What GCSE and A level subject combinations are offered by examination centres in England?

What GCSE and A Level subject combinations are offered by examination centres in England?

Graph showing what GCSE and A Level subject combinations are offered by examination centres in England

October 2016


With the start of the 2016-2017 academic year, a new cohort of students is beginning to study their GCSEs and A Levels. A student’s choice of subjects will depend on their personal interests, their aspirations for the future, and, of course, the subjects offered by their school. This Data Byte presents an interactive look at the combinations of subjects offered by examination centres in England.

This chart shows the combinations of the ten most popular subjects (as measured by the number of candidate entries) offered by examination centres in England during the 2014-2015 academic year. Each subject is shown as an arc, the length of which represents the number of centres that entered students for that subject. Dark blue colours represent science subjects, light blue humanities, and pink languages; other subjects are aggregated together and shown in grey.

Data source: Dept. for Education Performance Tables


Click on a subject to get more details.

Select a qualification type

GCSE A Level

How to read this chart

When you hover over a subject, you will see ribbons connecting it to all of the other subjects. The ribbon always covers the full width of the highlighted source subject, i.e. 100% of the total number of centres that offered that subject. The width of the ribbon at the target subject represents the percentage of all centres offering the target subject that also offered the source subject.

Here's an example.

What does the chart show?

The interactive graphic shows the combinations of the ten most popular subjects at either GCSE or A Level (as measured by total number of entries) offered by centres in England in 2014-2015. That year GCSE Full Course qualifications were offered by 5616 examination centres across 94 subjects for a total of 18.7 million candidate entries; A Level qualifications were offered by 3441 examination centres across 87 subjects for a total of 2.9 million candidate entries. However any given centre might only offer a subset of these subjects; for example, 25% of centres offered fewer than 15 subjects.

Why is the chart interesting?

Using the interactive graphic, one can explore the connections between the subjects offered by centres in GCSE and A Level qualifications. For example, one can see that:

  • Nearly all centres that offered the top ten GCSE and A Level subjects also offered Mathematics. 94% of centres that offered GCSE Religious Studies and 100% of centres that offered A Level Economics offered the respective Mathematics qualification and all other subjects lie within this range.
  • At GCSE, 97% of the centres that offered Biology also offered Core Science and 94% offered Additional Science. However, only 64% of the centres that offered Core Science and 71% of those that offered Additional Science also offered Biology. This suggests that many centres cater for a range of student abilities in their provision of science subjects, rather than only offering either Core and Additional Science or specific disciplines (i.e. Biology, Chemistry, Physics).
  • At A Level, almost all centres that offered one science also offered other science subjects. For example, 97% of the centres that offered Physics and 98% of the centres that offered Chemistry also offered Biology. The uptake was slightly lower for Physics, which was offered by 93% of Biology centres and 95% of Chemistry centres. (A similar pattern exists for GCSE science disciplines but it is not shown in the interactive because Chemistry and Physics fall outside of the top ten subjects).

For more information on the provision and uptake of GCSE and A Level subjects, please see:

Gill, T., Williamson, J. (2016) 'Provision of GCSE subjects 2015', 'Provision of GCE A Level subjects 2015', 'Uptake of GCSE subjects 2015' and 'Uptake of GCE A Level subjects 2015'. Statistical Report Series Nos. 106–109, Cambridge Assessment. http://cambridgeassessment.org.uk/our-research/ all-published-resources/statistical-reports/

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