how many GCSEs? How does doing 8 (rather than 9, 10, 11 etc) affect UCAS entry?

(39 Posts)
Majorca Sun 18-Apr-10 21:13:29

If anyone gets a sense of deja vu on reading this, that is probably because I think I've asked a similar question a couple of years ago! But as I keep reading reports that it is getting ever harder to get in to university, hope people don't mind if I ask again, in case things have changed.

Does anyone have up to date experience of how many GCSEs universities require applicants to have (whether as a formal requirement or as an 'in practice you don't get in without them' type of thing)?

Dd is deciding how many GCSEs to take; I am all for encouraging her to reduce the workload and just do 8 so that she can concentrate on those. But is 8 "too few" for UCAS applications - particularly these days, given reports of increasing shortages of university places? I wonder if it varies between Russell Group-type and non-Russell Group universities - not suggesting that dd will definitely apply to RG places, but I just wonder whether doing only 8 will limit her options drastically?

If anone has any advice, would be most grateful,

Piffle Sun 18-Apr-10 21:22:41

Hi
my son is at a grammar ( Lincolnshire not south east) and yr11 he will have done a total of 13 ( 2 are half course RE and IT) and one a twilight course Mandarin Chinese
my son is extremely able and most boys at his school do 8-10 on average
I think whatever ensures the highest marks though is better

Piffle Sun 18-Apr-10 21:23:50

Oh and he is aiming for Imperial/ Cambridge

sockadoodledo Sun 18-Apr-10 21:32:19

8 seems a bit low maybe, though a lot of them are often filler ones.
my kids did 9 decent gcses(4 options, 2 science, 2 english, maths) then the RE, citizenships, gen studies blah blah
If you're doing triple science then that only leaves 3 other subjects which doesnt seem many. Bright kids can def cope with more I'd say.

BUT as long as she gets her good grades in maths and english then thats all unis normally insist on.
Of course, the more competitive unis will expect a string of A*s but if all her subjects are proper ones and she does well I don't think it would be a big deal.

I'm no oxbridge mum though so god knows if thats right.

Majorca Sun 18-Apr-10 21:32:44

Thanks Piffle - interesting that some do 8 at your son's school. Is there any particular reason why the ones doing 8 don't do 9 or 10; or any perception about effect on UCAS applications?
(Not suggesting that everyone will be applying to university by the way, just wondering if the teachers there give any advice on how many to take?).

southeastastra Sun 18-Apr-10 21:35:13

i would hope universities take more into consideration than how many gcses a kid takes.

er a levels surely count for summat. and what sort of school they attend

Majorca Sun 18-Apr-10 21:40:06

I cross posted sockadoodle! DD will be doing dual science - the others will be 'academic' ones (assuming music counts as an academic subject - I think it does).

You're right, 8 is definitely fewer than many seem to take - question is whether UCAS are more interested in the grades or the numbers (obviously the real answer will be that they're interested in both! but is it better to have 8 slightly better or 9 slightly worse grades?)

MagicMountain Sun 18-Apr-10 21:41:23

I work in admissions (Russell Group) and only look at the GCSEs when the later qualifications are non-standard (studies disrupted for whatever reason, for example). I wouldn't be looking at the quantity, either, but the spread and to be sure the maths/English passes are in order. Hope that helps.

webwiz Sun 18-Apr-10 21:45:24

I think 10 seems a good number (a nice round figure!) both DD's have 10 full GCSEs and a short course one in ICT. DD1 is in her first year at university and she didn't have any problem getting offers. DD2 is in year 12 and she is aiming for Oxford/Durham/Bristol the fact that she has 10 good GCSEs will hopefully get her over the first hurdle.

I think universities like to seem a reasonable number of GCSEs taken in one go to show that kids can cope with the workload.

Ponders Sun 18-Apr-10 21:45:41

My kids went to selective grammar & 10 was the minimum.

I suppose 8/8 A* might look better than eg 5/10 A* + 5/10 A/B (or whatever) but there's no indication in a student only doing 8 of how well they can cope with academic pressure.

Majorca Sun 18-Apr-10 21:53:52

Thanks all!
When you say the spread MM, is it a problem if you haven't done a foreign language, or is that quite common now? Interesting that you don't look at GCSEs at all except in non-standard circs - I had got the impression that there are some universities that basically set a minimum number of A/A* GCSEs requirement for most applicants. But it sounds as though that isn't the case and if ASs are good, that is enough?

MagicMountain Sun 18-Apr-10 22:16:41

I'm in an arts subject, Majorca, so that's what I'd look at and I imagine it would be similar for sciences etc. I don't look for a foreign language. The A levels are the main thing ...tbh with so many applications to process there is just not the time to um and aah about GCSEs (how many, what subjects).

snorkie Mon 19-Apr-10 00:14:02

10 is the norm here. Does she know what she might want to study later? If it's something uber-competitive like medicine or law, then maybe universities might wonder why she did just 8, particularly if 9 or 10 is normal at her school. However, if the reason she wants a reduced load is because she's doing something else that's very time consuming like top level sport or somesuch, then I suspect universities would expect a reduced number and adjust any expectations accordingly.

Majorca Mon 19-Apr-10 08:41:33

Thanks again! I don't think dd likely to be applying for the most competitive subjects, though then again it sounds as though they are all v competitive at the moment!
The point about univs wanting to see if students can cope with workload is interesting - though I suppose if you do the usual 4AS s (and then 3As) that might allay those concerns to some extent?

snorkie Mon 19-Apr-10 12:38:26

I know Durham & Cambridge, maybe some others do 'score' GCSE results for applicants & also sometimes adjust the score according to the school results where they were taken.

Their scoring systems are not capped but you only get points for As and A*s, so 10As would score higher than 8As, but 8As and 2Bs would be no higher than 8As. So taking more subjects might or might not increase your score (& could decrease it possibly as well). Info on Cambridge admissions here (Assessment of GCSE scores is about 2/3 of the way down).

But unless you know how these scores are used in making offers relative to other info, as well as whether you dd is likely to score higher, lower or the same if she takes more subjects that doesn't really help.

snorkie Mon 19-Apr-10 12:40:48

LSE are reputed to make a lot of use GCSE results to filter applicants by the way, and they also insist on a foreign language unless you attended a school that doesn't offer them (in which case you have to study one when you are there).

snorkie Mon 19-Apr-10 13:01:07

from Durham website...

"This (contextualised GCSE score) is only one of a number of items of information used when assessing merit and potential and is only likely to be considered by departments where GCSE achievement is required to differentiate between applicants. Typically these are departments that receive many more very high quality applications than places available. The following departments have used this information in making admissions decisions in the 2008/9 admissions cycle: Anthropology, Biological Sciences, Combined Honours, Economics, Education Studies, Engineering, English Studies, Geography, History, Law, Modern Languages, Natural Sciences, Physics, PPE, Sport and Theology."

sarah293 Mon 19-Apr-10 13:04:42

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stickylittlefingers Mon 19-Apr-10 13:25:57

If you are looking at a prestigious university in a reasonably competitive subject, there will be lots of (often independent school, but not always) candidates with "perfect" 9, 10, 11+ A*s at GCSE. If you turn up with 8 A*s, you are going to have to convince the admissions tutor that this is worthy to compete with these other people. Admissions tutors can only deal with what's in front of them.

Quite a few of the university websites set out, in general and for specific subject areas, what the requirements would be.

lazymumofteenagesons Mon 19-Apr-10 13:49:54

DS1 has 10 GCSEs one of which is art. he has been offered places on 2 of the degree courses at Durham (Anthropolgy and Combined Honours) mentioned in Snorkie's post. 8 maybe short by 1 just in case they want 8As, it doesn't give you any leeway. I do feel that 12 or 13 is completely unnecessary. However, the 8 should be traditional academic subjects (music included).

Majorca Mon 19-Apr-10 14:06:34

Thanks so much for all responses - this is really helpful.

Dd won't get an A in the one she drops (well obviously she won't get anything in it if she drops it! but if you see what I mean - more likely to get a C) - so it wouldn't count anyway for those places that only count As and A*s.

Snorkie when you say taking more than 8 could decrease the overall score do you mean that some univs deduct marks for grades less than a certain level? Or is it just that your overall grades in the other 8 may be lower because you're spending some of the time you would have been working on them, working on the 9th instead?

(Not that dd will necessarily be applying to those places anyway, but you never know and don't want to rule anything out.....)

Congrats to your dd1 Riven, she must be really pleased!

Sticky yes a lot of them do set out requirements which is v useful - but as you say in reality there may be lots of applicants with far higher - so I suppose in practice the requirements may be much higher than they appear.

Majorca Mon 19-Apr-10 14:13:48

Just seen your post lmots - you're right, doing 8 may be putting all your eggs in one basket - if one goes horribly wrong, you're then down to seven...
Congrats to your son too - he must be delighted!

snorkie Mon 19-Apr-10 14:22:06

Snorkie when you say taking more than 8 could decrease the overall score do you mean that some univs deduct marks for grades less than a certain level?

No, no, not at all. But if you do more subjects you might spend less time on your other subjects and so achieve lower grades in them than if you had taken fewer iyswim.

So, for example, a child taking 8 subjects might get 8As, whereas if they had taken 10 subjects, the same child might have achieved 7As and 3Bs which would score lower on a system that only counts As and A*s.

Majorca Mon 19-Apr-10 14:31:40

Yes Snorkie that's what I thought (hoped!) you meant - which is precisely why I thought 8 might be better than 9.

(Though I have heard that you can be worse off doing badly in a GCSE than not doing it at all eg it looks worse to have 8 A/Bs and 1 E, than just to have 8 A/Bs (worse in UCAS terms that is - there is always the fact that you might have enjoyed the course, learnt something from it, got useful experience etc, but that is another story!))

EpsonPrinter Mon 19-Apr-10 14:37:29

I don't think it is the quantity of the GCSE's that counts. Surely it is the quality of them. Good maths and English and Science/s possibly a language should see you through.

Once A levels have been done then it is those which count more towards university. I am sure you can get a place at a good uni with 5 good gcses and 3 good a levels.

gramercy Mon 19-Apr-10 14:39:19

What I don't understand is the value attributed to various GCSEs. If someone has, say, 9 A grades (or A*, or A**to the power infinity, or whatever it'll be in the future), does this trump someone who has 8 A grades and 1 B grade, but in "superior" subjects?

snorkie Mon 19-Apr-10 14:48:20

It's an interesting question gramercy, especially with the courses that count as 4 GCSEs but people don't think are really anything like as difficult as that. With the crude scoring system described, then number of A*/As beats quality (or is that only for 'real' GCSEs?), but if they look at the subjects in more detail they might apply some discretion. Depends if they really have time/inclination to look at the subject list in more detail I suppose.

Majorca Mon 19-Apr-10 14:56:06

yes Gramercy that's another interesting variable! The link snorkie posted to admissions info below suggests all GCSEs are scored the same, except that short course ones are excluded altogether.
Epson printer I'm sure you're right that quality is more important - does look as though it's better to get fewer higher grades than more lower ones. (And good A levels, of course!)

snorkie Mon 19-Apr-10 14:58:55

I do think the subject you want to do at university is probably an important GCSE to do well at though. So, if you are applying for history and you have a B grade history GCSE, they'll probably prefer someone else with an A* history grade even if their other GCSEs were slightly worse overall?

I reckon you can over-think this though. Majorca, I reckon it might be better for your dd to do 9 since as lmots says it gives you a bit of leeway if any of the others go pear shaped for any reason (not getting on with the teacher, bad day on the exam, hating the subject etc). I don't think the workload for 9 is likely to make a big impact on the others & she could always drop one part way through the course if it seemed as though it was - it might even be a different one to the one you thought she'd be better off not doing at the start.

EpsonPrinter Mon 19-Apr-10 15:02:18

I have a home educate and mine are doing far less GCSE's than the norm . I also have a ds who has 16 gcse's which just makes me laugh because one subject is 4 and another subject counts for 2 etc.

Going back to my day, generally there were between 7 and 9 subejcts at the grammar school i attended. You were lucky if the super bright gals gained 2 A grades in that lot.

A grade 'c' was perfectly respectable, even from a Grammar school.

Nowadays, it is all talk of how many A* or A's there are and much disappointment with a 'B' which I think is total rubbish.

EpsonPrinter Mon 19-Apr-10 15:07:09

I also need to learn how to write a proper sentence blush

Majorca Mon 19-Apr-10 15:17:50

Yes ep I think your day was similar to mine! - didn't seem to matter in the slightest if you didn't do well in the subjects you weren't going on with. (And 7 was a very respectable number, 10 was pretty unusual, and 11 very much so).

Whereas now people do seem to think that if you get, say, a C at GCSE, it can affect chances of getting into a RG univ.
Though from what I read here it may be that the issue is more that the person with a C has not got enough high grades, rather than that s/he has one low grade. So in other words it's not that getting a C is held against you, but that it doesn't get 'counted' because it isn't an A. (Though I suppose that may be only at the most super-competitive places).

Snorkie I think you're right about overthinking - and perhaps the best thing is to do what feels right to dd, as she's the one doing them! Just don't want to give her wrong/out of date advice...

mjinhiding Mon 19-Apr-10 16:12:20

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tatt Mon 19-Apr-10 17:22:25

wouldn't have thought there was much difference to a university but IME bright children find GSCEs too easy and need extra stimulation. One way to do that is to let them do extra GSCEs or things like music exams.

I'd be worried about what else they were doing!

rightfootfirst Tue 20-Apr-10 09:21:04

To some extent the number of GCSE is less important that how acamedically robust they are, and what grades are achieved,rather then how many - quality vs quantity if you will. Certainly for the very competitive course ie medicine, Unis are looking at GCSE scores - Birmingham are alleged to reject any applicants with less than 8A* for example.
It depends what your dc has in mind for their future; perhaps a talk with a careers advisor? Have alook at 'The student Room ' website too, very informative on course/applicant requrements.

desertmum Wed 21-Apr-10 18:03:48

If your child knows what he/she wants to study at Uni it is worth looking at their requirements now for GCSE's. My DD Has done this - wants Middle Eastern Studie and Arabic - and she knows what she needs to achieve to get into the Unis she's interested in. For instance for ac ouple of Uni's she needs an A in a foreign language at GCSE level, but not at A Level.

Also, Unis are nowadays looking not just at GCSE grades and expected A level grades but extra curricular activities, so 8 good GCSE grades with a solid extra-curricular CV could be better than 9 or 10 good GCSE grades with not a lot to back it up.

Stressful weeks for all of us ahead I think

Good luck

CarGirl Wed 21-Apr-10 18:11:23

dd goes to an academic school and in line with other schools this year are reducing the quantity they are taking I think they are aiming for 9 (or poss 10) of high quality (As and A* tbh) rather than quantity.

violethill Thu 22-Apr-10 07:17:00

It's pretty depressing to read that some top Universities are doing their initial 'sifting' simply by numbers - does an applicant have 8 or 10 top grade GCSEs? I can understand the logistical problems - if you have tens of thousands of applicants, and your initial sorting is done by some office admin person who literally only has a form with numbers to go on.

But still pretty depressing, because GCSEs are definitely not a measure of great intelligence or creativity or anything much really.

I blame the ridiculous notion of sending half the population on to University. In the good old days there were far fewer applicants, far fewer places, and people could be judged properly.

snorkie Thu 22-Apr-10 08:35:38

"GCSEs are definitely not a measure of great intelligence or creativity or anything much really"

I think GCSE results (particularly in science) have been shown to be one of the better predictors of university success actually. A good set of GCSEs across a range of subjects probably does say something about a childs range of analytical skills and work ethic. I agree they shouldn't be looked at in isolation though.

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