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How important are your GCSE grades?

Find out how GCSEs affect your future choices and studies, and what to do if they don't go to plan.

While it's important to realise that your GCSE results won't completely define your future, they could impact the following: 

What are GCSEs?

GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education) are subject-based academic qualifications that students study across year 10 and 11 at secondary school in England and Wales.

The grading scale is from 9-1, with 9 being the highest grade.

Beginning to think about which A-levels to take? Use our A-level explorer tool to see where your choices could take you.  


How will GCSEs affect my future studies?

1. GCSEs can determine the sixth form you go to

Entry requirements for school and college sixth forms vary – ranging from four to five grade 5-4s, with 6-5s in the subjects you want to study, through to at least six GCSEs at 7 or above for the most selective colleges.

Your GCSEs are used as an indicator of how well you could do at A-level. Many sixth forms use them in a scoring system to predict how well you’re likely to do on their course.

For example, five grades at 5 or 6 and five grades of 4 or 5 at GCSE could be predicted as CCD at A-level, while straight 9-7 grades suggests you could get AAA.

If you're worried your grades might not cut it with the sixth form or college you want to go to, see if they're prepared to be flexible – otherwise, you may need to approach some alternatives. Learn more about what to do if your grades don't go to plan.

See what other students are saying about their GCSEs on our sister site The Student Room's forums, or join the official Year 10 chat thread for 2023-24 or the official Year 11 chat thread for 2023-24.

2. GCSEs determine the qualifications you take next

Some sixth forms may say you can’t do a particular subject unless you’ve got at least a 6 or 7 in that subject at GCSE.

If your grades are mostly 4s or 5s, studying A-levels or Advanced Highers could be off limits altogether; a sixth form may offer you a vocational course (which is more hands-on) such as a Btec Level 3 qualification instead. Most universities accept Btec qualifications.

3. GCSEs could be used to assess eligibility for a uni course

Regardless of the subject you want to study, the majority of university courses look for at least a grade 4 or 5 in English and maths.

Some university courses ask for specific subjects with certain grades at GCSE, so check directly with universities if you're in doubt.

But don't let your GCSEs put you off applying to the university course you really want – strong A-levels can outweigh weaker GCSE results, particularly if you expand on this in your personal statement.

Search for a course now to see full entry requirements and everything else you need to know.

4. GCSEs may limit the universities you can apply to

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.
Because of the assumed connection between your GCSE and A-level results, it'll be down to you to prove you’re able to achieve top grades. Grades 4 to 6 at GCSE suggest Cs and Ds at A-level – which might not be enough to get into some universities.

5. GCSEs can affect the career you end up doing

A career-related degree may also have subject-specific entry requirements:

  • Engineering courses such as chemical engineering: you'll usually need A-levels or equivalent in chemistry and maths, and physics for other engineering courses, which in turn means you’ll need to have good GCSE grades in science and maths.
  • Medicine: competitive courses like medicine may ask for top GCSEs across the board for English, maths and science subjects.
  • Social work and secondary school teaching: grade 4 or 5 in GCSE English Language and maths.
  • Nursing and primary school teaching: grade 4 or 5 in GCSE English, maths and science. 
You can also put your grades on your CV when you're applying to part-time jobs at college or uni.

What you can do if your results don't go to plan?

Don't panic if you think one of your grades might hold you back – speak to teachers or a careers adviser about your options.


GCSE English and maths resits take place in November, so you could study for these alongside your A-levels. But you may need to wait until next summer if you need to resit more subjects.

Some universities might not accept GCSE retakes for competitive degrees like medicine; if you have an idea of what you want to study at university, research the entry requirements to see what's open to you.


Talk to your school or college if you're not happy with an exam result. Students can’t make direct inquiries with their exam board, so it will be up to them to decide if you've got a strong case or not.

Our sister site The Student Room has a comprehensive guide to all your post-GCSE options

Beginning A-levels soon? See into the future...

Find out where your A-levels could take you with our A-level Explorer. Discover all the relevant degrees based on your choices, plus the careers which might follow.

Also, take a look at what you should be thinking about when picking your A-level subjects.

Worried about GCSE exams or the step-up to A-levels? Pick up some brand-new positive study habits in our revision help advice.

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The Student Room is proud to work with UEA, a UK top-25 university (Complete University Guide 2025) and UK top-30 university (The Times/Sunday Times 2024), as the official partner of our student life section.

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Visit their profile page to learn more or join the conversation on The Student Room's UEA forum.

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