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In my previous article ‘Keeping your Options open: Tips for those Picking their A Levels’, I have drawn on the importance of providing yourself with the freedom to choose your future career by strategically picking your A Level subjects. But this isn’t limited to A Levels alone. Your GCSEs too give you options. They open gateways, unlock potential and build skillsets. That’s why it is just as important to keep an eye on your child’s chosen GCSE subjects as it is their A Levels.


Your GCSEs matter. There is no question about it. Whether you’re applying for a sixth form, a University degree, or a job there is always a section in your application where your GCSE subjects and grades need to be provided.


In regards to entry requirements for most – if not all – Universities, there it shall sit patiently in wait alongside other qualifications: specific GCSE conditions.


For one degree in Medicine: 3 GCSEs at grade C, or grade 4, or above, including English and Maths.


For one in Economics: Mathematics at a minimum of grade C (32 points). 


For Law: You should have 5 GCSEs at grade C or above or grade 4-9 (or equivalent) including English.


Your GCSEs matter. Universities are now more likely to look into your GCSE grades since the recent changes to A Levels – particularly for more competitive fields such as medicine or for those interested in Oxbridge.


Nevertheless, since there are few GCSE students who can boldly claim to be completely confident in their future career pathway, it becomes all the more important to keep your options open by doing a broad range of subjects. The safest route is to aim to complete an English Baccalaureate: choosing a Language subject (e.g. French, Spanish), a Humanities subject (History, Geography, or Religious Studies) alongside English (Language and Literature), Maths and Science (Combined or Triple).


In any case, even if your teenager has already planned out their career, it is unlikely that they are going to stick to it. Teenagers – like all humans – are fickle being. So yes, this means that just because your child currently wishes to study medicine or engineering or whatever else, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to end up in that same occupation. Sorry.


As highlighted above, GCSE Maths, English and Science are particularly crucial. Regardless of whether your child is aware of what they wish to do later on in life, your core GCSEs mentioned above are vital. It is also useful to have a Language or Art and Design subject if wishing for a career related to the field.


But what about those students whose schools offer non-GCSE subjects?


These are usually BTEC First Certificates such as those in business, health and social care or sport. Whether a school offers these subjects to a student depends on if the student themself is interested or if it is advised to them by teachers.


Nevertheless, having BTEC qualifications rather than GCSEs is not by any means a deal-breaker. They too are acceptable in the eyes of some admission boards. However, most do prefer to look at the qualifications attained in the core GCSE subjects. This is why I advise students to give extra attention to their GCSE Maths, English and Science subjects in particular.


Echoing my own words from a previous article, I shall leave you: no matter how important your GCSEs are, they do not define you. If you fail to attain the desired grades, there are options available. It’s up to you to plan your next steps.