How many GCSEs should my son do?

(41 Posts)
NWThreeMum Thu 08-Nov-12 03:09:40

One of my sons is very bright but very lazy and willful. He wants to take 9 GCSEs at school instead of 10/11 because two of the subjects he wants to do 'clash'. Does anyone have any advice? He sometimes talks about Oxbridge and although I'm not sure if it'll be the right place for him once he's 18, I don't want him to narrow his options at this age. Does anyone know how much universities pay attention to number of GCSEs? I feel unable to come down strongly on either side until I'm sure myself. Has anyone got a child who sat GCSEs out of school? Please help!

BackforGood Mon 12-Nov-12 12:48:46

....back to the OP....
Does he actually really have that much choice ?
I know when ds was choosing his options, the fact that two subjects he wanted to do were in the same option block (ie, they clashed) meant, that eveyone had to make a decision about which of those they did, and also still select one from the block which he didn't really want to do anything from. He actually ended up quite enjoying the one he certainly wouldn't have chosen. If he is academically able, are the school prepared to have him off timetable when the others are taking GCSE lessons ?

gelo Mon 12-Nov-12 12:46:51

I think cost is what puts a lot of people off London. I think some people are drawn to the city and think it's worth paying the extra, but lots just don't see the appeal.

MordionAgenos Mon 12-Nov-12 12:46:50

I don't need to redeem myself, love. My reading comprehension is just fine. grin

Yellowtip Mon 12-Nov-12 12:39:43

I drove DS2 and DS3 to Durham for a couple of days over half term senua, passing a total of eleven other universities on the way. I do have a habit of making sweeping judgments admittedly, but there were only four of those that I'd really like to see the DSs at, based on geography/ campus/ town/ city/ hideous traffic snarl up considerations alone.

senua Mon 12-Nov-12 12:07:21

You haven't redeemed yourself with your explanation.

Loads of people wouldn't consider London purely because it was London.
Like who? People might discount London because of perfectly valid, logical reasons but I have never heard anyone discount it "because it was London." We don't seem to make such sweeping, ill-judged comments round here.hmm

If you can't understand that some people don't want to live in certain parts of the country because they are far away from where they are from and appear to be somewhat alien then I can't really help you.
Part of the reason for going away to Universiy is to broaden your horizons. For someone who was supposedly bright enough to go to Cambridge you are coming across as a little lacking in your world view.
The Midlands are "alien" - are you for real?

gelo Mon 12-Nov-12 12:04:11

Anywhere in the top 5 or so institutions in the country is probably going to be good enough for whatever you may want to do afterwards, so considering other things is important too. Ds's sport is best catered for by Oxford and he liked the place so that's where he went. He was also pleased to see that last year the Oxford maths grads had higher average earnings than from any other undergraduate course in the UK and there doesn't seem to be a shortage of eminent mathmos there (he's going to a lecture by Andrew Wiles this month for eg), so he doesn't regret not applying to Camb or one of the others so far.

The ranking lists vary year on year in any case and can be affected by some strange things (the year after the intake at Queen Mary's for physics crashed spectacularly due to all their mostly 2nd choice intake being unusually given places by their firm choices, they soared in the league tables as staff and facility rations improved dramatically). I would say that places with high entry requirements don't always have the highest average entry achievements. - Warwick & Oxford are good examples of this - Warwick give out high offers but often accept a lot of misses. Ox give out lower offers, but preselect using their own test, so most actually achieve more highly anyway and very few miss.

lljkk Mon 12-Nov-12 11:42:27

OP's son only "sometimes" talks about Oxbridge, where only 0.5% of his peers will end up at, anyway. I wouldn't try to plan for an Oxford bid on the back of "sometimes" talks. I'd try to push for quality rather than quantity over the next few years and then see where he was at end of GCSEs, & what seemed like most appealing direction forward from there.

Maybe just me, but trying to plan more specifically long term would do my head in.

MordionAgenos Mon 12-Nov-12 11:42:19

I was being factual. I wouldn't have considered going up north either. Loads of people wouldn't consider London - as yellow pointed out - purely because it was London. I didn't think she was being rude (I know she wasn't). If you can't understand that some people don't want to live in certain parts of the country because they are far away from where they are from and appear to be somewhat alien then I can't really help you.

It's particularly ridiculous you getting on your high horse when (a) I was saying Warwick was really good and (b) I was saying that in retrospect in many ways I wish I'd gone there. hmm Which underlines the 'don't judge a uni by your own geographical pre-conceptions' point.

senua Mon 12-Nov-12 11:38:34

some mathmos (myself included) wouldn't even consider Warwick ... because of the whole 'being in the midlands' thing.

Did you mean to sound so rude?

MordionAgenos Mon 12-Nov-12 08:31:37

Warwick has never been better than Cambridge for maths but it was certainly the number 2 for maths for a very long time, and may still be so (unless Imoerial has caught it up). Oxford probably wasn't even 4th in my day. However, yellow is right - some mathmos (myself included) wouldn't even consider Warwick despite it being the next best place (by a mile from the one in 3rd and not that far behind Cambridge) because of the whole 'being in the midlands' thing.

Of course, fate being what it is, by the time I rocked up at Cambridge I knew several Warwick mathmos (whom I had met as I stretched my wings a bit in our shared outside interest) and I'd have much preferred to go where they were if I'm honest. I'm still friends with several of them now and they are doing rather glamourous things which I'd love to be doing too. Ah well.

Yellowtip Sun 11-Nov-12 18:12:40

complex there's much more to university choice than zoning in on the 'best' teaching and research. If you're lucky enough to be tip top then the great thing you're afforded is the luxury of choice. London is by no means everyone's cup of tea, nor would everyone want to go to a campus such as Warwick, however great the reputation of the course.

complexnumber Sun 11-Nov-12 16:57:19

Just a thought, bluesky, ending up at Imperial is something to shout about, not a second prize! For my son's year, the entrance requirements for Imperial were tougher than Oxford - eg in Maths, every module had to score higher than 90 ums.

Very true!

If you really are top of the range in your subject, then you should be looking at which Uni offers the best teaching/research facilities. This will not always be Oxbridge or even a Red Brick.

For a long time Warwick was the best uni in the country for mathematics (I haven't looked at how it stands at the present) as a lot of Cambridge dons had migrated across the Midlands. (I cannot cite that, but I think it is true)

BeckAndCall Sun 11-Nov-12 10:15:41

Just a thought, bluesky, ending up at Imperial is something to shout about, not a second prize! For my son's year, the entrance requirements for Imperial were tougher than Oxford - eg in Maths, every module had to score higher than 90 ums.

Yellowtip Sat 10-Nov-12 22:23:49

gelo is spot on as usual. Different universities and different courses within the same university score GCSEs differently. And as gelo also says, then there's contextualisation.

What subject does he want to do? Does he know? What year is he in? And what type of school?

b1uesky Sat 10-Nov-12 21:54:39

My friend's ds have 11 A* GCSEs and 4 A*at A level but he couldn't even get offered an interview with Oxford and ended up going to Imperial College. Another friend's ds got offered an interview and took the oxford entrance exam. He must have done well because Oxford offered him a place and only ask for 3 A's at A level, not sure how many GCSE he had. I think with so many ppl passing with A*, the top uni are looking for more than just good grades. Bookworms is definitely not it, no matter how many A* they managed to get.

gelo Thu 08-Nov-12 13:46:30

Latin is a nice subject to do (assuming you enjoy it) even if it does lower the average slightly and plenty do get top marks in it with a bit of effort, so don't let him be put off. Business studies a year early does seem rather more pointless imo, but perhaps I'm biased.

LettyAshton Thu 08-Nov-12 13:31:22

Aaagh! Ds is doing Latin! In his own time, too.

Some of his friends are doing 13 (academic) GCSEs but I think this is ill-advised.

I think ds's Achilles Heel is Business Studies, which is compulsory for everyone and is taken in Year 10. He hates it.

gelo Thu 08-Nov-12 13:16:18

You can definitely over think it! So many subjects are compulsory at GCSE I don't think 'gaming' is that easy, but art, PE and Latin (the real GCSE not the newer certificate) are subjects that have a reputation for being hard to get A* in and often seem to be the ones that let an otherwise 'perfect' string down.

LettyAshton Thu 08-Nov-12 13:10:01

[collapses with exhaustion]

It's all too much! I think the grade inflation has been bad in that it is difficult for the very clever to demonstrate that they actually are very clever. Dh (being dh) likened it to his pub quizzes. He hates easy pub quizzes because everyone can answer most of the questions and therefore winning the (2 free pints to be drunk before closing that evening) prize all comes down to one question which might not identify the best team. Or, I suppose, if the Olympic high jump was set at a maximum of half a metre. Everyone would get Gold.

gelo Thu 08-Nov-12 13:02:29

and all those scoring systems are before you've even begun to consider contextualisation.

gelo Thu 08-Nov-12 13:00:27

Letty, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. It all depends on how universities 'score' GCSEs and they all seem to use slightly different methods. Some may look at total number of A* (some cap this at 9 or 10 and others don't), another at the %A* (again with or without a cap), and a third may allocate points to the best 9 or 10 (2 for and A*, 1 for an A... or something similar).

I would suggest though that having nothing below A* suggests that you haven't found your limit and may have been able to get even more, but having the odd lower grade shows where your limit is.

Also, the subject a lower grade is in may matter. A 'B' in PE or drama might be more acceptable than a 'B' in maths or english for example.

webwiz Thu 08-Nov-12 12:54:57

Does he actually have a choice about the number of GCSEs he takes? At most schools if his choices clashed it would be hard lines and he has to chose something else.

LettyAshton Thu 08-Nov-12 12:50:12

I always wonder whether 9 A*s trumps 9A*s and 2 As. Or perhaps more realistically 10A*s and one B.

And, indeed, whether a less than clean sweep of academic subjects looks worse than a full house of A*s which includes less well thought of GCSEs.

I suppose you can over think it, but I always have a creeping feeling that there are those who know how to play the game...

gelo Thu 08-Nov-12 12:25:51

9 with good grades is certainly enough if that's what your school do as standard, or if you are doing a lot of ECs that account for the time that you would normally have done the extras in. It may be enough for your ds, but I think oxbridge have a tendency to compare you with the rest of your school cohort, so if you did 9 and everyone else did 11 and they noticed (they may well not) then eyebrows might be raised.

To have as few as 5 GCSEs you would need a reason. As I recall the mn whose dc had this number and went to oxbridge was homeschooled.

What probably matters more than the total number is the number of A*s or for some places the % of A*s. For some individuals it may be better to do fewer and work to get high grades on all of them, but for others who perhaps will never get a top grade in their (compulsory) language or one of the core subjects then doing one or two extra subjects that they are confident of getting top grades in might actually improve their % or total number of A*s.

Abzs Thu 08-Nov-12 10:24:19

On the Oxbridge argument, 4 people from my school year got offers. This was average for the school. They all had 9 GCSEs, because that was what the school did.

What they did have to set them apart was 4 A Levels, plus General Studies, STEP papers and extracurricular and external activities such as sixth form council, music and scouting. They were all academic, but also I remember them as nice well rounded individuals too.

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