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What GCSE Subjects Should I Take?

What GCSE Subjects Should I Take?

5 min Read|September 26 2023
|Written by:

Thomas Babb


Most UK students choose their GCSE subjects, or “options”, in Year 9. The average candidate will take 7-9 GCSEs, but some dedicated students will take up to 12. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re trying to pick your options right now. Luckily, we can help.

In total, there are over 60 GCSE subjects offered by schools throughout the country: from Maths to Art to Biblical Hebrew. That amount of choice can be very overwhelming. However, whether you’re an ambitious forward-planner or stuck for ideas, you need to selection options that suit you.

This article will tell you what GCSE subjects you should take to maximise your potential, and get the most out of your school experience. Let’s get right into it.

Most Popular GCSE Subjects


Find the GCSE Subjects That You’re Good At

Do you think logically and like to solve problems? Or, are you a creative soul who thrives on self-expression? You might even love arguing, and bringing others around to your point of view. Thinking about your likes and dislikes is an easy way to find what GCSE subjects will suit you.

Most likely, your favourite subject will already be something that matches your personality: creatives will be drawn to Art or Drama, whilst problem-solvers will work best in Maths or IT. The best GCSE subject for you may not always be the one with your highest grades, either.

Having genuine enthusiasm for a subject will be the best motivator; you might be getting 7s in French, but you won’t be willing to work as hard if you don't feel inspired by languages. Meanwhile, that 5 in your beloved Geography class could easily rise if you have enough passion.

However, you should make sure that a subject is your favourite for a good reason. Don’t choose a GCSE subject just because your friends are doing it; you can always hang out outside of lessons, and they might just distract you in class. Also, don’t choose based on your favourite teachers, as they may not even end up teaching your set. Always choose for yourself - not for anybody else.

Lastly, choose GCSE subjects that are taught in a style that works for you. Since the government made changes in 2017, more and more GCSEs have a linear structure, with end-of-year exams. That said, you may still find some that have the older modular format with coursework and controlled assessments.

Do some research (or ask your tutor) to find out which structure your favourite subjects use. Try and choose courses that match with your learning style.

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Balance Your GCSE Subjects

All students must take a range of core GCSE subjects: Maths, English (Language and Literature, most of the time) and Science. Depending on your school, science might be a single qualification or split into GCSE Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Overall, this will mean you automatically take around 5 GCSEs.

On top of this, your school will offer a range of options such as:

  • Humanities - History, Geography, Religious Studies, Psychology.
  • Arts - Art, Drama, Music, Media Studies.
  • Technical Subjects - Design and Technology, Food Tech, Computer Science and IT.
  • Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) - German, French, Spanish, Mandarin.
  • Others - PE, Business Studies.

First, think about how your optional subjects will overlap with your compulsory subjects. For example, GCSE History is a great match with GCSE English, as it teaches you about the time periods authors lived and wrote in. PE works well with Biology, as you learn a lot about the human body. Also, consider how optional subjects match – Mandarin and Music won’t complement each other, but Business and Mandarin will.

Secondly, think about the number of GCSE subjects you want to take. Each GCSE takes a minimum of 120 hours of in-class time to complete, and 15-20 hours of weekly revision come exam time.

Taking more GCSE subjects will broaden your horizons, and show colleges that you’re a well-rounded individual. However, make sure you’re looking after your mental health by knowing your limits. Leave yourself some time for hobbies, friends and fun – you don’t want to burn out.

Think About Your Future

Think about what you want to do in the future, at college or even university. Most universities require a pass in Maths and English - which the vast majority of students achieve, so don’t worry!

The big thing to keep in mind when choosing GCSE subjects for university or college is special course requirements. For certain specialist courses – like Law or Natural Sciences – you need certain A-Levels. You can only get these A-Levels if you pick the right GCSE subjects.

If you’re very ambitious, you might be thinking about getting into top universities. Some colleges prefer a higher number of “hard”, or traditionally academic GCSE subjects. These include History, Geography and MFL. In contrast, they may place less weight on “soft” GCSE subjects, such as PE, Drama or Art.

Don’t dismiss “soft” subjects, though. Studies show that creative activities help you manage stress, understand yourself, and build a strong, confident identity. You may not yet know what you want to do at college. Or, you might have your whole career trajectory planned already. Either way, it’s a good idea to keep your options open.

Studies show that over half of high school students see themselves going to university, but only around 35% go in the end. That’s why it’s important to pick GCSE subjects that give you some flexibility; you never know where life will take you!

Final Thoughts

So, you’ve read this whole article, and you still feel stuck. You understand that it’s important to pick GCSE subjects for yourself, to balance them against each other, and to always think of the future. But how do you make the final decision? The answer: ask for advice.

Your friends might try and sway you towards joining their options, and your parents might not yet understand the GCSE system. However, a teacher – or better still, a tutor – will be able to give you the support you need.

With an online tutor’s one-on-one support, you can work together to find which GCSE subjects you should take to achieve your dreams. Reach out to TutorChase today for more information.

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Professional tutor and Cambridge University researcher

Thomas Babb

Written by: Thomas Babb

Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Thomas is a PhD candidate at Oxford University. He served as an interviewer and the lead admissions test marker at Oxford, and teaches undergraduate students at Mansfield College and St Hilda’s College. He has ten years’ experience tutoring A-Level and GCSE students across a range of subjects.

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