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GCSE Subject

Two weeks ago we launched our first in a series of blogs  shedding a light on examination entry data collated from each of the Awarding Organisations for the Summer 2022 series. The simple aim of these blogs? To arm you with data driven information that can help you decide which subject specification(s) you might wish to study/select for the next academic year.

Last week we focussed on the most common A Level subjects sat last Summer.  This time, no prizes for guessing, we’re going to look at the most popular GCSE subjects sat last Summer.  However, unlike A Level subjects, many GCSE subjects in taught mainstream education are compulsory national curriculum subjects.  For Key Stage 3 students (11 to 14 year olds) these are:

HistoryGeographyModern Foreign Languages
Design and TechnologyArt and DesignMusic
Physical EducationCitizenshipComputing

During Key Stage 4 (14 to 16 year-olds), most pupils work towards national qualifications – usually GCSEs.

The compulsory national curriculum subjects are the ‘core’ and ‘foundation’ subjects.

Core subjects are:


Foundation subjects are:

Physical EducationCitizenshipComputing

Of course, those studying outside of mainstream education are not ‘shackled’ by the national curriculum and are free to choose those subjects that most appeal to the candidate, although most do opt to for the core GCSEs or…. IGCSEs (but more on them in a future blog).  Unsurprisingly all of the subjects that feature in the table below, detailing Summer 2022 consolidated Awarding Organisation entries, are compulsory at Key Stage 3, bar Business Studies.  Please note that Combined Science figures relate to entries not GCSEs awarded (Combined Science GCSE is equivalent to two GCSEs) and Art and Design aggregated entries, comprising multiple disciplines, are excluded from this table despite accounting for 192,000 entries last year. 

The combined entries of the 13 subjects featured in the table below account for 85% of all GCSE entries last summer.  As with A Levels AQA are by far and away the leading player in the GCSE market having the highest market share in 10 of the 13 subjects shown and are second placed in the remaining 3. AQA are particularly dominant in English and Science subjects where typically, four out of every five candidates sit their specifications.

Edexcel dominate the GCSE Mathematics market, accounting for 66% of all entries.  They also account for over half of all entries in GCSE History and Business Studies.

Summer 2022 EntriesMarket Share %
English Language554,17764,61975,4158,258702,46979%9%11%1%
English Literature463,50252,36555,5517,262578,68080%9%10%1%
Combined Science343,67063,764 17,304424,73881%15%0%4%
Religious Studies126,14542,92148,4816,318223,86556%19%22%3%
Biology141,00623,397 10,680175,08381%13%0%6%
Physics134,65522,852 9,671167,17881%14%0%6%
Spanish90,03722,4742,126 114,63779%20%2%0%
Business Studies26,52053,1124,43016,732100,79426%53%4%17%

Source:  Published Awarding Organisation Grade Statistics – Summer 2022

As stated in our previous blog selecting a specification(s) involves many factors .  For example, an Awarding Organisation’s reputation for a particular subject, usually denoted by its market share, may influence your decision.  But other things to consider include:

  • The content/topics of the specification
  • Availability of resources and support provided by the exam board or 3rd party
  • Assessment Methodology

All of the above considerations can be accessed via our Fees List with easily accessible links to each Awarding Organisation specification and their associated support materials and resources.