User:BazJ96/Work in progress on GCSE

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History and format[edit]

GCSEs were introduced for teaching in September 1986, and replaced both the GCE O-level (General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level) and the CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) qualifications, which suffered problems due to the two-tier nature of the system. Grade C of the GCSE was set at equivalent to O-Level Grade C and CSE Grade 1. Thus the final students to sit the former O-Level/CSE examinations were those of May–June 1987 and the subsequent retakes in September 1987.

The table below shows what each GCSE grade is equivalent to:

GCSE Grade O Level Grade CSE Grade
Earlier Later
A*/A 1 A
B 2 B
C 3 C 1
4
D 5 D 2
E 6 E 3
F 7 U (ungraded) 4
G 8 5
U (unclassified) 9 U (ungraded)
  • Blue background – certificate and qualification awarded.
  • Red background – no certificate or qualification awarded.

The format of the GCSE has remained basically the same since its inception, though many minor changes have been made.

The A* grade was introduced to distinguish the very top end of achievement in 1994.

Initially, most exams had two tiers: Higher, offering grades A-E (A*-E from 1994), and Basic, offering Grades F-G. In 1998, the Higher tier was modified to cover grades A*-D, while the Basic tier was renamed Foundation and now covered grades C-G.[1] In 2004, a 'allowed' Grade E was introduced to the Higher tier for candidates narrowly missing a Grade D.

For many years, Maths was an exception, having three tiers: Higher (grades A*–C), Intermediate (grades B–E) and Basic/Foundation (grades D–G). Maths moved to the standard two tier system in 2006 (for the first examination in 2007 or 2008 depending on whether the modular or linear course was taken).

Introduced in 2000 was the Vocational GCSE (VGCSE), which encouraged students to take the work-related route and included courses such as Engineering and Manufacture, Applied Business, ICT, and Leisure and Tourism. From September 2004, the word 'Vocational' was dropped and a Vocational GCSE is now known simply as a GCSE.

Science GCSEs were overhauled in 2006 (for first examination in 2008). The most popular course, Double Award Science GCSE, where students received two identical grades for a course with twice the content as the Single Award Science GCSE, was terminated. Students studying for two Science GCSEs now study the single Science GCSE (known as core science) and then one of two complementary GCSEs: Additional Science GCSE (which has a more academic focus) or Applied Science GCSE (which has a more vocational focus). Candidates now receive separate grades for each of their Science GCSEs.

GCSE examinations in state education are taken officially in the summer, though many schools take mocks beforehand. GCSE examination results are taken received on a specified date in the summer, and due to this, the examinations are always taken near the end of the academic year (unless in private education). GCSEs are externally-marked examinations, taken between April and July, unless a pupil has specific reasons to be entitled to extension of time.

There are further changes to the English GCSEs from 2010. Instead of the current system where (virtually) all students take English and the vast majority also take English Literature, students will take English Language and English Literature together or just English on its own, which will effectively be a hybrid of the other two GCSEs.[2]

The youngest student to gain a GCSE is home-educated Arran Fernandez, who took GCSE Mathematics in 2001 at the age of five, gaining grade D, the highest available at Foundation Tier at that time.[3] In 2003 he became the youngest ever student to gain an A* grade, also for Mathematics.[4]

  1. ^ http://www.ofqual.gov.uk/files/6908_gcse_english_literature.pdf"
  2. ^ QCA Report cover
  3. ^ "GCSE success stories". BBC. 2001-08-23. Retrieved 2008-09-12. 
  4. ^ Smithers, Rebecca (2003-08-22). "Bright young things set record". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-09-12.