At this time of the year, thousands of students in the United Kingdom are revising and sitting their GCSEs exams, both in the Independent or State sector.
The GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is an academic qualification, generally taken in a number of subjects by pupils in secondary education. Each GCSE qualification is in a particular subject, chosen by the pupils in Year 7.
Studies for GCSE examinations generally take place over a period of two or three academic years, starting in Year 9 or Year 10 for the majority of students. The examinations are being sat at the end of Year 11, the last Year of compulsory education.
From 2017, GCSEs grading has been subject to a big reform: a new numerical grading system has replaced the traditional letter grades introduced in 1988.
The letter grade system used to run from A* to G, A* being the highest grade. There was as well a U (unclassified grade) given to students who did not qualify for a certificate.
Under the new system, assessment made under a 9-points scale, ranging from 9 to 1 and keeping the lowest grade of U.
Basically, the old grade G-F-E-D will stand now for 1-2-3, the old “pass mark” of C & B will be replaced by 4- Standard pass, 5-Strong pass and 6, the A and A* will become 7-8 and 9 grades.
This new system has been introduced by the 2014 New Curriculum initiated by the then Education Secretary, Michael Gove.
It is supposed to reflect the fact that the new GCSE content in England is more challenging and rigorous for the pupils.
The implementation of the new system has started last Summer, with three subjects: English language, English literature and Math.
This year, 17 new subjects will be graded under the new numerical system, such as biology, chemistry art, drama, music, history, to name a few.
Finally, next year, 15 subjects will be added for the reform to be completed with the exams seated in 2020 including the final two subjects: ancient languages and modern foreign language.
This schedule means that it will take three years for the new grading system to be fully operational with the awkward consequence that some pupils will get a mix of GCSEs under different marking schemes.