choices school options and exams

School options and exams

Not sure which GCSEs or A-levels to take? Got exams coming up and looking for revision tips? Maybe your results have come in and you’re not sure what to do next? We’re here to help!

GCSEs A-levels Exams and Revision

Results day advice

Results day is coming!

  • In Scotland, the Higher, Advanced Higher, National and Scottish Baccalaureate results are announced on 7th August.
  • UK A-level results will be announced on 16th August.
  • UK GCSE results will be announced on 23rd August.

When your results come in, don’t forget you can phone the Exam Results Helpline. See below for tips on how to prepare for your exam results and what to do when the big day finally arrives.


GCSEs and choices at 14

In years 10 and 11 (and in some cases in year 9) you will get the chance to choose what GCSEs you want to take, if you are studying for GCSEs. You will get to choose some subjects, but there are some subjects you have to take. These are known as core subjects:

  • English (either a single English GCSE, or English Language and English Literature)
  • Maths
  • Science (either core science, double science or triple science which covers physics, biology and chemistry)

Some schools may set additional core subjects which you have to take, but these three subjects are considered vital in all schools. You will need to get a grade 4 pass in English and maths (or a C grade in the old system), but you can retake them to achieve this grade if you need to.

You can then pick GCSE subjects you want to do in the following four areas:

  • Arts
  • Design and technology
  • Humanities
  • Modern foreign languages

It can help you to study a range of subject areas at this stage so you can find out more about what you like and have a wider range of study options when you make your next big choices at 16.

See more GCSEs info

A-levels and choices at 16

You have lots of options open to you at the age of 16, although you still need to do some form of learning or training. Do you want to do an apprenticeship, study for A-levels (or their equivalents) or do a vocational qualification to get started in a career? One useful choice you can make at this stage is to research these different pathways and see what’s best for you. You can consider whether you want to stay where you are (if that school option is available) or study somewhere else, like a sixth form college.

If you choose to do A-levels, ask yourself these three questions about any subject you’re thinking of doing:

  1. Do you enjoy it?
  2. Do you think you can do well in it?
  3. Do you think it will help you with making future life and work choices in a direction you want to go in?
See more A-levels info

BTECs - an alternative to A-levels and GCSEs

What is a BTEC? It’s a qualification, the same as GCSEs and A levels are qualifications. You can do BTECs from GCSE level up to degree level (check this list of BTEC qualifications to see where you fit in).

So how is a BTEC different from GCSEs and A levels? The main difference is in the way you learn. With a BTEC, you learn by doing, not by having your nose stuck in a book and revising for huge final exams. A BTEC qualification is still very valuable. Employers love it because it shows you are ready to throw yourself into the world of work. Universities love it and you can still get UCAS points for your application with a BTEC.

Sounds good? Find out more about BTECs here.


School Choices and Exams hot picks

Remember, you always have lots of options available when you’re thinking about what subjects to study or looking at next steps after exams! Revision doesn’t have to be scary, either. Get real insights from young people who have been there, done that. PLUS: get started with top tips and info from professionals.


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