GCSE options...how much do they really matter?

(142 Posts)
wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 12:07:31

DS is currently considering his options for GCSE.
After he's done all the core stuff (Eng x2, maths, science x3, MFL) there are only three choices left.

He's thinking History, Latin and Geography. But then he's thinking History, Latin and Ancient Greek. Then Spanish, RS and Latin. This morning he said History, RS and Latin, then changed his mind back to Latin, Ancient Greek and History...

Does it really matter in the scheme of things? Do any universities really care what they do at this stage?

Tingalingle Thu 24-Jan-13 12:10:15

Well, going on what he's said, I'd put Latin on the list at least!

Between the choices you are mentioning, no I don't think it makes any difference, they are all "sensible" academic subjects and he has a good range of things there.

I'd probably push History as a choice, as it is good for developing "essay" type answers, which his other options are less heavy on. But other than that, he might as well choose whatever combination he fancies when the form has to go in!

Chopchopbusybusy Thu 24-Jan-13 12:15:52

I'd say he should add either history or geography to his core list. Then. I'd say any other two. I think universities probably do glance at GCSE results but I don't believe they are that important except perhaps for medicine, vetinary medicine or dentistry. And even then they would be looking specifically at core results.

ISingSoprano Thu 24-Jan-13 12:18:06

With the subjects he is looking at I would advise him to definitely do History and do whatever he likes after that. That way he's got all the bases covered with a language and a humanity with maths, English and science.

exexpat Thu 24-Jan-13 12:28:45

Does he have any idea what he wants to do at university? I think as long as they are all acceptable academic subjects and he is equally good at all of them, it really doesn't matter that much unless it affects A-level or university course options.

I went through the same thing with DS: months of agonising over a very similar shortlist of options after English, Maths, triple science & French - DS's school only allows them to take 10 GCSEs, so that only left him three.

He decided to drop Latin but keep German, and then had to choose two out of history, geography and RS ('religion & philosophy'). In the end we had to look at the syllabus and the text book for each subject to help him make up his mind, and that resulted in him dropping RS, as he really enjoys the philosophy side of things, but is atheist and not terribly interested in lots of bible-related stuff, which seemed to form the bulk of the GCSE syllabus.

He was happy with his decision at the time, and I think it was the right one, but it hasn't stopped him having periodic moans about having picked the wrong options when he has a boring bit of homework in geography, for example.

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 12:41:32

Thank you everyone.

He doesn't really know what he wants to do yet, though has mentioned Law or Economics at university...but he's 13...

He's not set on Oxbridge, but doesn't want to rule it out.

gelo Thu 24-Jan-13 12:50:10

They are all great academic subjects, nothing soft there at all (and one or two softer ones is OK in any case) with all the important core ones covered, so it only matters in as far as he doesn't want to rule out anything he might want to take further. So, if he may want to do classics later on then the Latin is impt. (maybe greek too, but less so), if he may want to do History A level then that's important. Some schools let you do A levels in RE and even Geog without the GCSE, so if that's the case here maybe they become less important.

As long as he's happy with the subjects and wants to learn them he should be OK though - if he's equally happy with any of them you may want to figure out which keeps most options open later on.

gelo Thu 24-Jan-13 12:54:06

One other thing to consider is how much controlled assessment there is for each. Languages have a lot and it does make yr 10/11 more stressful especially if you don't like that form of assessment. RE has none, Geog has about 25%, not sure about history or classical languages.

exexpat Thu 24-Jan-13 13:06:09

Wordfactory - he sounds very similar to my DS, now 14/year 10. He's not entirely sure what he wants to do at university yet, but something along the lines of law or economics looks likely, or possibly more specifically PPE at Oxford. I know it's a hideously competitive one to get in to though, so I'm not pushing it too hard.

We had a look at suggested A-level subjects for that sort of course, and apart from maths (useful for everything, but obviously necessary for economics), history A-level came up as a good one to have, which was one of the factors involved in keeping history on at GCSE.

MissMarplesMaid Thu 24-Jan-13 13:08:53

It is worth looking at the syllabus. My DS was set on geography until he found out that the content was very much human geography (in which he is not particularly interested) rather than physical geography.

IMO if he is looking to take an acedemic route then any of the options you have mentioned will be fine and will all be equally good at keeping doors open.

My view is are the subjects titles easily comprehensible to someone not currently involved in secondary education?. Basically the Granny test. Could your DS tell an older relative his GCSE choices and not be met with blank looks?

If the answer is yes then academic doors are still wide open!

lastSplash Thu 24-Jan-13 13:14:22

Latin - because it is on all his lists, he clearly wants to do it
History - because it is good for essay technique and keeps his options open
not RS - more of a soft option, mostly students take it because their school requires it

Which leaves one to choose from geography, ancient Greek, Spanish...

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 13:15:07

gelo he is doing IGCSEs which I know are not modular, but I don't know about the controlled assessments if I'm honest.

missmarples yes that's all we want for him really; to keep his doors open.

Personally, I think he should do Spanish (rather than ancient greek) because I speak it and it's easy. DH thinks it's a 'flakey' subject ...but he would!

overthemill Thu 24-Jan-13 13:15:11

i think these will all be fine - any of his choices would be good. he sounds a bit like my dd13 wh is choosing gcses at the moment and can choose 5 but one of those we are insisting be a mfl (probably french) as she is 'gifted and talented' in that and some universities currently have it as a must have. Did you know that bit edinburgh and oxford insist on 8 grade A* at gcse level to even get a look in shock

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 13:19:39

last yes Latin is clearly up there. He's very good at it and likes, if not loves it. Finds it easy, I guess.

Ancient greek teacher keen to have him as I suppose the two go together quite well. Though he's done hardly any yet. Would be starting almost from scratch in year 10. Having said that, the same would be true for Spanish. My instincts tell me Spanish would be easier than AG to do in two years. But what do I know?

Yellowtip Thu 24-Jan-13 13:21:57

No GCSEs are modular any more.

Yellowtip Thu 24-Jan-13 13:25:20

I know that neither Edinburgh nor Oxford insist on 8A* to get a look in, unless you're singling out Medicine. Even then it's not that black and white.

Chopchopbusybusy Thu 24-Jan-13 13:36:16

I don't agree that RS is necessarily a soft option. At DDs school it is compulsory, but only the half GCSE. The full GCSE is a perfectly respectable choice.
It's scaremongering to say that Oxford and Edinburgh require 8A* to even get a look in. It's not true.

DS1 is in Y8, so will have to make this choice next year. The following will be compulsory: Maths, English x2, Science x3, German.

Then he'll have to choose one out of History and Geography, and one other (which could be the other one out of History and Geography).

This is what I think I'll suggest he does:
1. Write a list of the subjects he can choose from and get him to rate how much he enjoys each one out of 10. It's important to do this step first so the answers aren't swayed by steps 2 or 3.
2. Write down how well he is likely to do in each subject, based on current NC level. His highest level would score 10, and work down from there.
3. Write down how useful each subject is likely to be in terms of giving him access to the A-levels that he wants to do. Most useful subject scores 10/10.

This is how I chose my GCSE options and it worked for me (until the school said they couldn't timetable both Latin and Music).

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 13:38:42

yellow no doubt I shall have the two differering systems explained to me at DD's parents evening next week.

She is doing 'normal' GCSEs, DS IGCSEs...all very interesting.

DD of course knows her own mind. After her seven core subjects she will do History, Spanish and Drama. She has, as the yanks say, taken ownership of the situation grin.

Sorry, I missed out step 4, which is to add up the scores so each subject has a total score out of 30, but that's probably obvious.

Yellowtip Thu 24-Jan-13 13:45:50

word there's going to be very little difference between the two types of GCSE any more.

What your DS opts for won't matter but how he does might, since he's clearly a high achiever with high aspirations. So he should just plump for whatever interests him most because that will take care of his grades, especially at a school like his.

gelo Thu 24-Jan-13 13:47:23

I'd choose spanish over ancient greek, easier or not. As a widely spoken mfl it's going to be useful at some stage in his life to say hello, order breakfast and ask for directions in it. I'd say RE is an easier choice than any language for sure even though it's not soft (even if it is soft, one soft option is completely fine). It's good for written skills, reasoning and looking at the world from others viewpoints, it's easy because there's no coursework rather than anything else.

gelo Thu 24-Jan-13 13:51:08

well the main difference yellow is the amount of coursework/controlled assessment - iGCSEs tend to be more exam based, but I'm not sure about languages which presumably still have spoken tasks that are teacher assessed at least.

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 13:53:15

I too would plump for Spanish over AG, and not just because I'm biassed (though I am).

He would start both (almost) from scratch next year and instinct tells me Spanish would be the more doable of the two in only two years.

School say there's nothing in it. Both doable.

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