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GCSEs: compulsory and optional



GCSEs are the main qualifications that young people do in key stage 4 (usually this is in Y10 and 11 but some schools start in Y9).

You will be able to choose some of your GCSE courses but there are some compulsory GCSE subjects that everyone has to take.


GCSEs you have to do



Some subjects are compulsory at GCSE level and have to be taken by all young people. The compulsory subjects are…

  • English (English Literature and English Language or a single English GCSE)
  • Maths
  • Science (Core Science, Double Science or Triple Science)

Some schools make other subjects compulsory, so it is worth checking what you are required to do at your school.

GCSEs - Optional choices



Optional subjects vary from school to school. But you must be offered at least one course in each of four groups of subjects…

  • Arts
  • Design and Technology
  • Humanities
  • Modern Foreign Languages

You don’t have to choose one subject from each area, but remember that studying a range of subjects at this stage is useful, so that you have a wide range of options for later study and career choices.

Schools offer a varying range of GCSE subjects from which you can choose. Because schools are not able to offer unlimited subject combinations, it’s possible that your choices may be limited. You will need to find out what GCSE subjects and combinations are available at your school.

Get help and advice on how to make your choices.

GCSEs are changing from 2015!

From September 2015, in England, new GCSEs in English language, English literature and maths will be available to be taught in schools and colleges. New GCSEs in other subjects will be introduced from the following year.

This means that…

  • Most exams will be taken at the end of the two-year course rather than on completion of modules
  • There will be less coursework and assessment will mostly be by exam.
  • There will be a new grading scale that uses the numbers 1 to 9 to identify levels of performance, with 9 being the top grade
  • There will be fewer short-answer and more essay-style exam questions