GCSEs, or the 'General Certificate of Secondary Education', was introduced as a way to assess the performance of all pupils at the end of compulsory education, and was a replacement of the old 'O' Levels system. A course usually lasting for two years, they are normally examined in the last year of secondary school (Year 11). Most contain a coursework component, amounting to between 0 and 75% of the final grade. Short course GCSEs are worth 1/2 a GCSE, and contain slightly more than half of the content of a standard GCSE, and can be taken in one year or over two years.
In all schools, GCSE Mathematics, English and Science are compulsory. A form of, PE and RE are also government requirements throughout the UK, with IT and Citizenship sometimes compulsory in England, and Welsh in Wales, although they do not necessarily have to be taken as a GCSE subject; some schools prefer to enter students for a DiDA instead of GCSE IT. Many schools also oblige their students to study English Literature and some a Modern Foreign Language. The average candidate will take between 9 to 12 GCSEs. With the introduction of the English Baccalaureate as a way of measuring school success, more focus is being put on languages and History/Geography.
Grades are awarded from A* to G; anything below will be Unclassified (U). In some subjects (notably Science), Double Award GCSEs are offered, in which the candidate recieves two identical grades (A*A* to GG) and covers approximately twice the material in a single GCSE. However, for most employers, sixth form college admissions etc., C grades will be the baseline, with many looking for five C grades or above: grades A* to C for GCSE are classed as Level 2 in the National Qualifications Framework; grades D to G are Level 1 and thus represent a lower level of achievement. The tiering system reflects this divide within GCSE, with Higher allowing A* to D performance, Foundation C to G performance. However, not all subjects and not all specifications have tiering.
GCSEs are offered by a number of awarding bodies:
- AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance)
- CCEA (Council for the Curriculum Examinations & Assessment)
- ICAA (International Curriculum and Assessment Agency)
- OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations)
- SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) - Standard Grade is the GCSE equivalent in Scotland
- WJEC (Welsh Joint Education Committee)
List of subjects
A large number of GCSEs are available. Why not take a look at the list of GCSE subjects to find out more about the subjects you are taking?
If exam time is approaching you might be wanting to do some revision. Why not first take a look at some of our GCSE revision notes?
There are also many different revision guides for GCSE available, and the choice is often bewildering. Have a read at our GCSE Revision Guide Guide which aims to give an impartial view on which guides are best for each subject. If you wanna find some useful GCSE Maths past paper with solution, you can also find GCSE Maths Past Papers with Solution
After Your GCSEs
Once you complete your GCSEs there are a number of options for you. Many people decide to go straight in to work. Others decide to continue their study. Read one of your other sections on what to do when you pick up your results and for some ideas on where to do next!
- After results day - a guide to the next steps after you get your GCSE results . What do the grades mean? Can you get a remark? How "good" are your grades?
- Careers Pages - if you are thinking of going straight in to work, why not look at our careers section for help and advice?
- A Levels - these are a popular choice for most people who choose to continue their study beyond GCSEs.
- International Baccalaureate - the IB is another qualification you can study for after GCSEs instead of A Levels - does your school offer it?
- Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers - Scottish Equivalent of the GCE A Level
- Starting Sixth Form - going to Sixth Form after GCSEs? Get some advice on making the move!
IGCSE and O Level
The international equivalent of GCSEs are the IGCSEs (International General Certificates of Secondary Education). Their content is very similar to the corresponding GCSE, however there is less coursework involved. O Levels (Ordinary Levels) are equivalent to GCSEs as well and are still done in many parts of the world (although slowly being phased out and being replaced by IGCSEs). O Levels are harder than their corresponding GCSEs and IGCSEs and invlove no coursework at all (except for O Level Computing).
Links to exam boards are above, below is a list of other links to sites that you may find useful.