Do these exams matter?
Your GCSE results are a very important part of your academic journey. The results you get can affect the following:
The sixth form you attend.
Entry requirements for school and college sixth forms vary – ranging from four to five C grades (that’s between a 4 and 5 under the changed GCSE grading system), with perhaps Bs in the subjects you want to study, through to at least six GCSEs at grade A for the most selective colleges.
The qualifications you take next
Some sixth forms may say you can’t do a particular subject unless you’ve got at least a grade A (at least a 6 or 7) in that subject at GCSE. If your grades are mostly Cs (4 or 5), studying A-levels or Advanced Highers could be off limits altogether; a sixth form may offer you a vocational (ie a more practical and hands-on) course such as a BTEC Level 3 qualification instead. Currently, most Universities accept BTECs although these are likely to change in 2023 to reflect the new T Qualification route.
Your eligibility for a university course and the university you apply to
Some of the top academic universities (Russel Group for example) will ask for very high A-level grades – AAB or higher – for most courses.
Because of the assumed connection between your GCSE and A-level results, it’ll be down to you to prove you’re able to achieve top grades. Grades B and C (or a 4 to 6) at GCSE are suggestive of Cs and Ds at A-level – which won’t be enough to get into some universities.
The more competitive the university and course, the higher the number of high-achieving students with top GCSE marks applying.
Your career prospects.
A career-related degree may also have subject-specific entry requirements: Engineering courses such as chemical engineering you’ll usually need A-levels or equivalent in chemistry and maths, and physics for other engineering courses, which in turn means you’ll need to have good GCSE grades in science and maths.
Competitive courses like medicine may ask for a whole suite of good GCSEs. The University of Birmingham’s medical school, for example, specifies ‘normally, applicants must offer A* grades in each of English (either English Language or English Literature), mathematics and all science subjects. Integrated Science (double certificate) is acceptable as an alternative to single sciences. Overall GCSE performance will be considered.’
Social work and Secondary School Teaching won’t consider you without at least a grade C (or 4 or 5) in maths and English language at GCSE.
Nursing and Primary School Teaching requires a grade C (or 4 or 5) in GCSE English, maths and science.
And when it comes to employment right now – for that weekend job while you’re doing your A-levels or a part-time job at uni – your academic grades will go on your CV, too.