Talk:General Certificate of Secondary Education

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Education (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Education, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of education and education-related topics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.

Academically rigorous?[edit]

The very first sentence in this article is as laughable as the level that the GCSE represents. It is not rigorous, its level is low, it is culturally 'dumbed down', and it is a vehicle for every type of political correctness (instead of 'Person X proceeds at a velocity of x km/h .... ' we have 'Sangita goes to the take-away an drives at x km/h ...' for example in mathematics; vegetarians and ethnic minorities constantly crop up in the comprehension papers in modern languages, to name but two). They represent and risible degradation of academic achievement and the candidates are being sold short. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:06, 2 June 2016 (UTC)

GCSE and O Level Equivalency[edit]

The table of equivalency seems to me to be erroneous. An A grade at O level encompasses both the numerical grades of 1 and 2 IE You can obtain an A1 or an A2 at O level with A1 being the top grading. An O level B encompasses numerical grades 3 and 4 and a C encompasses 5 and 6. I know this because I have my O level certificate in front of me. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:00, 30 March 2011 (UTC)

There are bigger issues with the table, as the historic record show: ~80% of pupils were entered for either maths paper in the 1970's, ~35% at O-Level, ~65% a CSE, of which ~10% received an A grade, at O'level, so ~3% of the cohort (Exam candidates + others). Today ~95% attempt GCSE maths, with 6.4% of the cohort obtaining an A* and ~20% obtaining an A*/A, so as maths skills have shown to not have improved in the intervening time (grade inflation) an: O-Level A1 ~= A**, A2 ~= A*/A, B3 = A, B4 = A/B .... (talk) 18:35, 22 August 2015 (UTC)

CSE Grade 1 (1965 onwards) equivalent to A, B & C at O Level (1975 onwards) - how can that be? In 1977 (when i did O Levels and CSEs) a CSE Grade 1 was considered the equivalent of a C at O Level and no more. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:37, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

GCSE list[edit]

For not the first time, I've corrected the GCSE subject list again:

  • Changed the heading 'core subjects' back to 'effectively compulsory subjects', as that is a more accurate description of what they are, as no GCSE is technically compulsory (this is explained in the text)
  • Removed Additional Maths from the core subjects list because its optional
  • Corrected Science (the 'old syllabus' of single Science has only just been rewritten, Twenty-First Century Science and the new Science courses are slightly different things) and tried to make the routes clearer
  • RE is not compulsory GCSE anywhere in the UK, though it must be studied in some form (not necessarily for an exam) everywhere
  • Similarly, PE is not compulsory as a GCSE, but must be studied
  • DIDA, CIDA and AIDA are not GCSEs and do not belong in the list

I've also removed the columns, as everything looked too crowded even on my 1280x1024 display. - Green Tentacle (talk) 02:49, 26 March 2008 (UTC)

It's not simply that no GCSE is compulsory, but no subject is 'compulsory'. Thus it is not true, for example, that religious education (or for that matter, mathematics or English language), must be studied to any level whatsoever. Some subjects must be studied, of course, if the national curriculum is followed, but the national curriculum itself only must be followed in state schools. Private schools and home-educating families do not have to follow it. The article should be amended accordingly. (talk) 16:39, 13 September 2008 (UTC)
As far as I can see, the article already clearly states that the National Curriculum is only compulsory in state schools. - Green Tentacle (talk) 16:14, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

Acronym Soup[edit]

I'm an American, and I was looking up this page because my wife, a secondary school student here and I were discussing the GCSE - since someone had been accused of allowing systemic cheating on the GCSE by letting students refer to texts.

I found myself in acronym soup. I finally found a link to ICT, but I was not able to determine some of the others. It would also be nice if there were equivalents to countries who were not part of the Commonwealth's Education System. I do have a better understanding of what the GCSE is and I even found the O-Levels. But I have no idea how it relates to the USA High schoo Diploma, and I have no idea how the A levels relate to the standard degrees here. Just a thought - this is not something I can contribute to. Simicich (talk) 00:19, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

...why should you need to contribute to this page? GCSE is a qualification that affects mainly British students, and I assure you nobody here would not know what you are talking about were you to mention GCSEs. The acronyms are fine as they are as they realte to a British audience. Otherwise, we could say that all American mis-spellings, such as color, traveling and gray, be made into their correct British form so as to falicitate easier understanding of what each article is trying to say. (talk) 10:22, 26 May 2008 (UTC)
What a totally stupid response to the observation. Wikipedia is designed to be read by an international audience and those who hacve an interest in a subject may wish to compare systems in countries besides their own so using acronyms without exmplanation is not helpful. You comparison with differences in spellings is truly asinine. As a Briton, I am embaressed by your comments. Dainamo (talk) 21:43, 22 October 2008 (UTC)
The GCSE does not relate to the US high school diploma. It would not be feasible to include detailed information about how this qualification compares with those awarded in the other 200 countries in the world (although Scotland is a different case). Wikipedia pages should not be biased to just one of the world's countries. However, I'd agree that the article should make it clearer to users of the encyclopedia how advanced a level of study is required for GCSE, so that users outside of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland can then compare with their understanding of qualifications they know more about.
But of course it isn't true that the acronyms should stay just because they are clear to 'British' users (meaning, from parts of the UK outside of Scotland). They should be clear (or clarifiable via Wikilinks) to users anywhere in the world. It is not the case that pages about things specific to one country should be clear above all to users in that country. (talk) 16:41, 13 September 2008 (UTC)

Sorted out a bit of a mess[edit]

( was me Ameeromar (talk) 07:56, 11 July 2008 (UTC))

Zilch in the article about pass rates[edit]

Why isn't there anything about the % of A*-Cs and passes for each year? Might be something to add for those of you in the know. (talk) 17:47, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

This might help: Marthiemoo (talk) 02:08, 23 August 2008 (UTC)


It would be a lot of easier if citations were provided to reliable sources for a lot of the information in the article, currently they are very few, and it would make this article a lot more stable eliminating the need to correct it as much. I found it very difficult to copy edit this article when it came to complex sections where it is not clear what the users who added the information is trying to say with no sources to help, particularly the bit on "compulsory" subjects. Strictly following policy users can delete unsourced content that can be challenged on sight - but since that would result in this article going to bare bones I have decided not to carry this out. I am planning to attempt to add citations in a few areas eventually, and help will always be appreciated. Camaron | Chris (talk) 14:35, 21 August 2008 (UTC)

Yes. See what I wrote above about 'compulsory'. To say 'effectively compulsory' is a bit of a lazy cop-out really. Certain subjects must be studied if the national curriculum is being followed; but it is not compulsory to follow that curriculum; only state schools are obliged to follow it. And it is not compulsory to take a GCSE in any subject. I haven't got the time to tidy up this article, but I hope you will take the above on board! Nor should the article be written in school-teachers' jargon. I'd agree that 'ICT' and 'RE' should be stated in full the first time they are used, and if acronyms are used it should only be in subsequent references. In fact that's a standard good practice for any acronym in an article such as this, meant for a general readership. (talk) 16:48, 13 September 2008 (UTC)
Yes per WP:ABBR abbreviations should be put in full first with the abbreviation itself in brackets and then later in the article just the abbreviation can be used. For example: Religious education (RE) -> RE -> RE -> RE. Camaron | Chris (talk) 21:05, 14 September 2008 (UTC)

Discussion of overall UK educational system?[edit]

Is there an article which discusses the overall role of the GSCE in the British educational system? As an American I am aware that the system is designed to adapt to the aptitude of the students, and that A-Level is reserved for those who want to continue their education for entrance into universities, while there are lower "tracks" for students that will be happy digging ditches the rest of their life.

In the United States it used to be that students of lower aptitude which do not have an interest in Shakespeare or Algebra could exit the school system at about age 14-16 to enter the menial work/labor force. This was changed so that all students must continue to age 18 and grade 12, which has generally been found to have been a bad idea since school becomes a prison for those lower aptitude students that don't care, don't want to be there, and so instead happily disrupt classes and just drag down the people who do want to go to college.

Where can I find an article discussing the lower educational tracks of the UK system, and what sort of work these students are expected to be able to do after leaving school? DMahalko (talk) 12:02, 29 November 2008 (UTC)

If it's anything like in Scotland, they are likely to go on to do apprenticeships in the likes of joinery or hairdressing. Munci (talk) 20:09, 29 March 2016 (UTC)

Low importance?[edit]

This is one of the central aspects of secondary education in the UK, millions (even tens of millions?) of people have taken this exam and it receives a Low rating? I think this is wrong myself. How do we go about changing this? (talk) 21:27, 30 April 2009 (UTC)

Merge of Certificate of Education (Secondary) to here[edit]

The Certificate of Education (Secondary) article has been around since 2006 and is a stub, it hasn't been expanded in that time and seems unlike to do so. It appears to have some information of value to this article, it has some External links that might be references. I placed the tag in the section I thought it may fit in the best, is there be a better section for this information? Blackash (talk) 23:28, 21 February 2010 (UTC)

Since there is no opinion I merge the two. Blackash have a chat 04:11, 5 March 2010 (UTC)


Is phliosophy meant to be under religious studies, because there is a great deal of atheist philosophy criticizing religion. That isn't right, or do they ban atheist philosophy or something even though many of the most important philosophical figures were atheists? I'm worried now. (talk) 15:37, 12 May 2010 (UTC)

GCSE equivalent[edit]

I have just passed level 1 maths and would like to know what that is equal to as a gcse result (talk) 12:49, 8 December 2010 (UTC)

Note: Your English is terrible, I hope you do better in your Maths!

Maybe I missed it in the article, but nowhere could I find WHY the GCSEs are taken. What is the PURPOSE of taking the tests? What are the implications or the results of passing or failing the exams (their IMPORTANCE)? As an American, I am trying to find out what are the GCSEs. Without this important information, I cannot understand or appreciate the meaning of GCSEs in British culture and society. This page needs some work to fill in the gaps and to better organize the content. Thanks. Jdevola (talk) 15:35, 7 April 2012 (UTC)

I agree. For such an important article there isn't much about the cultural context. I'll try and have a go at sorting it out. Barry m (talk) 22:29, 22 October 2014 (UTC)

GCSEs are often used as a minimum requirement for job applications, eg. applicants must have grade C or above in five subjects, including English and Maths; similarly certain minimum grades are usually a requirement to go on to further education. Possibly similar to the US High School Diploma - but I only know about that from popular culture so can't speak with any authority. It would be useful to find a reliable source comparing the cultural significance of various examinations in different countries; I will look for one. Malentaheloyse (talk) 23:57, 26 September 2015 (UTC)

weasel words?[edit]

"There have been calls from several MPs for GCSEs to be scrapped in favour of a national Diploma[by whom?]. The Department for Education does not look likely to do this at any time in the near future[weasel words]. Sir Mike Tomlinson, former head of Ofsted, also stated that GCSEs ought to be scrapped and replaced with Diplomas in August 2009[19]."

What's a weasel word and isn't that a matter of opinion? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:11, 15 July 2012 (UTC)

Govian reforms in Intro[edit]

I'm tempted to remove them as out of date, considering most of it was announcements of things that haven't happened and he's also no longer Education Secretary. Barry m (talk) 22:32, 22 October 2014 (UTC)

multiple issues: GCSE / O-Level (UK) / CSE - reversion war[edit]

All three page have numerous issues, but as it appear any attempt to correct errors leads to a revision war perhaps a responsible adult fancies addressing:

Copied mainly from ( User_talk: ) but to duplicate them here:


  • However ever many times you hit revert there will still only be 10 years, not 20, between 1996 and 2006, you can verify that one on your fingers, no toes required..
  • The figures in the table I'm building: English O-Level and CSE Mathematics entrants 1977-9 are for years 1977, 1978 and 1979 (those little blue numbers after by title will take you to a LINK with the original numbers in), please leave the years alone.
  • The figures for 8+ passes, in another little table I'm building "Percentage of School-Leavers in England obtaining 'n' O-level(A-C) or CSE grade 1 pass", are: 4.5 and 4.7 - again follow the magic blue numbers to the source, and leave the numbers alone.
  • The first GCSE awards were in June 1988, so there is no pre 1988.
  • The number of subjects, syllabus content, assessment, ..... have changed considerably since those proposed in 1986, the number of subjects has increased from the ~33 in 1988, to over 120 in the list you keep removing the formatting from, the A* was introduced in 1994, controlled assessment expanded..... So please stop removing the content i'm adding, and replacing it with a "nothing changes".
  • The GCSE in not norm-referenced, so any comparison with similar awards will only be valid for the year the data was compared, in this case the comparisons were made in: 1988 and 1994.
  • There are approximately 800,000 pupils in each GCSE cohort, not 6 million, please stop replacing the count of exam scripts with the word candidates.
  • Also please stop deleting the "See also" sections, that link to other variants of the qualification.
  • removal of quoted and cited text from the OECD and Department of Education,
  • please stop removing the previous names / brands the exam boards offered GCSE's as. (talk) 18:29, 26 August 2015 (UTC) (talk) 18:33, 26 August 2015 (UTC) (talk) 20:40, 26 August 2015 (UTC)

English Baccalaureate[edit]

To add as a section or a new page? (talk) 18:02, 14 September 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just added archive links to one external link on General Certificate of Secondary Education. Please take a moment to review my edit. If necessary, add {{cbignore}} after the link to keep me from modifying it. Alternatively, you can add {{nobots|deny=InternetArchiveBot}} to keep me off the page altogether. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, please set the checked parameter below to true to let others know.

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—cyberbot IITalk to my owner:Online 01:31, 3 January 2016 (UTC)

Grounding for grading[edit]

How is it decided how people get a specific grade or another? Is it based on percentages of pupils (and thus zero sum) or is it based on a particular percentage of results? Munci (talk) 20:14, 29 March 2016 (UTC)

The grading is intended to be criterion referenced which means that the percentage mark required may be slightly higher in a year when the questions are judged to be slightly easier. Long ago, O-levels were norm referenced which meant that a certain percentage of candidates earned each grade, but this method is now considered unfair and is not officially used. Dbfirs 16:06, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

Where does the grade equivalency table originate[edit]

The equivalency table between GCSE and O'level grades seems to have no reference. I mention this as it conflicts with a number of sources who deny that grade D O'level is equivalent to Grade C at GCSE - this is important for gaining entry to courses like Teacher Training which specific Maths and English GCSE grade C. However there seems to be no official authoritative source for this conversion in general anywhere, with DfE telling me (only verbally) they refer to this wiki article for reference, that sadly is not enough.

That's because the comparison that you cite is an unofficial one, motivated by the concept of "grade inflation". It has no official basis. The intention on the introduction in 1988 was that grade C at O-level would correspond to grade C at GCSE. Dbfirs 09:15, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

England-centric article[edit]

This page has been edited to include many of the changes being made to _English_ GCSEs, but fails to not anywhere that Northern Ireland and Wales are not making many of the changes being imposed on England. For example, NI and Wales are keeping the A* to G grades, rather than the new 1-9 system. GBM (talk) 20:38, 19 May 2016 (UTC)

We need some dates[edit]

When were GCSE exams introduced, and when were the predecessor exams phased out? Surely we need to cover this in the History section, and probably also in the lead. The only dates appear in the UK GCSE Grades Awarded table which starts in 1988. Was this the first year for GCSE? Verbcatcher (talk) 01:16, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

Yes, the first GCSE examinations were in 1988, replacing O-levels and CSEs, though there had been a similar examination called "16+" which awarded both an O-level and a CSE certificate earlier in the 1980s. Dbfirs 09:01, 24 October 2016 (UTC)
Please note that for the last two or so years this article has been constantly vandalised by User:Supervisor635 who has an obsession with removing dates from articles about educational qualifications. It's likely some of this vandalism has persisted. Older revisions, such as this one might hold more information. -- zzuuzz (talk) 09:09, 24 October 2016 (UTC)
Thank you. It would be good to find a citable source, and to restore some of the lost content where appropriate. There are similar problems at GCE Ordinary Level (United Kingdom) and Certificate of Secondary Education. The Scottish exams should also be checked. Verbcatcher (talk) 13:25, 24 October 2016 (UTC)
First edition: Brooks, Ron (1991). Contemporary Debates in Education: An Historical Perspective (First ed.). Longman Group UK. 
Latest edition (viewable on GBooks) Brooks, Ron (2014). "A decade and more of debate". Contemporary Debates in Education: An Historical Perspective. New York: Routledge. pp. 21–23. ISBN 9781317899327. 
That gives most of the dates you need as well as a useful commentary. Disclosure: During the 1980/90s I was a member of The West Midlands Exam Board and later Midland Examining Group, as well as the National Executive of the Socialist Educational Association, and was heavily involved in most of those events, so I find it hard to write dispassionately about them. --RexxS (talk) 17:52, 24 October 2016 (UTC)
Thank you. I have added a citation of this source, and added the date to the lead paragraph. Verbcatcher (talk) 18:31, 24 October 2016 (UTC)

Hannah's sweets[edit]

The "Hannah's sweets" question is a piece of piss. Twitter users are morons.

I have deleted the wording that states as a matter of fact that the question is "particularly difficult" because it is not. (And people have had a year to replace the cite tag with a reliable source that says it is difficult and have failed to do so.) It is easier to solve than a quadratic equation factoring which is a GCSE staple.

The fact that it is mentioned in the article at all is giving WP:UNDUE weight to stupid people on Twitter but I will leave that to non-anonymous editors to decide. -- (talk) 12:25, 17 November 2016 (UTC)

Table in History and format section[edit]

The table in the History and format section isn't quite right. According to the document linked below, grades 1-3 are spread evenly across D-G, grades 4-6 spread evenly across B-C, only grade 7 is equal to A, with grades 8-9 spread across A*.

Kookiethebird (talk) 23:27, 12 April 2017 (UTC)

It doesn't quite work like that, although I agree that the table in the History and format section is inaccurate in the area you pinpoint. When grades are being decided, examiners and senior members of exam boards have a meeting to decide just a few grade boundaries and the rest are determined statisticaly. Currently, I believe the A/B boundary, the C/D boundary and the G/U boundary are fixed by the Chief Examiner proposing marks that represent those boundaries and then samples of papers around those marks are looked at by those at the meeting to confirm or adjust the Chief Examiner's recommendations. Once that has been done, the grade boundaries for A*/A, B/C, D/E, E/F, and F/G are determined by formula. For example, of those in the A*–A band: A* was 31% and A was 69%. Now, as I understand it, in the reformed system, the boundaries 7/6 (was A/B), 4/3 (was C/D), and 1/U (was G/U) will be determined at meetings exactly as before, and the 9/8, 8/7, 6/5. 5/4, 3/2, and 2/1 boundaries will be determined statistically once more. According to the new grade 9 will be 20% of the band 9–7; 8 will be 40%; and 7 will be 40%. As you can see, a rather lower percentage of candidates will achieve 7 than previously achieved A (the top candidates of A will now be awarded 8), while the previous A* will cover new grade 9 and the top of grade 8. The table I've drawn below will give an approximation of the actual relationship between the new 9–7 and the old A*–A:
Approximate proportion of candidate awards in top grades (9–7 or A*–A)
Fraction New grade Old grade
10% 9 A*
10% 8
10% A
10% 7
However, the table represents the average distribution of the new top grades across all subjects, not in each individual subject. Those subjects with cohorts of higher ability than average (e.g. separate sciences compared with combined sciences) will see a higher proportion of grade 9 than those with cohorts of lower than average ability.
Hope that helps --RexxS (talk) 13:20, 13 April 2017 (UTC)
Many thanks for the comprehensive response. I wonder if the table could be improved but it may not be technically possible. It's not overly important. Kookiethebird (talk) 23:09, 13 April 2017 (UTC)
RexxS, the recent change to the table is misleading in that it does not show the correct correspondence. I appreciate that you were making it display better on all devices, but are you able to make a modification to show the correct division lines that you gave above? Dbfirs 13:22, 27 June 2017 (UTC)
@Dbfirs: The problem is that there is no genuine correspondence between grades awarded at different times. The 1988 introduction of a strong element of coursework, and the subsequent introduction of modular courses (effectively continuous assessment), along with a greater emphasis on criterion referencing made comparisons between O-Level and GCSE grades a very inexact exercise. Now that the new grades 7 to 9 are statistically based on the average distribution of the new top grades across all subjects, rather than in each individual subject, you simply cannot say that the new 9 corresponds to the top two-thirds of A* in any given subject (although the numbers will even out to that when summed over all subjects). What I'm saying is that we can make tables that display correspondences to a greater precision than the table as I revised it; but that in reality any such precision is spurious, and probably at least as misleading as what I wrote.
Nevertheless, feel free to revert back to the previous table, but I'd appreciate it if you could then fix the colours used, as they simply don't meet WCAG 2.0 AAA standards (and there's really no reason why they should not). Cheers --RexxS (talk) 17:27, 27 June 2017 (UTC)
Isn't it better to have no table at all than to present a misleading one? I'll wait to see what anyone else thinks. Dbfirs 17:56, 27 June 2017 (UTC)
Yes, I'd much rather have no table and a properly-sourced paragraph explaining why such comparisons can never be more than rough approximations. Unfortunately, I don't know of a reliable source that could support what is only my own knowledge and experience. In any case, it would probably only be a matter of time before someone else came along and re-inserted a "table of equivalencies". I'd be happy to go along with what others think, and of course it's easy enough to go back to the previous version. --RexxS (talk) 18:18, 27 June 2017 (UTC)
@Dbfirs: Update: I've been trying to meet your desire to have the 7/8/9 grades fit better against the A/A* grades, but wiki-markup seems not to like the complexity of rowspans needed. I've therefore made a version in html that does render accurately on both desktop and mobile and replaced my previous, simpler version. Does that better resemble what you were envisioning? --RexxS (talk) 20:26, 27 June 2017 (UTC)
@RexxS: Thank you for your excellent work. That's exactly what I had in mind, but I didn't know how to achieve it. Dbfirs 22:14, 27 June 2017 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

Hello fellow Wikipedians,

I have just modified 2 external links on General Certificate of Secondary Education. Please take a moment to review my edit. If you have any questions, or need the bot to ignore the links, or the page altogether, please visit this simple FaQ for additional information. I made the following changes:

When you have finished reviewing my changes, you may follow the instructions on the template below to fix any issues with the URLs.

You may set the |checked=, on this template, to true or failed to let other editors know you reviewed the change. If you find any errors, please use the tools below to fix them or call an editor by setting |needhelp= to your help request.

  • If you have discovered URLs which were erroneously considered dead by the bot, you can report them with this tool.
  • If you found an error with any archives or the URLs themselves, you can fix them with this tool.

If you are unable to use these tools, you may set |needhelp=<your help request> on this template to request help from an experienced user. Please include details about your problem, to help other editors.

Cheers.—InternetArchiveBot (Report bug) 13:11, 12 October 2017 (UTC)