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GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education, and is the main qualification that children aged 14-16 take, before being able to leave school. It is highly valued by schools, universities and employers, and having these qualifications can be useful for whatever job path and route is taken next.
GCSEs can be taken in approximately 50 different subjects, around 80% of which are academic and the remainder are applied or vocational.
Taking a GCSE involves studying the theory of a subject and putting this together with some research and sometimes using practical skills.
Students will normally study between five and twelve subjects, including the three that are compulsory:
Schools will also have to offer at least one subject out of the following 'entitlement' areas:
After these, there are other more specific subjects that can be taken at GCSE level.
The qualifications are taken over a two year time scale, with assessment in written exams and coursework at the end of the course. Some subjects are made up of 'units', in which case, assessment will be at the end of each unit.
GCSEs are a prerequisite for entry into further education institutions for those wishing to take AS and A-levels and can also be taken alongside Functional Skills and Key Skills. GCSEs are at levels one and two on the National Qualifications Framework, depending on the grade.