Any people who know about admissions - how problematic are GCSEs taken at different times?

(27 Posts)
Sadik Mon 16-Jan-17 21:19:09

Posting here because it came up on this thread that I started regarding dd's class being pushed towards taking maths early. As standard school already takes English & Welsh language GCSEs in yr 10, then lit in yr 11. So dd could realistically end up with 2 GCSEs taken in yr 10, 2 in November yr 11, then 6 or 7 at end yr 11.

I've looked around online to see what I can find, and basically the (in)famous Informed Choices booklet suggests this 'may' be an issue - elsewhere it doesn't seem to be regarded as a big deal. I'd be interested in any further info people on here have. Not that I imagine I've any much chance of changing things with the school, but, y'know, nice to be informed.

(FWIW DD likely to take maths/science A levels probably most likely leading to something maths-y / physics-y, though she is also interested in the life sciences.)

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WyfOfBathe Mon 16-Jan-17 21:28:32

At the school I teach at, students all take 1-2 GCSEs in year 10 and the rest in year 11. We've never had a problem with getting students into good unis (including Oxbridge), and our school is very keen on forcing pushing students to go to university, so I don't imagine that they would do this if it harmed the students' chances.

Sadik Mon 16-Jan-17 21:47:34

Well, that's kind of what I thought, Wyf, but I got a bit twitchy after comments on the other thread. (I'm a bit worried about the maths re-jig, hence why started the thread, but for unrelated reasons.)

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user7214743615 Tue 17-Jan-17 07:53:16

The Informed Choices booklet tries to discourage parents and schools from spreading out exams and taking them early. In practice, it would be very rare for admissions teams to hold a school's choices against a candidate. I don't think that it would never be an issue in maths/physics - where indeed it is quite common for students to have taken maths GCSE or maths A level early. (We don't encourage this but we don't penalise those who have done so.)

For high workload subjects at university (particularly medicine), I think there might be concern about e.g. a home educated student who had taken exams over a very long period and who had never taken a fair number of subjects in a single year. I very much doubt there would be much concern about the GCSE spread of OP.

So overall I don't think university entrance is an issue. The real question is whether taking exams in year 10/early in year 11 gives the student the chance to get their best possible grades. GCSE grades will matter increasingly at the very top places, with the demise of AS.

user7214743615 Tue 17-Jan-17 07:56:15

Sorry, typo: I don't think that it would ever be an issue for maths/physics.

Sadik Tue 17-Jan-17 08:28:16

Thanks, user. I agree about the grades issue (especially in English for my dd) but as you say that's another question.

We're in Wales, so AS levels not decoupled - but whether universities will continue to look at them when they're not available for all applicants, I don't know - I'm guessing maybe not?

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user7214743615 Tue 17-Jan-17 08:43:36

I think the really interesting question is going to be how Welsh grades/content compare to English grades/content. In principle they are meant to be the same/comparable. In practice the English exams are likely to be quite a bit harder and of course the English GCSE grades at the top will be split more by the new numerical scale.

Most courses in any case just offer based on predicted grades, to everyone with grades in the right ballpark. I suspect that for the selective courses there will need to be a period of learning how the Welsh and English qualifications actually compare.


Sadik Tue 17-Jan-17 14:11:54

Well, that is very true. I suspect the whole thing is going to be a hideous carcrash for a few years until it all settles down. Presumably longer term it'll be like Scottish vs English applicants & universities will figure out what they're looking for.
(I assume also that the Welsh govt are hoping that more good students will be inclined to stay at Welsh universities, though it is an utter mystery to me why they don't skew the fee support that way as the Scots do I believe.)

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bojorojo Wed 18-Jan-17 12:11:26

Why is it an advantage for Welsh students to stay at Welsh universitites if, as could be the case, those universities are not the best in the subject the student wants? Or that the student may actually want to branchout into a bigger world? Surely go to the best you can for your subject, rather than stay Welsh? Also, there are now fewer Scottish young people in Scottish universities. There are, however, more foreign students. The funding the universities receive has skewed the intake so be careful what you (or the Welsh Assembly) wish for!

My DD noticed that Welsh students struggled on her MFL course at university. She felt the A levels in Wales were easier and therefore poor prep for university! We also know Wales has a less successful educational system than England so improving the offering to all Welsh pupils would be a start and, for some children, working in two languages really makes life difficult for them. I think it is a shame Wales has not moved in line with England. The cynical in me would suggest that if they did this, the deficiencies would show up even more. (I am not referring to your DC, OP - just a general comment)

Sadik Wed 18-Jan-17 14:28:56

Not an advantage for the student - but for the country! Interesting that the scottish approach hasn't increased the number of students studying at home though.

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fritillery Wed 18-Jan-17 14:42:38

We are in Scotland, and DD will be allowed to take a maximum of 5 5th year exams (Highers). This to my mind means that she will not have had a broad education.
So I've decided to teach her 2 foreign languages at home. As it seems to be practically impossible to take subjects early and on your own in Scotland, she will take GCSEs instead in those subjects. I'm worried as to how universities will treat her taking 2 GCSEs very early, especially as she may want to study foreign languages at uni. Does anyone know?

mumsneedwine Wed 18-Jan-17 18:49:42

Some ask for a certain number to be taken in one sitting and they will only come by those. So if you do maths early it won't count. This is true for a lot of medicine courses this year. Schools do need to stop doing this in my opinion as it's pants. If want to stretch kids do Add maths too

Sadik Thu 19-Jan-17 11:16:41

mumsneedwine - is that from experience applying to unis? It's running a bit counter to the comment upthread that it's very common for maths to be taken early and that it's very unlikely to be an issue in maths/physics courses.

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Peaceandl0ve Thu 19-Jan-17 11:48:26

I am grappling with this issue as we speak. I am not sure i understand the term "certified" see below is an extract from the cardiff uni addmission page for medicine:

Certified GCSE resit results will be considered only if completed within 12 months of the first sitting.
GCSE Dual Award subjects, other than GCSE dual award Science will only be counted as one subject during the overall assessment.
Cardiff University does not formally recognise locally developed GCSE equivalent qualifications for admission to the University and these qualifications will be explicitly excluded from any selection scoring processes for admission to the University.
Applicants who were unable to take 9 GCSEs, ie if the school or college did not allow for an applicant to sit 9 GCSEs, must email medadmissions*@cardiff* to discuss this before making an application.

It really matters because my DSs school is insisting on early entry for maths x2 GCSEs and English x1 GCSE this summer when he is in Year 10.

Sadik Thu 19-Jan-17 11:51:59

It does look like medicine might be more of an issue Peaceandl0ve sad

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mumsneedwine Fri 20-Jan-17 07:15:51

Yes it is from experience - I wrote 62 UCAS references this year as a tutor and have had 3 of my own go to University. One now applying for medicine and so know the rules for that best this year (it changes frequently !). 2 of mine are doing maths and the rules then were you had to have continually studied maths - no gaps. OK to do early entry if then do Add Maths but not if school do no maths. And for the competitive courses they do count the GCSEs from one sitting only - no point getting 3 early if then take 9 as the 3 won't count. It's to show you have the academic rigour to do lots of exams at once

user7214743615 Fri 20-Jan-17 07:46:37

2 of mine are doing maths and the rules then were you had to have continually studied maths - no gaps.

As an academic in maths, I would like to say, as I do repeatedly on this board, that this is just not true.

We can't possibly afford to turn away candidates who have had a gap in studying maths in year 11 because of their school's choices, or who plan to have a gap year. Yes, the very top institutions like Oxbridge and Imperial can be fussy - but even Oxbridge doesn't say a flat no to gap years in maths. (Look carefully at Colleges and ask admissions tutors their views before applying.) Outside the very top institutions maths will take anyone who meets the required grades for the course.

Peaceandl0ve Fri 20-Jan-17 07:53:28

The replies are useful , thanks to all of you.

USER721, I have tried talking to Admissions staff re medicine but they are, quite understandably busy with current applications, interviews, offers etc.

In my experience it is difficult getting them to understand why I am worried so early in my son's GCSEs as he is in year 10, but this is an immediate problem because if the school is going to insist on early entry for 4 out of 11 exams, and one of the remaining (welsh bacc national 2), the issue is real.

mumsneedwine Fri 20-Jan-17 07:55:53

I am talking a few years ago now ! I did say rules change. I can't even show you the rules as the Internet was not as sophisticated then so we relied on paper prospectuses !! But was within the last 10 years and also as medicine has just changed the rules I was mentioning it as a heads up to check. My DS who is doing his PhD now in maths would be happy for anyone to visit him if they are in Oxford - he loves anyone who loves maths

user7214743615 Fri 20-Jan-17 09:16:58

It is a potential issue for medicine. (I said that above.) It is a non-issue for most other subjects.

Even looking over the whole of the last 10-20 years, taking maths early was not advised but was not held against candidates for maths degrees. I myself didn't do maths for years at school and it had absolutely no impact on Oxbridge entrance - wasn't even mentioned.

Peaceandl0ve Fri 20-Jan-17 09:38:31

imwill have to,letmyoumall know how I get on with my discussions at my son's school. It is the first time they have done this blanket early entry thing which I think is why they dont quite understand the issue.

Sadik Fri 20-Jan-17 10:26:13

Yes, do feed back, it'd be great to know what's happening elsewhere. DD definitely not interested in medicine, thankfully, but I'm still not convinced this whole early entry thing is a good idea sad

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bojorojo Fri 20-Jan-17 17:31:45

fritillery. As universities are desperate for MFL students I suggest you look at Oxford and Cambridge entry requirements and what they expect regarding sitting early and numbers plus some other to ten universities. Must other universities are not particularly competitive for MFL and actively want to recruit good students but do check if you may want somewhere ultra competitive.

EnormousTiger Sun 22-Jan-17 19:48:06

The gist of the principle is if someone picks off a few GCSEs per year that is easier than doing the whole lot in one fell swoop at once (my 5 have done them all at once as did I). However very bright people have often done one like maths a year early or their native tongue one a year or two early if they are bi lingual. I would make sure the main subjects are all done at once and it should be fine. My sons (private school) did 9 GCSEs (I am not keen on vast numbers) all at once and by the way their school moved to the Welsh board French because it was supposedly easier so the comments about Wales above ring true). They have a relative on the other side of the family who was at a comp in a pretty difficult area of the country who got 16 over a few years and went to Durham and good for him. Some of them are probably fairly obscure or not very hard subejcts and it was probably utterly pointless to do more than 9 but the child probably shone out against others from his comp. and has not set him back.

I don't like the pressure on children too early so I am more than happy mine just did them all at the same time.

Tartle Sun 22-Jan-17 20:00:58

I don't think anyone would really care. I have worked in admissions in several top RG unis and it would not have been a major factor in decision making for any of the programmes. I supposed some medical courses might have an issue but I feel more emphasis would be put on BMAT or UKCAT.

Increasingly at top unis students don't have GCSEs anyway as they have done IB or are international and following a different syllabus anyway.

It is also totally a buyers market at them moment. Outside of very over subscribed courses and the top 3-4 institutions universities are falling over themselves to convince AAB students to choose them. Hence all the unconditional/scholarship/free iPad offers.

However I took maths GCSE a year early and then didn't have the option to do additional maths and I think that was a bad choice. By the time I started a level I had forgotten loads and went from being pretty top at GCSE to retaking and dropping at as level. Make sure the school has a plan for after.

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