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GCSE/IGCSE course choice for sciences

  1. Dec 13, 2013 #1

    I live in England, and in the future I would like to study physics or neuroscience at university. I am currently taking my GCSEs, and I have a dilemma with some of the courses I am taking:

    I'm taking a Science GCSE course which includes Biology, Chemistry and Physics, and I am also taking IGCSE Physics and IGCSE Chemistry separately. As two of the GCSE exams clash with the IGCSE exams, I have to choose between taking the science GCSE course, or IGCSE courses.

    It would be more convenient for me to take the GCSE Science course, as I take it at a college, and I am home educated otherwise. However, the quality of the IGCSE courses is much higher than the GCSE, and so in that sense I want to take the IGCSE exams.

    If possible I would like to have some advice on which courses I should take, and do colleges and universities look at/consider which courses have been taken?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2013 #2
    Can you not take IGCSE exams later? In my day they had resits in the summer. I doubt things have changed, so can't you take them in this resit period? As you are interested in neuroscience why aren't you taking IGSCE biology? Given your two main interests you should be taking all sciences (maths, physics, chemistry, biology) at as high a level as you can for as long as you can. Then you'll have some basis for judging between physics and neuroscience. For instance, if you learn to hate the biology lab work, and get higher grades in physics and maths, then physics would seem the better choice!
  4. Dec 14, 2013 #3
    Thank you for your response. The exams are over the May/June period, so I don't think there will be any resits until the year after, and I hope to start my A levels in September. I haven't listed IGCSE Biology, as I've already taken it this year. I do think you're right in saying that I should study to the highest level I can, and I can also learn more in my spare time. Do you know if universities look at the levels of GCSE taken?
  5. Dec 14, 2013 #4


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    No university will look down on choosing GCSE instead of IGCSE (including Oxbridge), so you can take only GCSE if you want. But of course, it is a good idea to do IGCSE in your spare time, to increase your knowledge about the subjects
  6. Dec 14, 2013 #5


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    You will need A levels in your main science subjects (and in probably maths as well) to apply for university science degree.

    Nobody will care what previous exams you took in those subjects. They will just look at your A level results. Don't waste time collecting multiple exam passes at lower level.

    In most UK schools, you would need a good GSCE grade in a subject to take the A level course, but if you are home schooled even that is irrelevant - except you get some practice in taking exams "for real".
  7. Dec 14, 2013 #6


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    Focus on getting as good grades for your GCSEs as possible, (Edit: and as good grounding as possible of course) and prepare for your A-levels. The A-levels are the most important.
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2013
  8. Dec 15, 2013 #7
    Neuroscience is a tricky one! Which A levels would be best for that? I would check entry requirement web pages of all possible universities carefully, e.g:


    For "neuroscience or physics" then obviously Maths & Physics should be two of the options. But what should be the third? Chemistry or Biology?

    King's college say:

    "AAB to include a minimum of two from (Chemistry, Biology, Maths, Physics) of which at least one must be Chemistry or Biology and, if only one, you must have AS grade A in the other subject."

    This means that if you get Chemistry A and Biology B at AS level, then you should do Biology at A level, i.e., press on with your weaker subject! Or drop physics...

    For some universities you may get to put off the physics/neuroscience choice until part way through the actual course:


    Read Dawkins' recent biography as it has quite a lot on "choosing what science to do" and "getting into Oxbridge".
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