General Certificate of Education

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The General Certificate of Education (GCE) is an academic qualification that examination boards in the United Kingdom and a few of the former British colonies or Commonwealth countries, notably Sri Lanka and Singapore, confer on students. The GCE traditionally comprised two levels: the Ordinary Level (O Level) and the Advanced Level (A Level). More recently examination boards also offer an intermediate third GCE level, the Advanced Subsidiary Level (AS Level).


The GCE was originally introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1951. It was intended to cater for the increased range of subjects available to pupils since the raising of the school leaving age from 14 to 15 in 1947. The examinations were graded into ordinary levels for the top 25% academically of 16-year-olds. A-Levels were the subsequent examination for those who studied for a further two years after O-Levels (GCE's). These were often in addition to O-Levels in subjects that the student was particularly adept at.

Letter grades are used with A, B, C, D and E representing a pass and U (unclassified) representing a fail. The A* grade was introduced in 2010 (GCSE, the replacement of GCE and CSE ) for students who achieve 80% and above in the overall A-Level qualification and achieve 90% and over in all A2 (this applies to GCSE and not GCE but may apply to CSE) modules.

Worldwide use[edit]


Up to now, most schools in Brunei are under GCE, the levels are of O-level, A-level, and AS-level. Examinations are conducted by the Examinations Department of Brunei Darussalam.[1]

Hong Kong[edit]

In Hong Kong, students who wish to attend university in the United Kingdom usually take part in the British examinations in addition to Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) and Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE), despite the equivalent gradings granted by UK universities between the two sets of examinations, for students tend to attain better grades in the British examination. The English Schools Foundation in Hong Kong runs schools that follow the British patterned education, and students take GCSE in Years 10–11 and AS/A Level exams in Years 12–13 (though scome schools are also adopting the IB Diploma program).


Up to 1978, GCE examinations in Malaysia were conducted by the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, when two agencies of the Malaysian Ministry of Education took over the role with UCLES retaining an advisory role on standards.

The GCE O-Level equivalent is the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM, formerly known in English as the Malaysian Certificate of Education (MCE)), conducted by the Lembaga Peperiksaan Malaysia (LPM, the Malaysian Examinations Syndicate). The SPM is taken by all fifth-year secondary school students in Malaysia. The SPM English Language paper is graded separately by the LPM and by UCLES (which still awards a GCE O-Level for the paper), and both grades are displayed on the results slip.

The GCE A-Level equivalent is the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM, formerly know in English as the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (HSC)), conducted by the Majlis Peperiksaan Malaysia (MPM, the Malaysian Examinations Council). The STPM is taken by students after a two-year sixth form course. The STPM is accepted for admission to universities worldwide.


Pakistan also runs the GCE education level. Some of Pakistan's top schools offers this course. A Pakistani student currently holds the world record for attaining the highest number of "As" in A-Level. Ali Moeen Nawazish scored 21 As in GCE Advanced Level. Another student, Syed Zohaib Asad holds the current world record for 28 As in GCE Ordinary Level. Pakistani student Haroon Tariq also holds the world record for most As (47) in O-A levels.[2]


Students take the O-Levels after completing Secondary 4 at age 16 for the Special and Express streams, or Secondary 5 at age 17 for the Normal streams. After that, they have the option to go on to a junior college for two years in preparation for the A-Levels or study a vocational trade and earn a diploma at a polytechnic or technical school. Increasingly, students who perform well in school are given the option to bypass the O-levels and take the A-Levels, in a scheme dubbed the integrated programme (also known as the through-train programme).

Sri Lanka[edit]

In Sri Lanka GCE Ordinary Level and GCE Advanced Level examinations are conducted by the Department of Examinations of the Government of Sri Lanka. The GCE(O/L) is normally conducted in the month of December and GCE (A/L)s are conducted in the month of August. They are conducted on an island-wide examination centres on same time. Examination entrance is restricted by a minimal number of formal school going years and laboratory field work. The majority of candidates enter the exams via their respective schools, while candidates who have finished school education can also apply as a private CLIENTS

The O/L examination is regarded as the qualification examination for starting on GCE(A/L). Specialization streaming is depended on the grades obtained for subjects in the O/L. The country's reputed schools admit students to their A/L, depending on the O/L grades.

The Sri Lankan University Grants commission determines the cut-off points for the selection of students to the Sri Lankan universities according to the grade points obtained in the A/L examinations based on the normal distribution.[3]


Bangladesh also has the GCE A-Level and GCE O-Level. There are many schools which follow the British Curriculum.


In Cameroon, the GCE Ordinary Level examination is a 3 year course program starting from Form 3 to Form 5 (Years 9 to 11). It is usually written in Form 5 (Year 11) in Secondary schools, meanwhile the GCE Advanced Level examinations are written in Upper 6 (Year 13) in High school. Most Secondary schools in Cameroon which do the English form of education and write both the GCE A-Level and O-Level examinations are boarding schools.

During Easter break around March, Students in these boarding schools stay for GCE courses for a week and a few days in school for extra classes in order to cover up their syllabus. At the end of the school year, all students in other classes except the GCE candidates leave and they stay for their Revisions and preparation towards the upcoming exams in Late-May. Once the candidates finish writing in Early-June, they all return to their various homes, waiting to hear their results. The same thing applies for GCE candidates in Day schools. The results for the GCE O-Level and A-level exams in Cameroon are announced around Mid-July.

See also[edit]