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GCSE Grading Changes

Secondary Schools
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The GCSE qualification is about to undergo a huge change as of August 2017. The changes relate to a new grading system as well as alteration to the syllabus.

A numerical scoring system will be replacing the current A* - G system. The only remnant of the old grading method will be the U - unclassified - ; for those pupils who fail to achieve the minimum mark.

A grade of 9 will be the highest achievable ranking, replacing the A* - while a grade 1 will be the lowest. A grade 5 will be classed as a good pass - perhaps the equivalent of a B or C grade. Pupils should be aiming for a ; grade 5 or higher.

With a C grade being the minimum pass grade in the current system, some have said that the new numerical system will make it slightly harder to achieve a pass grade, since they must now aim for a B - C grade.

This new nomenclature has been designed to heighten the differences at the top end of the academic spectrum - with the A and A* being differentiated more sharply. Infant people are already saying that a grade 9 will be the equivalent of an A**, and will only be awarded to the cream of the crop - the top 3% of pupils.

The demand of the content is increasing, with tougher topics being introduced for both foundation and higer papers. In Mathematics there will be a greater emphasis on problem solving and mathematical reasoning and students will be required to memorise more formulae.

GCSE s were introduced back in 1988, when they replaced O-Levels and the CSE exams. Over the last for years there have been a number of changes to the qualification, one being the removal of GCSE English from the syllabus. This is not quite as radical as it first sounds, since it was replaced by GCSE English literature and GCSE language. The language qualification, along with Mathematics, is a mandatory qualification - English literature being an optional (though extremely popular) subject.

Though the first set of results bearing the new grading system will not be released until August 2017, current year 10 students are already studying for these exams. The new grading system will not cover all subjects however: only results for English Language, English Literature, and Mathematics will be graded from 1 to 9 in the results next August. The remaining subjects will carry the traditional A - G grades. Year nine students are currently studying for the new GCSE grade in most subjects - more eclectic subjects will still be marked according to the old system for this year group. Only from 2018 will the all subjects be graded according to the new system.

Along with the different grading system there are a number of accompanying changes - perhaps the most significant (and most publicised) is the removal of assessed coursework from those subjects where large written projects traditionally contributed to the final grade.

In English there will be a far greater demand for students to students to read a broader range of literature. In the past there was criticism that many of the more challenging novels had been excised from the syllabus. Students will be required to study literature from diverse periods. Fifty years ago Chaucer was required reading for most school children; while today anything earlier than the nineteenth century is rarely read and taught in schools.

The modular character of certain subjects will be completely dropped. There won't be number of assessments throughout the course, with each one contributing slightly to the student s final grade. Instead there will be a a set of exams at the the end of the two years, with everything resting upon ; how well the students perform in them.

The major change will be more demanding and challenging content in all subjects. With too many students achieving As and A*s in recent years, there has been less opportunity for the abilities of high achieving students to be differentiated. Last year 25.8% of students got an an A or A* grade in all subjects; and while this may sound impressive, what it also means is that more than a quarter of students can only be ranked into two groups, differentiated by the A and A*. With a more challenging syllabus, and a grading system permitting a finer grading resolution, perhaps our education system will be able to compete with those of Asia and parts of Europe. Given the UKs dismal position in the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) rankings over the last decade, a change of some kind is certainly needed.

22 months ago
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