When you are in year 9 (or year 8 in some schools), you will decide which courses and qualifications you would like to study until you are 16. Most people study GCSE subjects and take exams at the end of year 11. You need to think carefully how those choices affect your plans after you are 16.

You probably feel as though you have only just got used to life at secondary school and now someone is asking you to make some pretty important decisions; how will you choose which subjects and courses to study?

What options do I have?

Some of your subjects will be compulsory – for example English, maths and science. You will also continue to study computing and citizenship and physical education, as well as be offered lessons in religious education, and sex and relationships. You will also do courses and activities that help prepare you for later life, they might be called careers lessons, or be part of a personal, social, health and economic education course.

But you should be able to choose at least one subject from the arts, design and technology, humanities (history and geography), and a foreign language.

Your options might also include vocational / work-related qualifications to take alongside your GCSEs, or as part of a personalised programme. You might follow a personalised programme if you have additional learning needs and/or need extra support to build your confidence and work towards qualifications.

Your school will tell you about the subjects you can choose. It will also tell you about any other local options that might suit you, for example if a further education college has courses for 14-16 year olds, or if there is a nearby specialist University Technical College (UTC), or a Studio School.

Research all your options before making a decision.

Good reasons for choosing a course include:

  • You are good at / enjoy that subject already.
  • It links to a career idea.
  • You want to continue studying it after you are 16.
  • It will help to give you plenty of choices after you are 16.

Bad reasons for choosing a course include:

  • All your friends have chosen it.
  • You think the lessons will be easy.
  • You like the teacher you have now.
  • You think it is a good course for a boy / girl to do.
  • You didn’t have time to research your options properly or to get any information and advice.