GCSEs are the main qualification taken by 14 to 16 year olds, but are available to anyone who would like to study a subject that interests them. You can take GCSEs in a variety of traditional academic subjects for example History, Science or French as well some subjects that are more closely linked with work like Business Studies.
GCSEs are highly valued by schools, colleges and employers, so will be useful whatever you are planning to do afterwards.
GCSE qualifications mainly involve studying the theory of a subject and are assessed at the end of the course through written examinations. Some subjects may also involve a certain amount of practical work. GCSEs are usually studied full-time at school or college.
The level of a GCSE is determined by the results you achieve: grades D-F (3 to 1 in the new grading system) are at Level 1 and grades A*-C (9 to 4) are Level 2 qualifications.
Recently the GCSE grading system has changed for many subjects - you can find out more here.
Normally young people complete their GCSEs in Year 10 and 11 as part of the school curriculum, although students in some schools may start some GCSE subjects earlier than this. All young people have to study English, Maths, and Science GCSEs at this age.
It has now become a requirement that young people must continue to study English and Maths to the age of 18 and until they achieve at least a C grade (Grade 4). After school people can study towards a GCSE at their local college.
Most GCSE qualifications are designed to take around two years to complete. Most young people study a number of different GCSEs at the same time.
Getting a GCSE can lead to further study or an Apprenticeship. If you complete GCSEs at Level 1, you could move on to other courses at Level 2. Completing GCSEs at Level 2 can lead to other Level 2 or Level 3 courses.
Many degree courses at universities and colleges ask for a minimum of five GCSEs - to include English and Maths at Grade C (4) or above (or sometimes other level 2 English and Maths qualifications) - as well as A levels or equivalent Level 3 qualifications.