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.

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 13:55:35

I suppose there cant be any coursework/controlled assessment in IGCSEs, can there? I mean how wouldyou do it for students abroad?

Yellowtip Thu 24-Jan-13 14:03:12

The opportunity to take modules was a notable and distinguishing feature up until now gelo, is what I meant.

Interesting that you say RE is easy because there's no coursework smile

gelo Thu 24-Jan-13 14:22:29

Oh yes iGCSEs are all linear but old recent GCSEs weren't (but very old ones were). I think for coursework there is always an alternative option for genuine foreigners in iGCSE, but I'm not sure that there are no teacher assessment alternatives at all. Some things just lend themselves to being done in school (science practicals, spoken english or mfl, geog fieldwork etc), but GCSE seems to have taken controlled assessment much further than the obvious bits - eg: written mfl and English essay based tasks.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 24-Jan-13 14:50:32

The GCSE curriculum has changed. THe current year 10 cohort onwards will be predominantly exams at the end.

gelo Thu 24-Jan-13 17:53:53

TiP I know, that's why I said old recent. Modular GCSEs didn't last very long at all.

DS did IGCSEs and had extra exams for French and Science to cover parts which would have been done by a controlled assessment otherwise, so I think in UK schools there will normally be some element of coursework/controlled assessment in those subjects at least. But it is certainly minor in comparison with what some GCSEs have been like in the past few years.

DS was in UK but was an external candidate for the exams, as he was home educated / internet school at the time, so controlled assessment was not possible.

senua Thu 24-Jan-13 21:15:08

After he's done all the core stuff (Eng x2, maths, science x3, MFL) there are only three choices left.

That's no longer 'core'. It would be an idea to include a humanity to cover the EBac

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 21:30:25

senua that's interesting.

Do you think universities are paying attention to Mr Gove's Ebac? We were pretty much told to ignore it by both DCs schools.

wordfactory Thu 24-Jan-13 21:35:43

I should say as an aside that I think the principle of a humanity is sound. I just think Gove's definition of a humanity is a little narrow.

gelo Thu 24-Jan-13 22:24:49

I don't think the Ebacc counts for very much at all wordfactory, but your ds may want to choose History anyway since it appeared on all but one of his lists and it might be a useful A level if he enjoys it. I suggest that History, RS and Latin would probably be the easiest and least risky set of the ones listed (like you I'm slightly sceptical of doing a language from scatch in 2 years, especially with 2 other languages already being studied - I'm sure it's possible, but the likelihood of getting a lower grade is greater).

senua Thu 24-Jan-13 23:00:05

Do you think universities are paying attention to Mr Gove's Ebacc?

Well it's not "'Mr Gove's Ebacc" as such, that you get to impress others. More it's the "broad education" that you hope a fairly academic child would get, for its own worth.
Long before the phrase EBacc came into existence, our local comp used to recommend:
Eng Eng Sci Sci Maths then
a humanity
a language
a tech and
an art

overthemill Fri 25-Jan-13 08:55:57

Chopchopbusybusy, not trying to scaremonger!

cambridge DON'T specify anything about GCSEs at the moment, but when we looked for eldest dd 2 years ago it was a requirement and for ds in yr 12 now when he looked a year ago after GCSEs it was. They now say:

" a potential Oxford applicant has a GCSE profile which is strong overall (i.e. contains a large majority of A and A* grades)"

which I am really pleased about. To check, as you made me worry we had it wrong I randomly selected some Oxford courses and this what they say:

"we could not be optimistic about your chances of gaining a place at Oxford if you do not have a high percentage for A* and A grades at GCSE"

"usually 70% of GCSE grades are A*"

ds hopes to do maths or engineering. dd13 hopes to do zoology

this is useful place to start

btw re Edinburgh - eldest dd went all the way to Edinburgh for an open day, was told by first tutor she met that she couldn't be offered a place as she didn't have 8 A* and was astonished to learn that it wasn't on any of the open day material sent out by them - total waste of time and money. Her grandad who is a graduate and a donor was well p*****d off! She is at a Russell Group Uni and really enjoying it.

wordfactory Fri 25-Jan-13 09:48:00

That's interesting senua about those recommendations.

DS school basically said after the core subjects (eng, maths, science, MFL), the pupils should feel free to choose exactly what they wanted from an admittedly not extensive list.

Yellowtip Fri 25-Jan-13 10:40:19

overthemill it's rubbish that you need 8A* at Oxford to 'get a look in'. The average for Medicine is different. Other than that what you say is bunkum, with the caveat that those getting interview offers are likely to be clever kids who've achieved well. For a start pre-tests are used for a great many subjects and put into the mix with A* and for another start it depends on the school at which at applicant sat GCSEs. It's not helpful to quote tiny bits of a website out of context.

Yellowtip Fri 25-Jan-13 10:42:22

Besides which 'a high percentage of A* and A grades at GCSE' is not in any way the same as 'a minimum of 8A* is necessary to even get a look in'.

overthemill Fri 25-Jan-13 11:49:16

yellowtip I can't quite understand why you are so cross with me. I am simply stating what we found to be true when looking for our dcs. It's very competitive and that is what we found. I am pleased they now say * majority/ 70%* rather than quote an exact number like Edinburgh did. For us it means ds probably won't get in and it's made dd13 think very hard about her choices.

Incidentally, dh who went to oxford in late 70 s is a bit shocked as he got low o level grades.

Yellowtip Fri 25-Jan-13 13:06:51

I'm not cross in the least, just a bit wearied at rubbish about minimum number of A* for Oxford being played over and over again.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 25-Jan-13 13:16:21

DCs school is an academy converter. Since they stopped having the LEA looking over their shoulder they have utterly gone off the boil.
Languages down from 5 to 2
And now it looks like they are going to drop Latin as an option as its "too hard to timetable"
Am very tempted to report them to Ofsted and the Dfe for backsliding.

Suffolkgirl1 Fri 25-Jan-13 16:34:29

"DS did IGCSEs and had extra exams for French and Science to cover parts which would have been done by a controlled assessment otherwise, so I think in UK schools there will normally be some element of coursework/controlled assessment in those subjects at least."

DS is doing iGCSE's in all sciences in an English school. Definitely no controlled assessment but a practical paper as part of the final exam in year 11.

Xenia Fri 25-Jan-13 19:19:59

I think where possible do both history and geography for a broad education.

On the Ebac I just noticed in today's Times and league tables and my local comp has 8% of children getting it (in other words doing a good range of core subjects) and about 80 - 100% with the private schools. Amazing difference.

Yellowtip Fri 25-Jan-13 19:34:58

Agree. My seven eldest have all done/ are doing hist and geog.

MordionAgenos Fri 25-Jan-13 19:45:10

DD1 is doing both hist and geog for GCSE and has chosen them in her A level options too. That having said, I did history O and A level but I didn't do geography past the 3rd year and I really don't think there is much wrong with the breadth of my education.

wordfactory Fri 25-Jan-13 19:53:27

Both my DC have chosen history but neither fancies geography.

GCSEChaos Fri 25-Jan-13 20:59:30

At the GCSE stage IMO the student is starting to show their preference.

The 'free' options allow the student to indicate which direction they might take at A level (without making that direction compulsory). The linguist would want to have an extra MFL. The politician would probably want an extra humanity.

Choosing an extra MFL or an extra humanity or whatever will not force the student down one route or another.

SanityClause Fri 25-Jan-13 21:09:26

Look at the requirements for A levels or IB.

For example, at DD1's school, you don't need GCSE History to do A Level or IB history. You don't need three sciences to study three sciences at A level/IB. You don't need IGCSE Further Maths to do A level /IB Further Maths..... You get the picture.

His core subjects should cover just about everything he wants to do. The only exceptions are things like Drama and Art and MFL, where a progression of knowledge is needed.

So, he should do the subjects 1. he likes and 2. he is best at.

circular Fri 25-Jan-13 21:17:31

Just wanted to echo what SanityClause says.

Having looked at many sixth forms in the last few weeks, for History and RS there is no GCSE requirement of same subject. A few wanted any humanity, all a B in English Language. For Geography, some insisted on GCSE, others any humanity.

So could be closing that door by not taking Geography, depending on school.

Xenia Fri 25-Jan-13 21:47:50

I'm surprised a school would allow someone to do an a level in something they didn't do at GCSE.

I did history and geography and so did all the older children except one who didn't do history and later she said she wished she had done it so I will encourage the younger ones to do both as they will only do one language.

Kathy420 Fri 25-Jan-13 22:51:25

Gcse options lead to A level options and a levels lead to uni. Also, history sucks.

Yellowtip Fri 25-Jan-13 23:31:13

Even in my day I could do History at A level having not done it at GCSE.

Yellowtip Fri 25-Jan-13 23:34:01

Lots of ways to skin a cat Mordion but hist and geog are a pretty good way, especially where options are limited.

MordionAgenos Fri 25-Jan-13 23:39:17

I'd certainly prefer a child of mine to do geog than media studies or PE or business studies (to take 3 examples). But if, say, Latin was an alternative then I'd prefer that, without a shadow of a doubt. DD1 thinks geog is great though, so what do I know!

History, though, is absolutely vital for any educated civilized person.

glaurung Sat 26-Jan-13 00:11:00

You can easily become knowledgeable in history through reading without taking exams in it. Far moreso than geography. I never did history beyond yr 9 and neither did my dc though we all did geography. I don't feel our education suffered. We all chose other subjects, an extra language, science or another humanity and were all happy with our choices.

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 00:21:07

I think you should let him do what he wants to do, cut the least useful subject I guess.

Xenia Sat 26-Jan-13 19:24:44

Also if you look at the 1940s subjects grammar school children did for school certificate they were english lang, english lit, maths, a language, history , geog and a couple or 2 sciences and probably RE. Those are really good basic GCSEs to have even in 2013 in my view and just about what my siblings did and all my children. LInguists do more than one language and potential doctors etc make sure they do 3 sciences.

DontEvenThinkAboutIt Sat 26-Jan-13 19:47:24

It doesn't matter. Let him choose based on what he enjoys, which teachers he likes and even, what his mates are doing.

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 19:57:53

If your child is an all-rounder it probably doesn't matter and a wide choice will be best, but as Xenia says, if you've got a budding doctor, make sure he has the 3 sciences.

Mine was artistic - turns out that she's doing brilliantly in sciences and very badly in art and music.

I'd say take as many extras as you can.

MissMarplesThong Sun 27-Jan-13 10:06:16

I think you have to be careful of harking back to some sort of theoretical golden age of education and trying to replicate that. The syllabuses for all subjects have changed markedly.

The best thing is for your DS to look at the actual content and ask himself if that is what he wants to study for two years.

In subjects like History & Geography there is no time to study the whole subject to great depth. Instead the syllabus tends to focus on a small number of topics. If the topic is of interest then fine but if not the subject could be a trying bore!

Xenia Sun 27-Jan-13 11:40:04

The golden age was only those very few chidlren who did do school certificate. In the UK in 2013 half of children cannot pass 5 GCSEs. The average IQ is 100. Clearly for some children my grammar school list and indeed the list most academic private school children do is not going to be right for all children.

However I do get concerned that some schools do not explain that most bright children do in essence something similar to my list in the best schookls, employers expect to see that and if instead your list has only 2 or 3 academic subjects and then a lot of software ones you have problem. My local comp has 8% of children doing 5 core GCSEs in the traditional subjects. I had thought they had got better recently than the 34% A - C at GCSE they usually obtain (and isn't London supposed to be doing much better in state schools these days too....)... now I can see why - they are all doing childcare, tourism and motor mechanics GCSEs - but that 8% might be absolutely fine. They may well mostly have an IQ of 90 and the fact they are getting any exams at all could be a huge achievement.

MordionAgenos Sun 27-Jan-13 11:58:06

The thing that continues to amaze me is the new orthodoxy that all bright kids have to do 3 sciences.

MissMarplesThong Sun 27-Jan-13 12:30:28

There has been quite a lot of change in the last year. As I understand it there has been a review of equivalences which means that there is less advantage to schools or students to go down the BTEC route simply to acquire a high GCSE equivalency count.

However, BTECs may be exactly the right thing for study of a more practical topic where a theoretical study would be inappropriate.

My DS is going through GCSE selection now. The school is very low performing (3000/4000 in the good times 3800/4000 in the bad times which are now). This school does differentiate the initial subject offerings to students depending on current achievement and assessment of academic potential. Academic students are guided more to academic subjects, less academic students are directed to more practical subjects.

However, this is guidance only. Students are allowed to go against that guidance if they can explain their reasoning and where appropriate make commitments.

I have known a number of very academic students do a very non-academic subject as a kind comic relief from all the heavyweight study. Adding a subject done for fun to a strongly academic range does no harm.

gelo Sun 27-Jan-13 13:06:33

Agree mordion triple science isn't necessary for anything (unless your sixth form is one of the rare ones that insists on it for science A levels). And especially if children are going to do slightly fewer GCSEs with the new terminal rules it means children are less likely to do an extra language or humanity which are just as valuable (if not more so) imo.

Yellowtip Sun 27-Jan-13 14:56:34

Adding a subject for light relief not only does no harm but is actually a very good thing MissMarples but I disagree a little with your suggestion that students generally keen on History or Geography should ditch the idea if the particular subjects in the syllabus don't immediately grab their interest - that shows a rather closed mind. The chances are that, given a decent teacher, they'll find almost any topics pretty interesting once they get into them. The decent teacher caveat is pretty crucial though I suppose.

exexpat Sun 27-Jan-13 15:09:41

I think the syllabus does matter in history and geography. I did history o-level and hated it: we studied nothing after 1840. History then formed a fairly substantial part of my degree, but that was history of countries and eras I was interested in.

DS is lucky that his history course is all 20th century, as he is very interested in modern politicial issues, and many of them arise out of 20th century history (admittedly, some of the roots are even older). If he had to spend half his time studying the tudors, he would hate it. And when it comes to geography, he loves the human/political geography side of things, does extra reading etc, but even his excellent teacher can't get him to be enthusiastic about erosion and glaciers.

MissMarplesThong Sun 27-Jan-13 15:18:09

Yellowtip, while I agree that the decision shouldnt be a shallow one it is well worth looking into the syllabus to see what will be studied. The decision shouldnt be made on the basis of what mum/dad/grandma studied under the banner of a subject title.

If the choice is Geography or History in the core subjects (this is how my DCs school does it) then choose the one that sounds most interesting. In my DCs school there is a high turnover of staff which has a knock on effect in teaching effectiveness.

Yellowtip Sun 27-Jan-13 15:21:48

Of course it's better if you're interested in the particular narrow topic in the first place but not doing the subject at all because it's not immediately appealing is another. I guess it might indicate insufficient interest in the subject as a whole though, so on that basis perhaps give it a miss.

MissMarplesThong Sun 27-Jan-13 15:25:06

That is interesting exexpat my DS was the precise opposite. He was all up to study Geography when he thought he would be studying earthquakes and deserts but lost all interest when he found out that it was human/political Geography!

Yellowtip Sun 27-Jan-13 15:26:06

That's very bad luck if you have a high turnover of staff Marples. If it's either/or, again perhaps that's different. But I'm not quite sure what you mean when you say a 'decision shouldn't be made on the basis of what mum/dad/grandma studies under the banner of a subject title' confused. Why does what mum/dad/grandma did have anything to do with it?

Yellowtip Sun 27-Jan-13 15:27:39

Surely all GCSE Geography students do both? (mine did).

seeker Sun 27-Jan-13 15:31:22

Going against the grain here- is he interested in doing a Tec subject?

MissMarplesThong Sun 27-Jan-13 15:37:10

Sorry Yellowtip, what I meant was actually check the syllabus rather than making the decision on the basis of what mum/dad/grandma say will be studied under a subject title.

Nicolajr20 Sun 27-Jan-13 16:28:00

My daughter is pretty bright and also loves her sport. Is there any downside come uni application time if she takes PE, as long as the rest of her subjects are the more traditional ones?

webwiz Sun 27-Jan-13 16:37:24

Nicolajr20 - DD2 did Dance GCSE and I'm sure it didn't make the slightest bit of difference to her university application.

DontEvenThinkAboutIt Sun 27-Jan-13 17:04:29

Dance, PE etc are great GCSE's if you are also doing the normal academic subjects even for top Uni's. I haven't seen any evidence or suggestion otherwise.

(happy to be corrected as always, ...... but really sure that's the correct info)

exexpat Sun 27-Jan-13 17:09:14

Yellowtip - yes, I think all geography GCSEs involve both physical and human geography, even though both my DS and MissMarples' DS might wish otherwise. Unfortunately the A-level seems to be 50/50 too, which will probably put DS off taking it, even though the human side of it is pretty much his favourite subject, and might be highly relevant to some degree courses he might be interested in.

webwiz Sun 27-Jan-13 17:22:40

Yes DontEvenThinkAboutIt DD2 had 10 other "traditional" academic GCSEs including two languages so a bit of dancing about as light relief was a good thing.

Xenia Sun 27-Jan-13 18:13:12

The problem with doing a load of the softer GCSEs on top of 8 or 9 core ones is the extra work. I think PE is not just throwing a few balls around. it may be a load of extra learning and it may detract from your marks in the core GCSEs. If you ge AAA in PE, drama and cooking but that means you get CCC in English, maths and French that's a huge risk.

Yellowtip Sun 27-Jan-13 18:31:33

Our school requires all students to take the same number of GCSEs (used to be 11, now 12), so with each DC I've suggested Art or Drama as a subject to take to get away from the ordinary classroom setting for a change. Only one of seven DC hasn't done that (wanted to do German instead).

seeker Sun 27-Jan-13 18:31:44

Certainly dd's Art GCSE was her most time-demanding. But I think it's a good idea to have a hinterland.

Abra1d Sun 27-Jan-13 18:39:17

Both mine are doing IGCSEs and have no controlled assessments at all. Everything is oriented towards the final exams at the end of Year 11.

They both do double, not triple, science, as they have been told that the double IGCSE award easily covers enough for them to go on to do science A levels if they wish. My daughter might do just this, as she is still considering medicine, but doesn't want to miss out on a humanities subject by doing the triple award.

Abra1d Sun 27-Jan-13 18:40:49

I agree about doing one artistic/musical/whatever GCSE. If you have a stack of other 'hard' subjects it doesn't do you any harm at all and might actually benefit your other subjects by encouraging creativity and imagination, stimulating other parts of your brain.

Pyrrah Sun 27-Jan-13 18:53:04

If it were my child:

History - definite
Latin - definite as he has included it on every list

Third one is the tricky one:

Spanish - very useful, MFL GCSEs are pretty easy and is handy alongside the Latin.

RE - if the syllabus is interesting to him then this could be a nicer softer option.

Ancient Greek - tricky one. The grammar is very different from that in Latin (bit like difference between Italian and German) so while the two go well together if you want to go on to do Classics, they aren't mutually helpful in the way Latin/Spanish are.

(I did AG and Latin myself - Latin and Ancient History to A' Level so basing some of my thoughts on this)

What is the other MFL he's studying? French?

None of them are bad choices (all good solid subjects) - if the RS is more about philosphy, ethics and world religions then I might pick that, if it's like the old O' level which was a case of memorising the NT then I wouldn't.

gelo Sun 27-Jan-13 18:57:19

I know several students who have regretted PE because it has given them a lower result than their other subjects - all A*/A with a B or lower in PE seems to be a not uncommon result. Even really sporty dc sometimes get lower grades than they expect as they need to have 4 sports and they have often specialised in just one.

On the one hand I'd say that universities/employers would probably look at that and not really care because the low result was 'only' PE, but it does mean that for competitive courses that demand a set percentage of A* for example, a child might fail an initial sieve?

I also know one parent whose dd did PE and got a slightly lower result than most of the rest who is pleased they did it though as it kept the child active for two years longer than they would otherwise have been. Girls in particular often drop out of sport as soon as they can if they don't have a reason to keep it up.

DontEvenThinkAboutIt Sun 27-Jan-13 18:59:16

It is true about extra workload being a consideration. All GCSE's require work grin. My DS did design tech which he found very easy but it definitely required plenty of work.
Art, photography, drama etc etc take time.

It is better to have fewer excellent grades than a huge string of OK ones. As a general rule, if you have 8-10 excellent grades then you will be in a very good position.

MissMarplesThong Sun 27-Jan-13 19:34:35

So much depends on the student, their motivation and ability.

My oldest was academic so chose a string of academic GCSEs. For her German was her 'fun' sunject. She did well and has now moved onto A levels.

DS is quite different and is not currently planning to do A levels. His choices are different. He is taking the core academic GCSEs with dual science. For his options he has chosen two different practical BTECs. No way would I try to flog him down a purely academic route.

Nicolajr20 Sun 27-Jan-13 19:39:50

Thanks for all the advice, I'll take few more questions along to her options evening this week and see where we are after that.

Yellowtip Sun 27-Jan-13 20:19:54

Percentage of A* is very niche though gelo.

gelo Sun 27-Jan-13 20:25:22

Agree yellow. And it would be a shame if such considerations put children off taking a non standard subject that they would enjoy, but if it happens to be your niche then it might be advisable?

Yellowtip Sun 27-Jan-13 21:18:35

Not sure gelo. It suggests possibly too narrow a forward plan. I think there's merit in taking each step at a time.

gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 01:24:16

Yes probably yellow. But I do know one ambitious young lady who didn't take drama or music or art gcse in spite of strong parental encouragement to do at least one because she didn't want to risk a lower grade. Her parents still think it was a shame, but she is very happy with her 11 or 12 straight A*s - that's what mattered to her so I suppose it was the right choice for her to take subjects she felt more in control of. I still think it's a shame that some (and I know it's only a few) selection criteria weigh against taking a risk with creative subjects, even though it's probably perfectionist tendencies rather than consideration of admissions criteria that put people off them. At least they are all things you can do as hobbies even without a GCSE.

wordfactory Mon 28-Jan-13 10:10:08

seeker DS didn't choose any art or tec subjects as he is hideously cack handed grin.

Over the weekend he has decided on Spanish!

So his options are History, Latin and Spanish. I think this is wise, but am trying not to show too much enthusiasm in case he changes his mind.

seeker Mon 28-Jan-13 11:27:38

When I'm world dictator, history will be compulsory!

hellsbells99 Mon 28-Jan-13 11:36:44

My DD (now yr11) has taken both Art and Music and they have both been very very time intensive compared to her more academic subjects! She is not choosing to take either at AS level both because of the amount of effort involved and the fact she doesn't want to risk low marks (she is not going to follow either as a career).

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 12:17:18

Music GCSE is academic. The practical element dilutes the academic nature of the discipline no more and no less then the ISAs for physics, chemistry and biology or the speaking and listening tests for MFL.

gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 12:22:05

The thing is with music GCSE is if you are not at a high enough standard on an instrument or voice it's very difficult to score highly on the performance part mordion, and unlike a science ISA it's difficult to improve your grade on that section of the exam in a short space of time.

seeker Mon 28-Jan-13 12:30:27

I do think it's a shame that kids think like this, I really do. I'm glad that dd's school insisted on at least one non academic subject. As I said, I do like a hinterland.

hellsbells99 Mon 28-Jan-13 12:34:58

I would say that music is academic too but as gelo says the standard required is very high. DD is grade 6 in 2 instruments but has been advised by a friend (grade 7) who took A level that all their compositions were marked down and they ended up with lower marks - which is not good when high grades are needed for uni etc.

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 12:40:57

@gelo You only have to be grade 3 level. The maximum they will evaluate at is grade 5. At 15/16. DD2 is grade 5 level singing at 9. It's really not a huge ask. It's just whether the kid wants to do it enough. French speaking and listening is a much much bigger ask. Massively so.

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 12:42:07

@hells well, that can happen in any subject. See the English hoohah last year. That's the risk you take with internally moderated assessments.

gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 12:47:40

Ah mordion, you are a musical family, so grade 3 seems easy to you, but there are lots of dc for whom that is a struggle and for whom performance ability is a key factor when deciding to do music GCSE or not.

seeker Mon 28-Jan-13 12:49:04

But I don't think you would be considering music GCSE unless you were at least grade 3 level, would you?

gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 12:54:13

And french speaking is more or less a memory test these days as you can plan what you are going to say with books/internet/friends and then just learn it. Listening isn't too bad if you are good at guessing either (my dd appears to understand no spoken french at all but gained a high A on that exam, from doing all the past papers she could, studying the mark schemes and knowing the kind of things they might be asking for a few weeks beforehand). She is grade 2 on an instrument and no way could she have gained an even half way decent performance mark if she'd chosen music.

gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 12:56:55

people around grade 2 or 3 do consider music seeker - they ask themselves do I have a realistic chance of getting to ~grade 4 and preferably 5 in the 2 years between making their option choices and taking the exams. They don't always make the right judgement.

DizzyHoneyBee Mon 28-Jan-13 12:58:41

DD is making her choices at the moment. She wants to do medicine at university so is going to go for triple science plus a language (French or German) and then geography and either Fine Art or Music. She can't choose between Fine Art and Music; unlike me she is very good at both (sorry, stealth boast there!), she's got a grade 3 in music already but she enjoys art more.
We've not yet had the options meeting at school (it's next week) but we just had parents evening, I thought they would give out the options sheet then but they didn't.
Any useful websites out there?

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 12:59:22

@gelo Well, music isn't the right choice for everyone, but that doesn't mean it's not academic, which was the thing I was taking issue with. Believe me, sciences aren't the right choice for everyone. Neither is French. grin

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 13:01:53

@gelo - that's because she didn't want to though, isn't it. There is no reason why any child can't get up to grade 3 on an instrument (or singing) by the time they are 15/16. There's no reason why they should, of course - but no reason why they shouldn't.

My DD1 finds the speaking and listening in French almost impossible. Your DD is good at it, but not everyone is. Don't assume that just because your child can do something, everyone can.

hellsbells99 Mon 28-Jan-13 13:23:24

Hi Dizzy. Just a word or caution - Art GCSE has been very very very time consuming (can't emphasise that enough)! The problem with my DD doing both Art and Music is that she wants high grades in both and both subjects are 'never finished' - if you understand what I mean. DD spent the weekend before this last one finishing her art portfolio when she needed to be revising for her 3 science GCSE exams last week. And then she brought more art home at the weekend and has now started her exam prep for art. Her final music composition needs to be finished this week so again lots of work on this. She often stays late in school for both these subjects. BUT she has enjoyed them both smile

DizzyHoneyBee Mon 28-Jan-13 13:26:21

Hi Bells, thanks for that information, its good to hear it from somebody with experience because it's been hard to get objective information from her teachers about it because the last few weeks has been like a sales pitch for DD, all the teachers are telling her how good their subjects are and want her to do them.

seeker Mon 28-Jan-13 13:26:25

gCSE art is loads of work. Loads

hellsbells99 Mon 28-Jan-13 13:28:44

Mordion - I don't think Gove thinks it is academic smile

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 13:29:16

According to DD1's friends, art GCSE is a sisyphean ordeal. Yet, at the same time, they love it. Go figure.

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 13:30:14

@hells and this proves that it is. For he is a nogoodnik. and a knownothingnik. At the same time (impressive array of rubbishness, he displays).

DizzyHoneyBee Mon 28-Jan-13 13:32:56

My DD does art as a hobby and that's what has inspired her to consider it. She might be put off now though because she wants to do Fine Art and it looks like she will have to do art and design instead.

hellsbells99 Mon 28-Jan-13 13:33:21


gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 13:34:18

well dd was actually strongly encouraged by her school music teachers to take it - she didn't because although her theory is excellent she knows she's rubbish at playing (and singing too btw - you should have seen her last singing report - diabolical, and not through lack of trying). She'd have been quite amenable to taking it instead of say RE if she thought she could have achieved well without too much effort, but it was really a non starter for her. Your dd is good at music, please don't assume everyone is. Grade 3 by the way is probably not sufficient to secure a top grade at music.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 28-Jan-13 13:39:05

We've just had the options booklet from DDs school - they recommend to the pupils that they weigh them up considering (in no particular order)

1) what they enjoy (subject itself, not particular teacher)
2) what they get good levels in
3) possible career relevance
3) is it a balanced set of options

The latter includes considering the mix of assessed/exam. Seems like a good set of guidelines.

They do 11 GCSEs - have to do 2xEnglish, Maths, 3xScience, 1MFL and one humanity(Hist, geog or RE) and they are encouraged but not compelled to include a tech and one of art, music or drama.

So, German for the MFL and Geog for the humanity -leaving 3 free options for Electronics, Computer Science and Drama.

Wouldn't suit everyone but seems about perfect for her.smile

One boy we know is determined to be some sort of archaeologist so for him History, Latin and Ancient Greek would be the perfect combo!

Xenia Mon 28-Jan-13 13:39:38

Some of mine did music GCSE but they would all have had 2 grade 8s or 1 8 and 1 7 (three had/have music scholarships). I put myself in for music O level without a single lesson and got an A when I was a teenager but then I'd done grade 8 music theory etc.

I think the main point from the thread is if your child is doing 8 core academic GCSEs by all means do an art/music etc more fun one but realise that will mean extra work, more work than they probably realise and if doing the core 8 is a struggle then do not do the additional ones or only one of them.

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 13:40:25

But gelo, none of that means that music is not academic, it just means that your DD wasn't suited to music gcse. The fact that your DD thought she couldn't get a top grade 'without too much effort' is hardly an argument for it being not academic, is it. I might just as well proclaim that French isn't academic on the basis that my DD1 can't do it.

gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 13:45:57

She'd have been prepared to put a fair bit of effort in as she did with PE if she thought she had a chance to be fair.

No I'm not saying it's not academic, but it's more than just academic - a bit like PE to be honest - 40% academic exam, 60% something else.

MissMarplesThong Mon 28-Jan-13 13:52:48

With some subjects it may be worth looking at the BTEC rather than the GCSE.

My DS will be taking ICT BTEC and Sports BTEC next to his core GCSE subjects. Both of these are practical rather than theoretical. DS plans to build himself a gaming PC and will see if he can include this in the BTEC.

The Sports BTEC does not require proficiency in the chosen sports what it requires is an understanding of what is required for proficiency and where that is or is not being achieved. This is different from the Sports GCSE which requires proficiency.

GreatUncleEddie Mon 28-Jan-13 14:05:35

DS1 is an excellent all rounder but is convinced that only by doing three separate sciences is he "doing science properly". He is an excellent linguist (top of the year in two last year) and a truly excellent essay writer. I think he should do dual science to allow for another mfl or humanity. Does he need to do separate science if he intends to do a science at A level?

GreatUncleEddie Mon 28-Jan-13 14:06:07

He is good at science - he won that prize too.

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 14:07:40

@gelo the performance tasks do not provide 60% of the marks.

gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 14:10:42

I think it's 30% performance and 30% composition? 60% total coursework iirc.

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 14:17:03

Composition is an academic discipline. You don't need to be able to play or sing to do that at all. It doesn't have to be inspired, it doesn't have to be worthy of comparison with Varese or Debussy or Mingus it has to, you know, obey 'the rules' (which are of course arbitrary, made up, and have varied with time, but that's a bit like pretending there are rules in maths for the purposes of O and A level and then pulling the rugs from under the students' feet as soon as they get to uni).

gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 14:30:13

composition is different again, probably more academic. I think dd would have been ok with it, it's only the performance she'd have struggled with. But the exact breakdown of what's academic and what isn't is of little consequence really.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 28-Jan-13 14:30:57

>With some subjects it may be worth looking at the BTEC rather than the GCSE

that assumes the school gives that choice - I'm not sure most do (surely would make timetabling even more of a nightmare to try to accommodate BTEC and GSCE in the same optional subjects)

Eddie - depends who you ask... can you get the curricula for the 3 separate and the double award so you can see what the difference is? Also, does doing the triple take up an extra option? (some schools timetable triple for able students in the same amount of time as double for others)

MordionAgenos Mon 28-Jan-13 14:37:32

@gelo it's of consequence when people are claiming that music isn't an academic subject at GCSE, on the basis apparently that their daughter couldn't have done well in it with little effort. On that basis French is not an academic subject because my daughter isn't going to do well in it with BIG effort.

DizzyHoneyBee Mon 28-Jan-13 14:49:17

Bells, personally I think music would suit DD better as she's quite musical, but she's also artistic, just realised that me having said she does it as a hobby sounds like I am putting her art ability down! I am so not artistic but I reckon she's pretty good it (in a totally PFB way!) grin

hellsbells99 Mon 28-Jan-13 14:56:22

Hi Dizzy. My DD is artistic too - loves music, has always loved art but has found the GCSE quite repetitive. Will get As in both and possibly A*s, but for A level she has said she is doing maths and sciences and that she feels she will cope with them much better as she won't have all her art and music to do! She is planning on continuing with music as a hobby (orchestra, lessons etc) and I think she will always draw/paint as well but only for fun. Good luck with your DD's options - it is not always easy choosing.

hellsbells99 Mon 28-Jan-13 14:57:27

Forgot to say I am rubbish at both art and music - she must belong to someone else!!!

hellsbells99 Mon 28-Jan-13 15:00:20

Also Dizzy, my DD has found both subjects very 'sociable'. They are encouraged to go at lunctimes to do art, compositions etc., and a few of them really enjoy having a good gossip and eating their lunch in there etc.

DizzyHoneyBee Mon 28-Jan-13 16:05:16

Hi Bells, good luck to your DD with her A levels.

hellsbells99 Mon 28-Jan-13 17:12:16

Thanks Dizzy

MissMarplesThong Mon 28-Jan-13 17:31:08

Grimma I agree that not all schools offer the choice of BTEC and GCSE. I was meaning it more as a general point to not automatically discount the BTEC option if available I know that sometimes people do and have probably been guilty of that myself.

gelo Mon 28-Jan-13 19:10:56

Actually mordion I've never said music isn't academic, so I'm not really sure what this is about. All I've said is there's more to it than purely academic stuff, that's not controversial surely? The fact dd might not have wish to expend much effort on a subject has nothing whatsoever to do with its academic nature or otherwise, she's surely not the only child to chose GCSEs based at least in part on what might be easiest for her? That only arose as the part of music that would definitely have cause lots and lots of effort for her was performance and that's what put her off. Composition was also an unknown, I guess you don't know if you'll be any good at that until you've tried. She chose RE and PE instead, RE was fairly straightforward in the end, and PE was loads of effort to get 3 sports up to a reasonable standard, but even so she judged it to be easier than getting 2 or 3 grades higher on her instrument.

GreatUncleEddie Wed 30-Jan-13 14:30:33

Thanks Grimma. It takes three slots as opposed to two. It's a grammar school so all the kids are reasonably able.

RKgsa Thu 28-Feb-13 12:30:51

Info from school heads here about GCSE options choices. Might be helpful.

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