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Choosing the right subjects

Although these decisions may be complicated, they are made simpler by following the two golden rules:

  • Choose the subjects that you enjoy
  • Choose the subjects that you are good at

If your son follows these rules, then the chances of success will be maximised. Consideration should be given to the level of achievement in current subjects as well as potential in chosen subjects. In addition, thought should be given to how the different GCSE or equivalent Level 2 courses fit in with future career or educational aspirations. Your son’s tutor will be able to offer advice and guidance, as well as having conversations with subject teachers.

What is the difference between GCSE, Btec and other equivalent Level 2 courses?

GCSEs have a more traditional style of assessment with content taught over the three years of key stage 4. They are linear courses: in other words, they are examined at the end of year 11 and are graded 1-9. Btecs and other level 2 courses, often referred to as ‘vocational’ courses, hold the same performance value as , although these are graded as a Pass, Merit, Distinction and Distinction*. They consist of a mix of theory and practice and are assessed by the teacher and through one external examination. Students will complete a range of assignments, case studies and practical activities and after each assessment will be given a grade which will contribute to their final result. The external exam may be taken in year 10. The reformed vocational courses are just as rigorous as in terms of content; they are just assessed differently. They allow students to progress to sixth form, apprenticeships or employment. Both GCSE and vocational courses hold the same performance value.

The table below aims to compare GCSE grades and Btec grades. Unfortunately, because of the way they are calculated, they do not quite match up, but it might help show which grades are equivalent with GCSE and Btec. For example, a level 2 merit is worth somewhere between a C and a B. This means that if a student (and their teacher) was thinking a student might achieve a 4 in GCSE, but could get a merit at Btec because of the way they learn, then maybe Btec might be better for them.


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