What is it?
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 subjects, e.g. history, science, French and some subjects which are more closely linked with work, e.g. business studies.
It's highly valued by schools, colleges and employers, so will be useful whatever you are planning to do afterwards.
The qualification mainly involves studying the theory of a subject, combined with some investigative work. Some subjects also involve 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 = level 1 and grades A*-C = level 2.
Where could I study?
Young people complete their GCSEs in Year 10 and 11 as part of the school curriculum. All young people have to study towards certain GCSEs at this age, like English, Maths, and Science. After school people can study towards a GCSE at their local college.
How long will it take me?
When studying for a number of GCSEs these often take around two years to complete. If only studying for one or two GCSEs you can often complete these within one year on a part time basis, at a college.
Options after the course?
Getting a GCSE can lead to a number of routes: for example, work, 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 a level 3 course. Most degreee courses at universities and colleges ask for five GCSEs at level 2, which include English and maths (or other level 2 English and maths qualifications) as well as A levels or equivalent qualifications.