GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. These are crucial qualifications for anyone leaving secondary education. They provide information for colleges or employers about your skills and learning between the ages of 11 and 16. Most employers or institutions looking at your results will expect at least 5 A to C’s with emphasis being placed on English, Maths and Sciences. Many students will leave secondary schools with 10 or more GCSEs.

Choices as to what GCSE certificates you take are usually made in the summer term of your 3rd year of secondary education. The range of subjects you can choose from is constantly being added to. Some subjects will be compulsory choices. These are largely English, Maths and Science but schools may enforce others also. The following is a general list of GCSE subjects you might get to choose from:


English Language
English Literature
Sciences – Single/Double/Triple awards:


Welsh (if you live in Wales)

Irish (in Irish medium schools)


Religious Education - can also be compulsory at some schools, but often only a short course

Information Technology – Quite often a compulsory diploma

Technology – Textiles, Electronics, Resistant Materials, Food, Graphic design and more

French, Spanish, German and other modern languages (depending on your school)
Physical Education

And more... find out which choices are available to you by searching for your school or college on Ofqual's register.

GCSEs take the last two years of secondary education to complete and are assessed by a mixture of coursework and exams in your final year. 

For advice on what subjects take at GCSEs look at the Student Room. It's also worth looking at this Gov.uk page about courses for 14-19 year olds, and the guide to GCSEs [pdf] from Ofqual. This site also explains the alternative qualifications you might want to consider.

There is loads of information on the internet to help you decide - we point to a couple but you will easily find more (you could start by looking at the websites of the professional bodies for each sector/subject, in the Profession Finder):

Once you’ve decided what you are going to be studying it might be worth checking out the BBC’s well respected revision aid, GCSE Bitesize. Their resources work on the basis of breaking down course content into “manageable chunks” in order to remember key information when it comes to exams. Most of their revision aids are in the form of interactive videos.

GCSE's and A-levels are due to be reformed in the UK in 2015, so watch this space...