Is 11 GCSEs too much?

Taking on 11 GCSE subjects is a big commitment and can be stressful for students. With the average number of GCSEs per student being around 8-9, taking on 11 GCSEs is more than most students take on. There are pros and cons to taking on such a large GCSE workload that are important to consider.

How many GCSEs is normal?

The average number of GCSE subjects taken by students is around 8-9. This allows students to gain qualifications in the core subjects such as English, Maths and Science as well as pick some additional options to suit their interests and abilities.

Some key stats on how many GCSEs students take:

  • In 2021, the average number of GCSE entries per pupil was 8.4
  • The most common number of GCSE entries is between 7 and 9
  • Only around 15% of students take 10 or more GCSEs
  • Very few students take 11 GCSEs – less than 10%

So taking 11 GCSEs puts a student well above average in terms of number of qualifications studied. Most schools do not require students to take this number of GCSEs.

Is taking 11 GCSEs manageable?

Taking on 11 GCSEs is a very heavy workload that will require excellent time management skills. It will involve a significant amount of work outside of school hours – at least 2 hours per subject per week.

To take on 11 GCSEs, a student will need:

  • To be able to absorb and understand content from 11 subjects
  • Strong memory and revision skills
  • Excellent time management and self-motivation
  • Willingness to sacrifice social time and hobbies

It is a workload much better suited to students who are extremely academic, organised and dedicated to their studies. For most students taking 11 GCSEs would lead to excessive stress and a risk of burnout.

Pros of taking 11 GCSEs

There are some potential benefits for students who take on 11 GCSE subjects:

  • Maximises options post-16 – Taking more GCSEs leaves more options open for A-Level/BTEC subjects and university courses.
  • Shows academic ability – Achieving 11 GCSEs shows you are a hard worker capable of excelling academically.
  • Opportunity to study more subjects – Taking 11 GCSEs allows you to gain knowledge and skills across a wider range of subjects.
  • Boosts UCAS points – Each GCSE is worth points towards university, so more GCSEs can improve your UCAS tariff.

For some students capable of coping with the high workload, taking 11 GCSEs can prove rewarding and enhance their academic profile.

Cons of taking 11 GCSEs

However, there are also some clear downsides and risks to taking on such a large GCSE workload:

  • Risk of burnout – Attempting 11 GCSEs could lead to exhaustion, lack of motivation and mental health issues from stress.
  • Lower grades – Taking on too many subjects can result in spreading yourself too thin, leading to lower results.
  • Less time per subject – Cramming 11 subjects into your week leaves less time to study each one in sufficient depth.
  • Less time for other activities – Social life, hobbies, sports and relaxation time will inevitably suffer.
  • Narrower focus – Taking 11 GCSEs means you cannot specialise and focus on passions and strengths.

Many students find taking fewer GCSE subjects allows them to achieve better grades and avoids excessive stress levels. Spreading yourself too thin with 11 GCSEs can be counterproductive.

How to decide if 11 GCSEs is right for you

If you are considering taking on 11 GCSE subjects, here are some key factors to think about:

  • Do you have exceptional academic ability, organisational skills and motivation?
  • Are you prepared to sacrifice your social life and hobbies?
  • Will you still achieve strong grades with the high workload?
  • Are you at risk of excessive stress and burnout?
  • Do you have enough support e.g. tuition if you need it?

You know yourself best. Be realistic about your limits and don’t overload yourself if it risks your mental health and grades. Discuss the pros and cons with teachers and parents before committing.

Tips for managing 11 GCSEs

If you do decide to take on 11 GCSEs, here are some tips to help you manage:

  • Create a detailed weekly revision timetable per subject and stick to it
  • Use active revision techniques like self-testing to maximize productivity
  • Manage stress with relaxation techniques like yoga or mindfulness
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule to avoid burnout
  • Eat healthy brain foods and stay hydrated during long study days
  • Get support – ask teachers and parents if you are struggling to cope

Organization and self-care will be key! Don’t be too proud to ask for help from your support network if you need it.

Example GCSE combinations for studying 11 subjects

To give you an idea of what taking 11 GCSEs might look like in practice, here are a couple of example GCSE combinations:

Example 1

  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Maths
  • Combined Science (Double)
  • History
  • Geography
  • Spanish
  • Business Studies
  • Computer Science
  • Music
  • Drama

Example 2

  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Maths
  • Triple Science (Bio, Chem, Physics)
  • History
  • Geography
  • French
  • Spanish
  • Religious Studies
  • Art
  • PE

These combinations allow students to cover core subjects, humanities, languages, arts/tech and practical subjects within an 11 GCSE workload.

How are 11 GCSEs graded?

GCSEs are graded on a numbered scale from 9 to 1, where 9 is the highest grade. This system was introduced in 2017 to replace the old A* to G grading scale.

To achieve 11 GCSEs, students will need to take exams in all 11 subjects and achieve whatever minimum passing grade their school requires, likely a grade 4 or 5.

The top grades of 7, 8 and 9 are approximately equivalent to the old A and A* grades. Achieving mostly 7-9 grades across 11 subjects would represent an extremely high level of achievement.

However, the focus should be on quality over quantity. It is better to achieve 9-7 grades in 8 subjects than 5-4 grades in 11 subjects. Taking on too many GCSEs can spread yourself too thin.

Subject combinations & curriculum time

Students taking 11 GCSEs will need to carefully plan out what subjects to combine and consider the curriculum time needed.

Some key points:

  • Check exam timetables – some subjects may clash if taken together
  • Balance essay subjects with more practical/technical subjects
  • Ensure you cover core subjects – English, Maths, Sciences etc
  • Plan subject combinations that support your post-16 choices
  • Consider if any subjects require extra curriculum time e.g. Triple Science
  • Be aware that taking 11 subjects will limit time available per subject

Discuss subject combinations with your teachers. You need to be able to dedicate enough time to each subject to cover the content while managing workload.

Study time required for 11 GCSEs

To take on 11 GCSEs successfully, you will need to dedicate a significant amount of study time. Guidelines suggest around 2 hours of study per week is needed per GCSE subject.

Based on this, studying 11 GCSE subjects would require:

  • Around 22 hours of study per week
  • Over 3 hours of study per school night
  • Substantial study at weekends

This is on top of school hours and homework time. It represents a very heavy workload – almost equivalent to a part-time job on top of school. Maintaining this consistently will be difficult but is essential to achieving strong grades across 11 subjects.

You will need excellent time management and self-motivation. It will impact on your social life and ability to relax so consider carefully if you are willing to make these sacrifices.

Revision timetable

A structured revision timetable is highly recommended when taking on 11 GCSEs. This allows you to:

  • Plan and schedule your study time in advance
  • Ensure you dedicate sufficient time to each subject
  • Avoid procrastination by following a routine
  • Balance study with breaks, social time and relaxation

Time management is key to success with such a heavy workload. Create a weekly timetable and stick to it. Revise different subjects on different days to avoid burnout. Mix subjects that require lots of writing with more practical subjects.

Schedule regular breaks and don’t plan long study sessions of 3+ hours without a break to refresh.

Is private tuition needed?

Private tuition is not essential for GCSEs but can provide extra support if you are taking on a lot of subjects. One-to-one or small group tuition could help you:

  • Get help with any topics you are struggling to understand
  • Improve exam technique in essay subjects
  • Develop better study skills and revision strategies
  • Stay motivated and focused
  • Gain confidence and reduce stress

If you start to feel overwhelmed by 11 GCSEs, tutoring could provide vital help leading up to exams.

Discuss with your parents if tutoring one or two subjects would be beneficial. Some schools also offer study skills sessions. Make use of any support available to help manage your heavy workload.

How are 11 GCSEs viewed by top universities?

Taking 11 GCSEs is unlikely to impress top universities on its own. Quality is considered far more important than quantity when assessing applicants.

Universities are likely to view taking 11 GCSEs as follows:

  • High academic ability if top grades are achieved in most subjects
  • Admirable work ethic but not essential to be well-rounded
  • Potentially excessive workload impacting student wellbeing
  • Breadth of study but may lack depth/specialisation
  • Should be supplemented with evidence of wider interests and skills

11 GCSEs with mostly 6 and 7 grades would be less impressive than 8 or 9 grades in 8 subjects showing greater focus.

Depth of passion and interest for a subject is valued more than taking lots of subjects. Excellent GCSEs should be supported with evidence of wider reading, super-curricular activities and independent learning.


Taking on 11 GCSE subjects represents a significant workload and is only advisable for extremely academic and motivated students. For most pupils, limiting GCSEs to 8-9 allows them to balance study with wellbeing and achieve stronger grades by focusing efforts.

Carefully consider whether taking 11 GCSEs is sensible based on your ability to cope with the high workload and stress. Maximising grades in a smaller number of subjects you enjoy may prove a better strategy than spreading yourself too thinly across too many GCSEs.

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