Factors influencing subject selection in upper secondary education (Key Stage 4) for males and females in England

Joanne Vaughan, Daniel Boduszek, Alison Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Research to date has investigated the potential factors that influence students’ decisions in opting to study certain subjects during their upper secondary education. Trends in subject selection at this level (Key Stage 4) have been maintained over time and have consistently displayed comparable differences for males and females. It is recognised that males typically opt for subjects such as physical education and science, while females are traditionally noted as favouring the arts and humanities. These educational decisions may impact on future occupational directions. In light of recent initiatives, such as the English Baccalaureate, it is of interest to explore whether such measures have had an influence on this noted gender gap.

Participants and procedure

The present study investigates the potential predictors of subject selection, while controlling for gender, offering a specific focus on the education system in England. Attention is given to students’ perceived academic ability and attitude toward school, and how such factors may guide subject choice. Participants (N = 276) were students currently in the process of selecting optional modules for Key Stage 4 study.


The findings demonstrate that female students are less likely than their male counterparts to opt for physical education (PE) and business studies/information and communication technology (ICT) as preferred modules, in comparison to ‘creative and performance’ subjects (reference category). Higher levels of reported masculinity were also shown to relate to the up-take of PE at Key Stage 4.


The implications of these findings are discussed in relation to existing research and practical contributions to the educational arena.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-174
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Issues in Personality Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2015


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