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 catering for first-time students as well as retakers.

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, Film, Textiles and 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. Some school sixth forms require you to have achieved particular GCSE grades in subjects you want to take at A level.

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 you must take all parts of the GCSE exam at the end of the course, this does not make one-year GCSEs any tougher. Changes to GCSE have abolished or reduced coursework in many subjects, which also helps students on intensive courses.

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 widely used by independent colleges and many private schools. Many CIFE college GCSE programmes mix IGCSEs and ordinary GCSEs. Before the recent reforms to standard GCSEs, the IGCSE syllabuses were generally thought to be a better preparation for A level. The recent reforms to standard GCSEs close that gap but the considerable changes involved have created uncertainty, and most CIFE colleges have decided to stick with the tried-and-tested IGCSE syllabuses. For more information see the Cambridge International Exams' pages about IGCSE.

Retaking GCSEs

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  grade 4s (the old GCSE grade C or equivalent) 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, 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!

Links to course pages

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