The first thing people often think about when considering GCSE grades is A-levels. While A-levels are a great choice, especially if you know you want to attend university, there are plenty of other things you can do with those GCSEs; and regardless of what grades you get, you can still continue learning and gaining qualifications.
Option One: Academic qualifications
One of the most obvious routes after GCSEs is to do A-levels. They are the most traditional route to university and take two years to complete. Some colleges and schools don’t offer A-levels, instead choosing to put their students through alternatives with the International Baccalaureate or the Cambridge Pre-U Diploma, which are often regarded as being more “academically challenging”.
A-levels can be hard work, so if your GCSE grades aren’t up to scratch, it might be worth looking at other less traditional qualifications that are more suited to your learning style. Most colleges or sixth forms require A-level students to have a minimum of five GCSEs grade A*-C and at least a B in the subject they wish to continue studying at A-level; although there are exceptions to this rule.
Option Two: Vocational qualifications
If you don’t get the grades to continue on to A-levels or fancy doing something a little more vocational, then there are plenty of other qualifications you can look into. NVQs and BTECs are all work-related qualifications that offer an alternative to A-levels.
BTECs have been around for a while. BTEC Nationals are a Level 3 qualification recommended for those who have achieved at least four A*-C grades in their GCSEs. They are a great option if you want to study something that focuses on workplace skills. They’re also ideal if you prefer to be assessed through coursework rather than exams.
If BTECs aren’t for you, and practical, work-related learning sounds more appealing, then a NVQ might be the answer. NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) are a competence-based qualification; you might do one as part of an apprenticeship, alongside a part-time job or at college in tandem with completing a work placement.
You do not actually need GCSEs to take an NVQs, as levels 1 and 2 are classed as the equivalent of a GCSE: Level 1 is equivalent to GCSE grades D-G and Level 2 equal to GCSE grades A-C.
You can do NVQs in areas unavailable as GCSEs, such as health and social care, manufacturing, catering and business administration.
Option Three: Advanced Apprenticeships
Advanced Apprenticeships are great if you want to start working after your GCSEs and gain some work-related qualifications. You work for an employer and earn a salary while receiving on-the-job and off-the-job training.
In most cases, you’ll need at least five GCSEs (grades A*-C) to be eligible for an Advanced Apprenticeship. If you don’t have those grades, you can look into doing an Intermediate Apprenticeship.
Advanced Apprenticeships usually last between one and four years. After the apprenticeships ends, many employers offer their apprentices a full-time job with the company, or you can look to gain employment with another company or progress to a Higher Apprenticeship.