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How many GCSEs should my son do?

(41 Posts)
NWThreeMum Thu 08-Nov-12 03:09:40

One of my sons is very bright but very lazy and willful. He wants to take 9 GCSEs at school instead of 10/11 because two of the subjects he wants to do 'clash'. Does anyone have any advice? He sometimes talks about Oxbridge and although I'm not sure if it'll be the right place for him once he's 18, I don't want him to narrow his options at this age. Does anyone know how much universities pay attention to number of GCSEs? I feel unable to come down strongly on either side until I'm sure myself. Has anyone got a child who sat GCSEs out of school? Please help!

sashh Thu 08-Nov-12 08:17:59

I've never seen any course or job that needs more than 5 (including maths and English)

creamteas Thu 08-Nov-12 08:23:16

Most unis don't ask for exact numbers of GCSEs. Nine would be fine. It would be much better to have 9 with good grades because he was interested in the subjects than 10/11 which included some poor grades because he was forced to take subjects he had no interest in.

Obviously the nine need to include core subjects (English, Maths, and at least double science)

The only issue I can see with taking less would be if it reduced the possibilities for A levels.

Silence Thu 08-Nov-12 08:25:44

What will he do in the spare time?
Does he play an instrument he could practice.
I would go for at least 10 especially I'd possible Oxbridge

APMF Thu 08-Nov-12 08:26:40

Many, if not all, of the Oxbridge alumni that I know sat for 10-11 GCSEs. I obviously can't comment on how much weight was given to this by the respective admission panels but if I were to guess, if two applicants were equal in terms of A level grades, references etc then I suspect it would come down to GCSE grades and how many.

As for doing GCSEs outside of school, a Chinese friend of mine got her son to do Chinese outside of school. The exam was taken at the school so as not to disrupt the exam schedule. Worked out ok.

bruffin Thu 08-Nov-12 08:44:27

Will he have spare time on his timetable then? Surely at gcse stage they dont have free periods?

APMF Thu 08-Nov-12 09:08:15

@sashh - At the risk of sounding snobbish/elitist etc etc you seem to have a narrow view of the job market.

The economic climate being what it is, graduates are doing jobs traditionally done by A Level students. Those students in turn are doing jobs that would have gone to those with GCSEs. 5 GCSEs isn't going to have employers knocking at your door, at least not with a job offer that pays more than minimum wage.

BeckAndCall Thu 08-Nov-12 09:13:24

Sash, I think that naive tbh.

University admissions pages show the minimum requirement - in practice, some courses in some Places - mainly russellgroup but also 1994 group - do use GCSEs as a filter process. With only 5 GCSEs you just wouldn't get a look in at the most academic universities.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Thu 08-Nov-12 09:17:26

Depends what they are, if he is looking at Oxford and Cambridge. In that case, better 9 academic subjects than lots, of which some are less traditional, I would think.

lljkk Thu 08-Nov-12 09:25:07

I think there's a MNer with DD current or recent at Oxford who only did 5 GCSEs.

I would push for 9 if he were my unmotivated DS, and focus on getting good marks on them. 9 high grade GCSEs far better than 4 A/A* and a batch of Bs & below.
Local 6th form only demands 5 GCSEs for entry; they still send a few up to Oxbridge each year so not like it's a dive 6th form either.

ISingSoprano Thu 08-Nov-12 09:32:18

As a minimum for university my reckoning is... Maths, English Language, English Literature, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, History or Geography and a language.

forevergreek Thu 08-Nov-12 09:32:25

My former school required 9 gcses grade b or above to be allowed to stay on for a levels. Had to have grade a in the subjects chosen to continue to a level though (v high expectations there though)

I did 12 gcses, 5 a levels, was accepted into Oxford ( but didn't take it)

seeker Thu 08-Nov-12 09:37:42

At my dd's high achieving school they only did 9, or 10 I'd you wanted to do another language or further maths. But they were expected to do other things- music or volunteering, for example and had to account for their time to their form tutor.

I have to say, he's not going to get into Oxbridge with a 'do the bare minimum" mind set- sorry.

senua Thu 08-Nov-12 09:54:13

He sounds like the typical teenage boy, bless him. He won't listen to school and he certainly won't listen to the rents. Take him to visit an Oxbridge college - he might listen to them.

I also remember the story of getting into Cambridge (?IIRC) with only 5 GCSE but that was a struggling-against-the-odds story, an exception that proves the rule. I think the reality is that Oxbridge etc only ask for 3 A Levels but the sort of person they make offers to usually far-exceeds this minimum requirement.

Funny how MN threads always end up being about Oxbridge.grin

bruffin Thu 08-Nov-12 09:58:27

Agree it looked like a library, but it was nice that they actually had books on show, made it look lived in. Most of the other builds recently have nothing at all personal about them.

bruffin Thu 08-Nov-12 09:59:02

sorry wrong thread! Should have been on the Grand Design one blush

Abzs Thu 08-Nov-12 10:24:19

On the Oxbridge argument, 4 people from my school year got offers. This was average for the school. They all had 9 GCSEs, because that was what the school did.

What they did have to set them apart was 4 A Levels, plus General Studies, STEP papers and extracurricular and external activities such as sixth form council, music and scouting. They were all academic, but also I remember them as nice well rounded individuals too.

gelo Thu 08-Nov-12 12:25:51

9 with good grades is certainly enough if that's what your school do as standard, or if you are doing a lot of ECs that account for the time that you would normally have done the extras in. It may be enough for your ds, but I think oxbridge have a tendency to compare you with the rest of your school cohort, so if you did 9 and everyone else did 11 and they noticed (they may well not) then eyebrows might be raised.

To have as few as 5 GCSEs you would need a reason. As I recall the mn whose dc had this number and went to oxbridge was homeschooled.

What probably matters more than the total number is the number of A*s or for some places the % of A*s. For some individuals it may be better to do fewer and work to get high grades on all of them, but for others who perhaps will never get a top grade in their (compulsory) language or one of the core subjects then doing one or two extra subjects that they are confident of getting top grades in might actually improve their % or total number of A*s.

LettyAshton Thu 08-Nov-12 12:50:12

I always wonder whether 9 A*s trumps 9A*s and 2 As. Or perhaps more realistically 10A*s and one B.

And, indeed, whether a less than clean sweep of academic subjects looks worse than a full house of A*s which includes less well thought of GCSEs.

I suppose you can over think it, but I always have a creeping feeling that there are those who know how to play the game...

webwiz Thu 08-Nov-12 12:54:57

Does he actually have a choice about the number of GCSEs he takes? At most schools if his choices clashed it would be hard lines and he has to chose something else.

gelo Thu 08-Nov-12 13:00:27

Letty, sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't. It all depends on how universities 'score' GCSEs and they all seem to use slightly different methods. Some may look at total number of A* (some cap this at 9 or 10 and others don't), another at the %A* (again with or without a cap), and a third may allocate points to the best 9 or 10 (2 for and A*, 1 for an A... or something similar).

I would suggest though that having nothing below A* suggests that you haven't found your limit and may have been able to get even more, but having the odd lower grade shows where your limit is.

Also, the subject a lower grade is in may matter. A 'B' in PE or drama might be more acceptable than a 'B' in maths or english for example.

gelo Thu 08-Nov-12 13:02:29

and all those scoring systems are before you've even begun to consider contextualisation.

LettyAshton Thu 08-Nov-12 13:10:01

[collapses with exhaustion]

It's all too much! I think the grade inflation has been bad in that it is difficult for the very clever to demonstrate that they actually are very clever. Dh (being dh) likened it to his pub quizzes. He hates easy pub quizzes because everyone can answer most of the questions and therefore winning the (2 free pints to be drunk before closing that evening) prize all comes down to one question which might not identify the best team. Or, I suppose, if the Olympic high jump was set at a maximum of half a metre. Everyone would get Gold.

gelo Thu 08-Nov-12 13:16:18

You can definitely over think it! So many subjects are compulsory at GCSE I don't think 'gaming' is that easy, but art, PE and Latin (the real GCSE not the newer certificate) are subjects that have a reputation for being hard to get A* in and often seem to be the ones that let an otherwise 'perfect' string down.

LettyAshton Thu 08-Nov-12 13:31:22

Aaagh! Ds is doing Latin! In his own time, too.

Some of his friends are doing 13 (academic) GCSEs but I think this is ill-advised.

I think ds's Achilles Heel is Business Studies, which is compulsory for everyone and is taken in Year 10. He hates it.

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