GCSEs - Choosing your options

So you’re in Year 9 (or Year 8 in some schools) and you have to make a decision about which subjects you’re going to choose for GCSE, don’t worry help is at hand - just read on.


Let’s discuss the easy bit first - some subjects will be compulsory which means every student will have to take English, maths and science and your school may have particular subjects they have made compulsory such as IT or a language.

The good news is the rest of the subjects are yours to choose.

Your choices will have to come from one of four areas. Modern languages, Design and Technology, Arts (this could include music or performing arts) and Humanities (this includes history and geography).

Deciding what you’re going to take is often the first chance you get to take control and make a decision about your own learning, but it can be daunting so here’s a few tips to help you choose with confidence.

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It sounds strange but first of all look to the past and think back to your achievements. Where have you really excelled in things that surprised yourself? It may be you’ve found a natural affinity with art, music, or you might be amazing at German. Think of the subjects your friends come to you for help with. It’s an indication it’s something that comes naturally to you and is a strength.

Next look to the present.  Which homework do you choose to do first, even if the deadline isn’t as soon as others? Which lessons seem to fly by rather than drag? Which classes do you find yourself contributing to, working well in, and wanting to find out more about? Maybe spend a week really being aware of your responses to learning and pinpointing the moments where you feel inspired and motivated.

Now look to the future. Do you know what you want to do after your GCSEs? If not, don’t worry, most people your age aren’t sure. The trick is to keep your options open. Try to pick subjects which cover all of the different areas above (modern languages; design and technology; arts and humanities,) not just from one section so whatever you choose to do next, you are well prepared.

If you do know, congratulations! The college, sixth form course or apprenticeship you want to work towards may require certain GCSEs, so making a decision on your choices could be a lot easier. However, try to keep some variety. Choosing them all from one area may restrict your options if you change your mind in the future.


Remember, to get into most Btecs or A Levels the requirement is 5 GCSEs at a grade 9-4 (or A-C), so the most important thing is to choose the subjects you are good at and that will give you the best possible chance of achieving this.

But take note you will not get into college by: Doing the subject your friends are doing,  or the subject with the nicest teacher, or the subject with the really good school trip,  or the subject with the least exams or even the subject your mum/dad/brother/cat did once and really loved!

You will get into college by studying subjects you enjoy, you are good at, motivate and inspire you and which you can imagine yourself working with in the future.

Remember the only person who can make this decision is you.  So take some time to think about what makes you happy at school.


This will be two years of your life which may lead onto a future career, so it’s important you recognise your strengths and your potential.

Speak to teachers about the course structure, what modules you will cover, what the workload is like. Take advice from those who know you well and consider your personality, work patterns and passions outside of school.

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By our resident careers expert - Amy Patterson

It may take a little time but it will help you make the right choices, so you can give yourself the very best chance of tackling your GCSE years and achieving fantastic things.

Good luck!