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Student taking GCSEs

How Many GCSEs Do You Take?

5 min Read|September 27 2023
|Written by:

George Christofi


GCSEs are an important step in the transition from school to college. Once you finish your mandatory secondary education, you may have to think about taking GCSEs.

What are GCSEs? GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. GCSEs are academic qualifications that are part of the National Curriculum. Usually, students are taught about these towards the end of their compulsory education. However, as a standard, students in grade 10 who are fourteen to sixteen years of age are eligible to take the GCSEs.

How many GCSEs in all should you take? Generally, it depends on your choice and future plans. It’s all about where you want to go after your final school exams. On average, students take either nine or ten GCSEs. The subjects are then panned over a tenure of two years, where students can take up the final examinations in Year 11.

How Many GCSEs to Take?

It all depends on what you wish to do after school is finished. Some students, as we discussed, take up nine; others take ten exams. Some students prefer to take on the road to higher studies, while others prefer to hit the job market straight on. Obviously, it’s not an easy choice to make, but once you have a clear plan ahead, it can be a tad bit easier to make a choice.

Here we’ve put together a list of the common practices students generally follow after basic schooling. With each, we have discussed the number of GCSEs you should take on, so it makes it easy to understand and will help you make the right decision about it:

For Higher Studies

If long-term plans add to the stress, think short-term; say about two to five years. Imagine where you’d be then, and plan for those years. What do you want to do, and where do you see yourself after that? If you wish to go for higher studies, the options depend on your preference and choice of field, kind of studies, and qualification you wish to achieve.

The sixth forms require you to take at least six GCSEs with the same grade requirements. However, different institutes and colleges may have different criteria. So make sure to check on those before you plan out how many GCSEs you would take. Some places may not even have the requirement of any GCSE exam for A Level 1.

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Top-Notch Colleges/Universities

Some of the top colleges may need as high as seven to eight grade 9 GCSEs. It may be hard to take on that kind of load. But you can always take the help of online tutors and guides to make it through. However, it’s best not to overburden yourself where it’s not needed. You know your potential best so see how much you can take on and do as many subjects only.

Apprenticeship programs or training offer great opportunities for work and studies alongside. These give you a great idea about the work environment while being a student. So it’s like the best of both worlds; you will also be an employee with some of the perks and benefits of the job itself.

It would be best to go for known employers like Butlers, HMRC, etc., as they can offer you job security and help build your career. However, small companies aren’t a bad deal either, as you will always learn in such programs and get the first view on how the business environment will be once you actually take a step into it. The number of GCSEs required again greatly depends on the kind of work and employer. Usually, three GCSEs suffice since your overall qualifications and extracurriculars are often considered as well in such programs.

At times you may not need to do any GCSEs at all. But if you are, you will be required to take English language and Math at the very least.

For a Job

It may seem tempting to jump straight into the job market once you have completed your basic education. Plus, often, you may not need any GCSEs for a job. However, it’s not just about meeting the employer’s requirements. Having an additional qualification will often make you stand out from the rest. It will look better on your CV and give you an edge over the other applicants.

Further, GCSEs aren’t just a mandatory requirement. These are the basics you will use in your daily life at work and even in your personal life. For example, consider maths; you need to know the basics for calculating the change every time you shop or make your budget plan. The English Language can make you stand out as a presentable candidate for a job interview. Then science can also give you some great life skills or learn some hacks you can make part of your life and share with your family and friends.

For Higher Qualifications

There are different requirements for different sets of qualifications. For example, if you see yourself as an s surgeon in the next ten years, you need to take atleast seven GCSEs. At the same time, it may seem daunting to take on the exams by yourself. So you can look up online tutors to help you ace the exams with ease.

GCSE Subjects

GCSE is an internationally recognized qualification. The main subjects are English, Maths, and Science, which everyone has to take. However, there are other subjects in the domain too which you can opt. These include:

  • Media studies
  • German/French/Spanish/Mandarin
  • Geography
  • Religious Studies
  • Arts
  • Computer science, etc.

GCSE Grading System

Your GCSEs are graded from 9 to 1. Here's how the grading pattern goes:

  • Grade 4 means grade C (at the lowest end)
  • Grades 5 and 6 are the minimum requirements for starting your A levels.
  • Grade 7 is the minimum for an A grade
  • Grades 7, 8, and 9 are equal to grades A and A*


How and where you see yourself in the future is very important to decide the next steps after completing your secondary education. No matter where you set your heart out for the future, it’s important to keep your interests in mind. Make sure whatever you are doing, you have a passion for it. Be it studies or work.

We hope this article helped you understand the number of GCSEs you need to take for different paths forward into your future.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

George Christofi

Written by: George Christofi

Oxford University - Masters Philosophy

George studied undergraduate and masters degrees in Classics and Philosophy at Oxford, as well as spending time at Yale. He specialises in helping students with UK and US university applications, including Oxbridge and the Ivy League. He writes extensively on education including on schools, universities, and pedagogy.

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