Parent Guide: How To Help Your Teen Choose Their GCSE Options

During the end of Year 9, your teen will be asked to make choices about the GCSE subjects or courses they would like to study in Years 10 and 11. Even though the process of choosing subjects will be organised by the school, it’s completely normal for students to feel worried or apprehensive about making these big decisions. Not only will they be studying them for the next two years, there can be a lot of peer-pressure around options, with friendship groups aiming to stay in the same classes. Here’s some ways you can help your teen choose their GCSE options, so they can make the most informed choice possible and reach their full potential academically.

What GCSE Options Are There?

Most students will (generally) have the following options to choose from, however, this will vary from school to school. Students should be given information regarding the subjects available to them.

  • A modern foreign language. The most commonly taught are French, German and Spanish, but some schools also offer languages like Mandarin and Russian. Some schools require you to take a modern foreign language, so check with your teachers whether these are part of your options or compulsory.
  • A humanities subject like History, Geography, or Religious Studies.
  • An arts subject like Music, Drama, Art and Design or Media Studies.
  • A technical subject such as Design and Technology, Food Technology or Computer Science.
  • All students have to do PE in years 10 and 11, but you can also take it as a GCSE option.

Look At What Subjects They Enjoy

The first thing teens should consider when looking at their GCSE options is what subjects they actually enjoy and have a genuine passion to continue studying. Even if the subject will only ever be a hobby or interest, it will help them when it comes to motivation levels throughout the next two years. Adopting this approach will also make it a little bit easier to narrow down some choices, especially as some schools have quite a few subjects to choose from.

Consider Learning Style And Other Strengths

Another important area to encourage your teen to consider when choosing GCSE options is their learning style and opting for subjects that will match their strengths. For example, if they prefer more hands-on creative learning, then maybe art or media studies would be a good idea. However, if they’re more technically minded, considering IT or business studies could be great. There’s also plenty of learning style quizzes students can take to reveal how they work best or just to help them consider which options might suit them best.

Research The Subject And What It Will Entail Beforehand

We also highly recommend encouraging sitting down with your teens and fully researching what’s involved in all of the GCSE options and what this could mean for future choices. Even though most schools will provide an online resource or booklet about what they offer, the BBC GCSE Bitesize website also has plenty of information to consider. It’s also crucial to find out how different subjects will be assessed- this could be practical work, coursework, extended writing, exams or a combination of these. Perhaps one will play to your teen’s strengths more than the other. However, if they’re finding it difficult to narrow their options down, it’s always a good idea to list the pros and cons of each subject and look at the balance of all of their GCSE subjects together to see if the workload will be manageable.

Chat To Teachers

Finally, don’t be afraid to chat to teachers and ask for their advice about what GCSE options they feel would suit your teen best. It’s likely the school will offer lots of opportunities to speak to teachers about this, whether this is parents’ evenings or specific dedicated GCSE options events. Normally teachers have a clearer idea of what the subjects will actually entail and if your son or daughter would be a good fit.

Ensure Your Teen Avoids Doing The Following:

  • Picking a subject because their friends are!
  • Choosing subjects on a whim and not considering it carefully beforehand.
  • Being influenced to pick a subject because it’s taught by your favourite teacher. Likewise, try not to avoid a subject just because you’re not too keen on a teacher- it might not be taught by that person.