Decisions - Expectations

Your teen will be studying any number of GCSE subjects, up to about 9 or 10.  That’s a mountain of information to understand, memorise and practise and may involve sitting over 20 exams!  Most adults would struggle to prioritise the workload and come up with a sensible plan, so let’s have some sympathy for our teenagers grappling with this challenge?


It is a competitive world and pressure to ‘do well’ is felt by teens from many sources: parents, grandparents, teachers, siblings, peers at school.


We all tend to define ‘do well’ as ‘get the highest grades possible’. Whilst obtaining high grades is a nice thought, it’s worth bearing in mind that:

  • 20% (1 in 5) get a 7 or higher 

  • 10% (1 in 10) get an 8 or higher

  • 3% (1 in 30) get a 9

  • out of 550,000 GCSE candidates, about 1000 (0.15% or 1 in 700) get all 9s!


Given it is a stressful period, it may be helpful to define ‘do well’ in a useful way.

  • Maths and English Language must be passed at grade 4 otherwise your teen will have to keep re-sitting them to the age of 18

  • Schools and colleges have entry criteria. Most grammar schools require grade 6, sometimes 7, for entry to A-Level

  • Your teen has subjects that they like and dislike which are the basis for what they want to do next.


To help clarify expectations fill in a (9 cell) table that classifies subjects as

  • more or less important

    • More important are the subjects (about 5) required to move on

    • Less important are all the other subjects (about 5!)

  • harder or easier.


See an example image here

  • Find a downloadable resource (for subscribers) to use here

Then for each subject add the grade that is needed rather than the grade that is desired. Do NOT over-egg the cake.

So good news parents, there is something you can do that will take pressure off everyone by clarifying what you teen needs in order to move to the next stage


BIG decision: to focus on what is NEEDED


If your teen achieves ‘what is needed to move on’ and has worked hard to get it … that’s success. Any more is a bonus! 

Don’t worry about targets the school sets, they are only there to stop the school getting into trouble!!!