This page is all about GCSE courses at CIFE colleges. Although CIFE colleges specialise in sixth-form work, all offer GCSE courses, and some have large GCSE departments.
GCSE subject choice
GCSE courses at CIFE colleges usually provide a very wide range of subjects. Most offer GCSEs in the separate sciences, a range of Art-based GCSEs (Art and Design, Photography, Fashion etc) and a choice of languages. Programmes often include subjects not available in most schools.
There are few restrictions on the pattern of subjects you take, though you should check that your programme will ensure you gain passes in Maths and English before starting the sixth form. If you don't pass Maths and English Language GCSEs at this stage of your education you may well have trouble later in life when you apply for jobs, even if you've successfully completed university.
GCSE courses over one or two years
Several colleges provide full two-year GCSE courses and almost all colleges provide intensive courses covering GCSE in a year. Although the abolition (from 11/2013) of modular GCSEs means you must take all parts of the GCSE exam at the same time, this should not make one-year GCSEs any tougher.
A one-year GCSE programme is likely to be ideal if you have done a year of a GCSE course (or the equivalent) in another school. You should find that you can use coursework you have already done (ask at interview) and that you can replace subjects you really dislike with some new ones which can safely be covered in one year even if you've not studied them before.
A note about IGCSEs
IGCSEs (short for international GCSEs) are an alternative to GCSE now widely used by independent schools. In this they follow in the footsteps of CIFE colleges which have been using IGCSE for years. Many CIFE college GCSE programmes mix IGCSEs and ordinary GCSEs. IGCSE cuts out the coursework demands of many GCSE subjects, making them easier to cover in three terms. Arguably they are also a better preparation for A level too!
Students who have taken GCSE once already and who need to improve will either start A levels and retake one or two GCSEs alongside, or spend the year retaking. The best option depends upon whether you are academically ready to go on into the sixth-form. If you have fewer than 4 C grades at GCSE you are probably better off resitting GCSEs over a year in order to strengthen your skills in general before starting on A levels. Our advice article on FAQs about A-level choice contains more details on how GCSE results might affect a sixth-form programme. For more information on retaking GCSEs in 2016/2017, look at our FAQs about retakes page.
GCSE course atmosphere and supervision at a CIFE college
In taking GCSE at a CIFE college you will find the atmosphere more grown-up than at most schools. However that does not mean that you will have to manage your time on your own: the organisation of your work in and out of class is generally watched very closely to make sure that you are getting all the necessary studying done. Most colleges will give you a degree of control over your use of time, but will step in quickly if it proves that you aren't ready for that yet. Small classes do make it much easier to concentrate though!