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Understanding the new GCSEs:

Understanding the new GCSEs: What you need to know

What exactly are the new GCSEs?

We’ve all heard about or are experiencing first hand the recent reforms to the education system, starting with the way in which 16-year-olds are tested at the end of year 11.

Teens are being challenged like never before, so it is important to know how the new GCSEs work, to understand what students are experiencing this summer.

Why did the government change them?

The government wanted to make these changes so that the new GCSEs would be more ‘demanding and challenging’ for students. The new, two-year course aligns more with the essay based, analytical and evaluative skills needed at A-level. This is better preparing students for their future.

It also makes tests ‘fairer’, the government argues, through the limited coursework, there is across the curriculum. Previously, coursework has been varied and dependent on the school’s teaching methods. This way, everyone has the same chance at the end of two years to show their skills off in an exam.

Why did the grading system change?

The government changed the grading system to give more opportunity for students of all abilities to achieve higher. Students may now achieve a standard or a strong pass, allowing those who achieved a grade C under the old system to be rewarded a higher grade. Similarly, higher achieving students can now strive further for something higher than an A*, so a level 9 was created.

What’s changed?

Firstly, grades are different. Instead of A*-U grades, they have been replaced with 9-1, where nine is the highest grade achievable. A grade 9 will be harder to achieve than an A* and, now, both a grade 4 and 5 is viewed as a pass. A 4 will be a standard pass and a 5 will be a strong pass. Pupils will need to re-take English Language and Maths exams in the next years if they don’t achieve a 4 or above.

Coursework is also different too. Only in subjects where it is crucial to show skill, such as drama and dance. This makes the final exam at the end of the two-year course more important than ever.

Other changes will include compulsory double or triple science (foundation or higher), a single science will no longer be available.

What to expect?

One thing to remember in the face of the new GCSEs is that we are all in this together. This is new to every parent; student and teacher so don’t panic!

Prepare for an exam in whichever way is best for you; be it flashcards, posters, past papers or any other way that makes you comfortable. Little and often is always good when revising, and be sure to take necessary breaks.

Remember, you have a great long summer ahead of you, which will make the work you put in now all the more worthwhile!

You can read more about this topic on the AQA website. Click Here.

Harriet Nokes,
GCSE Tutor at StudyBox

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