Success Tips GCSE Year 10

Key facts and helpful hints

  1. The GCSE is a two-year course, starting in Year 10 and finishing in Year 11. About 60% or more of the GCSE material will have been covered by the end of Year 10, with the remaining content to be covered in Year 11. It is highly likely that your child started some of his/her GCSE subjects in Year 9 or earlier.
  2. The content of the GCSE material covered in earlier years will not be examined in a formal external examination until the end of Year 11. However, the teachers will do regular internal tests throughout and these will be used to place your child into a set which the teacher deems suitable for him or her. This is vital, so keep a close eye from the start of Year 10 as there are usually regular tests in each subject.
  3. If your child is entered to do the Foundation Tier at GCSE, the maximum grade they can achieve is 5 (grade C under the old letter grading system), and it is often more difficult to achieve this with the Foundation Tier than with the Higher Tier. It is still possible to move a student from the Foundation to Higher Tier in Year 10. However, the student has to work very hard right from the beginning and you may need to obtain extra teaching support. There will probably be a test and your child has to demonstrate that he/she is capable of coping with the demands of the higher tier group and is likely to get at least Grade 5, or preferably higher, if put in the Higher Tier set.
  4. Be quick in addressing the issue of Foundation/Higher tier at the start of Year 10 because there are some topics that apply to the Higher Tier alone and, if these have already been covered, it will be difficult for teachers to move students from the Foundation (lower) to the Higher Tier.
  5. Try to find out if your child has been entered for subjects that will lead to EBacc (English baccalaureate) subjects, as the new criterion that is used by elite institutions – including the top universities and colleges – is success in EBacc subjects
  6. The EBacc requires a student to achieve a Grade 5 (C) or better in English, Maths, two Science subjects, either History or Geography and one modern or ancient language at GCSE level. It is important that your child does well in all these subjects. There are still controversies surrounding whether Grade 4 is sufficient, but try and play safe and aim for at least Grade 5 in subjects that matter most.
  7. Entering a student for GCSE Foundation Tier or BTEC will limit his or her options for A-level and will prevent them from having a good chance of securing admission to a top university. Yes, the top Russell Group Universities discriminate and have a preference for certain subjects.
  8. It’s fine if that’s the best he or she can do! But, just in case, a vocational course is not the best option for your child. Ask the question and do something to convince the school to reconsider.
  9. The curriculum for the new number grading system of 9 to 1 has more challenging content, as it was designed to filter the top performing students, helping the top institutions to identify the most able young people. The A and A* grades under the old system are now perceived to be inadequate for identifying the very top students.

Further words of advice

a. Pay attention parents, Year 10 is crucial!
Many parents with children in Year 10 and Year 11 contact us every year to express their disappointment that their sons and daughters have been put into the Foundation Tier of GCSE or, even worse, been entered for BTECs and they feel that their children are capable of more. Bear in mind that some students are in the top set, not because of their natural ability, but because of the nurturing and extra support they receive. This is usually good news. On the other hand, some bright young people are in the middle or bottom set – coasting along and not being challenged or stimulated. Most in this category will either sink or swim. If they sink, heaven forbids, they will end up with poor grades or mediocre results at GCSE at the best. Should there be any a danger that your child may end up being one of those, then you will need to paddle your own canoe. We usually find out that the parent is right, and the student's class can be changed, but sadly, in many cases, it is too late to do something about it (particularly if the child is already in Year 11). Make sure that your child is not left out and that he or she receives the right level of support to maximise his or her academic potential.

b. Be demanding but at the same time encourage your son or daughter to celebrate their successes – including little progress made. Be mindful of their strengths and weaknesses and show them you are proud of whatever they achieve; as long as they have tried hard. Excel in Key Subjects offers helpful and impartial advice on matters relating to secondary education, achieving exam success and gaining admission to university. We offer free face-to-face or telephone consultation on all areas of primary and secondary education, including advice on sixth form study. More information is available to assist parents while making key decisions about their children’s education.

Good teachers are expensive but bad teachers cost you your child more

Some of the websites we recommend for research into the new GCSE grading, examination league tables and EBacc are:


Watch the video version here: