There have been changes to both regular UK GCSEs, and International GCSEs (IGCSEs) over the last few years.

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IGCSE Changes

Edexcel IGCSEs are changing to a new syllabus, graded 9-1, to follow the format of new GCSEs. Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) has not announced any plans to change its IGCSEs yet, though it is offering IGCSEs in English and maths graded 9-1 alongside the traditional specifications graded A*-G.

Pearson Edexcel Changes

First date of new exams in English and Maths is summer 2018, and summer 2019 for all other subjects.

Last sitting of the current specifications for English and maths, graded A*-G, is January 2018. Last sittings for other subjects are from June 2018 to January 2019. A table confirming last sitting dates of the current specifications, and first sittings of the new ones, is on the Edexcel International GCSE Updates page. Home educators need the information for UK Independent Schools. Careful not to pick the info for International Centres, because their last assessment is a year later. The table is reproduced here for your information, but it's worth checking the page to get more details.

IGCSE timetable.jpg

Although the January 2018 sitting is described as a 'resit' opportunity, the Edexcel maths team has confirmed that it is open to all candidates regardless of whether they are resitting, or first-time candidates.

I received the following communication from Pearson Edexcel:

As it stands currently, the 4MA0 syllabus will be available to UK students for the final time in January 2018. Whilst the intention of this would be to offer a re-sit opportunity for anyone not satisfied with their results from Summer 2017, there is nothing to prevent new entries being made in January 2018 (i.e. "first time" entries). You would, however, need to be aware that there may not be a re-sit opportunity after January 2018, for any new entrants in this January 2018 session.
Regards, Andrew Foulds, Subject Leader, GCE & International Maths, Pearson Qualification Services

CIE IGCSEs are bringing in 9-1 grading alongside A*-G

CIE are bringing in new specifications of IGCSEs graded 9-1, alongside the existing A*-G ones. They say that the content will be identical; you will follow the same course of study, but choose at exam entry time which grading system to use. You will specify one code for 9-1 and another for A*-G; see the CIE IGCSE Grading Changes page for a list of new codes.

AQA Certificates are ending

AQA are discontinuing their 'IGCSE-style' Level 2 Certificates, as these were aimed at the UK State schools and will be rendered obsolete by the new GCSEs. The only one they are retaining is their Further Maths IGCSE.

GCSE changes - does this affect home educators?

Quick version:

  • English Literature and History GCSEs become available, no controlled assessment
  • English Language GCSE still has speaking assessment so difficult for externals
  • Science GCSEs still difficult to arrange - centre has to sign off practicals
  • Geography GCSE still difficult to arrange - centre has to sign off fieldwork.
  • Modern Foreign Languages still have oral & listening tests.

More detail:

GCSEs have been reformed and the new exams are all graded 9-1. Some of these will be available to us as external candidates, and we will have a few more options than under the current GCSE system. Coursework and Controlled Assessment is not going altogether, but it will be taken out of some subjects - which should make exam centres more likely to accept external candidates for them. For instance, English Literature will become exam-only. However, English will still involve a compulsory speaking assessment, even though it doesn't contribute to the final grade, so as now, it will be difficult for home-ed students to take the GCSE in English.

Sciences will no longer have Controlled Assessment for practical exams, and there is no practical component to the exams. However, the exam centre is supposed to keep a record of practical work undertaken by the students and the head has to sign a form saying that the candidate has been offered the opportunity to undertake all the core practicals. It is unlikely that centres will be willing to do this for external candidates, so most home educators will probably stay with IGCSE sciences for now.

For Geography, although there is no controlled assessment, the head of centre has to sign confirming that candidates have undertaken two days' fieldwork.

For sciences and Geography, you could, in theory, keep a photographic record and notes of the candidate doing the required practicals or fieldwork, and persuade the head of centre to sign them off on this basis. You would need to get this agreed with the centre well ahead of time to avoid misunderstandings. Most home educators will probably stick with IGCSE for now to avoid having to negotiate this situation.

AQA Information for Private Candidates By Subject - a very helpful page with drop-down info on each GCSE about whether it is available to private candidates, and if so, any special requirements relating to practical work etc. The requirements for other exam boards will usually be similar, but they have not put them in such helpful format.

OCR Information for Private Candidates - good general info about how to make entries, who's responsible for what etc.

"Internal assessment can be either coursework, controlled assessment or non-exam assessment. Subjects which include a practical or spoken language 'endorsement' are reported separately on certificates and don't contribute to the A Level or GCSE grade.

Your chosen exam centre will be responsible for all aspects of the internal assessment, which includes supervision, authentication and marking. Your host centre can only accept your entry if they are willing to provide you with the opportunity to complete the internal assessment."

When do the new GCSE exams start?

First exams Summer 2017: The syllabuses are described as "from 2015" because that is when schools would start teaching a typical two-year course, but the exams weren't available until 2017. This applied to: English, English Literature, and Maths

First exams were Summer 2018 and the syllabuses "from 2016":

  • ancient languages (classical Greek, Latin), art and design, biology, chemistry, citizenship studies, computer science, dance, double science, drama, food preparation and nutrition, geography, history, modern foreign languages (French, German, Spanish), music, physics, physical education, religious studies.

First exams Summer 2019, for the following subjects:

  • ancient history
  • astronomy
  • business
  • classical civilisation
  • design and technology
  • economics
  • electronics
  • engineering
  • film studies
  • geology
  • information and communications technology
  • media studies
  • psychology
  • sociology
  • statistics

'GCSE Reform: Get The Facts' from Ofqual and the Department for Education

AQA Timeline of GCSE Changes - with first and last exam sittings.

Pearson Edexcel info on reforms for their subjects.

When is the last chance to sit the old GCSEs?

  • English, English Literature and Maths: last chance to take it for the first time is Summer 2016, with sittings for resits only in November 2016 and summer 2017.
  • Phase Two subjects: last chance in Summer 2017, resit opportunity one year later.
  • Phase Three subjects: last chance in Summer 2018

How does 9-1 grading compare to old letter grades?

Here's an infographic from OFQUAL about the change to the grading structure:


'GCSE Reform: Get The Facts' from Ofqual and the Department for Education

New GCSE 9-1 Grading System

GCSE Pass mark raised in exams shake-up - BBC Education

Will IGCSEs still be available?

Yes, see the section at the top of this page. CIE and Edexcel will still be offering their range of IGCSEs. Edexcel are revising their syllabuses and grading system to bring them closer to the new GCSEs, starting a year after each GCSE syllabus change - so English and maths change for exams from 2018. CIE are still offering their A*-G graded IGCSEs.

AQA are discontinuing their 'IGCSE-style' Level 2 Certificates, as these were aimed at the UK State schools and will be rendered obsolete by the new GCSEs. The only one they are retaining is their Further Maths IGCSE

UK state schools have no option but to switch to the new GCSEs as they will not get league table points for any alternative qualifications.

Independent schools can continue to choose between GCSEs and IGCSEs and many appear to be reserving judgment, continuing with IGCSEs in some or all subjects until they have seen how the new GCSEs work out.

Jury is out on new GCSEs - Times Education Supplement

A-Level Changes

The impact of A-level changes on home educators is discussed on the A-levels page.

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