Reformed GCSE grades will be awarded on a rating scale from 9 (highest grade) to 1 (lowest). The 9-1 grading program has been incorporated together with a new GCSE curriculum in England. The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic degree in a particular subject, taken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. State schools in Scotland use the Scottish Qualifications Certificate.
Private schools in Scotland can choose to use an alternative grade. Prior to the introduction of GCSEs, students took the most academically challenging CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) or O-Level (General Certificate of Education (GCE) exams, or a combination of the two, in several subjects. The CSE broadly covered grades C-G or 4-1 of the GCSE, and the O-Level covered grades A*-C or 9—4, but both were independent grades, with different grading systems. Separate ratings were criticized for harming the lower 42% of O-level participants who were unable to receive a grade, and the higher-performing CSE participants who did not have the opportunity to demonstrate greater ability.
The CSE was rated on a numerical scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the highest and 5 being the lowest to pass. Below 5 there was a U rating (unrated). The highest grade, 1, was considered equivalent to an O-Level C grade or higher, and achievement of this grade often indicated that the student could have taken an O-Level course in the subject to achieve a higher grade. Since the two were independent grades with separate curricula, a separate course of study would have to be taken to convert a CSE to an O-Level in order to advance to the A-Level.
GCSEs were introduced in September 1986 to establish a national grade for those who decided to leave school at age 16, without continuing their academic studies to obtain grades such as A-Levels or university degrees. Replaced old CSE and O-Level grades, merging the two grades to allow access to the full range of grades for more students. However, the exams sometimes had a selection of questions designed for the most capable and the least capable candidates. Upon introduction, GCSEs were rated on a letter scale, from A to G, with a C that was established as approximately equivalent to a C grade of level O, or a grade 1 of CSE, and therefore, could be achieved in approximately the top 25% of each cohort.
Over time, the range of subjects offered, the format of the exams, the rules, the content and the score of the GCSE exams have changed considerably. Numerous topics have been added and changed, and several new topics are offered in modern languages, old languages, vocational fields and expressive arts, as well as citizenship courses. These reforms do not apply directly to Wales and Northern Ireland, where GCSEs will continue to be available in the A*-G rating system. However, due to legislative requirements for comparability between GCSEs in the three countries, and the allocations for certain subjects and qualifications to be available in Wales and Northern Ireland, grades of 9 to 1 will be available, and the other changes are mainly adopted in these countries as well.
Examination boards operate under the supervision of Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) in England, Qualifications Wales in Wales and CCEA in Northern Ireland. In England, AQA, OCR and Pearson operate under their respective brands. In addition, the WJEC operates the Eduqas brand, which develops qualifications in England. CCEA ratings are not available in England.
In Wales, the WJEC is the only accredited GCSE awarding body in the public sector and therefore no other board formally operates in Wales. However, some English board grades are available as designated grades in some circumstances, because they are not available in the WJEC. In Northern Ireland, the CCEA functions as a board and as a regulator. Most English board grades are also available, with the exception of English language and science, due to requirements for oral and practical assessment, respectively.
Students generally take at least 5 GCSEs in Key Stage 4, to satisfy the longstanding core measure of achieving 5 A*-C grades, including English, Math, and Science. The exact grades students take vary from school to school and from student to student, but schools are encouraged to offer at least one pathway leading to qualification for the Baccalaureate in English, which requires GCSEs in English language, English literature, mathematics, science (including computer science), a modern or ancient language, and either history or geography. In the past, math grades offered a different set of levels, with three. These were the basic level in grades G, F, E, and D; the intermediate level in grades E, D, C, and B; and the upper level in grades C, B, A, and A*.
This eventually changed to match the levels of all other GCSE qualifications. These grades were initially set such that a GCSE grade C would be equivalent to a level O grade C or a CSE grade 1, although changes in rating criteria and limits over the years mean that this comparison is only approximate. In 1994, an A* rating was added above initial grade A to indicate exceptional achievement, above the level required for grade A. In England, these results then inform the rankings released in the following academic year, with key performance metrics for each school.
UK GCSE ratings (chart system) In the past, many GCSE scores used a modular system, where some assessment (up to 60% under the “terminal rule”) could be submitted before the final exam series. This allowed students to take some units of a GCSE before the final exam series and thus gave an indication of progress and ability at various stages, as well as allowing students to retake exams where they did not score as high, in order to improve their grade, before receiving the rating. A variety of qualifications such as modular and linear schemes were available, and schools could choose the one that best suited them. In some subjects, one or more controlled assessment tasks or course tasks can also be completed.
They can contribute a small or large proportion of the final grade. In practical and performance subjects, they are generally more weighted to reflect the difficulty and potential injustice of taking exams in these areas. The balance between controlled assessment and testing is controversial, and the time to set aside for coursework sessions is considered a burden on school hours. However, the use of controlled evaluation makes it possible to grade some papers outside of test season and can ease the burden on students to perform well on test day.
Any of the above items must be approved by the examining board. Other forms of assistance are available with the agreement of the examining board, but the above are the most common. The requirement of 5 or more grades A*—C or 9—4, including English and mathematics, is often a requirement for grades after age 16 at sixth-grade universities or higher education schools after finishing high school. When the subject taken after the age of 16 has also been taken at GCSE, it is often required that the student has obtained a grade C, 4 or 5 at least in GCSE.
GCSEs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are part of the Regulated Qualifications Framework. A GCSE in grades G, F, E, D, 1, 2, or 3 is a Level 1 grade. A GCSE in C, B, A, A*, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 is a Level 2 rating. Grades are not awarded for grades U, X, or Q.
Level 2 qualifications are much more in demand and generally form minimum requirements for jobs and expectations for further study. The international version of the GCSE is the IGCSE, which can be taken anywhere in the world and includes additional options related to the course work and the language in which the qualification is taken. All subjects completed in the fifth grade of the European Baccalaureate are generally equivalent to the subjects of the GCSE. Current and former British Territories In the Republic of Ireland, the Junior Certificate is a comparable qualification.
The SAT Reasoning Test and the SAT Subject Matter Tests, or the ACT, may also be considered in a direct college admission offer. American students who have studied at a university, college, community college or who have graduated with a certificate, diploma or associate degree may receive their credits and awards transferred to a UK university, subject to entry requirements. The Association of School and University Leaders (ASCL) surveyed 606 school principals who had enrolled students for exam-only GCSEs. They found reports of panic attacks, sleepless nights, depression, extreme fatigue, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
In the current rating system, a score of 9, 8 and 7 equals an A* and A. A 9 is for a student who has performed exceptionally well. A grade of 4 is the equivalent of a C grade, known as a standard pass. A grade of 5 is also a grade C, but it's known as a hard pass.
There was a previous attempt to unite these two disparate grades in the 1980s, with a 16+ test exam in some subjects, which awarded both a CSE certificate and an O-Level certificate, before the GCSE was introduced. In the past, many GCSE scores used a modular system, where some assessment (up to 60% under the “terminal rule”) could be submitted prior to the final exam series. The incorporation of GCSE awards into school leaderboards and the setting of school-level targets above the national average has been criticized. Exam results are published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents the main GCSE awarding organizations.
For GCSE Science, the old single-prize science options and additional science options are no longer available, and are replaced by a double-prize combined science option (rated on a 9—9 to 1—1 scale and equivalent to 2 GCSE). For example, limits in grades 5 and 6 will be set based on the difference in grades between grades 4 and 7; grade 5 will be set at one-third of the difference in grades and grade 6 will be set at two-thirds of the difference in grades. In entry-level jobs, the student can earn a maximum grade of C, while in a higher-level job, he can achieve a minimum grade of D. Under the Conservative government of David Cameron and Secretary of Education Michael Gove, several changes were made to GCSE scores taken in England.
The UK government has developed a list of preferred subjects known as the English Baccalaureate and the Progress 8 benchmark is calculated on the results of eight GCSEs, including English, Mathematics and Science. Statistics released by the London Poverty Profile revealed that GCSE's overall achievement in London was higher than in the rest of England.