GCSE Options - impact on Oxbridge application

(85 Posts)
NL3 Wed 13-Jan-10 11:13:26

DS1 is in Yr9 of a state comp. Quite bright - but also quite lazy.

We have to choose his GCSE options soon and I have a couple of questions that I hope someboby can answer.

Do your options at GCSE have any impact on your chances of gaining admission to Oxford or Cambridge?

Are any courses perceived as "soft" options similar to the list at A-level that top universities won't count?

Is it ok to choose solely academic subjects?

Any advice on this specific list -

English Language and Literature
Maths
Triple Science
French
Mandarin
History
Geography
RE
Citizenship
Economics

Thanks in advance for any help
m

Lilymaid Wed 13-Jan-10 22:12:10

Economics is definitely fine for AS/A2 - both DSs took it and have had no problems in getting into decent universities. I don't think you'd find it on the "soft" A Level list for any universities.

snorkie Wed 13-Jan-10 22:57:13

DD is thinking of the following options:
English Lang
English Lit
Maths
Sciences (3 separate)
Geography or Business Studies
RE
Art
Japanese (as a twilight subject)

She may also have to do French, but is hoping to wriggle out of it as she's not that great at languages, but really wants to do Japanese (she will do both if she's not allowed to drop French).

She's quite bright, but dyslexic. Doubt she'll be trying for Oxbridge, but I obviously want her to keep as many options open as possible. I'm trying to gently suggest that Geography would be a better choice than BS, am I right?

Lilymaid, people were saying economics was OK at A level but soft at GCSE (I think RE is supposed to be like that too). All I know about economics GCSE is that very few schools offer it.

seeker Thu 14-Jan-10 05:52:07

Dd's school seem to regard Expressive Arts and Art as the most rigorous of the "Kids from Fame/touchy-feely" options.

weegiemum Thu 14-Jan-10 06:06:14

<professional hat on>
Snorkie, I am talking as a Geog teacher here, but I would say Geog was a much better option than BS for A-level, unless she is especially interested in going into something businessy at Uni. Geog is a good wide ranging subject for both arts and sciences and (IIRC, its a long time since I looked at the English curriculum as am in Scotland) has a healthy dose of statistics etc which also come in handy later.

Plus - if she is dyslexic then the more graphic nature of Geog can be useful - certainly at amy last school (not currently teaching!) we encouraged dyslexic pupils into Geog (rather than History, for example) as they often found it more manageable - could draw a diagram rather than write a paragraph, IYSWIM. In fact, the department had a theory that the dyslexic pupils were actually better at this side of the subject than those who were more long winded with their written answers!

ShrinkingViolet Thu 14-Jan-10 08:28:36

generally anything with "studies" in its title is regarded as a less academic subject (exception being Religious Studies at A level I believe).

snorkie Thu 14-Jan-10 08:57:22

I'm not too worried if BS is a bit soft. Most of her other subjects aren't, so that should be OK especially if she gets a higher grade in it as a result. But that's interesting what you say about Geog being recommended for dyslexics weegie I'll definately pass that message on (it's GCSE we're talking about here not A level, but I assume the same applies).

TheArsenicCupCake Thu 14-Jan-10 12:22:03

Snorkie.. DS1 ( and 2) are both dyslexic.. DS1 has just seen this as something to be tackled and overcome.. where as ds2 is highly effected by it ( their dad and I are both dyslexic.. and both of us have degrees, careers ( he's a teacher) but I see no reason not to try for oxbridge if that is what your DD would like to do.. ). So I guess it depends on how her dyslexia effects her.

HTH

fritzzwicky Thu 14-Jan-10 13:22:21

Thanks for that reassurance re Economics at As/A level, Lilymaid. Sorry if I hijacked slightly off the GCSE focus!

Piffle Thu 14-Jan-10 13:30:50

snorkle why is the thinking of Japanese if languages are not liked?
I was a very gifted linguist, French, Latin, Spanish, Russian, some Arabic but Japanese was soooo very hard!

The FSMQ as ds1 is doing it is basically read the textbook and sit the exam! It is hard, very hard!
It is not taught per se.
The 4 top kids at maths were given it, ds1 was left out as he has a very hefty GCSE course load compared to others
( doing Art and Mandarin) but he asked and they included him.

MIFLAW Thu 14-Jan-10 13:33:12

Went to Oxford in 1992 and did the entrance exam for Modern Languages.

My impression then was GCSEs didn't really count for much either way, as long as you had the requisite passes for matriculation (maths, English, a science and a foreign lang at A-C, I believe, but do check - 14 years is a long time).

To a lesser extent, your choice of A levels only mattered insofar as there were 3 "proper" subjects, potential for high grades, you were shit hot on the subject(s) you were actually going to study and you had a good interview.

I'm sure now that a Fellow will tell me that's all wrong and I got in because someone liked my tie ...

MIFLAW Thu 14-Jan-10 13:34:38

They always said, too, that having three A levles that were a good "fit" with each other (eg not woodwork, pony trekking and Ancient Greek) made you a better candidate, but then school teachers say a lot of things.

snorkie Thu 14-Jan-10 14:53:53

Piffle, the Japanese is something she wants to do (not sure exactly why, but she does tend to be drawn to different and rather non-conformist subjects). She signed herself up to the classes nearly a term late and has worked really hard to catch up with the others - I've not seen her so fired up about anything for a while. I actually think it may be more suited to her than French as it seems to be a very phonetic, rule-based language whereas French is very irregular. The Japanese seems to be well taught and she has a good raport with the teacher also.

The maths sounds good - wish my ds had the opportunity to do it, he is spending this year treading water in maths again (but looking forward to starting A level maths + f. maths next year).

senua Thu 14-Jan-10 15:14:58

MIFLAW: you are out of date on Languages. Since a Language is no longer compulsory at KS4, a lot of schools have dropped Language GCSEs. The ones who have kept Languages tend to be Grammar, independent or leafy suburb. Oxbridge has therefore been bounced into having to drop the requirement, lest they appear elitist.

PixieOnaLeaf Thu 14-Jan-10 15:17:37

My brother in law interviews for one of the big Oxbridge colleges.

He says that GCSEs should not be taken for 'Oxbridge purposes' and instead should be taken because the pupil is enthusiastic and enjoys learning them.

Increasingly, he says, they are looking for students who can bring something else to the University: many students achieve three 'As' and, although it is something to be proud of, it is no longer something which gives such immediate access.

He looks for students who look at the world with a different perspective, have created lots of opportunities for themselves and relish the challenge of going to a good University.

He says that he can often tell who has applied for Oxbridge because they think it is prestigious and only want to attend to add prestige to their CV and those whose lifelong love of learning has guided them towards Oxbridge as it is the right place for them. He would rather meet a student who has come to this realisation later than 'someone who has been groomed and prepared for the interview since the age of four.'.

Just thought you might be interested grin!

MIFLAW Thu 14-Jan-10 16:21:27

There you go, I stand corrected.

I would still be surprised if Oxbridge cared overly much about GCSE options, though, unless every single one was in pony trekking, tagging and retail studies.

bruffin Thu 14-Jan-10 19:03:10

"he looks for students who look at the world with a different perspective"

That's what DS's teachers say about him and why his science teacher feels he would be a good candidate.

PixieOnaLeaf Sat 16-Jan-10 18:34:40

And, yet again, I kill the thread grin!

sarah293 Sat 16-Jan-10 18:52:31

'I can't remember the figure but there is a sort of benchmark for GCSE at Oxbridge (something along the lines of at least 6 A grade)'

Doesn't seem to be the case. dd only has 6 GCSE's and one is a C and she has been offered a place at Cambridge. They went on the essays she submitted and her interview and the fact se spent years being home edded. She interviews well.

PixieOnaLeaf Sat 16-Jan-10 20:31:05

Riven, well done to your DD - what does she want to read?

There are all sorts of myths flying around about Oxbridge - what they do and don't do, what will give you the 'edge', that if you begin preparing early enough, you are bound to get a place. 'Tis all rubbish.

If you are a good candidate, then they will offer you a place, if you aren't, they won't. Simple as.

sarah293 Sat 16-Jan-10 20:33:08

English.
Why is is 'reading' at Oxbridge but 'taking' everywhere else?

PixieOnaLeaf Sat 16-Jan-10 20:44:38

Personally, I'd say 'reading' for anywhere - my friend's son is 'reading' Maths at Leeds. I don't know why other people make the distinction.

sarah293 Sun 17-Jan-10 09:47:08

I'd never heard it until I was visiting Oxford and someone asked me what I'd 'read' at university. I said books blush in a puzzled way so dh explained what it meant.
Then ha dot own up to going to a Poly grin

arionater Sun 17-Jan-10 12:44:12

NL3 - the list looks fine. I work at one half of "Oxbridge" at the moment and was at the other one until recently; I've interviewed at both and I can't remember ever querying a GCSE subject choice in itself, and certainly not for someone doing a good range with plenty of strong academic choices in there. We are aware that how many GCSEs people take, and how "academic" the options are is often determined by the school, so we try not to judge by it if to do so would be unfair.

What does matter is the grades he gets in them: almost all candidates have all As/A*s at GCSE and either have or are predicted all As at A-levels. That doesn't mean you can't get in with the odd GCSE B or C in a less relevant subject - that's what interviews and so on are for - but it is noted. (And again, placed in the context of a school - an Etonian with a single B and only a few A*s is, obviously, a much dodgier candidate than someone with less good grades from a much less good school.)

In short: 'soft' subjects can work against you at A-level, where you only have a few to choose, but I really wouldn't worry about it at GCSE. It matters more that he enjoys it and that his interest in his subjects leads to him reading around, thinking about how subjects connect, etc.

gramercy Sun 17-Jan-10 18:08:11

But to get to the nitty gritty, would, say, 6 As and 2Bs in traditional 'difficult' subjects trump 8 As including subjects such as Computing, Dance and Citizenship?

I have the fear that all the admissions department sees is the 8As.

(I know now people do up to 13 GCSEs - in my day there was a limit of 8 O Levels.)

loungelizard Sun 17-Jan-10 21:07:59

I would imagine the traditional subjects would definately trump the 'soft' subjects.

I don't think the admissions dept just see the 8 As or whatever, but, as said before, they do take into account the schools attended, ie some schools may not offer enough traditional subjects for a pupil to get 8 A/A*s in them.

My DCs' school is very successful in getting pupils to Oxbridge and as far as I can see the Oxbridge colleges are scrupulously fair in their admissions procedures.

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