You might have heard that you need GCSEs in maths and English language. Teachers tell you that, if you fail either GCSE, you’ll be stuck sitting them for all time. You might have even heard that you need GCSEs in maths and English to work at McDonald’s! Is there truth in that? Exactly how important are these two GCSEs? What can you do about your grades?
Well, there is some truth to what you might have heard. If you are between the ages of 16 and 18 and you don’t have a passing grade in either subject, you have to keep sitting it until you get a 4 or higher. Or, depending on your grades and how much you’re studying, you might be able to take a functional skills course or another GCSE equivalent.
However, when it comes to the McDonald’s claim, that’s completely bogus. On their website, they make it clear that they do not have a minimum qualification.
So, what’s the point? Why does the government want to subject us to endless GCSE exams until we turn into adults? It sounds like people are telling stories about McDonald’s to scare you. Plus, let’s be honest: school isn’t for everyone. Maths and English aren’t for everyone! So why not just find a job where you don’t need those qualifications?
Well, there are plenty of reasons why you should take maths and English while you can. Here are some of the most important reasons why you need those GCSEs in maths and English.
Maths and English GCSEs Make Your Life in the Workforce Much Easier
Sure, you don’t need to pass GCSE maths and English to get all jobs. There are many amazing, well-paid professions where these GCSEs aren’t that important. Lots of these jobs will ask you do to an apprenticeship instead. Here are a few that I could think of off the top of my head:
- Beauty Therapy
- Animal Care
If you’re more of a practical person rather than an academic person, that is great news! You can still join the workforce and do well even if school wasn’t your thing.
However, put yourself in a future employer’s shoes. Imagine they are looking for an apprentice. There are two young people who are both amazing, but there is only one vacancy. One person has GCSE maths and English and the other doesn’t. You’d probably choose the person with GCSEs, right? That’s the issue some people find themselves facing.
There are also other apprenticeships where GCSEs are either very helpful or actually mandatory! If you want to apprentice as a social media marketer and you haven’t got an English GCSE, some eyebrows might be raised. The same is true with someone who works with money but doesn’t have a GCSE in maths.
I’m not saying this to make you feel stressed. Yes, job searching is a struggle. Yes, there aren’t enough jobs out there in general. However, good jobs do exist for people without GCSEs! It will just help in the long run if you have some exams under your belt.
Plus, most apprenticeships do ask you to do functional skills courses in maths, English and IT, anyway.
You Need The Skills Wherever You Work
Let’s forget about the formal qualifications for a second and focus on the skills you learn. When it comes down to it, maths and language skills will set you up nicely in any job you do.
As someone who has an M.A. in History and has almost completed a PGCE in English, I don’t really need to think about my GCSE in geography very often. No one asks me to remember what the electromagnetic spectrum is or how to calculate chemical reactions, either. I rarely need to use anything I learnt in those subjects.
When it comes to maths and language skills, though, things are a little different. You might need to add things up or work out a percentage when you are at a shop. You will need to send an email to convince someone that you deserve a refund. Heck, we’ve all needed to speak, listen, read, write and count in our lives. We need to understand what we’re reading and work out how much we’re going to get paid, too. Those are maths and language skills.
You might have noticed that I’ve spoken about languages instead of English in this section. That’s because you need these skills no matter where you are in the world. Sure, you might live in Bolivia, Algeria or Thailand where a GCSE in English isn’t necessary (but could be helpful). However, you will need to communicate in the language of your people. Maths is universal, of course.
No matter where you are, you will need to communicate and use numbers. That is a bare minimum. You need to for every job. They even help you use the internet properly! These skills are everywhere!
If you’re in the UK or attending a British school, people measure these skills using GCSE maths and English.
Most Universities and Colleges Expect You to Have Passes in Maths and English
Imagine you want to keep studying after school. You’ve decided that an apprenticeship isn’t for you, or the one you want to go for has asked you to do your GCSEs first. Well, that leaves going straight into the workforce or getting some more education under your belt!
If you want to go to 6th form, college or uni, you need to get GCSE maths and English sorted.
This is the minimum requirement for most places because it helps them to know that you’ll be ready for the more in-depth study that A-Level, BTech, IB, undergraduate and other courses require.
That applies to a bunch of apprenticeships, too! Some ask you to already have GCSEs in maths and English. Others will train you up while you work to make sure you are ready to take on anything the job throws at you.
Why do all these courses ask you to do your GCSEs? Well, it’s quite simple, really.
As I said before, GCSE maths and English is a good way to make sure that people have the basic skills they need for any job:
You can’t pass a GCSE in maths or English without these skills, so it’s a good litmus test. Further study is harder, so they need to be sure you can do the basics first.
That really sucks for the people who don’t test well, though. I know that you could absolutely do all of those things perfectly well without passing maths or English at GCSE level.
However, could you imagine how much time, energy and money it would take for schools, colleges, unis and employers to find out if you have all those skills without a standard test? They’d have to test you themselves, somehow! They just won’t bother.
A GCSE in English Helps You to Notice Manipulative Media
We are in a world of fake news, MLMs, scams and other manipulation. Since we are on the internet so much, we get bombarded with all this manipulation all the time! The internet is way too big to regulate, so there’s no one out there stopping people from spreading these lies or trying to sway you to think in dangerous ways.
Plus, if they did try to regulate the internet, that would cause issues, too. It’s a bit of a slippery slope, really. As soon as governments get that kind of power, they could use it to shut people up and force us to think the way they want us to. Yikes.
So, it’s much worse if the government gets involved. That means it’s up to us as individuals to make sure that we aren’t falling for all this manipulation.
There are many steps that you can take to protect yourself and the children around you. In fact, I’ve written a blog post to help you! I highly recommend you give that post a read and think about how you’ve let the stuff you’ve read online affect you. Make sure you fact check as much info as you can.
However, one of the best ways to protect yourself against fake news and manipulation is to study English.
A GCSE in English isn’t just all about reading poems and writing about feelings. In fact, I’ve said many times that English is the study of manipulation. You read texts and write about how they use language to manipulate the reader. Then, you write your own text and the examiner marks you on how well you use language to manipulate your reader.
Use that same idea in your day-to-day life. You’ll notice how people online use language to convince you of a lie!
You Should Take Advantage of These Courses While They’re Free
Once you hit 18, education isn’t free anymore. I wish. You can bet I’d still be at uni learning as much as I can.
For people who are still in school, though, it’s free! The government is giving you a free way to improve your chances of getting a job. I’d take it if I were you. You might even get your school meals paid for if you need a little extra help.
I won’t lie to you. It’s not easy to get a job. Take it from someone with an M.A. in History from a Russell Group uni who is just finishing a teacher training course. There are people out there with so much education and other great stuff in their CV who are still sitting at home praying for a job. It is hard.
Employers are spoilt for choice. They can afford to pay their employees next to nothing because there are 10 other people waiting for that job. They can also hire that person with a postgraduate degree to work in an entry-level job they are way too qualified for. Employers can set the bar really high for any job because there are so many people waiting for work.
So, why not take as much education as you can while it’s free? It will help you to get a job a little easier, so you will stand out that little bit more when you apply.
Again, I am not trying to scare you here. I just don’t want to lie to you. Getting a job isn’t as easy as it used to be. People are forking out so much money on education. Then, their salaries aren’t even enough to help them pay off their student loans. So, it’s wise to take the free stuff while it’s there.
So, Why Are You Forced to Do an English Literature GCSE?
Ok, so we’ve covered why English language is such an important GCSE to do. That’s not the only GCSE most of us do in English, though, is it? Most of us also have to do literature.
You know how you have to memorise Jekyll and Hyde quotes and write essays about Macbeth? Well, it’s not compulsory for you to do literature in the same way as it is for language and maths.
So why do most schools force you to do literature, then? If you can skip it and still get on that apprenticeship, 6th form course or uni degree, why bother?
Well, it’s two for the price of one! You can use your language skills for your literature GCSE. In fact, you need to! Plus, you can learn the language skills through the texts you study in literature. They just go together so well.
If you’re already doing a GCSE in English language, there’s no reason why you can’t also do one in literature. It makes sense to put them together, since it’s not that much extra work for you. It’s not like doing a whole new course and having to learn all new knowledge.
Plus, unis really do love English literature. In fact, they prefer for you to study literature at A-level. I’ve written a blog post to explain why that is the case and help you make your choice. If you do it for GCSEs, it will help to prepare you later on. That’s if you want to do a creative or humanities subject at uni, of course!
There’s really no down side to taking literature. It will help you to understand language better and you can get an extra GCSE. You just need to put in the hard work!
How Do You Get These GCSEs Done If You’re Struggling?
There are probably quite a few of you out there who are struggling with your GCSEs right now. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you searched for this blog post because you think you might fail and you want to know how important English really is.
I get that worry. It’s not easy! Some of the best and brightest students struggle with English at GCSE level because it’s both vague and specific at the same time. Plus, what in the world is AQA’s Language Paper One Question Three? How can you talk about the structure of a text without slipping into language?! It’s hard!
Don’t feel like you’re doomed to fail, though. There’s time. There’s always time! Even if you don’t do so well this time around, you can always resit next year. All is not lost. There are so many great options out there for you.
First of all, you can keep up to date with this website. I post lots of great content to help you get through your exams: from word searches and crosswords to tips and tricks guides available to people with a membership. Plus, I give out great tips and resources for free here on the blog!
Then, there are also the excellent books made to help you. I really like the Catch Up 2020 book set from Pearson Revise. It will take you through everything you need to know for your English GCSE.
Do some practice exam papers and get them marked by a qualified tutor. Feedback is king.
If you’re really struggling, ask your school if you can get tested for dyslexia or another neurodivergence. The extra time could be amazing for you. There are options out there. Just make sure you take them!
What to Do if You’re Over 18 And Don’t Have GCSEs in Maths and English?
This whole post is about why you should do GCSE maths and English before you turn 18. What happens if you are already an adult, though? Should you be penalised for not realising how important these exams were before?
Of course not! There are still options out there for you, too!
First of all, you could sit your GCSEs now. You could do the work yourself and then register as a private candidate. It will cost you a bit to get your exams done, though!
A company like the Open Study College is a great option for you. They give you all the material and support you need to pass your GCSEs. You can even pay extra for them to set up your exams for you! It’s a great way to get the GCSEs and even the A-levels you want!
Then, there’s the option of going straight to uni. Say you are good enough to study for a degree even though you don’t have the piece of paper to show it. Sure, most unis won’t accept that. However, The Open University is different. Most of the undergraduate courses have no entry requirements at all. You just need to be able to use a computer well and have a high level of English. They won’t ask for a GCSE to prove that.
There are loads of options out there for you! There are functional skills courses and foundation degrees. you’re not alone if you’re a mature student!
No matter what your individual journey, I believe you can unlock your true potential. Good luck!
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