GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. It's highly valued by schools, colleges and employers, making it useful in post graduation planning.
The qualification mainly involves studying the theory of a subject, combined with some investigative work. GCSEs are usually studied full-time at school, taking five terms to complete.
GCSEs are at levels 1 and 2 on the National Qualifications Framework, depending on the grade you get. The framework shows how different types of qualifications compare, in terms of the demands they place on learners.
GCSEs are available in more than 40 academic and nine "applied" subjects. The applied subjects are related to a broad area of work, such as engineering or tourism.
You can also take many GCSEs as short courses, equivalent to half of the complete GCSE, allowing it to be taken in half the time. However, if you learn more slowly than others, you can spread a short course out over the same length as a traditional GCSE.
Short courses also enable students to take extra subjects of interest, such as a second foreign language.