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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:06 pm 
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Joined: Thu Oct 15, 2009 2:42 pm
Posts: 79
Location: East Lancashire
My DDYear 9 is choosing her options for GCSE, after the core subjects of; Maths, English, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and French, has so far chosen, Drama, EPR (Religious Studies), Art and History. She has one choice left and is still undecided between, (in order of preference) PE, Music, Latin, Textiles, Geography, Home Economics, Mandarin and ICT.

After a one to one options interview with her Headteacher, she has been advised to take GCSE Music as one of her options. We are not a particularly musical family, although both my DH and DS's play guitar and piano for pleasure and DD plays piano (grade 2) has played flute to grade 2 and sings for pleasure, but do not feel we know enough about this subject to offer her any advice.

We have been given some information about the content of the course, but are really unsure as to, how difficult the composition part of the course is? It sounds scary to me!

Also DD is worried about the performance part, the information we have, says that you really need to play a piece of music at grade 4 level to achieve a good mark? DD is just starting grade 3, having taken up the piano 18 months ago, and really has to be reminded to practice :evil: Is it possible to reach grade 4 in two years with this attitude? I am just not sure that her heart is in it enough to reach this level in the time given, and without constant reminders to practice from us. :? She enjoys music lessons and has done very well in all music exams in school, however, they certainly are not her most favourite and Music didn't jump out at her straight away to be one of her 'firm' choices either.

Her other choice is PE, which she did consider straight away, mainly because dance and fitness can be two of the four practical elements. :roll: (dance is her life out of school and she is as fit as a butchers dog :lol: ). She has been in school sport teams which she enjoyed (Hockey, Athletics), but found that she could not fit these in with her vast out of school, dance/theatre activities/shows. She knows that if she takes PE she will be expected to take these up again and somehow squeeze them into her already tight timetable :?
Again, we do not have much knowledge about this subject to be able to offer her any advice! Does anyone know how much theory/course work is involved in this subject?
Our thoughts so far are, that she should do the subject she most enjoys with the least amount of time consuming course work, as she will have a lot of course work in the dreaded.... Art (another love of her life), and Drama, both 60% :shock: If anyone has any information or advice on any of the above, we would be very gratefull! :D Forgot to mention, DD would like to be a Doctor, or a.....Dancer :lol:
Ooops sorry for the long post :oops:

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:26 pm 
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From what I have heard (youngest DC just made option choices) thhe majority of those taking Music do so because they enjoy it & are already at a high standard before starting the course (advised to have grade 4 minimum ) and playing/singing in various ensembles. I'm sure this isn't essential but these are the people you are competing with so I wouldn't think that it is the best choice for your DD. The issue with PE would seem to be the committment needed to more physical activity. The problem with many teenagers is getting them to do any physical activity! but with a significant minority there is the opposite problem & especially for those who dance there is a danger of imposing too much stress on their bodies.

If you want to avoid course work then Textiles & Home Economics are probably not a good idea. ICT could be a good choice but it depends on the course - some of them have loads of coursework & others very little.

Latin is a good option but it is relatively difficult & has large amounts of vocab to learn so might be a bit heavy in addition to all the other subjects. I believe Mandarin is quite hard as well.

Geography might be worth considering as it is viewed as an academic subject in a way that Textiles & Home Economics might not be (rightly or wrongly) and I believe the course work has been altered so there is very litle done outside of the classroom. At my son's school they take 1 paper in year 10 to reduce pressure in year 11. Much of the knowledge that needs to be committed to memory seems fairly logical so might suit a scientific mind?

Shame there isn't the option to do dance GCSE!


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 12:42 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 09, 2007 2:09 pm
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Location: Solihull, West Midlands
A few quick thoughts on the subjects mentioned:

PE - none of mine would have ever done this, but I know plenty that have done well. I think there is quite a lot of academuic content which can come as a suprise to those that think they can get a GCSE just for playing football! As already mentioned though, it could be quite time-consuming to fit in

Music - two of mine have taken this: one (very musical) found it a breeze and did A level as well, the other found it harder: was probably around G4-5 at the time (but pass/ merit level rather than distinction). I was able to help with some of the listening practice for this and she was delighted to get an A. However i do know of those with G2-3 ability who found it extremely hard going and dropped out. The listening, composition and performance make up a huge chunk of the marks


Latin - none of mine have done this, has a certain kudos in some circles - worth doing if she finds it straightforward and interesting

Mandarin - notoriously hard to get good grades (my DCs school offer it but very few do brilliantly) but if she's already done several years it might be worth keeping up as it is so unusual

Home EC - DD did this and really enjoyed it - we enjoyed the results too. Useful content on nutrition etc as well as the practical skills

Textiles - no experience of this but I imagine time consuming, especially if she's also doing Art & Drama

Geography - DD enjoyed this (especially the physical side, and the field trip to Iceland!)

ICT - could be an easy option? DD did the short course early

Not an easy choice.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 3:25 pm 
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Hi there. My DD is in Year 9 and has just made her GCSE choices. We were told and I quote "For top marks you need to be about Grade 5+ standard on your instrument" My DD is studying Grade 2 Piano so we waved byebye to Music GCSE.

The problem I have with PE is that it will not be recognised as a hard GCSE by everyone. Certainly the A Level is on the Cambridge University "banned list".

If your DC is at all academic I would go for Latin. My DD dropped it but is doing Greek instead which she loves and gives her the challenge she likes.


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 4:03 pm 
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Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 2:54 pm
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Assuming the aim is to get the best grades possible:

Music: My daughter did music and was grade 6 at the time so found it straightforward although there were lots of parts she hadn't done before eg composition. So it might be hard if you were a lower grade and hadn't done grade 5 theory.

PE: Is straighforward at GCSE level although there is theory to learn too. Yes it is on the soft subject list at A level. Don't let that fool you into believing it is an easy A level. There is an amazing amount of theory to learn.

Geography: Usually straightforward and viewed as an academic subject, so this would be the one I would hope my DD would choose.
Good luck!


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 5:21 pm 
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Location: Berkshire
My thoughts here:- My son took A Level music without having done the GCSE and got a B overall in the end, which he was very happy with. He plays piano and guitar mainly for pleasure, although he took a few grades in piano, but was certainly not grade 6 standard by the time he entered 6th form, although he has a great ear, and the composition/performance work did not phase him.
He took the PE option, and as a great sportsman, found it awful because of the huge amount of theory,although did get an A in it at GCSE.
Food tech and textiles - huge amount of coursework, best avoided given the amount of c/w with the other options she's chosen. Don't know much about latin GCSE syllabus, none of mine have taken it, although it's definitely a worthy GCSE. Great debates go on about ICT, no conclusive evidence about whether it is worth the effort. Geography is a good option, although I think there's a fair bit of c/w (mind you that might be the A Level I'm thinking about)


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PostPosted: Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:15 pm 
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Location: London
Given that your DD would rather do PE than Music, then I think that's probably what she should do as she already has a good array of academic subjects.

However, it's worth pointing out that she may be better qualified to do music than you realise. If she is preparing for Grade 3 after only 18 months of lessons, that's pretty impressive. It is well within the reach of the average piano student to achieve one grade level per year, so she could get Grade 4 by next spring. If she has done any other exams, did she get a pass, merit or distinction? You should certainly take that into account - a pass would support your picture of someone who's not all that motivated. However, GCSE study might provide the motivation she needs!

If the examining board is AQA, there's some useful information about the marking system in this thread on the ABRSM forums: http://www.abrsm.org/forum/index.php?showtopic=44029&hl=. Posts nos. 3 and 5 are particularly helpful. The bottom line is that you can still get a good mark at Grade 3 - better to play an easier piece well than a difficult one badly.

Hope this is of some help.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2011 12:36 pm 
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PE is a perfectly valid GCSE, especially as your DD is already doing triple science, an MFL and a humanity. DS (Y10) is doing it and loves it, it’s a mixture of practical and theory, and he enjoys the theory (nutrition, drugs in sport, bit of human biology) just as much. They do have controlled assessments but I’m not yet sure what percentage this constitutes of the overall exam.

Incidentally, there is certainly no requirement to represent the school in team games (unless this is a school requirement), and I would have thought most schools would take a sympathetic view of a DC who is doing an outside activity to a high level as yours is. You might also find that the dancing and fitness can count for more than 2 out of the 4 practical elements – one of DS’s friends is a very good footballer and has been told he could count playing, coaching and refereeing as 3 separate elements. Might be worth talking to the Head of PE about this?

If your DD enjoys PE, I would definitely recommend it.


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2011 2:26 pm 
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Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 9:27 am
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Location: Barnet, Herts
At a recent Parent's Eve my DS's Games teacher said that unless they are playing for school 'A' teams not to do PE as a GCSE. He said that academically DS would be ok with the theory but as he is in school 'B' teams he wouldn't be good enough for the practical side.
Agree with other posters re large amount of coursework for Home Ec and Textiles.
My DS had to drop Latin as we were advised that it is a very tough exam and as it was a choice of Latin or Geography, he chose Geography as he really enjoys it and is predicted an A* as opposed to probably a B for Latin.
Don't know anything about Music GCSE I'm afraid!


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PostPosted: Thu Mar 24, 2011 3:33 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2008 12:59 pm
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Hi zorro, you know I love your DS’s school, but the games teacher is, I’m afraid, talking bunkum. My DS is only exceptional at 1 sport, and represents the school at 1 other, neither of which are traditional team games. Furthermore, he couldn’t play any sport at all between the ages of 10 and 12 as he had metal plates/screws and bone grafts in both hip joints and he also has Type 1 diabetes. He’s still on for an ‘A’ next year (hopefully :D )


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