Last year, as I sat in class after class of Geography, ICT and English Language, all I could really focus on was one question – a question that kept circling round my head. That question was: what should I choose for my GCSEs?

Choosing your GCSEs is no easy task, and a lot of pressure can be put on Year 9s, and, now, some Year 8s, to choose their GCSEs the right way, and to not choose them for X and Y reasons. Honestly, the amount of different advice I was given a year ago on how to pick my options was almost ridiculous!

Today I’m hoping to ease your troubles and show you a way in which you can combine all of that different advice in a few easy steps to make sure that you are doing the GCSE courses next year that are right for you. Are you ready?

  1. Take into consideration the subjects in which you have been asked, or encouraged, by the teacher to take. Both my ICT teacher and Drama teacher encouraged me to take their subjects, but I ignored it, and now Drama and Computer Science are both subjects which I really wish I had done. Make a list of all of the subjects you do where your teacher, or even a fellow student or previous teacher, have said to you, ‘I think you should do this subject’. Also add any subjects which you haven’t necessarily been told to take but which you know you always get really good marks in (I’m talking 80s and 90s, as in percentages, depending on your own level).

2. Think of all of the lessons in which you have fun, but make sure it is for the right reasons. I always used to have fun in French, but I have now come to realise that half of that was down to my table and the place where I sat (which was right at the front – I love a good chinwag with a teacher). Think of the subjects you do where you have genuine fun because of the subject and not because of the people or the teacher. Tick those of on your list or make some sort of mark to signify that those subjects are better than the unmarked ones. Also draw a line under your list and add any subjects you think of that aren’t already there, but don’t mark those ones.

3. This next step, I would imagine, is going to completely contrast with what you’ve been told so far. What I’m now asking you to do is to think of all the teachers that you work really well with, or who you haven’t really had the chance to properly talk to but seem awesome and you think you would work really well with. It’s the teachers where, if somebody else got to have them as their teacher and not you, you would feel pretty darn jealous. Make a separate list if there’s too many to think of all at once. Now, ask yourself, are any of these teachers one of the, or the, only teachers in their subject. If they are, take these into consideration as well, but maybe not as much as the subjects from the first and second steps. I would recommend making a mark next to these subjects, but a smaller mark, so you know that they’re not quite as important as the subjects which are both fun and recommended to you, but more important than those which are only one of those things. I know that this is a bit of an unusual piece of advice, but it’s true that the better relationship you have with your teachers, the better chances you’ll have of doing well in your GCSEs.

4. Obviously, there are going to be subjects available which you have never done before, and these can be the hardest subjects to decide on. Hopefully, your school will offer an event of our sort – at our school we have a ‘Year 9 Choices Evening’ – where you can go and learn more about not only these subjects but all subjects available. It is really important to attend these events as they will show and tell you exactly what you would do over the two years of KS4, what the exams are about, what kind of work you will do, and will give you the opportunity to ask all the questions you have about the courses. Use these to make your own judgement on which, if any, of the never-done-before subjects you would be good at and which ones you would enjoy. Add these to your list, starting with the subjects you think you would be good at (add these to the top section of your list if possible – if not, draw another line and add them underneath that), and then making marks next to or adding those which you think you would enjoy. If you’ve already written them in the teacher section (the third section), you obviously don’t need to write them again – just make a mark next to them.

5. You should now have a pretty clear idea of which subjects are right for you. If there are any subjects which have two marks (the big one and the small one), you should definitely take them. They should be your absolute priorities. Next, if you don’t have enough subjects yet, look at all of the subjects which have only big marks next to them. If there are too many, choose the ones that you are best in and enjoy the most (I would imagine these are pretty linked to some extent). Now, if you still don’t have enough, take a look at those subjects which only have small marks next to them. Again, if there are too many, choose your favourites. Hopefully, you should now have enough courses, but if you still need more, start from the top of the list and work your way down it, simply taking the first subject(s) you get to as the one(s) you’re choosing. If there are any choices you have to make where none of the subjects are on your list (for example, at our school, we had to do either History or Geography, but you might not have either of these on your list), you’re just going to have to choose the one you enjoy more or are better at, even if you hate them and think you are rubbish at all of them.

6. You should now, hopefully, have all of your choices, but there is one last step to take. You need to make sure that you aren’t taking any subjects just for the sake of it and that you are entirely caught up with each of your chosen courses, or at least will be by the end of Year 9. I chose French as one of my subjects, but I had only started it at the beginning of Year 8. I was expecting to have learnt all of the needed knowledge in Year 9, but we didn’t, meaning that I am now missing an entire year of knowledge, making the subject practically impossible. I also regret the fact that half the reason I took it was because I wanted to do both my languages to fulfil my potential as languages are what I am really, really good at and, usually really understand. Don’t do something just because you think you might regret not ‘fulfilling your potential’ if you don’t – just use the first four steps to find the subjects which are genuinely right for you. If either of these two things apply to any of your choices, repeat Step 5, and 6, until your subjects are completely perfect.

This will hopefully really help you to choose the absolute perfect GCSE courses for you – it’s exactly what I needed when I was in Year 9, so I’m sure someone will find this helpful!

Don’t worry too much about choosing your GCSEs – at the end of the day, whatever you choose will be fun and right for you to some extent, even if you wish you had chosen different ones. My subjects might not be exactly what I would choose if I had to do it all over again, but I do love them all and, frankly, wouldn’t want to stop doing any of them.

Good luck, and remember, try to have as much fun as you can (whilst still focusing and working hard!!), even if some days it doesn’t feel possible.