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If you have/had children doing GCSE's what do you wish you had known?

(31 Posts)
FiveHoursSleep Wed 02-Mar-16 09:45:47

DD has her options evening tomorrow and she's having trouble deciding what subjects to choose. She does have a shortlist based on what she dislikes least! I know this sounds negative but the reality is that she's quite academic and a good all rounder.
What questions should we ask?
Especially since our kids will be sitting the new GCSE

FiveHoursSleep Wed 02-Mar-16 09:49:18

I meant to add that they have to choose a humanity and a language, then have two 'free' options'.
She's deciding between RS and Classics for humanities and will do Spanish for her language.
Her shortlist for her options are Music, Drama, Geography and Classics/RS.
They have to put down 4 but in some order.
If your children have done GCSE what questions would you/ they have liked to ask before settling on that subject?

jomidmum Wed 02-Mar-16 10:00:55

Firstly, are they interested in the subject.
Secondly, are their choices likely to open the next educational level they are aiming for.
We home educate so have far choice in which subjects to study, but I think those questions still apply.

TeenAndTween Wed 02-Mar-16 10:05:57

My DD did GCSEs last year, so under the old system.

Drama - this GCSE depends on your ability to work well with others, AND on other's ability to be bothered to organise and turn up to rehearsals etc. DD's performance exam was the week after Easter holidays. They only had 1 day in the whole holidays where everyone could get together to rehearse due to people having arranged away holidays over Easter. Made for added stress. On the other hand, doing drama made a nice break in the week from other 'desk based' lessons.

Check the syllabus is interesting. e.g. if doing History there is quite a difference between American West and 20th Century!

I would say check balance between CA and exams, but I guess that has gone now.

Consider revision load for final exams. DD did 2 MFLs which lightened the load for Summer y11 as they are more 'skill based' than 'revision based'

Personally, for an 'academic' 'good all rounder' I wouldn't do both Drama and Music.

FiveHoursSleep Wed 02-Mar-16 10:17:17

Jomidmum She's not really interested in anything atm so it seems to be a matter of working with what she'll tolerate. I'm hoping she will get more interested once she starts the curriculum. She really doesn't know what she wants to do afterwards and I think this is causing her to be unenthusiastic. She's a girl who likes a plan!
Good point re the revision load. DD won't do two languages though. I did ask about Drama and Music before and the consensus was it was okay. She's doing triple science and will probably do all the maths papers, so will still have a well rounded education I think.

raspberryrippleicecream Wed 02-Mar-16 10:31:34

DD has enjoyed drama, and being away from the classroom in a different environment. I think it would impact on others if she isn't committed though, there is a lot of team work.

She would have done drama and music if timetabling allowed, I'd have had no problem with that, plenty of other subjects.

DS did music. He enjoyed it. He found the performance part easy, (full marks), the composition was a bit harder. Teamwork not so much of an issue, the group piece can be a duet with a teacher. He would say it was one of the hardest GCSEs he did.

Geography he said was a bit of a slog, lots of case studies to learn. But he enjoyed it, and enjoyed the field trips.

RS he did short course, and said it was his easiest GCSE. And interesting. He got the same grade for all of these three GCSEs.

Obviously these experiences are all old style GCSEs.

lljkk Wed 02-Mar-16 10:46:34

On one option, DD was really disappointed to find she was in with kids... outside her usual ability band, shall I put it that way. She watched other kids like her leave the class within 2 wks to take another subject. Luckily she was also able to switch to another subject more suited to her. I don't know how you foresee that... but one thing we could have noticed was that not many kids in DD's year group or set were in that class. She left after 3 weeks, so others had figured it out in advance!!

Icouldbeknitting Wed 02-Mar-16 11:10:02

Firstly, I don't think she can make a bad choice here. She should run with the ones that she thinks she is going to enjoy more or hate less because then it's easier to put the work in. Preview the courses by finding out what exam boards the school uses and looking up the relevant syllabus on line.

My DS is sitting GCSEs this summer so your syllabus will be different but music was split performance/composition/listening. If you've a child who's a good performer and has studied music theory then it's an easier course than it is for someone who has done a bit of singing. I think it's harder to get a good grade if you're not starting as a performer - grades aren't everything but if you might be looking at a selective sixth form it's something to think about. How much you enjoy history can depend on what is being covered, DS has engaged with WWI and the Vietnam war but he looked at the content of the A level syllabus and proclaimed it to be "boring". He had to take RE, it's been interesting and he's not disliked it even though it wasn't something that he would have chosen (I think there are significant changes to the syllabus though, the new one has less of the discussion of the big issues that he's enjoyed)

FiveHoursSleep Wed 02-Mar-16 12:49:47

DD1 is quite musical and has G6 piano and G5 bass, so the only bit in music she hasn't done much of is composition. She is a bit meh about it being the same old thing she's done out of school and is saying she wants to list it as number 3 or 4. I feel quite strongly that she should do it, but it's not my choice really.
The school is a partially selective academic school so there will be some girls in drama from her set.
She's not interested in history because she doesn't like the teacher.
Are all y9s this contrary?

catslife Wed 02-Mar-16 13:20:23

RS is compulsory at dds school and she really wishes it wasn't and she could have chosen something else. She hasn't enjoyed it much.
Classics sounds a bit different - I don't think many schools offer this now and this option would make her stand out as done something different.

Badbadbunny Wed 02-Mar-16 13:43:41

I know it shouldn't be a consideration, but also think about the teachers. Yes, I know things change, teachers come and go and change the classes they teach.

BUT, in my son's case, for one subject, there were only two teachers who did the GCSE courses, and he'd had them both in earlier years and didn't really make progress, constantly got poor results, and generally hated the lessons. He did relatively badly in years 7 and 8 (with the teachers he didn't like) so we wrote off the subject, but this year, year 9, he's got a different teacher and is getting full marks, really enjoys it, and has made a massive transformation. But, completely turned off by the thought of having one of the two teachers he doesn't like, so hasn't chosen it for GCSEs - luckily it was one of his free options so won't affect his A level options or future career choices etc.

Like I say, shouldn't really be a consideration, but all other things being equal, i.e. enjoyment, grades, etc., then the likely choice of teachers may help break the deadlock and make a decision.

Tigerblue Wed 02-Mar-16 14:07:40

We found options night really helpful. There were teachers representing every subject and examples of pupils work, course books and exam papers (although appreciate things are changing). I was surprised about a couple of the subjects DD choose in the end, but she's really enjoying year 10.

DD is doing RE, but more on the ethics and philosophy side. She is thoroughly enjoying it. On options evening, teacher asked her if she enjoyed listening to others peoples points of view, taking everyones views into consideration and then drawing up her own conclusion.

She was better at history than geography, but the coursework didn't interest her. She's glad she choose geography.

Also, doing music which she enjoys. It's much harder to get an A or A*. Her violin teacher has already volunteered to do a duet with her, but a friend can. She has four that want her to duet with them, but I've said to limit it to two, as she won't want to be under too much pressure on behalf of her friends to get it right.

Drama - DD's friend has told her that the marks for the performance are given on the whole group not on individuals, so you might do really well but if someone forgets lines, messes up that'll pull it down. If your DD really thinks she'd enjoy this, don't let that put her off though.

DD thought she wouldn't like two of her teachers, but it didn't put her off. It's worked out well, one appreciates that DD will stay to put extra work in so seems to get on well with her. The other is really precise about what she wants from them and the homework being set will form a great basis for revision. Other students are asking their class to look at their work as they feel they haven't been taught everything thoroughly.

OddBoots Wed 02-Mar-16 16:35:01

It might be different depending on different exam boards but from what DD's school has said the Music GCSE now includes (more?) music technology stuff which may make is more interesting for students that do music out of school.

raspberryrippleicecream Wed 02-Mar-16 16:42:09

No idea about new Exam, but DS syllabus also had a written/listening paper. It's not just performance/composing. He was G6+ on two instruments, and still had to work for his A*. The DC with 3 G8s didn't put the work in and didn't do as well, sadly.

elephantpig Wed 02-Mar-16 17:01:22

I'm not musical at all so I'm probably not one to comment. But I would say keep doing music out of school, but drop it from the options. Purely because you can't exactly study classics or geography outside of a school / college environment. Even though you can do drama 'for fun' outside of school you can't (easily, as far as I'm aware) gain a qualification in it, like you can with music grades. Also music grades can be used as UCAS points if she decides to go to uni, and they can be worth a lot if she does higher grades. So if she has a grade 8 piano that is worth an A level, is the music GCSE going to pale in comparison? Obviously this is assuming she doesn't take a musical / theatre direction later on AND this is based purely on qualifications / academics etc rather than what she would enjoy.

RitaCrudgington Wed 02-Mar-16 17:02:25

I asked about Drama last year and was advised that because it's reliant on group work and your grade can be brought down by weak links it's unusually important to know who your fellow students will be, and the school's historic record on grades. If it's a school where drama is seen as a doss subject then think carefully if your DD is taking a path that requires a spotless academic record. If it's a school where drama is taken seriously then go for it.

elephantpig Wed 02-Mar-16 17:02:39

(and obviously saying a G8 is equivalent to an A level is just what UCAS has arbitrarily said, not what is necessarily true)

Decorhate Wed 02-Mar-16 18:07:33

What my dd wished she had known was that a) she would decide to apply for a competitive uni course where number of A* at GCSE are often used to filter applicants and b) that it would have been easier to get a good mark in a subject such as Geography by working hard, than in Drama where natural apptitude comes into play.

sendsummer Wed 02-Mar-16 18:55:25

I have had two DCs do music, one IGCSE and one a GCSE syllabus (not sure which board). Both were post grade 8 in one of their instruments (with grade 5 theory) a year before they started the syllabus and were keen to do it. The one doing the IGSE syllabus enjoyed it all and found the listening paper tested the acquisition of skills. The other found that the work particularly in year 11 for their GCSE listening paper seemed to be learning long lists of details of numerous set works and preplanned essays rather than acquisition of listening skills with the revision a real slog compared to their other subjects. That DC definitely would n't recommend it. I think I would therefore be wary of GCSE music (although not IGCSE) unless the teacher is excellent.

senua Wed 02-Mar-16 19:04:27

As long as she does a breadth of fairly sensible subjects, and therefore keeps her options open, she will be fine.

VagueButlmportant Wed 02-Mar-16 20:26:24

I'm going through this with DD at the moment and we also have options evening tomorrow.

DD's reasons for picking / rejecting subjects so far include:

Geography - no because rocks are boring
History - no because the topic on health will be all about leeches and yuk
Food tech - no because everyone will think she's wierd
Art - no because she can't draw (this is true!)
Music - no because she will start to hate her violin

German - yes because the teacher brings cake on Fridays!
Computing - yes because the teacher is a good laugh and all her friends are doing it
French - yes because she doesn't want to do anything else and her friends are doing it

I'm glad she's got a well reasoned argument for it all!

Millipedewithherfeetup Wed 02-Mar-16 20:48:44

One thing to add is make sure the options she chooses to do at gcse are also available at A level at your school, my dd loved RS but this was not on tbe schools A level syllabus. Other than that go for what she enjoys !

FiveHoursSleep Wed 02-Mar-16 23:14:46

Arghh she's come back to me saying she doesn't want to do RS, but Classics instead.
That's fine but for her options she now wants to put down Drama ( okay), food tech ( she has no interest in cooking and I don't think I can survive another two years of this!), Photography ( see food tech!) and PE ( which she's on a pathway 5 for- so just over a pass).
She is considered an academic all rounder by her teachers and I think these subjects are far too restrictive for her future options sad
I'm hoping we can come to some sort of agreement soon as I'm feeling quite stressed about it!

raspberryrippleicecream Wed 02-Mar-16 23:44:18

Photography should come with a health warning. Please, please get her to talk to current students. DD is doing it (instead of the music she wasn't allowed to do), and it takes up hours and hours of time. Time she resents from her other subjects. It's not the photoshoots, it's the portfolios and written stuff that goes alongside. It is Art essentially. If she knew then what she knew know, she wouldn't do it. She said tonight by the end of April she would have done her photography exam, and her Grade8 exam, and the rest seemed easy!

sendsummer Thu 03-Mar-16 07:25:19

Fivehours what do you mean by classics? That does n't sound a mainstream humanities subject for GCSE. I would be wary of having that without RE or geography (or history which she does n't want to do) but it would be good as one of her choices.
If she does n't do history GCSE doing the A level will be very hard so she should be aware of that, ditto with geography. At this stage it is about not excluding possibilities for the next stage. An unpopular or poor teacher of a subject unfortunately does play a role in subject choice but DCs have to be careful not to really narrow down their future options because of disliking the teacher or syllabus.

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