All you need to know about picking the Art GCSE!

4 mins
May 12, 2022
Did you know that the Mona Lisa has her own mailbox in the Louvre because she receives so many love letters? Or that Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting while he was alive? Or that the artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted despite crippling arthritis - he could hold a brush in his hand but he needed his assistant to put it there!

September isn’t far away! Which means that you need to start thinking about your GCSE option and we’ve got you covered. We’ve got articles for all the GCSE options available from Geography to Design and Technology - and we cover everything from how the qualification could kickstart your career to how are the exams formatted and how much of the qualification is coursework based!

But right now we’re talking art, so let’s start!

What do you do in GCSE Art?

Throughout your GCSE you’ll choose one or more of the options below to study:
1 Art, craft and design
2 Fine art
3 Graphic communication
4 Textile design 
5 Three-dimensional design 
6 Photography 

Once you’ve chosen out of the options listed above, you’ll need to demonstrate knowledge, understanding and skill. Research what exam board your education provider uses and have a look at how you can best evidence this knowledge, understanding and skill.

One of the best things about the Art GCSE is that it encourages you to do your own exploration, part of the syllabus literally says ‘students are encouraged to progressively develop their own strengths and interests in the subject and follow their own lines of enquiry’. This is all to say that it’s pretty hard to say what you do in the Art GCSE as it’s up to you!

A large part of the Art GCSE is the sketchbook...

The sketchbook is a creative document that contains written and visual material. It is a place to document your research, exploration, plans and development of ideas – for testing, practising, evaluating and discussing your project. It is the place where you learn from other artists and express and brainstorm ideas.

Can you do A Level art without GCSE?

Short answer? Yes! Longer answer? Some colleges/schools may require you to have a portfolio if you haven’t completed the GCSE, the portfolio will showcase your skills and current ability. The Art GCSE isn’t mandatory for the A Level course but it will help to prepare you for what’s to come as you’ll get a good foundation for all of the techniques that you’ll build on in the Art A Level.

If you’re struggling to know where to start your portfolio then consider looking at art courses outside of school and think about the forms and techniques that are part of the GCSE course. The best thing about art is that you don’t need many supplies and you can take inspiration from the world around you.

How long is the Art GCSE exam?

It’s worth noting that the course is split into two components; the portfolio (sketchbook) and the Non-exam assessment (NEA) which is marked by your teachers in school. Your portfolio is worth 60% of your final grade. You’ll get a chance to prepare for the NEA which will test all four of the assessment objectives, which we’ve listed below:
1.  Develop ideas through investigations, demonstrating critical understanding of sources.

2.  Refine work by exploring ideas, selecting and experimenting with appropriate media, materials, techniques and processes. 

3. Record ideas, observations and insights relevant to intentions as work progresses.

4. Present a personal and meaningful response that realises intentions and demonstrates an understanding of visual language.
The NEA comprises the preparatory time as well as 10 hours of supervised time and counts for 40% of the GCSE.

* Please note that the structure of your exam and weightings may vary by exam board, so we strongly advise you to check what exam board your education provider uses. We are basing this article on the AQA board.

How to write about Art GCSE?

The first thing to note is that the art GCSE is a pretty personal subject, meaning you’ll get to explore and experiment with styles, forms and artists that appeal to you. Having said this, writing about the art is something that can trip students up and you need to know how to do it.

When writing about another artist's work always include the name of the artwork, the date it was made and the materials used (you can also include any known influences). You can then go on to use phrases like ‘this piece makes me think about…’ or ‘I think the artist used x and x to convey…’. Remember your writing should add to your artwork (or explain how you perceive the artist's work) – it should say something about it and provide another dimension - not just describe it.

Should I do Art GCSE?

When choosing your GCSE options, you want to make sure you're picking the best choice for you, so you need to think about three factors: 

  1. Will you enjoy it? (remember, the GCSE is a two-year course!)
  2. Do you have the ability to get a good grade? (how much input is needed from you?)
  3. Will the qualification help you get where you want to go? (what do you need for your future career?)

Try thinking about all of your GCSE options like this; if it can satisfy these questions, you can probably answer the 'should I do it?' question with a yes. If not, keep looking at your options, you're bound to find something else you’ll enjoy.

Do you need Art GCSE to be a fashion designer?

Absolutely not, there are loads of successful big-name fashion designers that don’t have any formal qualifications in art. Having said this, throughout your GCSE you’ll gain a whole load of useful skills that will help you make it as a fashion designer like sketching and textile design (this includes printed and dyed textiles, costume design and illustration).

If you’re set on being a fashion designer, there are loads of courses that will help you as you make a start on your journey down the runway; research courses in textiles, tailoring, printing and graphic design. 

How can we help? 

Unfortunately, we don't have any resources that will help you get a great grade in your Art GCSE. But, we have something that might help you decide whether an ArtGCSE is something you want to pursue. Our pathfinder quiz will help you work out which careers suit you best, based on your strengths and interests, so you can see if completing the Art GCSE will get you where you want to go!

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