Year 9 is the time you should start thinking about your future and those important career decisions you will soon have to make. There's a wide and exciting range of courses to choose from to start you on the way to sixth form, college, university or the workplace.

Look at your strengths and weaknesses, what you like doing and what you can do well. Also think about which jobs may interest you in the future. You'll need to choose the courses and subjects you'll be taking in Years 10 and 11. These are likely to lead to GCSEs or other qualifications.

All students in England have to study English, maths and science and will take an exam, usually a GCSE, in these three core subjects. You'll also study information and communication technology (ICT), physical education (PE), citizenship, religious studies, careers education, sex and relationship education and work-related learning, although it's up to your school whether the course ends with a qualification.

Some schools may have additional compulsory subjects.

You can choose to study at least one other optional subject in modern foreign languages, design and technology or humanities and arts.

Not all schools offer the same options, so it is important to check what is available. Subjects and the levels at which they are offered vary from school to school.

The majority of students in Years 10 and 11 study towards General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) qualifications which normally take two years to complete.

Some schools offer Entry Level courses leading to a Certificate of Achievement.

Find out as much information about the available options as possible. Talk to your parents or carers, teachers and your Careers or Connexions Personal Adviser about the subjects on offer, what qualifications you'll be working towards and what skills you'll develop.

If you don't know which career you want, choose subjects that you think you will enjoy and do well at. Some subjects may be new to you. A broad balance of subjects will keep all sorts of options open.

If you've received extra help at school you'll still get the support you need during Years 10 and 11 and if you go on to college or work-based learning.

It's never too early to think about the choices you have to make - and planning ahead is key to a successful decision.