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GCSE options for DD in Year 9

(21 Posts)
laura200 Mon 16-Jun-14 13:19:48

Dear fellow Parents,

DD is in Year 9 and her school have asked us to decide her GCSE options this week.

DD would like to study medicine at university -- as we all know this is a very competitive area of study and she will need top grades to even stand a chance.

There are 6 core subjects and 4 additional, 11 subjects in total.

1) English
2) Mathematics
3) Chemistry
4) Biology
5) Physics
6) Religious Education

7) English Literature
8) Spanish (or French; not both)
9) Geography (or History; not both)
10) ICT
11) Business

In this latter group we were given freedom to choose 5 subjects from a list that also included Arts & Design, Food, Music, PE, Statistics, Resistant Materials.

DD's school does not offer sixth form so what we are looking at now is carefully choosing her GCSE options to increase DD's chance of getting admitted to a competitive sixth form.

I am trying to get my head around a few questions:

1. - Would DD be better off if she studied History instead of Geography? Bearing in mind that further down the line, at A levels, she will be expected to study 3 science subjects (Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics) and one non-science subject (Art, History, Design Technology, Philosophy).

2. - English is not DD's native language although she is very comfortable with it given that DD lived here for years. What are the benefits of taking English Literature? What are the consequences for not taking it?

3. - It is one thing that DD will study these 5 additional subjects but should she take exams in all of these? In total these are 11 subjects. Some competitive sixth forms list 8 GCSEs as a minimum requirement but 'minimum' is usually emphasised in their prospectus indicating that it obviously the more the better. What are the benefits of taking 11 GCSEs over taking 10 or even 9?

The sixth form we looked suggests that any students considering to study Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry at A Levels must achieve 4 A* at GCSE as a minimum, including 2 A*s from these 3 subjects.

Many thanks,

DPotter Mon 16-Jun-14 13:45:36

Year 9 options choosing is always a jump in the dark - at least your daughter has a career in mind to help.

As far as either History or Geography I think it's a matter of personal preference; both are good solid main stream subjects which no 6th form college or med school will have an issue with.

I have never seen English Lang only as a core with English Lit as an option before - most places seem to have both as a core. The advantage is as much cultural as academic and Med schools do like their candidates to be able to communicate so I would choose this one especially as she doesn't have the option of choosing both History and Geography. Anyway I found English Lit much more fun than English Lang and it is important to include subjects your daughter likes.

If she's serious about Medicine it will have to be 10 GCSEs min. I wouldn't get into 6th form college today with my paltry 7 O levels.

Sounds like the college your looking at is being honest regarding grade requirements - so yes at least 4 A*. It certainly would be very difficult for a student to take A level Maths with anything below an A in Maths GCSE.

I would double check the A level requirements for Med school again - some Med Schools only ask for 2 sciences at A level and she could consider Physics rather than Maths.

Re-reading your post I'm not sure if your daughter has already submitted her choices ? Going to nail my colours to mast now - maybe reconsider Business studies. My niece has an offer from a well regarded Med school with a GCSE on PE.

Also remember it's not just the academic aspects that are important for Med school; it would be a good idea if she can demonstrate out-of-school interests as well, so as to differentiate herself from 'the pack'.

lljkk Mon 16-Jun-14 14:02:26

I would go somewhere like thestudentroom website & see what the scuttlebutt there is. The medical school* I work at advertises that it only wants to see 8 GCSEs, all A or better iirc, and that was repeated on TSR. Also ours likes to see one A-level which is NOT sciences. They are looking for good communication skills.

*in bottom half of league tables, so perhaps irrelevant to OP. I'm not involved with admissions so can't offer more insight.

crazymum53 Mon 16-Jun-14 14:10:50

Are you overseas OP - this seems rather late to consider options for courses starting in September. I have a dd in Y9 and options forms were handed in at the beginning of March.
Is your child considering studying for her Medicine degree at a UK university or moving to the UK for A levels?
For pupils in the UK English Literature is now a compulsory GCSE subject so it will look very odd to UK universities and sixth forms if your dd has not taken this subject.
The History versus Geography debate is an interesting one. One of the main topics for History GCSE is called "Medicine Through Time" and if your dd is taking this specification that would be very relevant for a potential medical student. However if she is more Science orientated Geography could be a better option.
ICT GCSE is now being replaced by Computer Science in the UK and is not well regarded academically.
The other point I wish to make is that the current Y9s will be the first year group to study the new A level specifications where exams will all be sat at the end of Y13. At the moment students study 4 subjects until the end of Y12 and then continue with 3 of these subjects in Y13. This may mean the pattern of 3 Sciences and 1 Arts subject may no longer be applicable when your dd starts sixth form.

AtiaoftheJulii Mon 16-Jun-14 15:40:37

One of the main topics for History GCSE is called "Medicine Through Time" and if your dd is taking this specification that would be very relevant for a potential medical student.

This is only one option, on one exam board - not something to base your decision on unless you knew for sure. OP, does your dd have a booklet giving details of the GCSE options?

English Literature would be presumed - as said above, think it would look odd if it weren't there.

I can't say I like this newish (seemingly ebacc-driven?) policy that more schools seem to have of only allowing you to choose one MFL and one of Geog/History. Doing both is just going to suit some people more.

I'm not sure I'd ideally go for ICT and Business, but if there is only one MFL slot and one humanity slot, and your daughter doesn't want to do anything else more practical/vocational, it seems like she might not have much choice. I quite like that my dds have done a practical subject (Product Design for one, Textiles for the other) as it gives you some different skills, you have to document the process etc, and I'll encourage the younger two to do the same.

cricketballs Mon 16-Jun-14 16:59:20

Crazy - GCSE ICT is not being replaced with computer science. As Dpotter and lljkk have said, its also good to have a range at GCSE speaking of the teacher of a BTEC Business student who is in their 2nd year of medicine

lljkk Mon 16-Jun-14 17:22:25

If interested in medicine, the impression I get is that these things matter hugely and probably more than the GCSE options that OP is comparing:

Suitable volunteer work, hopefully in the caring sector
& resulting references
Personal statement
How they do at interview

ps: DS is in y9 just chosen options, Dd in y7 expresses interest in medicine hence why this thread attracts my attention.

crazymum53 Mon 16-Jun-14 19:17:08

Re ICT just to clarify. Many schools in the UK are now offering Computer Science instead of ICT at GCSE. This is because the government have now included computer science in the EBacc.

cricketballs Mon 16-Jun-14 19:38:19

Crazy, you will find schools are offering both - they are completely different subjects (in fact ICT is seeing a rise in entries)

crazymum53 Mon 16-Jun-14 19:54:35

Yes they are different subjects, but what I am really wondering is why the OPs daughter is only being given the ICT option and Computer Science is not included?
Local schools in my area are offering pupils a choice between GCSE Computer Science or BTEC ICT.

HmmAnOxfordComma Mon 16-Jun-14 20:02:24

Not an expert on med school entry but I would think it would be highly unusual for an academic dc NOT to study English lit so I wouldn't miss that off. Hist and Geog equally well thought of so choose her preferred subject.

I would also consider swapping either Business or IT for an arts subject if she's any good at drama, music or art, purely for a better range.

cricketballs Mon 16-Jun-14 20:05:59

Crazy; there isn't many teachers who are able to teach computer science to GCSE level at the moment

MrsMaturin Mon 16-Jun-14 20:11:07

I would be very unimpressed that the option is not there to do either two languages or two humanities.

I would suggest she looks carefully at Statistics. That could be helpful.

littledrummergirl Mon 16-Jun-14 23:15:54

Ds1 wants to be a vet. He chose statistics as an option which went down very well when talking to unis at an open evening.
I would imagine the ability to evaluate information would be a bonus in med school as well.

Is the ICT more wordprocessing based or programming? If it is word processing I would be inclined to switch it with stats.

lora200 Tue 17-Jun-14 12:35:00

Thank you all for your replies.

What are the implications of studying 11 GCSE subjects but not taking an exam in one of them (e.g. ICT)? Does it really make a difference if my DD has 10 GCSEs instead of 11 GCSEs when it comes to applying to a competitive sixth form?

lora200 Tue 17-Jun-14 12:38:44

The reason I am asking is that my DD might be tempted to pick up Statistics if she knows that she will not have to bother with ICT.

- English Lang, English Lit, Maths, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, RE
- Spanish, Geography, Statistics, (ICT)

Would that 11th GCSE in ICT would make any difference?

BigBirdFlies Tue 17-Jun-14 13:04:10

I honestly don't think that it matters what the final GCSE's are. Your dd should be looking at English lit, English lang, maths, 3 sciences, 1 MFL, probably 1 humanity and after that whatever she is interested in. You don't need to pain over the final choices. It's the grades she gets in her core subjects that matter, the rest are just fillers. Universities know that many schools insist on ICT, no-one is going to penalised for having it.

10 high GCSE's "look better" than 11 if one is slipped a grade. Crazy but true. On UCAS forms all GCSE's must be disclosed. If you got 10 A-A* and one C, you still have to write down the C. But plenty of people do get into medicine with a slipped GCSE grade. A'Levels, work experience and good aptitude test results count for more.

lora200 Wed 02-Jul-14 12:29:58

DD has chosen the following subjects to study in Year 10 & 11:

1) GCSE English
2) GCSE English Literature
2) GCSE Mathematics
3) GCSE Chemistry
4) GCSE Biology
5) GCSE Physics
6) GCSE Religious Education
7) GCSE Spanish
8) GCSE Geography

This is 10 subjects already. We are absolutely not keen on GCSE PE but her school makes her choose an optional subject. Not all students take triple Science and in those cases it makes sense to choose an optional subject such as GCSE PE.

It has been said here on numerous occasions that it is way better to achieve fewer As then have As and a B here or there.

Question: can we ask the school that we would not like DD to study GCSE PE (therefore study only 9 subjects) or study GCSE PE but not take any examinations in it?

DD will apply to study Medicine and we feel it is important to get some A* and As for 9 subjects than risk a B by stretching herself.

crazymum53 Wed 02-Jul-14 15:11:33

Studying 10 subjects at GCSE isn't that excessive OP and would be considered normal for most potential medical students.
You could start another thread, but actually GCSE PE is quite useful for medicine. As well as participating in sport, students learn how to keep their bodies healthy by eating correctly and exercising.

titchy Wed 02-Jul-14 15:56:43

You've listed 11 subjects (you have two x 2s!). That's a fairly normal workload, and it can be quite good to have one fun, hobby type subject if all the rest are academic. I share your pain re ICT though - compulsory in Dd's school too.

titchy Wed 02-Jul-14 15:58:16

Oh and in subjects / institutions where gcse grades matter they tend to look at either total points score (Cardiff med school for example) or the best 8.

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