GCSE Options Evening

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GCSE Options Booklet

FAQs for (I)GCSE Options

How many (I)GCSEs can I study at Berkhamsted?

Pupils have the flexibility to study between 11.5 and 8 GCSEs at Berkhamsted.

11 GCSEs 10 GCSEs 10 GCSEs 9 GCSEs 8 GCSEs
Maths Maths Maths Maths Maths
English Literature English Literature  

English Literature

English Literature English Literature
English Language English Language English Language English Language English Language
Ad Science Ad Science Option 1 – must be a science Option 1 – must be a science Option 1 – must be a science
Ad Science Ad Science Option 2 Option 2 Option 2
Ad Science Ad Science Option 3 Option 3 Option 3
Option 1 Option 1 Option 4 Option 4 Option 4
Option 2 Option 2 Option 5 Option 5 Option 5
Option 3 Option 3 Option 6 Option 6 Option 6 -Learning Support
Option 4 Option 4 Additional Maths
Additional Maths
+0.5 of a GCSE if pupils complete an HPQ

What is the difference between GCSE and IGCSE?

GCSE and IGCSE are both the same level of qualifications, and they are treated as equivalent to one another by all colleges, universities and employers. GCSEs are regulated by Ofqual and available to British Schools. IGCSEs are international and unregulated. They therefore have more flexibility and do not need to cover content dictated by the Department for Education. Berkhamsted, being an Independent School, has the freedom to follow what we deem to be the best qualifications for our pupils whereas State Schools in the UK can only follow the GCSE courses.

What do I have to study at GCSE?

All pupils at Berkhamsted must study English Literature, English Language, Maths and one Science (as part of their GCSE options).

In addition, we also give all pupils Personal Development lessons: These lessons are taught by a team of dedicated teachers and address important topics to aid pupils’ development as young people including moral, spiritual, political, financial and social lessons.

What optional GCSEs should I choose?

Only you can decide! You should do so using your head and your heart. You should be looking to create a balance of subjects and should choose at least one creative, one humanities and one Language subject.

What GCSEs must I study to continue with certain subjects at A level?
The best way to find out what GCSEs are need at A Level is to speak with a teacher of that subject to find out.

The table below shows some subject’s requirements:

A-level Required GCSEs Recommended GCSEs
Art A portfolio if you have not studied GCSE Art
Biology Biology Chemistry
Chemistry Chemistry
Maths/Further Maths Maths Physics
Physical Education Biology Physical Education
Physics Physics
Photography A portfolio if you have not studied GCSE Art Art
Psychology Biology

The A level curriculum guide will give you a detailed breakdown of what is involved in each A level subject at Berkhamsted, together with entry requirements and subject requirements (if applicable).

Where do I find out what each GCSE course involves?

The details of each GCSE course can be found in the GCSE curriculum guide – here you will also find the % of coursework involved in a subject (if applicable)

When do I have to make my choices by?

The deadline for options is Wednesday 14 February 2024. You could, if you really needed to, make changes after this but we would not be able to guarantee your choices after this date.

Should I study a Modern Language?

Yes. Unless you have a good reason for not doing so, you should choose a Modern Language. These subjects are French, Mandarin and Spanish.

Should I study a Creative subject?

Yes. Unless you have a good reason for not doing so, you should choose a Creative subject. These subjects are Art, Design Technology, Drama, Food and Nutrition, Music and Physical Education.

Should I study a Humanities subject?

Yes. Unless you have a good reason for not doing so, you should choose a Humanities Subject. These subjects are Classical Civilisation, Geography, History, Latin and Religious Studies.

Should I study the Sciences?

You must study at least one Science as part of your option subjects. Biology, Chemistry and Physics are important subjects in their own right and you must decide whether you study one, two or three Sciences. In addition to this, we also offer Computer Science.

What is “Additional Science”?

Additional Science (Ad Science) is an opportunity, by invitation only, for some pupils to complete three sciences in two options blocks (and the time dedicated to Learning Pathways lessons). This is offered to pupils who show the highest aptitude in all sciences alongside well-developed study skills and a mature approach to learning.

If you are part of the Ad Science classes you will not be able to formally take part in the Learning Pathways lessons (but will be able to access the resources, should they wish to).

Ad Science classes cover content at a marginally higher pace to that in other classes. Ad Science pupils will also get some study time each week (40 minutes).

What is “Additional Maths”?

Additional Maths (Ad Maths) is studied by a select group of pupils in Year 11 when the Maths IGCSE course has been completed. It is a Level 2 course (the equivalent of a GCSE) and offers excellent preparation for A-level. You do not need to have studied Ad Maths to study Maths at A-level.

Are subjects set by ability at Berkhamsted?

Subjects in the “core” – English and Maths – are set by ability. Ad Science is also “set” by virtue of the fact that it is by invitation to the pupils who show the highest aptitude in all sciences alongside well-developed study skills and a mature approach to learning. The Option subjects are not normally set by ability but on occasion we do set when it is possible (e.g. in Modern Languages).

Who should I ask for advice from?

You should seek advice from a range of teachers at School, as well as friends and family who know you well. Your tutor or Head of House is a great place to start in School as they know lots about you from your reports and grades. If you have questions about individual subjects, you can ask your teacher or email the Head of Department.

What is the Learning Pathway?

The Learning Pathway is a bespoke programme designed specifically for Berkhamsted students. Courses and materials are designed to foster intellectual curiosity, autonomy and self-reliance.

The Learning Pathway Programme is comprised of two elements:

  1. Guided Discovery – guided learning using a range of resources to develop an understanding of curriculum areas not covered by KS4
  2. Coached Study – time to study with support from a teacher who actively intervenes to help pupils study in the best way possible, coaching them along the way. For some pupils this will also involve Learning Development lessons with a member of specialist staff

There are four Pathways to choose from:

  • Human, Social and Political Science
  • Applied Science
  • Global Perspectives
  • Digital and creative media

Pathways are introduced in the first part of Y10 using a series of videos/articles about each pathway to give pupils an insight into each area. Pupils then study a series of curated courses.

Some pupils will have the opportunity to complete an HPQ (worth ½ a GCSE) with Edexcel – this is a mini-dissertation into an area of study of their choice, and they are guided through this with the help of a supervisor.

The aim is to give the KS4 curriculum more breadth and to inspire pupils with new areas of study. We want to intentionally prepare pupils for methods of learning that are prevalent in the workplace. It will allow some pupils to develop an understanding of “sixth-form only” subjects and prepare all pupils for independent and inquisitive work in the Sixth.

Can I change my Learning Pathway during the year?

Whilst it is anticipated that, having chosen a pathway, you remain on it, you will be able to discuss a change of pathway. Where there is clear reasoning behind the change, this will be supported.

I want to be able to access Learning Support – how can I do this?

There are a number of ways to access learning support at Berkhamsted:

  • Some pupils choose the Learning Support option. This course does not lead to a GCSE but provides time for additional support and coaching over the two years
  • Where possible, pupils taking the Learning Pathway can have Learning Development lessons with a member of the Learning Support Department in Year 11.
  • Some pupils attend sessions before School in small groups.

Can I still apply to complete an HPQ if I am a member of the Ad Science class?

Yes. Despite not formally taking part in the Learning Pathway, you will still be able to complete an HPQ in an area of interest. Learning Pathways resources are made available to all Ad Science pupils, but individual pupils will complete the HPQ qualification independently in their own time.

 (I)GCSE Options Videos


Please see below the subject videos that will give you more insight into what we offer here at Berkhamsted as part of our GCSE curriculum.

If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us at BOYS@BERKHAMSTED.COM or GIRLS@BERKHAMSTED.COM






Classical Civilisation

Computer Science

Design and Technology


Food Preparation & Nutrition






Physical Education


Religious Studies


Learning Support


If you feel Learning Support would be of benefit, please book an appointment at our GCSE Options Evening via School Cloud to discuss this further.

Learning Pathways

Study at GCSE & Sixth Form level demands a different mindset and a different way of learning to Year 7, 8 and 9.

The Learning Pathways Programme is designed to help you make this transition.  The aims of the programme are:

-To inspire you to new areas of study, including subjects that will be on offer in the Sixth Form

-To allow you to ‘self-steer’ in exploring your own interests

-To prepare you for independent working required as you move up the School and beyond

-To coach you in how to be the most effective learner you can be

Introduction to Learning Pathways
Learning Pathways Presentation
Learning Leaders on Learning Pathways

Our Results 

 If you have not seen our results details, please click here.

Thank you

We hope that this has provided you with further insight into the GCSE options and what you can expect.

If you have any further queries or questions please do not hesitate to contact us at BOYS@BERKHAMSTED.COM or GIRLS@BERKHAMSTED.COM