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It’s normal to be unsure when picking your GCSE options. Teachers and parents emphasise that your choices are going to impact the rest of your life, which puts a huge amount of pressure on your shoulders, particularly if you don’t know what you’d like to do in the future.

This is especially true for the more specialised and creative options like Art, Music and Drama. These three subjects are wonderfully useful and worthwhile if you’re looking to go into a relevant field, often complementing each other in certain careers. However, that makes picking one of these choices even more difficult, especially if you enjoy them all.

To try and help you make an informed decision, we’ve prepared a quick guide on what you can expect from an Art, Music or Drama course at GCSE level.


One of the most important factors to consider when picking your GCSE subjects is the workload. Being overwhelmed with work drastically increases your stress levels which can have an impact on the other subjects too, so it’s good to go into each class prepared and aware.

Art is one of the most time-intensive subjects on the curriculum and so the workload shouldn’t be scoffed at. You should expect to be taking work home with you on a regular basis and spending long periods working on your art. Saying that the workload is manageable; it simply requires a lot of dedication both inside and outside of the classroom.

Moving onto Music, it may come as a surprise to hear that a lot of different learning styles are covered in a Music GCSE. Contrary to popular belief, Music GCSE isn’t solely singing or playing music (although that is a very important aspect and you will need to perform in order to pass). The subject also has a large theory element that dominates much of the course, though the most time-consuming task is composition. Composition involves applying music theory to create a new piece and usually takes a lot of time, considering most have never tried it before. Overall, Music has a lesser workload than Art but is still far from easy.

Lastly, Drama GCSE likely requires the lowest time investment of the three during the course of the year but steps it up during the final exam period. Furthermore, Drama requires other unique skills like being able to analyse and write about techniques being used, as well as practical performance skills. This means that you will be writing as well as acting. Additionally, Drama is one of the less independent subjects because for your practical work you will have to work in groups. Therefore, you must be comfortable getting along with other people whilst simultaneously attending practices and working on your personal theory project. It’s all about balance.

Assessment Style

Another important point to consider is examination style. Everyone has a preferred assessment technique based on how they learn, whether it is coursework or formal exams, so here’s a quick look at how Art, Music and Drama organise their tests. For the sake of this article, we will be using AQA’s examination system, as the majority of exam boards operate in a similar way.

Most Art GCSEs are coursework-based throughout the year with one long exam at the end. The coursework is centred around artist investigation and technique development, whilst the final exam is a two-day, 10-hour art piece supported by research. Whilst this is very different from the standard examination formats, it’s still extremely intense and draining during those two days.

Music GCSE is usually split between an hour and a half exam focused on music theory, a performance segment where you are recorded performing and a composition portion where you create new music. Whilst Music has a shorter exam than Art, the composition and performance obviously call on a different set of skills. Be prepared to invest lots of time into practising for your performance and perfecting your composition.

Drama assessments follow a split structure similar to Music. There are an hour and 45-minute exam, along with two performance sections. The first performance is delivered in front of an exam board representative, whilst the other is much larger and just in front of your teacher. Prepare for lots of lunchtime and after-school practices to pass these assessments.

Career Path

Finally, make sure that you consider a career path in your final selection. There are certain fields where each of these subjects clearly outweighs the others, like Art for an illustrator, Drama for an actor/actress and Music for a film soundtrack composer. However, it can be more difficult to make a choice for careers like musical theatre. If this sounds familiar, then you should always opt for the subject that you enjoy most and if that fails, the one you think you are best at.

In Summary

To conclude, Art is workload-heavy with continuous coursework that involves both writing and practical work, along with a very long exam. Music is a little less intensive but requires creative skills which can dwindle when you’re stressed, along with a more conventional exam. Finally, Drama is performance intensive and relies on your teamwork skills. Furthermore, you will be forced to use analysis and writing skills as well as your practical abilities.

As a final note, try to avoid being clouded by the opinions of others. If you’re still unsure after reading this guide, then try to pick the subject you enjoy most. The next two years of your life will be dominated by your selection, so you want to make sure you enjoy yourself while you are studying.

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