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Terrified I’ll be held back because of my awful GCSEs

I ended up scraping 888765555 at GCSE, but I’ve found renewed academic strength this year (Y12), I’m now predicted A*A*A. I’m top of my class in both English Literature and History, where I got the highest scores in both my end of year papers - I got an A* and almost full marks in my Y12 History mock so I’m pretty confident I can get it in the real thing. History is my subject; I’m genuinely passionate about it, and it’s the only thing I could truly see myself studying next year. My dream is to study modern history at Cambridge.

But unfortunately, despite my progress this year, I sadly ended up getting a 6 in GCSE history. One of the reasons for this was that I didn’t have access to a word processor then, so I ran out of time in all the final exams despite being an otherwise strong student who’d gotten 9s all year. Now that I have access to a laptop/word processor in exams (I’m on the waitlist for ADHD testing after referral) I’ve actually been able to finish my papers, and have been doing extremely well as a result. I’m finally on an equal playing field. God willing, this will count as an extenuating circumstance because my performance was worsened due to a factor outside of my control, but I’m not sure. I also struggled with poor mental health at the time, but I’m not diagnosed with anything.

But I’m just terrified that my poor GCSE results and subpar performance in Y11 will stop me from going to elite universities like Cambridge/Edinburgh/UCL. It just seems so awful, especially considering I’ve made such great progress. In particular, with a University like Cambridge, could I eclipse poor GCSEs with stellar predictions, PS, and a great interview and assessment peformance?

Even if I do exceptionally well in every other part of the admissions process, could I be rejected on the basis of my GCSE results alone?
(edited 1 year ago)
Cambridge doesn't put that much weight on GCSEs compared to Oxford. UCL only has minimum GCSE requirements (same for most unis).

GCSEs are, in the grand scheme of things, pretty unimportant with only a few exceptions (many but not all courses at Oxford, some courses at LSE, some medical/dental/vet schools).
Original post by artful_lounger
Cambridge doesn't put that much weight on GCSEs compared to Oxford. UCL only has minimum GCSE requirements (same for most unis).

GCSEs are, in the grand scheme of things, pretty unimportant with only a few exceptions (many but not all courses at Oxford, some courses at LSE, some medical/dental/vet schools).


Yup, I’ve heard Cambridge put less emphasis than Oxford/LSE, but people often reassure others that mediocre GCSE results are fine as long as it’s not in a relevant subject. Unfortunately, mine is…which sucks, because it isn’t representative of my ability at all. I got an A* in my History Mock a week ago…so it’s very unfortunate that I could be held back by the 6 I got a year ago.
(edited 1 year ago)
Original post by eilnabrmnat
Yup, I’ve heard Cambridge put less emphasis than Oxford/LSE, but people often reassure others that mediocre GCSE results are fine as long as it’s not in a relevant subject. Unfortunately, mine is…which sucks, because it isn’t representative of my ability at all. I got an A* in my History Mock a week ago…so it’s very unfortunate that I could be held back by the 6 I got a year ago.

I would be surprised if in itself it prevented you getting an interview, and thereafter I would expect the interview to make more of a difference anyway.
Original post by eilnabrmnat
I ended up scraping 888765555 at GCSE, but I’ve found renewed academic strength this year (Y12), I’m now predicted A*A*A. I’m top of my class in both English Literature and History, where I got the highest scores in both my end of year papers - I got an A* and almost full marks in my Y12 History mock so I’m pretty confident I can get it in the real thing. History is my subject; I’m genuinely passionate about it, and it’s the only thing I could truly see myself studying next year. My dream is to study modern history at Cambridge.

But unfortunately, despite my progress this year, I sadly ended up getting a 6 in GCSE history. One of the reasons for this was that I didn’t have access to a word processor then, so I ran out of time in all the final exams despite being an otherwise strong student who’d gotten 9s all year. Now that I have access to a laptop/word processor in exams (I’m on the waitlist for ADHD testing after referral) I’ve actually been able to finish my papers, and have been doing extremely well as a result. I’m finally on an equal playing field. God willing, this will count as an extenuating circumstance because my performance was worsened due to a factor outside of my control, but I’m not sure. I also struggled with poor mental health at the time, but I’m not diagnosed with anything.

But I’m just terrified that my poor GCSE results and subpar performance in Y11 will stop me from going to elite universities like Cambridge/Edinburgh/UCL. It just seems so awful, especially considering I’ve made such great progress. In particular, with a University like Cambridge, could I eclipse poor GCSEs with stellar predictions, PS, and a great interview and assessment peformance?

Even if I do exceptionally well in every other part of the admissions process, could I be rejected on the basis of my GCSE results alone?


Damn bro, you make it seem like i'm done for like those GCSE results for me would be a faraway dream lol
It's probably still worth applying, especially if you are from a school which generally gets lower GCSE results as they might factor that in. My APS is 7.9, with my 5 in maths bringing it down, but I don't want to do a mathsy subject so they will mind less according to my teachers. I'm not sure if this is just my school, or the general, but my head of sixth said those who are most likely to get an interview have an APS of 8 and above.
Reply 6
Original post by eilnabrmnat
Yup, I’ve heard Cambridge put less emphasis than Oxford/LSE, but people often reassure others that mediocre GCSE results are fine as long as it’s not in a relevant subject. Unfortunately, mine is…which sucks, because it isn’t representative of my ability at all. I got an A* in my History Mock a week ago…so it’s very unfortunate that I could be held back by the 6 I got a year ago.

If you got a 6 at GCSE but you're now predicted an A* at A level and are top of the class then you're on an upward trajectory, which is what Cambridge will be more interested in. If you have a genuine passion for the subject now and you believe that the Cambridge course is the right one for you, then go for it! (But be sure to check the course structure and contents first, and make sure that it is definitely a course that you would enjoy doing for 3 years.)

Original post by davros
If you got a 6 at GCSE but you're now predicted an A* at A level and are top of the class then you're on an upward trajectory, which is what Cambridge will be more interested in. If you have a genuine passion for the subject now and you believe that the Cambridge course is the right one for you, then go for it! (But be sure to check the course structure and contents first, and make sure that it is definitely a course that you would enjoy doing for 3 years.)

I really hope you’re right! My worry is that the admissions tutor might think my predictions are inflated or unrealistic based on my GCSEs, but I literally got an A* in the mock 🥲
Reply 8
Original post by eilnabrmnat
I ended up scraping 888765555 at GCSE, but I’ve found renewed academic strength this year (Y12), I’m now predicted A*A*A. I’m top of my class in both English Literature and History, where I got the highest scores in both my end of year papers - I got an A* and almost full marks in my Y12 History mock so I’m pretty confident I can get it in the real thing. History is my subject; I’m genuinely passionate about it, and it’s the only thing I could truly see myself studying next year. My dream is to study modern history at Cambridge.

But unfortunately, despite my progress this year, I sadly ended up getting a 6 in GCSE history. One of the reasons for this was that I didn’t have access to a word processor then, so I ran out of time in all the final exams despite being an otherwise strong student who’d gotten 9s all year. Now that I have access to a laptop/word processor in exams (I’m on the waitlist for ADHD testing after referral) I’ve actually been able to finish my papers, and have been doing extremely well as a result. I’m finally on an equal playing field. God willing, this will count as an extenuating circumstance because my performance was worsened due to a factor outside of my control, but I’m not sure. I also struggled with poor mental health at the time, but I’m not diagnosed with anything.

But I’m just terrified that my poor GCSE results and subpar performance in Y11 will stop me from going to elite universities like Cambridge/Edinburgh/UCL. It just seems so awful, especially considering I’ve made such great progress. In particular, with a University like Cambridge, could I eclipse poor GCSEs with stellar predictions, PS, and a great interview and assessment peformance?

Even if I do exceptionally well in every other part of the admissions process, could I be rejected on the basis of my GCSE results alone?


You’ll be fine. As others have said, it shows an trajectory, which many will see as a positive.

The vast majority of unis, including high tariff ones, don’t select you based on GCSEs. They check if you meet their min requirements of course, but then select you based predominantly on A-level predictions, and to a lessor extent on the other bits of your application like personal statement and school references.
Reply 9
Original post by eilnabrmnat


I really hope you’re right! My worry is that the admissions tutor might think my predictions are inflated or unrealistic based on my GCSEs, but I literally got an A* in the mock 🥲

But that is not a risk for them, as that will give you an offer of say A*AA, and if you don’t achieve that, you will lose your place. Over inflating predictions is more of a risk for the student than the university.

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