Royal British International School Yangon realises that Students face big decisions once their IGCSE results come through.
Therefore when armed with your IGCSE results, at last you’re in a position to decide on your next step. Should you carry on into the IB or study for A-levels? If so, what A-levels should you be doing? If your GCSE results were disappointing, should you be retaking?
Most students who have decided to continue into Junior College will have provisionally made their A-level choices already. But now it’s time to reflect on your earlier decisions in the light of the grades you actually received.
If your results were disappointing …
Bluntly, if you got low grades, doors to most good universities are slammed shut unless you are prepared to have another stab at your IGCSE exams. Your IGCSE grades really do matter because, unlike most other countries, British university offers are made before students have actually completed their final qualifying exams – which in most cases is their A-levels. This means that university admissions departments place enormous importance on IGCSE grades and leading universities will be looking for a significant number of A* and A grades.
If your situation ia marginal you could look into a re-mark. Otherwise, you should only consider resitting if you genuinely have university aspirations and also possess the intellectual potential to make a success of a degree course. Do be aware, however, that universities and employers will know that you sat your IGCSEs twice, so have a plausible explanation ready.
But don’t waste your time resitting IGCSEs that universities hold in low regard. Use the time to perform better in the core subjects that universities want to see. And if you really don’t want to repeat your IGCSEs, face up to the fact that further study is not for you. Use that time instead to consider vocational courses or an apprenticeship. This country needs skilled workers as much as it needs university graduates and we all know people who have made a great success of their lives without a degree.
If you achieved good results but they weren’t in academic subjects…
If you got good results but not in core subjects, you may find yourself at scarcely less of a disadvantage. In these ultra-competitive times, universities will be looking very closely at the particular subjects taken. Not all IGCSEs are born equal. Mathematics, English, biology, physics, chemistry, history, geography and a language are rated much more highly than business studies, media studies or sociology.
This fact was highlighted recently by Education Secretary Michael Gove when he introduced the English Baccalaureate, an umbrella qualification that is being awarded only to those students who gain a “C” grade or above in a handful of traditional subjects. In time, this new qualification may well become an essential component of any successful application to a good university.
It is probably too late for you to embark on a new set of academic IGCSEs but anyone hoping to go to university in the future, should certainly focus on core IGCSE subjects.
It is still worth starting A-levels even if you don’t have the ideal GCSE profile but your choices will obviously be limited and it may be worth your while pursuing one of the more vocational A-levels on offer if you already have a clear idea of what you would like to do aged 18.
If you got a clutch of good grades…
If you received mostly A*, A and B grades, along with one or two Cs, you are more than capable of studying for A-levels. Here, I have three pieces of advice. First, select subjects you are passionate about. You will be devoting an enormous amount of time to the four subjects you study and it is essential that you enjoy them and want to discover more about them. Don’t simply opt for the subjects you did best at in IGCSE. If you got an A grade in IGCSE physics but actually have no enthusiasm for it, don’t do it for A-level.
Second, choose subjects that universities genuinely respect. Cambridge has historically been very helpful in this area, providing a list of A-level subjects that “provide less effective preparation for our courses”
Other leading universities would concur, and emphasise in their prospectuses the value of studying such subjects as mathematics, physics, history and English. Sadly, many young people are not even offered the opportunity to study these subjects. Statistics from 2007 show that 247 comprehensive schools did not enter any pupils for A-level physics, 187 did not enter any pupils for chemistry and 96 schools did not enter any for mathematics.
Third, choose subjects that are of direct relevance to the actual course you wish to study and the career upon which you will wish to embark.
And if you are still undecided about your degree or career aspirations, the following subjects would be good subjects to take at A-level, in order to keep your options open: biology, chemistry, economics, English literature, history, languages (ancient or modern), mathematics (and further maths) and physics.
Amid the post-GCSE euphoria, it would be wise to pause just for a couple of minutes and check that the A-level courses upon which you are about to embark will genuinely enthuse you and, in the fullness of time, leave you well placed to apply for the course of your choice at the university of your choice. I promise it will be 120 seconds well spent.