GCSE Options - impact on Oxbridge application

(85 Posts)
NL3 Wed 13-Jan-10 11:13:26

DS1 is in Yr9 of a state comp. Quite bright - but also quite lazy.

We have to choose his GCSE options soon and I have a couple of questions that I hope someboby can answer.

Do your options at GCSE have any impact on your chances of gaining admission to Oxford or Cambridge?

Are any courses perceived as "soft" options similar to the list at A-level that top universities won't count?

Is it ok to choose solely academic subjects?

Any advice on this specific list -

English Language and Literature
Triple Science

Thanks in advance for any help

TheArsenicCupCake Wed 13-Jan-10 11:23:38

DS1 wants to do the Oxbridge thing .. he took his options last year.. before we did this we had a look at the oxford and cambridge web site for the subject he wants to read ( law in his case).. there is a lot of info on the sites.

anyhoo.. he has taken and some that he has to take ( if it helps)
english lit language and media
triple science as an extra to the core science
resistant materials

he already took some gcse's early last year and and this year and so is doing as level that are available to him in statistics..
A levels he is considering
English ( not sure which)
chemistry / physics/biology ( not sure which).

he's been advised not to take a level law

He will also be sitting spanish as an extra language.

hth .. but have a look on their webby pages..

senua Wed 13-Jan-10 11:27:17

Because "everyone" gets AAA at A Level, Universities are increasingly looking at GCSE to help sort the wheat from the chaff. I can't remember the figure but there is a sort of benchmark for GCSE at Oxbridge (something along the lines of at least 6 A grade) so make sure that he takes subjects in which he will excel. Having said that, "everyone" has a list of A grade academic subjects so if he can throw in something 'interesting' it will give the poor interviewer something to talk about!

I believe that Economics is one of those strange subjects which is considered rigorous at University level but micky mouse at GCSE.

TheArsenicCupCake Wed 13-Jan-10 11:38:45

ohh just want to add that for ds1.. ( can't remember if it was oxford or cambridge).. but they wanted 9 A A*s at GCSE.

barring just the acedemic bits.. DS1 also has interesting ouside school things going on, Judo, DofE, Sea Cadets, the arts etc.


NL3 Wed 13-Jan-10 11:44:52

Thanks to you both for the information - I wasn't educated in this country and find it a bit of a minefield when it comes to things like this. Thanks for the comment about Economics - I wondered about that - it must be similar to sociology which was also one that I had crossed off the list.

abra1d Wed 13-Jan-10 12:02:33

CItizenship is probably best avoided.

CMOTdibbler Wed 13-Jan-10 12:06:42

RE, citizenship, and economics don't really add much, so I'd be wanting to think about swapping those. What for, depends on what he wants to study at Uni really.

GooseyLoosey Wed 13-Jan-10 12:09:04

Not an admissions tutor for an oxbridge college, but wnet to one and dh has been an admissions tutor for a Russell group uni.

I kind of think that if it is a subject which would not have been around 40 years ago, then you should avoid it.

Am a lawyer and definitely agree that A level law is not helpful.

Also agree that helpful to look on university websites and even ask admissions officies.

NL3 Wed 13-Jan-10 12:13:59

Thanks for the further information - unfortunately he's pretty awful at things like art, music, drama - so none of those options are an option. He wants to read Philsophy or History at Uni and then perhaps a law conversion. He will probably opt for English Lit, History, and Philosophy at A Level. I just don't want to do anything wrong now that could impact on future choices.

CMOTdibbler Wed 13-Jan-10 12:21:55

If he wants to do History, can he do latin GCSE ? My historian friend has been disadvantaged through not having latin, so I'm guessing it would be well worth it.

Piffle Wed 13-Jan-10 12:29:02

DS1 took advice and has done
Maths Stats
IT (half course already in yr10
HE got A and A*

Yr 11 now and is taking
Higher maths
Triple Science
Double English
Mandarin (as twilight after school course)
Res Mats (tech)
Compulsory half course RE

In addition he is doing a free standing Maths qualification

That said he now said he does not want to go to Oxbridge and wants to do some kind of web design/graphic design/architecture type thing

A levels touted thus far

Piffle Wed 13-Jan-10 12:31:45

i think philosophy is considered soft, sorry iirc

bruffin Wed 13-Jan-10 14:16:25

DS is yr 9 and his science teacher says he should be looking at oxbridge for sciences. We were told that it's not only exam results but they are now starting to look further and further back into their educational history and also extra curicular work. We were told to start preparing now. He choses his options in March.

snorkie Wed 13-Jan-10 14:39:29

It looks like a good set of choices to me. The first 10 are all solid academic subjects covering all the basics and separate science, two languages (highly regarded) and 2 good humanities. On their own those 10 would set him up well for most courses, so I don't think the last three being potentially soft matters at all. RE/Citizenship are mandatory in some places, so their 'softness' doesn't matter.

The only thing I would say is that some Engineering, Architecture courses are supposed to favour having a DT or Art type option. Even Dentistry likes to see something that demonstrates good fine motor control I'm told. So long as those aren't things he's likely to consider doing he's probably best playing to his strengths and sticking with his current choices, rather than risking a lower grade in a subject he's not keen on or especially good at.

ElephantsAndMiasmas Wed 13-Jan-10 15:18:09

Sounds good to me, RE and French will probably help if does either history or philosophy. The others are good "normal" academic subjects - what does he think about it? is there anything he esp wants to do that's not on the list?

As others have said don't forget out of school activities - I went to an oxbridge college and tbh there were people there who had probably just sat at home and done homework every night. But a lot more people had been involved in stuff both within school (e.g. mentoring, school counsel, activities like orchestra etc) and out of school. Nothing in particular i think, just be directed by his interests. If he's interested in history for instance he cuold volunteer at a museum, or on an archeological dig, or recording old people for an oral history project or something.

Lilymaid Wed 13-Jan-10 15:30:40

NL3 - Definitely avoid Economics GCSE though it is fine for AS/A2 (avoid Law for both GCSE and AS/A2). Citizenship wouldn't be well thought of either. English is better done as two subjects - not sure whether here it is a combined course. If you had to choose two out of three from History, Geography and RE, History and Geography would be better - but perhaps RE is compulsory?
TheArsenicCupCake - English Literature is better thought of than English Language as an A2 subject.

Trinity College Cambridge produces a list of A Level "soft subjects" which is more detailed than the Cambridge University list and which may be of help.

MillyR Wed 13-Jan-10 16:04:09

The free standing maths qual sounds interesting Piffle. Was it recommended to you? How different is it from GCSE and A level Maths/

ShrinkingViolet Wed 13-Jan-10 16:10:01

the FMQ is like the old Additional Maths O level, and covers some of the same stuff as AS Maths, but in a different way, and the exam is very different to GCSE - DD1 moaned because for the FMQ she had to remember all her formulae, but in the GCSE she got given them all. According to an ex-pupil now doing Maths at Warwick who came back to talk to the current lot, the FMQ was the most difficult maths exam he's sat. It's pretty well regarded AFAIK.

Lilymaid Wed 13-Jan-10 16:32:24

DS1 did Freestanding Maths in Y11 after doing GCSE in Y10 - school thought it helped transition from GCSE to AS/A2.

bellissima Wed 13-Jan-10 16:38:14

I was advised to do maths rather than economics for A level in order to do economics (with history) at Oxford. I think maths is better regarded as they teach economics to A level and beyond in the first couple of terms.

fritzzwicky Wed 13-Jan-10 16:41:51

Lilymaid, interesting that you say Economics is fine at AS/A level although not at GCSE. I'm relieved - ds has chosen Economics as an AS/A level subject, and hopes to try for Oxbridge. He's also doing Maths, Further Maths and History, so we hope the combo will be solid enough.

fritzzwicky Wed 13-Jan-10 17:08:23

Oh, and I missed off Physics. Maths and Further Maths somehow count as one choice at his school. That Trinity College link is v useful, thanks for that!

pantomimecow Wed 13-Jan-10 17:48:19

Is music GCSE regarded as soft ?

snorkie Wed 13-Jan-10 17:59:17

music is not supposed to be regarded as soft at GCSE, but if you exclude the time spent to get proficient enough at an instrument for the performance side of it I think it is quite an easy option. At A level, music is OK but Music Technology is soft I'm told.

MillyR Wed 13-Jan-10 18:24:56

DS will be able to do GCSE Maths and GCSE Additional Maths. Does anyone know how additional Maths compares to freestanding Maths. Is it worth doing both? Sorry to go on about this but I am very interested and have not heard of it.

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