Your choices at 14

How your choices could affect your future

Although it is a good thing to start thinking about the type of courses, jobs and career you might like to do in the future, at 13 or 14 young people are usually just beginning to explore their options. 

The choice of GCSEs and vocational qualifications available at 13/14 is quite limited. This is to ensure you continue with a broad range of subjects through Key Stage 4. When you are choosing for Post-16, you will have a lot more choice and can start to specialise.

However, you need to be aware that some choices you make now could have an impact on your future - so read on...

Choosing your Key Stage 4 subjects

GCSEs are the main qualifications young people do in Key Stage 4 (usually Y10 and Y11 but some schools start GCSEs in Y9). You will be able to choose some of your courses, but there are some compulsory GCSE subjects like English, maths and science.

Some schools will also offer vocational qualifications alongside GCSEs. Vocational qualifications offer practical learning directly related to a specific job role. These can be a good option if you have a job sector in mind, or if you would like to gain employability skills linked to a specific job area. Find out more about vocational qualifications and ask your school what's on offer to you.

Most GCSEs will be good general preparation for further learning and work so it’s not crucial to choose specific subjects to fit with a specific career at this stage. However, there are a few things you do need to take into account when you are choosing your GCSEs.

Choosing GCSE subjects for certain careers

  • If you think you might want to do a science-related course or job in the future, choose at least double award science.
  • If you think you want to study abroad in the future then it would be good to do a foreign language.
  • If you want a career in art, design or anything else related to a GCSE subject then it is a good idea to choose that subject.

GCSEs for advanced level at 16

If you are thinking about doing an advanced level course at 16, like A-Levels or BTECs, it's sensible to find out what GCSE grades you will need to get on to the course in sixth form or college. Often students need a grade 6 to be able to do that subject as an A Level.

If you choose to do double science at GCSE you can still progress to any of the science subjects at A level as long as you have the required grades!

GCSEs for going on to university

If you are thinking about higher education, be aware that some universities are so competitive they will look at your GCSE results as well as later qualifications like A-Levels or BTECs.

Some university courses - like sciences, medicine and nursing - will be looking for specific GCSEs in the science subjects. Courses in psychology, business or English might require particular GCSE subjects and grades. Find out more about how universities consider pre-16 qualifications.

If you are thinking about a university course you would like to do, it's a good idea to check out the qualifications you need. Check directly with the institution (their websites often have this information), ask a careers adviser, or explore degree course requirements on What Uni?

GCSEs for employment

Employers want people with good maths and English GCSEs. 

The government has now made it a requirement that a young person who hasn't yet achieved a grade 4 (old grade C) or above in maths and English will need to continue to do them, as part of whatever course or training they do, until they are 18. 

That’s why getting a good grade for these subjects in Y11 is the best idea.

Looking ahead, what can you do now?

At this stage, start to explore information and get an idea of your future choices.

  • You can find out about the qualifications and skills needed in different Job Sectors by looking at different Job Profiles.
  • You can complete the Careerpilot pre-16 Skills Map and see what skills you have and use these on applications later.
  • You can look at courses available in colleges, training providers and universities in the South of England and check out the entry requirements.
  • You can get advice from teachers, family and careers advisers.

The law has changed!

All young people must be in some form of education or training until they are 18.

This does not mean you have to stay in school until you are 18, you can choose from a range of things:

  • Full-time education, such as school or college
  • An apprenticeship
  • Part-time education or training if you are employed or self-employed for 20 hours or more a week
  • Part-time education or training plus volunteering for 20 hours or more a week

GCSE choices video: Find out what Donna wishes she had done

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