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GCSE Subject Options

Posted by: MPW - 28 June 2021 - MPW Group - Read time: 4 Minutes

You are now entering an amazing time in your academic journey. Namely, you get to choose what to study, which can be both exciting and daunting in equal measure. Making an informed subject selection at GCSE is the first important step along your academic journey. Such an important decision and early interest in your preferred subjects can propel you through to success in your A levels, degree and, ultimately, your career.

As an individual, you can decide the direction to take, and we’ve put together some pointers to help you do just that.

Let’s start with the reasons you shouldn’t base your decision on:

It’s easy

Do not choose a subject based solely on thinking it will be easy. Firstly, it may not actually be as easy as you think, then you will be stuck with a difficult subject that you don’t particular like. Secondly, if it is an easy subject, then it may not be as valued by prospective colleges, universities and employers as an alternative subject. Lastly, choosing an easy subject takes away your opportunity to try something different that you may enjoy more. That said, don’t confuse easy with having an aptitude for that subject, it is definitely worth pursuing a subject you have a natural ability in.

Peer pressure

Do not choose subjects just because your friends are choosing them, you may not even end up in the same class as them. Similarly, do not avoid a subject because you worry that your friends might not think it is a ‘cool’ subject. This is your chance to make an independent choice and impact your future, so, by all mean discuss it with your friends, but ultimately make the decision based on your own opinions and research.

The teacher

Like making the decision based on what your friends are doing, do not choose a subject because you like the teacher of that subject – they may not always be at your school or even be teaching your class. That said, it is a great idea to discuss subjects with their respective teachers, as they will be able to let you know what the course entails.

Your parents or guardians

Your parents/guardians are a very helpful resource when choosing which subjects to pursue and it can be very difficult at this stage in your life to disagree with them, but it is important not to let them dictate your choice. Ultimately, you will have to study the chosen subjects for the next two years, so you need to make sure they suit you.

Limited offering at your school

Just because your school doesn’t offer a subject at GCSE shouldn’t stop your form pursuing it. Although switching schools is a very big decision, if there is a subject you are passionate about pursuing at GCSE level, it may be worth looking at a school which provides it.

Now, let’s look at the factors you should consider when choosing your GCSE subjects:

Compulsory subjects

Maths, English (language and/or literature) and Science (combined, two GCSEs as minimum) are the core subjects that all UK students must take. Beyond these, each school has a different approach to the rest of the options available – some require a least one modern language, one humanities subject, one arts subject and one technical subject, others offer much more flexibility.

Curriculum and assessment

Researching the curriculum of subjects is critical to help you understand what you’ll be studying over the next two years, as GCSE level study can often vary vastly from earlier study of that subject. A prime example is PE: is not just playing sports, there is a significant amount of academic-based study on anatomy, physiology, sports psychology and more.

It’s good to understand how your subjects will be assessed and that this matches your strengths i.e. if you perform better at coursework than exams, you may reconsider a topic that is assessed entirely by exams.

Ask for help

Although we’ve said not to base your decision solely on the opinions of others, do consult your teachers, parents, siblings and friends (if they’ve already begun their GCSE study). Just because you have the independence to make your own decision, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also ask for advice on subjects.

"At MPW, we can advise you on the best subjects to match your future ambitions."

Maya Waterstone, Head of GCSE at MPW London

Your future

It may seem early to think about your career, but your GCSE choices can impact upon your future studies and career path. If you have a particular field of study or career in mind for the future, consider which subjects will benefit you most in those pursuits. Alternatively, if you are not sure about your future, choose a mix to help you keep your options open.

There are a couple of helpful tools that can help you work backwards from your future degree course or career to choose the most appropriate GCSE subjects:


Taking all the above into consideration, it is important that you choose a balance of subjects that:

  • You enjoy
  • You have an aptitude for
  • You find challenging
  • Help towards your future studies
  • Align with your career goals

As well as choosing the most appropriate subjects, it’s important that they are delivered in the most supportive environment, this means choosing the most appropriate school. At MPW, we have an outstanding pastoral support system, providing our students with personalised attention at every stage of their GCSE journey. Combined with very small class sizes in a co-education setting – there is an average of six students per class and absolute guarantee of fewer than 10.

Find out more about the GCSE & IGCSE subjects and support that we offer across our three colleges: