How important are GCSEs for university applications?

(101 Posts)
GnomeDePlume Mon 27-Aug-12 14:27:58

DD1 has done well in her GCSEs (3A*s, 7As) all in sound academic subjects. She wants to go to university to study chemistry (one of her A* subjects) eventually.

I read a comment in the Telegraph at the weekend which said that 6* is the requirement for RG universities where the student attended a selective school.

DD's school is not selective and is not by any stretch of the imagination a 'good' school (in and out of special measures a couple of times in the last few years, below average GCSE & ebacc scores).

So, how much store do university admissions tutors set by A* at GCSE? Is allowance made where students have attended bog standard comps rather than selective grammars or independants?

DD will be starting to look at universities during year 12 is it worth still looking at RG or should she be setting her sights a little lower?

AlmostAHipster Mon 27-Aug-12 14:34:50

My eldest has just got into a RG uni - she got 3 A*s, 4 As, 1 B and 2 Cs at GCSE at an academy school. (She then got A* AB at A level).

So I'd say your girl has every chance of getting in too, so long as she works hard for the next two years. Well done to her on her excellent results smile

GnomeDePlume Mon 27-Aug-12 14:54:32

Thanks for that AlmostAHipster and congratulations to your DD on her results.

How helpful was her school in university application? I know that selective schools will have lots of experience in helping students apply for RG universities. Did your DD's school give her the necessary help or would you say more help had to come from home?

senua Mon 27-Aug-12 15:15:15

is it worth still looking at RG or should she be setting her sights a little lower?

Don't you dare sell her short! She will have five choices on her UCAS form: she has pleny of scope for, in ascending order:
- playing it safe with insuance offers
- being realistic
- playing a-cat-may-look-at-a-queen.

MN will guide you, if school doesn't.

GnomeDePlume Mon 27-Aug-12 15:25:48

I certainly dont plan to sell her short grin but at the same time I am a total pragmatist and wouldnt like her to set her sights on RG and then find that she gets knocked back because she 'only' has 3 A*.

Just how much do RG universities take into account the school an applicant went to? Do they get information on the school attended at GCSE and A level separately?

AlmostAHipster Mon 27-Aug-12 15:26:59

Thanks, Gnome smile

The school were quite helpful about the process and ensuring that her personal statement was done early (October!) - her reference was excellent and written well by her tutor. Her school gave her lots of feedback on her work and progress - so she constantly knew what she had to do to get the best grades possible.

She and I looked at which unis to apply for, based on the courses which would interest her the most and she was lucky enough to get into her firm choice, which happened to be in the RG.

Emphaticmaybe Mon 27-Aug-12 15:32:54

Congratulations to your DD.

Unless a massively over-subscribed course such as medicine or law, GCSEs just need to be good for most RG universities. Even Cambridge did not set a specific amount of As and A*s when my DS applied this year and very much concentrated on the UMS results for AS instead.

Your DD's GCSE results should not limit her choices of uni for the majority of courses - good luck.

BeingFluffy Mon 27-Aug-12 17:33:57

I am also wondering about this.. Neighbour's DD got into Cambridge this year with a mix of A*, A and B at GCSE. Very good AS/A levels though and she went to church comp with above average results.

DD is thinking about law, but coming from a superselective with only 3A*s may be a disadvantage, but there is no reason why she shouldn't try for a top Uni, provided that she pulls it together for AS/A2.

creamteas Mon 27-Aug-12 17:47:12

Don't believe all that you hear about how exclusive RG unis are. Whilst this is true for courses such as medicine, it is certainly not true for many others.

From working in admissions, it is clear that RG unis regularly take students with lower grades than are publicly advertised. This year some were taking students on BBC during clearing.

In most cases, the school that was attended does not make a huge amount of difference.

Knowsabitabouteducation Mon 27-Aug-12 19:15:35

I have heard, face-to-face from admissions tutors, in the last 2-3 years, that they look at the number of A-A* before making the first cut. 7 A/A* seemed to be the magic number.

Read into that what you will.

GnomeDePlume Mon 27-Aug-12 19:45:11

knowsabit - do they look at the school? 7 GCSEs A-C from some schools (worse that DD's) could be a major achievement of dedication and hard work.

Knowsabitabouteducation Mon 27-Aug-12 19:53:27

Officially, no

creamteas Mon 27-Aug-12 20:00:06

I have worked in admissions at three good unis (one RG) and we have never used GCSEs as the first consideration.

webwiz Mon 27-Aug-12 20:07:57

I have two at university and my take on the process is that GCSEs are just the first hurdle - so long as they are reasonable (a selection from A* to B) then that doesn't rule out anywhere. The next stage is having relevant A levels for the course you want to do, good grades at AS and being able to convey an interest in the subject in your personal statement.

Knowsabitabouteducation Mon 27-Aug-12 20:17:16

My take on the system is as follows (how quickly the application is binned):

1) actual GCSE results (7As for competitive courses)
2) teacher A2 predictions
3) teacher reference
4) student personal statement
5) AS grades.

GnomeDePlume Mon 27-Aug-12 20:25:41

Thanks all this is useful to know.

SheldonCoopersMa Mon 27-Aug-12 20:43:45

This is somewhat reassuring for my DS. He has set his heart on trying for Cambridge, science. He got A*s in all sciences and maths but was hoping for 8A*s and got 6. He has it in his head he needs 8A*s for Cambridge.
His school also was in special measures for two years.

Emphaticmaybe Mon 27-Aug-12 20:53:51

Cambrige, had in previous years, discouraged those with less than 5A*s in their results applying - or at least that was the criteria given out to schools. However this last year, Less emphasis has been put on GCSE results - but candidates really need a 90% average on unit modules at AS to have a realistic chance of being considered.

zamantha Mon 27-Aug-12 20:54:04

Thank you so much Almostahipster sharing your news/experience - it is really comforting to know our DC is in with a chance.

ordinary comp, SEN in the past, 5 A*, 2 A, 2 B, 1 C and 1 D - being queried : AQA English.

We're delighted and our DC wants to study at an RG if poss.

creamteas Mon 27-Aug-12 20:55:51

Well the order we look at things are (social science subjects):

1) A2 predictions
2) AS grades
3) GCSE grades/overall UCAS point potential

Unless it states that they should not study the subject, or it gives details of circumstances that have had an impact on performance, the teacher's reference is largely ignored. Some schools are rubbish at references. Sometimes not even getting the applicant's name/subject right, especially where there is a standard reference for everyone that they cut and paste across. We don't want to penalise potential good applicants because of their schools' performance in this area so we don't set much store by them.

Likewise personal statements are not that important. The only time it would influence me is if they clearly don't really know anything about the subject they are applying for. They all more or less say the same thing (trust me, I read 1000s of them). How good they are at saying why studying X appeals to them is often down to how much help they have had. We can't know this, so it doesn't feature that highly in making decisions over offers.

Other areas of study will be different, especially those which require specific work experience such as medicine.

Where I used to work (RG) there was always a rumour that in one dept they put all the forms that had the right predicted grades into a box and did a lottery. I don't suppose it ever happened, but trust me it is tempting sometimes wink

senua Mon 27-Aug-12 21:14:56

Don't believe all that you hear about how exclusive RG unis are. Whilst this is true for courses such as medicine, it is certainly not true for many others.

I think that we forget how BIG some RG Universities are - eg Manchester has 39,000 students - so of course they take large numbers. I heard the other day that RG make up 20% of the student population so they are not as exclusive as their hype would like to suggest.

clam Mon 27-Aug-12 23:56:13

It entirely depends on the course and the university. DH is an admissions tutor, and for his department, they're not interested in GCSEs at all, as long as the student has Maths, Science and English at B or above. He's more interested in a rounded personality who's 'right' for the course. But I accept it differs for other institutions.

Having said that, I'm now a tiny bit worried on ds's behalf. He "only" got 2 A*s, but also 8 As and 4 Bs. If you lump all the As together, then 10 sounds good (and they're all in 'solid' subjects with no re-takes) but are they only really interested in the stars, like Olympic Golds?

boomting Tue 28-Aug-12 00:12:47

So long as the applicant has 5 A*-C grades, and sometimes has a B in English and Maths (if that's the case, then it will normally be stated on the uni's website, alongside the A Level entry requirements, then they tend to pay very little attention to GCSEs. This thing from the Telegraph about wanting 6 A* grades is nonsense, unless your DD is looking at medicine, which she's not.

For reference, in 2010 I had offers from 3 Russell Group unis and 2 1994 Group unis with 1A* 8A and 1B GCSEs, some fairly atrocious AS results (but good predictions, good reference and good personal statement), and I went to a selective independent.

What is far more important are AS grades and A2 predictions, along with a solid personal statement and a supportive reference.

Ponders Tue 28-Aug-12 00:27:26

zamantha, hope your DC's school will be pushing for regrading in English?

Onychomycosis Wed 29-Aug-12 18:16:16

My DS has achieved an A grade in AQA advanced FSMQ having taken AQA maths in year 10. He has 3 a* and 7 a grades in his y 11 GCSEs. My question is whether the FSMQ grade translates into another a* for the purposes of his total tally of a* IYMWIM!

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