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Subjects to avoid?

(66 Posts)
longingforsomesleep Sat 25-Aug-12 14:16:55

Bit of a tongue in cheek thread but, with three teenagers at secondary school, there are things I know now that I wish I'd known when they started!!

I've posted on the GCSE PE thread and I think this is one subject I wish we'd avoided for ds2. Seems it's not uncommon for this to be the worst subject for bright kids - certainly the case for ds2 and we thought it would be a soft option for him!

DS1 did music GCSE and only got a D. He wasn't a brilliant musician to be fair, but the music department were keen to have him. He got good grades for his performances but flunked the exam (mock and real thing). Just didn't seem to get it. May just be him of course, but strikes me as quite a hard GCSE unless you're very good at music. My youngest is keen to take it but am a bit wary.

Psychology also gets very mixed results at our school - lots of Us in the January and June AS modules. Apparently it's one of those exams where the examiners are looking for very specific answers ....

Horses for courses and I'm sure I'm now going to get lots of posters telling me about their kids' A*s in the above subjects!

But before my youngest embarks on option choices, I wondered if there were any other subjects posters felt might be harder than others?

lljkk Mon 27-Aug-12 04:07:05

Do you have custody of teenagers, Germy?

wordfactory Mon 27-Aug-12 14:02:05

I know quite a few Mums who say their DC wish they'd never done art as if was so time consuming.

EduStudent Tue 28-Aug-12 15:41:53

Another vote for art. Not necessarily because it's difficult, but as others have said, it is so very time consuming. Admittedly it's about 5 years since I did it now, but I spent more time on Art than any of my other subjects and was expected to do at least 3 after school sessions a week just to get the bare minimum done.

Similarly friends who took PE found the subject wasn't what they expected. They may be very talented in a particular sport, but the design of the course meant that actually it wans't a great choice for them.

It's not about picking 'easy' subjects or lacking faith in your child's abilities, it's about realistic understandings of what particular courses involve and not just assuming that a sporty child will do well in PE, or that a child who can play an instrument will sail through a Music GCSE.

lljkk Tue 28-Aug-12 15:45:32

What about if a child wants to get into graphic design as career, does Art GCSE make sense then? DS has a very strong sense of aesthetics, always has done. I imagine him designing car bodies or doing something like CAD in future. If not Art at GCSE, what would he want to do as good background for those careers?

longingforsomesleep Tue 28-Aug-12 17:01:06


*It's not about picking 'easy' subjects or lacking faith in your child's abilities, it's about realistic understandings of what particular courses involve and not just assuming that a sporty child will do well in PE, or that a child who can play an instrument will sail through a Music GCSE*

Exactly - you've hit the nail on the head! That's what I know now that I wish I'd understood better a few years ago!

NoComet Tue 28-Aug-12 17:07:02

My prawn of a DD1 has insisted on doing art "for Fun!"

I have told her it will not be "Fun" and since DH and I do science exams for fun, we will not be able to help her.
She is also doing music and drama which is going to be interesting, since she's a reasonable singer who doesn't play an instrument and hates group work. (there's lots in bothhmm).

However, since she is dyslexic and can't do MFL for toffee and would like to boil the head of history in molten sugar too, she doesn't have a lot of choices.

mummytime Tue 28-Aug-12 18:40:34

Do Art if you really love it, or Graphics, but do not do it as an "easy" option, or for some relaxation. Do be aware it takes a lot of work, as do all those subjects with portfolios. Even my lazy DS was spending a lot lunchtimes and after school in school completing portfolios. It was the amount of work needed to prepare during holidays, especially when he also needed to revise for other subjects.

bidibidi Wed 29-Aug-12 08:58:22

If GCSE Art is bad, is A-level Art far more hideous? is there even sucha thing as A-level Art, or do people go to "Art college" instead?

Loshad Wed 29-Aug-12 09:01:07

DS1 has just finished A level art, don't think it is more hideous as by y13 they only have 3 subjects. He probably did spend more time on art than the others but think that is because he enjoyed it more.

NoComet Wed 29-Aug-12 09:43:52

I'm also guessing that by A'level keeping sketch books of inspiration and showing the development of ideas is second nature.
I think DD1 is going to find being organised a real challenge.

EduCated Wed 29-Aug-12 11:21:39

I guess at that point as well, it's only the people who really want to do it, rather than those just filling up a spare option.

Having said that, I am only just beginning to appreciate how incredible it was that my school had a 97% pass rate in Art, with only 3 getting a D because they failed to turn up for the exam. This was in a failing school with 15% A-C pass rate. Think my art teacher must have been some kind of voodoo queen!

CakeistheAnswer Wed 29-Aug-12 11:35:51

Another vote for art! DS didn't take it, but some of his friends did - all high achievers in every other subject - and got very disappointing grades, with an awful lot of time and effort expended. They've all advised my DS2 against taking it.

Some of his friends also took drama as a 'fun' option, and found it to be very demanding time-wise.

History was probably the biggest workload.

Music was fine for us. DS did it as an 'extra', one session per week after school for 2 terms - and got 100%. We've had Sibelius for some years now, and he's always enjoyed playing around with it on his own compositions. If you can stretch to it, it's definitely worth having just so the students know their way around it effortlessly.

YokoUhOh Wed 29-Aug-12 12:01:44

I'm Head of Music in a comprehensive and I'd like to dispel a couple of myths. Firstly, you don't need to buy Sibelius, there is a free online version called MuseScore, not as whizzy but does the job. Also, you don't have to be incredibly musically talented to get a C at GCSE, there are music technology options instead of performance options (my Year 11 GCSE cohort are split into Music and Music Tech). I think it's much-misunderstood as a GCSE subject, probably due to poor teaching in Years 7-9.

YokoUhOh Wed 29-Aug-12 12:09:08

Oh, and Grade 5 theory bears little relation to Music GCSE. I teach EdExcel GCSE syllabus and it consists of learning facts about 12 musical extracts. Dont be put off by the theory - very few of the questions require knowledge of e.g. notation.

renaldo Wed 29-Aug-12 12:12:30

Yoko what percentage of your student s get an a* in music?

EduCated Wed 29-Aug-12 12:18:46

YokoUhOh Do you find you get a lot of students who think its going to be easy (especially instrument playing ones) or do they choose it because they understand what it is and want to do it?

AlexanderS Wed 29-Aug-12 12:28:16

"I've posted on the GCSE PE thread and I think this is one subject I wish we'd avoided for ds2"

I have to say that I think choice of GCSE subjects is a matter for our offspring, the ones who are actually going to have to do the course, not us.

When I was at school my parents left this decision up to me, though my mum did say I should do History because she had it in her head that it's valued by employers, and I did do it as one of my options in the end in addition to Music. Has my History GCSE ever helped me get a job? Has it f ck. It was ok to study, I got an A in it as I did Music, but I look back and think it might have been more fun to do Drama. As long as you get 5 grades A* - C it doesn't really matter what subjects you do (as long as you have English Language and Maths of course).

DS is a long way off from picking GCSEs but when the time comes I wouldn't dream of telling him what to do.

YokoUhOh Wed 29-Aug-12 12:28:49

Renaldo I teach at a normal comp and my Y11s achieved almost 50% A/A* this time around. My trick is to get the vast majority of coursework done in Year 10 and spend from Christmas onwards in Y11 purely on the exam.

EduCated Students are a mixture; most of them are just super-keen on music (in bands etc.), I barely ever get any 'dossers'. I try to touch on the topics they'll meet at GCSE (minimalism, jazz/blues) in Years 7-9 so that they've had a taste and know what to expect, content-wise.

Yellowtip Wed 29-Aug-12 12:40:17

All my DC have picked their own subjects, both for GCSE and AS/ A2. If they're wavering over a final choice at GCSE I do tend to say maybe try an Art/ Drama one, to lighten the load (in terms of variety, not effort or time).

I can't imagine doing anything but standing right back, particularly at AS and A2. Even though some choices have sometimes surprised me.

Fireytiger Wed 29-Aug-12 12:49:19

The key to being successful at gcse's is knowing what the subject department can offer. For example if the department is consistently achieving 75 percent A-C then you could presume that your offspring has a good opportunity at achieving well. Also compare the departments last three year set of grades with the school average: the school may be achieving 85 percent, yet that particular department may only achieve 33 percent. You need to know about the quality of teaching in each area to make a good and successful decision.

jessabell Wed 29-Aug-12 14:06:14

daughter took art Gcse now doing it at a level. She loves it. The work load never bothered her. Straight A student at GCSE. Just got results for as level ART,GERMAN did well in. PHYSICS, MATHS not so well. Going into college to see what she will take next year. She thought she would do okay but the jump too much for her.
Oldest took MUSIC GCSE did very badly in. Teacher left halfway during course. Never liked new teacher.
Youngest just about to start doing GCSE he taking French History and Product Design Two bands at his school He on the lower band they do not like them taking the subjects hes chosen but he more interested in these than the others Not a sporty/ musical/arty person.
Take subjects you think you will enjoy.

LavenderOil Wed 29-Aug-12 14:47:02



FozzieMK Wed 29-Aug-12 16:18:00

Another vote for Music. My DD has grade 5 flute and grade 6 singing and found it incredibly difficult. She took her GCSE this year and scored well on composition and performance (one flute and one singing) but badly on the writing about the 12 given pieces. Pleased to say she got a C in the end but the class started out in year 10 with 5 and ended up with just 2 taking the exam in year 11.

Xenia Wed 29-Aug-12 16:27:42

I think my older 3 chidlren did music GCSE and they had 2 or 3 grade 8s each and I don't think found it too difficult. I certainly taught myself O level music and sat it alone at school in lower sixth but I had distinction in grade 8 theory and I think then there was some exemption from some of the music GCSE for music theory exams or something. Anyway I think it is a nice extra one to do but have your core 8 traditional academic GCSEs first and then do not add too many of the extra on as better to get 8 or 9 with very good grades in solid subjects than a load of more modern ones which some traditional employers will not count.

NoComet Wed 29-Aug-12 18:35:30

DD won't go near history GCSE, horrible depressing syllabus with a huge section on the holocaust.

Given history have spent Y7-Y9 giving out more HW than the rest of the school put together, she just couldn't face it.

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