Subjects to avoid?

(66 Posts)
longingforsomesleep Sat 25-Aug-12 14:16:55

Bit of a tongue in cheek thread but, with three teenagers at secondary school, there are things I know now that I wish I'd known when they started!!

I've posted on the GCSE PE thread and I think this is one subject I wish we'd avoided for ds2. Seems it's not uncommon for this to be the worst subject for bright kids - certainly the case for ds2 and we thought it would be a soft option for him!

DS1 did music GCSE and only got a D. He wasn't a brilliant musician to be fair, but the music department were keen to have him. He got good grades for his performances but flunked the exam (mock and real thing). Just didn't seem to get it. May just be him of course, but strikes me as quite a hard GCSE unless you're very good at music. My youngest is keen to take it but am a bit wary.

Psychology also gets very mixed results at our school - lots of Us in the January and June AS modules. Apparently it's one of those exams where the examiners are looking for very specific answers ....

Horses for courses and I'm sure I'm now going to get lots of posters telling me about their kids' A*s in the above subjects!

But before my youngest embarks on option choices, I wondered if there were any other subjects posters felt might be harder than others?

Kez100 Sat 25-Aug-12 15:34:33

Thing is, I am not so sure learning to pick easy subjects is really the best way to choose.

For example, my son has picked ICT - it is easy (his sister has just done it and said so) but he didn't pick it for that. He chose it because that is where he wants a career - he has only done 6 weeks of it, and is already bored to tears!

My daughter picked History and French. Both considered difficult choices - especially as she was targetted D and E in them! However, she loved the courses. She ended up with a History D (took it early in year 10 which didn't help) but the essay writing really improved her English and she has just nabbed C Grades in Language and Literature (targets of D). She also managed, with a lot of work, a C in French. That particular C will always be one of her 'life achievements' because of the journey in getting there.

What I am trying to say is an easy grade B is just a piece of paper, whereas a hard earned grade D a student might actually have learned more real skills from.

longingforsomesleep Sat 25-Aug-12 15:58:54

Kez - I agree entirely with what you say. Thing is, my kids go to a grammar school and are expected to do a ridiculous amount of GCSEs. So I'm all for some of them being those they can get high grades in without too much effort!

DS2 for example starts year 11 next week. He's already got GCSEs in Maths, IT, DT, Core Science and RE (half a gcse). Next year he'll be expected to get GCSEs in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Eng Lang, Eng Lit, Geography, PE, French and finish his RE. Plus a finance qualification he opted for instead of the additional AS they wanted him to do (he's already doing AS maths). That's the equivalent of 14 GCSEs. He went for the finance qualification because it's multiple choice, is equivalent to a B at GCSE and looked like an easier option than an extra AS.

inkyfingers Sat 25-Aug-12 16:05:58

I encouraged my DSs to go for the traditional subjects for GCSE - ie for pupils with above average ability - A*-C grades predictions. None of them wanted the 'softer' ones.

Music is quite hard I think. Not popular in many schools. Psych and health&social care, both a bit of waste of time, in my biased opinion, unless you just love the subjects, but Psychology more respected at A level and taken seriously by Uni.

Unfortunately, I've heard that ICT is boring and really just using IT packages, rather than programming, and this is such a pity for the bright computer 'geeks' who choose it and who are better off doing maths/systems at 14-16 and specialising later?

Theas18 Sat 25-Aug-12 21:00:14

Bloody art! Never do art gcse unless you are artistically gifted AND not overly self critical.if you are pretty good at art, and a perfectionist, it will take you over, dominate your life, suck all the fun out if you and spilt you out like a bit of chewed string!
Eldest did it.she shouldn't have touched it with a bargepole-sadly she was also pretty good ...

Otherwise do anything you enjoy, be aware you have to cover the basics though.

Knowsabitabouteducation Sat 25-Aug-12 21:11:32

I wouldn't approach this about avoiding certain subjects, but by making sure you include key ones.

The English Bacc is a good starting point - English, Maths, Sciences, a MFL and History/Geography. Once that is covered, then most traditional subjects are highly valued. It's important to enjoy the lessons.

Music and Art are not easy options, even for extremely talented students, and they are very highly regarded. Drama is also good, and helps develop softer skills (education is not all about exams).

Probably the least valuable GCSEs are those in traditionally A-level or degree subjects, such as business studies and law. They can, however, be good options for students who are struggle to pick subjects, eg those who are not artistic, or good linguists.

mummytime Sun 26-Aug-12 07:50:07

Graphics! My DS is awful at long projects, and the subject was not what he expected. If I never heard about Blooms taxonomy again it will be too soon.

lljkk Sun 26-Aug-12 09:11:01

Neah, I think this is helpful in its own right. DD school may require an arts-area GCSE, I was inclined towards violin/music; contrary to what so many say I don't think it will be end of world if she gets a C/D in it unless she is already sure she wants to go for a competitive course (like Medicine, or Oxbridge). But it's nice to be ready for the outcome. True of any course, I guess.

I have similar with DS1, who is already sure he wants to do Art. And he will love it.

But DD is also sporty so I think it's useful that if she gets set on wanting to do PE, to have low expectations about the outcome.

I know others on MN slag off "studies" type courses, which I will keep in mind, at least with regard to not taking more than 1 or 2.

Quite glad my kids are ordinary enough not to agonise over the possibly fun stuff. All this GCSE-choice stuff is extremely confusing.

mysteryfairy Sun 26-Aug-12 09:30:51

My DS2 had to choose between a second MFL or a design technology course. He is doing resistant materials and it's a complete nuisance. He has real interest in it - the choice was forced on him - and the volume of stuff he has to produce is nightmarish. In Y10 he did a project which wasn't assessed - just done for experience. What he came up with was totally hopeless. Nothing was said to him at school about how poor it was though it was clear to us the product he had designed would not fulfil the brief and worse would be dangerous. DH and I got involved and helped him to completely redesign it - it took up ages of all our time, pretty annoying as as far as we are concerned he could live without gcse no 14 and time would be better spent revising for other subjects.

Both DSs have done music GCSE. DS1 got an A* and I expect DS2 will too. They are both currently grade 7 performers so not outstanding but certainly strong. When DS1 considered going to sixth form college I was shocked by the questions being asked of the music department re a level e.g. Is grade 3 good enough for performance, does it matter that I've failed grade 5 theory. These made me think that students who are not strong musicians are being encouraged to do music which surely must result in poor grades. Also we bought sibellius - the composition software they use - which cost about £200. I think the children who don't have this at home are at a disadvantage so if music is not your child's passion and you don't want to spend that much I would avoid.

magentadreamer Sun 26-Aug-12 09:38:32

Art, unless very talented but even then it's a nightmare, a colleagues son did Art GCSE and it took over his life for 2 years. My DD and her best friend thought Art would be a jolly nice thing to do for their yr11 option subject, they thought it would be a break from Academic subjects and a rest.... I laughed hysterically when DD told me of this plan and pointed out that to do it in a year as they do at her school also involves Saturday mornings and two sessions after school. They rapidly went off the idea.

Loshad Sun 26-Aug-12 09:42:52

Art, my oldest 2 both did it at GCSE and it took more time than about 4 or 5 normal subjects. (Oldest did it at A level as well, he really loved art but he totally stopped drawing for pleasure during the course, it has been so good this summer to see him start painting etc at home for relaxation)

singaporeswing Sun 26-Aug-12 09:48:28

Now I'm that really awkward one who did Music GCSE 7(!) years ago, as part of 11 GCSEs. I'm very musical and took it after school in Year 11 as a "break" from all my other academic subjects.

Ended up scoring 3 marks off full marks overall whilst having so much fun, so if you have DCs who are very musical by nature, it could turn out to be a very easy GCSE to score highly in.

BeingFluffy Sun 26-Aug-12 10:01:56

I would echo "art"! You would not believe the amount of time the students are supposed to devote to it. The shouting and tantrums, having to virtually imprison DD in her room and check on her progress every 30 mins until the work was done. Internet switched off etc. At the last parents' evening the teacher was literally begging her to complete her coursework and she only completed it the morning of the deadline before school. DD got an A* but it took about 10 times as much work as the others.

Yesterday we went to see the Damian Hirst and Munch at Tate Modern and it was the first time in two years she could actually enjoy an exhibition without thinging about interpreting it for her GCSE portfolio.

The other one I would mention is Latin. DD loves Latin but the standard is very high, I assume because it is generally done at high performing schools and she only got an A.

Another tip I would mention to GCSE parents, is that to ensure your child aims for 100% and not try and second guess the grade boundaries like my DD decided to do and ended up with much fewer A*s than predicted as a result. At least DD has now realised she is only human (her words) and the only way to get top grades is to WORK. She also interpreted being predicted A*s as having them in the bag and decided she didn't need to work hard to get them.

I would avoid GCSE PE for an academically able child as it's ridiculously hard to get an A*. DS1 took it as a soft option on top of a clutch of academic subjects and bitterly regretted it.
D&T of any kind unless they love it. There is a hugely disproportionate amount of work.

cardibach Sun 26-Aug-12 16:24:27

DD has just got results from 12 and a half GCSEs, all taken at the end of Y11 after a tradiotnal 2 year KS4 course (she had done modules along the way, of course). She did very well <proud>, but it was a slog. SHe did:
English
English Lit
Welsh (first language)
Welsh Lit
Maths
Biology
CHemistry
Physics
French
Music
Art and Design
DT Food
RE (short course)

She got a B in music because she is an excellent performer. THe exam and, particularly the composition, were very hard. Buying Sibelius wouldn;t have helped as they had to do all the composition in class under supervision.
SHe got an A in Art, and although it did take up a lot of time it didn;t take over her life.
I took the decision that with such a heavy academic core, she should choose subjects she liked. I think she regretted the Music a bit.

BeingFluffy Sun 26-Aug-12 17:27:03

I forgot to mention the I media diploma to avoid at all costs. DD was forced to take an IT course as it was compulsory to take an IT subject(now dropped), and that seemed like the least bad option. She found it incredibly boring although apparently worth more than GCSEs. She claims she learned nothing new (already a wiz at photoshop etc). She and I would have preferred for her to take a second MFL instead.

longingforsomesleep Sun 26-Aug-12 19:13:44

I'd heard that Art is very time-consuming and one of the hardest subjects to get a high grade in.

I'm interested in your comments about Music Cardibach. DS3 is about to start year 9 so chooses some options next year. He is thinking of music but after his eldest brother's experiences I'm wary. DS3 is naturally brighter but not particularly hard-working (though by no means as lazy as his eldest brother!). He's grade 4 at piano and loves piano. However, he says he doesn't enjoy composing and I've no idea how he would do in the exam.

nkf Sun 26-Aug-12 19:15:26

I don't think subjects should be picked on the grounds of ease.

longingforsomesleep Sun 26-Aug-12 19:19:21

nkf - I agree in the main. But as I explained above, given the large number of GCSEs my kids are expected to do (around 14), when it comes to the 2 they are actually allowed to choose at the end of year 9 I think it's not a bad idea to take into account which might be the easier ones (obviously not base the decision on ease alone).

nkf Sun 26-Aug-12 19:24:41

But if you hate the subject, then it becomes hard. I think so anyway. I did two languages and got As and barely broke into a sweat because I loved languages and found them easy. I think I found them easy because I loved them. I don't think languages are usually regarded as an easy subject.

longingforsomesleep Sun 26-Aug-12 20:13:00

nkf - I'm talking about optional subjects and nobody would choose a subject they hate would they? Conversely, loving a subject doesn't make it easy - as I now know and wish I'd understood better a few years ago. DS1 loves history - he couldn't master the exam technique; DS2 is brilliant at sport but on paper it's his weakest gcse subject; DS1 absolutely loves performing in public - doesn't mean that gcse music would be the right choice for him.

I'm not looking for absolutes and, of course, much depends on the individual. But there are a few other factors to take into account and that's all this thread is about.

GnomeDePlume Sun 26-Aug-12 21:58:49

beware of how much the school may sell non-academic subjects to academic students. Cynically I believe that the staff are only looking for a nice quiet studious student to set an example to any rowdy ones in the class!

Xenia Sun 26-Aug-12 22:45:17

These are the core subjects most academic private school pupils will do and many employers will look for on a CV

Maths
English lit
English lang
A foreign language or possibly two eg French and German or French and latin or at the very least do one
2 or 3 sciences
geography
history

So the above could be about 8. Then and only then consider doing less traditional one eg RE or as said above music -if they have passed grade 5 music theory as they will have done if they have done grades 6 7 and 8 they will have done a lot of the theory already - indeed it's suggested grade 5 music theory which some chidlren do at 10 is a bit like a GCSE.

I would prefer just the basic 8 above, one language, perhaps 2 sciences and the rest I list. Not much merit in doing 10 rather than 8.

dottygamekeeper Sun 26-Aug-12 23:01:28

As others above have mentioned, art involves a lot of work, self doubt and angst - also textiles - both involving masses of coursework and a good deal of subjectivity in marking (in my opinion). Have a DS just finished Yr 10 doing both of these, in addition to Maths, Eng Lang, Eng Lit, French, Geog, Triple Science, RE - he has to work very hard to get the grades in Maths and English particularly, but has achieved A's and B's in all the Maths, English and Science modules taken to date. However he has set himself a target of A* for both Art and Textiles, and realistically, although he is very good at both these subjects, I think it will be very hard to achieve that target (and am fearing massive disappointment this time next year when his final GCSE results come out)

germyrabbit Sun 26-Aug-12 23:07:23

lol mn is very much filled of posters who really seem to have no faith in their own childs abilities

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