HE Exams Wiki

What's happened to GCSEs?

New GCSEs, graded 9-1, have arrived in the UK. Until 2017, GCSEs were graded from A* down to G.

Coursework and Controlled Assessment have not gone altogether, but have disappeared from a few subjects like English Literature and history. However, English language still has a compulsory speaking assessment, even though it doesn't contribute to the final grade. Most schools don't want trouble of doing this for external candidates, so it's difficult for home-ed students to take the GCSE in English - they take the International GCSE instead . Sciences 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 has to sign saying they are confident it's the student's own work, so most will not do this for external candidates. Home educated students generally take International GCSEs in sciences instead.

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

When did the new GCSE exams start?

The syllabuses are described as "from 2015" because that is when schools would start teaching a typical two-year course, but the exams were not available until 2017. This applies to:

  • English
  • English Literature
  • Maths

For 'phase two' subjects, the first new GCSE exams were available in 2018 and the syllabuses were "from 2016". These subjects are:

  • 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

Phase Three syllabuses were available for teaching from September 2017 with 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 were the last sittings of the old GCSEs?

  • English, English Literature and Maths: last chance to take it for the first time was Summer 2016, with a sitting for resits only in November 2016.
  • Phase Two subjects: last chance was Summer 2017
  • Phase Three subjects: last chance was Summer 2018

Are IGCSEs still available?

Yes, CIE and Edexcel are still 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 changed for exams from 2018. CIE are still offering their A*-G graded IGCSEs.

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

UK state schools had 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