all struggle with choices. So what should you bear in mind when choosing GCSE options? Here's a few pointers.

1. Let the choices be yours

You may have already found that many people will have opinions about your choices. You'll receive advice from parents and teachers - do listen but in the end go for what you'd like to do.

You may also have friends suggesting you do the same subjects as them - choose for yourself.

Ultimately we suggest you choose subjects that you will enjoy. Remember - you will be studying it for the next two years!

Further down the line when workload is heavy you'll appreciate enjoying a subject and looking forward to rather than dreading lessons. It also means you will probably work harder in it and get a higher grade.

It's very easy to then talk yourself out of taking a subject you love.

Instead ask "Why not?". 

Look at both the content of the course and the skills required, and decide if you're interested in the things you will be learning about and whether you can build on the skills you will use.

2. Work out what GCSE subjects are compulsory

Each school will differ on this but there are some subjects where there is no choice at all.

This will always be Maths and English, but then maybe a combination of Sciences depending on the school and probably your Key Stage 3 or Year 9 results.

Some schools may insist on a language, such as French, German or Spanish. Check this at the start. One other area of restrictions may be the timetable but do be prepared to have a chat with teachers about what's possible. 

3. Look at the mark scheme

Some GCSE subjects, such as Art and Drama, are based almost exclusively on coursework, so if you're not keen on taking exams at the end of the year, then you may want to move away from subjects that depend significantly on your exam results.

4. Decide which subjects you are good at

Think about the subjects you are good at, particularly since these are the ones you are more likely to enjoy. Being good at one or more subjects can help you with your workload over the next couiple of years, as you will be able to complete the work more quickly and achieve better results.

Also, those subjects you have a natural flair for might inform your career decisions further down the line.

If you're not sure how good you are at a subject, talk to your teacher(s) and ask for their advice.

5. Plan for your future

This is a simple one but very important. It's almost certain that subjects you take at A Level will have to be part of your options at GCSE.

If you want to go on that far, what subjects do you see yourself taking? This long term thinking also applies to university and careers.

It can be scary to think that far ahead but spend a little time dreaming. What would you like to do with your life? 

6. Strike a balance

Choose good GCSE options that will look balanced.

If you love the Arts, find a subject like History or a language alongside it. The reason for balance is not to please teachers or planners, it's just a way of keeping your options open.

As your school career progresses you may find you have gifts you never dreamed of. Try to not shut too many doors too soon.

7. Choose the subject not the teacher

We all know sometimes a relationship with a teacher can be hard.

You may be tempted to avoid a topic because the teacher is one you find difficult. Try hard not to let that put you off.

Similarly you may choose a subject because of a great teacher - but think hard. In the long term teachers will change but it's subject that will carry you through.

8. Don't pick what your friends are doing

Try not to just choose subjects that your friends are taking - doing different classes won't effect your social circle, and will give you plenty to talk about when you do meet up!

There's a good chance you will make new mates in your subject classes anyway, which is always a positive.


Options can be a very stressful time. But remember that thousands of pupils get through this step and thrive. Options can open new doors and there is plenty of help along the way.

Visit our blog for more information on choosing GCSE subjects.