Do GCSEs Matter?

According to Ofqual, GCSE results in England have been relatively stable in recent years, despite the reformation of GCSEs and introduction of the new 9-1 grading scale.

So why are parents and students worrying so much about the new GCSEs and do GCSE grades really matter?

GCSE grades can affect student choices and career paths

While low GCSE grades are not the end of the world – there are always different routes and options available – the exams are an important part of a child’s academic journey and can have significant consequences, affecting education and career choices. The main areas impacted by GCSE grades are:

Sixth form choices

Entry requirements for school and college sixth forms vary – ranging from four to five C grades (4 – 5 under the new 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.

As your GCSE results are usually a good indicator of how well you’ll do in A-level or other advanced studies, many sixth forms use a scoring system, based on GCSE grades, to predict how well you’re likely to do (and from that, decide whether or not to accept you). For instance, five B grades (roughly 5 or 6) and five C grades (roughly 4 or 5) at GCSE could roughly translate to a predicted CCD at A-level, while straight A grades would suggest AAA is possible

Further education/qualification options

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. For example, if grades are mostly Cs (4 or 5), then studying A-levels could be off limits altogether and students may need to look at more vocational or BTEC courses.

University course eligibility

Regardless of the subject, the majority of university courses look for at least a C grade in English, maths and perhaps science – that’s grade 4 or 5 under the new structure.

Some university courses go further and ask for specific subjects at GCSE, with certain grades, so check directly with universities if you’re in doubt. For example: Management at the University of Leeds specifies that you must have at least a grade B (roughly a 5 or 6) in English language and maths under your belt.

University applications and offers

Some of the top academic universities (often belonging to the Russell group) will ask for very high A-level grades – AAB or higher – for most courses.

In the absence of AS qualifications, GCSE results are now the only real hard-and-fast evidence of academic abilities a University has to go on. This means that excellent GCSE results are more important than ever for the top universities and the most sought after courses. For example, LSE applicants need to have ‘achieved a strong set of GCSE grades including the majority at A and A*, or equivalent. Your GCSE (or equivalent) English language and mathematics grades should be no lower than B. We also consider your overall GCSE subject profile, and your AS grades, if available.’

Career Choices

A career-related degree may also have subject-specific entry requirements. For example, for engineering, you’ll usually need A-levels or equivalent in maths and chemistry or physics, which in turn means you’ll need to have good GCSE grades in those subjects. 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, mathematics and all science subjects. Integrated Science (double certificate) is acceptable as an alternative to single sciences. Overall GCSE performance will be considered.’

Other professions such as teaching and social work also have strict requirements and won’t consider you without at least a grade C (or 4 or 5) in maths and English language at GCSE.


Parents have a huge range of options for supporting their child through their GCSEs, ranging from private 1:1 tutors, specialist courses to online packages. When making decisions about what will suit your child best, our advice is that you need to consider a number of factors such as learning styles, level of motivation as well as the nature of your child’s needs.

At Justin Craig, we offer students the opportunity to study in small groups, with expert yet friendly tutors. All our classes are tailored to individual needs and will help students by:

  • consolidating knowledge, addressing any gaps or issues
  • developing and practising key subject skills, essential to achieve good grades
  • sharpening up their capabilities/ approach to revision and tackling exam papers
  • boosting confidence and motivation to continue working after the course

In addition to courses for Year 11 throughout the academic year, we also have specific courses to help year 10 students keep on top of their studies plus summer courses for students entering year 11 to consolidate/refresh knowledge and skills prior to the start of the new academic year.

Our courses are proving more popular than ever this year so please enquire early, either by phone 01727 744340 or email