Many of the same genes may affect the results of GCSEs (a series of examinations taken by 16 year old students in the UK) across a wide range of subjects according to a paper published in Scientific Reports. The research also suggests that educational achievement at GCSE may be highly heritable, with over half of the variance in results potentially due to inherited differences in DNA.
Previous studies have shown that academic achievement in the core subjects of English, mathematics and science at GCSE may be influenced by the same genetic traits. However, it is unclear if these genetic factors have an influence on a wider range of academic subjects.
Kaili Rimfeld and colleagues used a genetic model involving data from 12,632 twins to investigate if genetic factors could influence GCSE results. By comparing identical twins (who share 100% of their genes) and non-identical twins (who share around 50% of their segregating genes), the authors calculated the extent to which academic achievement may be inherited. The authors found that achievement across a range of subjects including English, mathematics, science, humanities, and second languages was substantially heritable and may be partly controlled by the same genes. It was also found that this genetic influence was, to a large extent, independent of intelligence.
The authors suggest that their results could facilitate research to identify the genes responsible for achievement by focusing on achievement across different subjects.