How to help your child choose their GCSE subjects

Do they have a specific career path in mind?

If your teenager has a burning desire to go into a particular career, great! In many ways, this makes it easier to choose their GCSE options and ensure they meet the entry requirements further down the line. Some careers, such as Medicine and Veterinary Sciences, have very specific requirements whereas others may allow for more flexibility in their options.

Start by using our Coursepilot Careers Explorer to look up their chosen career and find out any particular subjects they may need to study at GCSE and A Level, plus the grades they’ll need to achieve.

If they aren’t sure what job they’d like to do, choosing a broad range of GCSE subjects can help to keep their options open. For example, including some humanities and Double or Triple Award Science will give them a solid basis to narrow down their choices further at A Level. Some universities also ask for at least one GCSE in a modern foreign language in their entry requirements, plus it’s a skill that can be useful later in life and across multiple career paths.

Some schools will talk about balancing ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ subjects; the former being more traditional subjects like English, Physics and languages while the latter often have a more vocational bias like Drama, Physical Education and Photography. This could also be something your child considers if they are looking to go to university, although this is very dependent on the institution and what direction they’d like their career to take.

What subjects do they see themselves studying after GCSE?

Do they already know if they would like to continue a particular subject to A Level? It’s very likely that they’ll need a GCSE in this subject, although there are exceptions to this if they have studied something similar.

Your child may also be interested in subjects that only become available at A Level – examples of these include Law, Further Maths and Psychology. They should be able to pick these up no matter what subjects they study, however studying a particular GCSE subject that links closely with it could give them a better chance of success.

If you know that your child is considering a more vocational career path (e.g apprenticeships) after GCSEs, courses with a more practical or work-based element to them can be great in developing these skills early on.

How is each subject assessed?

Once your child has a list of potential options, ask them to think about how they fit together. For example, if they excel at coursework yet all their chosen subjects are exam based, could this leave them with a big workload throughout the year and even negatively affect their performance?

It’s natural that having a more science-based approach may lead to more exams over coursework, and vice versa for humanities, but being aware of this in advance is a good way to be prepared for what type of work GCSEs will include. Plus, by taking this into account beforehand, your child can make sure they’re happy with how varied their timetable is and confident that they have the ability to study each subject well.

And finally…what do they enjoy?

One of the most important pieces of advice we can offer is to ask your child to consider both the subjects they’re good at and the subjects they enjoy. If they are thinking of a career in Engineering but loathe Maths and Science, they could get bored quickly and potentially regret their options.

At the end of the day, they’ll be more motivated to work hard and succeed if they enjoy what they’re studying! While you may want to guide them towards a particular path, respecting what your child wants to study at GCSE is a key part of helping them make more confident decisions and achieve independence.

So what next? With Coursepilot, students can quickly and easily find their ideal course. Whether they want to explore every option there is or they know exactly what they want to study, join Coursepilot free today to search thousands of courses, open days and explore a huge range of careers.


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