Secondary / Age 11-16 | Aimhigher West Midlands

Year 7 to 11 is an important time in your life. Now is a great time to start experimenting with different career ideas and options. You can begin building a future that makes the most of your skills and interests, while accessing an amazon range of opportunities.

You may be faced with a lot of questions at the moment, and we’re here to help. You can use this page as a helping hand to gain guidance and advice on how to conquer Years 7 – 11. Got a question? Chat to us and click on Speak to Aimhigher.

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Students - Secondary

Choosing your GCSEs

Choosing which GCSE subjects you study can be a challenging decision, especially when choosing between a range of subjects that can open up a range of career options.

Whichever options you choose, you’ll have a broad range of career and university options. Try to put yourself first and pick the best options for you, rather than picking something because your friend has picked it or to be with your favourite teacher.

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English Language / English Literature

Is it a requirement? Yes

Where can I use it?
English is a great subject to combine with other subjects. You need skills from English in a majority of careers. With an English qualification, you could go on to study creative writing at university or eventually become an English teacher. Most places require you to have a GCSE grade 4 or above to access their course, make sure you concentrate in your English classes!

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Maths

Is it a requirement? Yes

Where can I use it?
Just like English, maths is another subject that you need to concentrate in. Most work places will look for a Maths GCSE Grade 4 or above. Maths is a great skill to have to support you through life as well as employment. With a Maths qualification, you could study accountancy or engineering at university. The choices are endless.

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Sciences - Biology, Chemistry, Physics

Is it a requirement? Yes

Where can I use it?
Science in some sort of capacity is a requirement in every school. You may have a favourite science or like the subject in general. With a science qualification, you could progress to studying medicine, allied health or sport therapies at university. A science GCSE opens up a world of opportunities and career possibilities including astrophysics (study of space) or marine biology (study of marine life).

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Languages - French, Spanish, German

Is it a requirement? Depends on your school

Where can I use it?
Having a second language is a great way to make your CV stand out from the competition. With a languages qualification, you could progress onto studying at university and become an interpreter or translator. Learning a new language can be difficult and so having this skill shows future employers and universities that you are a committed and determined individual. Being able to speak a second language also opens up a world of opportunities where you could travel with work!

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History

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
Studying History can give you an insight into the past, the world today and other cultures. With a history qualification, you could progress to studying archaeology or anthropology at university. History as a subject gives you great transferrable skills and can help you on your way to studying politics or law in the future!

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PE

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
Studying PE at GCSE will be different to how you normally think of PE. There is still physical activities (sports) involved but the GCSE also looks at theory based physical education, this includes studying muscles and how the human body works. With a qualification in PE, there is nothing stopping you from becoming an athlete or you could progress to study a subject like physiotherapy at university.

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Drama

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
Drama as a GCSE is a great transferrable subject. Not only do you gain important life skills such as confidence but you can also let your creative side shine through. With a Drama GCSE, you could progress to acting, stage management or drama teaching at university. If you prefer learning practically, drama would be a good subject choice.

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Art

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
Are you a creative person? Doing an Art qualification is a fantastic way to show off your creative side and can provide you with many great opportunities in the future! Art isn’t just about drawing pretty landscapes and life like portraits, it’s all about experimenting with different styles, expressing yourself and trying new practical skills. With an Art qualification, you could progress to a career in animation, photography, graphics or media, just to list a few!

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Music

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
GCSE Music is an exciting option to take, you’ll get the opportunity to study a wide range of activities including, performing (playing an instrument or singing), composing and learning about different styles of music. Having a music qualification can show employers that you have a variety of skills and interests and that you are a committed and dedicated individual (learning a musical instrument can be hard work!). Studying music may also help you improve your confidence and performance skills, which are key transferable skills! You could also progress into careers such as music journalism, music production or song writing.

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Geography

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
Studying Geography can help make sense of the world around you. It’s a hands on, current and fun subject! It is a very varied subject and will enable you to develop important skills, including writing essays, handling numbers and understanding graphs. A geography qualification opens up a world of opportunities, many employers/universities see geography as a highly skilled and flexible qualification to have. If you are passionate about the world we live in and having a positive impact, a geography qualification could lead to you taking steps into changing the world for the better as your job.

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Business

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
There is more to doing a Business GCSE than just learning general theory about running a business. Studying Business can help you to develop a wide range of transferable skills, which will help to improve your employability in the future. Here are a few examples of the skills you could build up: essay writing, handling numbers and financial data, problem solving, giving presentations and organisation and planning. All these skills can help you in your future education and career pathways!

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Computing

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
If you’re keen to grow your understanding of the digital world and want to know more about cutting edge technology, then a qualification in Computing is a great choice. There are thousands of job opportunities in the fast growing digital sector like programmers, software engineering, web developing and cloud architects. A computing qualification will develop invaluable skills such as logical thinking and creativity.

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Religious Studies

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
Taking Religious Studies is a great way to broaden you understanding of society, including peoples’ religion, culture and background. Many students at college and university go on to combine RS with subjects such as Philosophy, Art, History, Psychology and Politics. If you think you want a career that works with people, a religious studies qualification would be a good choice for you. Graduates of Theology and Religious Studies have plenty of career options, for example teaching, law, social work and even medicine!

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Media

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
Media is all about studying communication. You’ll find media everywhere in your everyday life, whether you’re watching TV, streaming a film, scrolling through social media or listening to a podcast- it’s all media! Studying media is a great way to develop some key transferable skills, for example: critical thinking, problem solving, analysis and research. Having a media qualification can help you to progress to a career on advertising, marketing and journalism!

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Home Economics (Hospitality)

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
If you are interested in food, nutrition and health, home economics would be a great choice for you. With a home economics qualification, you could progress to a career in food or specialise in nutrition and tailor diets and eating plans for members of the public. In home economics, you will learn there is more to food than just cooking and eating it, you will learn about the science and principles behind food.

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Design & Technology

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
Do you enjoy being creative and problem solving? If so Design and Technology may be a great GCSE for you. Some of the industries that Design and Technology can lead you to include: fashion design, architecture, product design and engineering. Design and Technology is also a great subject for those who are creative enjoy more practical learning!

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Health & Social Care

Is it a requirement? Optional

Where can I use it?
Health and Social Care looks at a wide range of topics to do with the health, social care and early years sectors. If you know you are interested in a career in one of these sectors but are not sure which, this qualification is a great way for you to develop a key understanding of what the industry involves. Some related career include a care worker, a social worker, a counsellor or a health visitor.

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Revision

Revising can be a unique experience. What works for you might not work for someone else. So when beginning your GCSEs, the sooner you find a revision technique that works for you, the better. To help you avoid any stress and be prepared, Aimhigher have shared some top tips on how to effectively revise and achieve your full potential in your GCSEs.

Step 1 - Create a revision timetable

Planning your revision time can be an effective way to help you avoid any stress and running the risk of cramming last minute. Study your most difficult subjects first to get them over with and share your timetable with a friend or family. You are more likely to stick to your timetable if you tell someone. Start early on in the school year and you can take a much calmer approach to your revision.

Step 2 - Avoid Distractions

We know it is difficult to put your phone away but try your hardest to remove any distractions around you while you revise. This includes TV, game consoles and your phone. Try revising in a calm and quiet space or give your phone to someone while you revise so you can concentrate fully and avoid any temptation you may have to check your phone.

Step 3 - Look after yourself

Revision is important but so is your mental health! Be sure to look after yourself and don’t overwork, taking regular breaks and award yourself for working hard. For example, if you revised solidly for 30 minutes, have a snack or sit on your phone for five minutes before continuing your revision.

Step 4 - Eat. Sleep. Exercise.

Revision can be quite stressful if you don’t plan properly. You also need to make sure you are eating healthily, sleeping well and exercising regularly. Try to ditch the junk food and replace with fresh fruit and a glass of water. Sleeping well can also improve your concentration levels so make sure you are getting enough sleep at night and not staying up too late. If you aren’t keen on exercise, make sure you are taking regular breaks from your studying by walking around your house or getting fresh air outside.

Step 5 - Be realistic

When creating your revision timetable or before you start studying, set yourself realistic goals. There isn’t any point blocking out 4 hours of revision in an evening if you know you won’t have the time to do it, which could leave you feeling unmotivated or unproductive if you don’t complete what you set out to do. Set small, achievable goals to reach the bigger goal of passing your exams.

Step 6 - Find what works best for you

Remember everyone learns differently and absorbs information in their own way. Try to work out what type of learner you are and study in a way that suits you. Try not to compare yourself to others as you are completely different to them. Do what works for you.

Step 7 - Manage time

When creating your revision timetable, make sure you take time to relax and have time to rest from school work. You also need to factor in other commitments like hobbies, mealtimes or spending time with your friends and family. Find a good school to life balance and you’ll be more likely to achieve your goals.

Next Steps: Life after Year 11

Just like picking GSCEs, there will come a time in Year 11 where you’ll begin to be asked what your next steps are and what you want to do after your GCSEs: College, Sixth Form or an apprenticeship? As always, it’s important to choose what is best for you and not what your friends are doing. Do some research into a career that interests and excites you, looking at what qualifications you will need to pursue it.

Not sure whether college or sixth form is the right choice for you? Watch our video here to help you decide.

All post-year 11 options have their benefits, however one will suit you best.
Have a look below to see which option might be best for you.

Apprenticeship

  • Combines practical learning and study
  • Gain real work experience
  • Get an income as you study
  • Develop your skills

BTEC

Can be studied at college or sixth form.

  • More vocational/practical based – combines hands on learning with subject study
  • Designed for students who have some idea what industry or sector they would like to go into.
  • BTEC Firsts – GCSE standard
  • BTEC Nationals – A Level Standard
  • Entry Requirements depend on the course you are interested in – you may need 5 GCSEs at grade 9 – 4 (A*- C)

A-Levels

Can be studied at sixth form or college

  • Must have 5 GCSEs at grade 9 – 4 (A*- C)
  • More likely to study and take end of year exams
  • Can study four subjects in your first year and drop in your second year
  • A great way to keep your options open
  • Sixth form has a similar feel to school and what you already know

Qualifications Explained