The Government is currently thinking of scrapping GCSEs and replacing them with the English Baccalaureate. what do you think?

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GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education

GCSEs were introduced in 1986, replacing the previous O level and CSE systems by merging them together.

General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level examinations (O Levels) had existed since the early 1950s, but was only available in grammar schools and private schools, and was only taken by the top 20 per cent of the school population by academic ability. The majority of school pupils, who attended secondary modern schools, left without any formal qualifications.

GCSE examinations are taken by most pupils at the end of compulsory school education (year 11) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. GCSE provides a uniform framework for assessment, with all candidates in all subjects graded from A* to G (with U being the result given to those whose papers are "ungraded"). Taking GCSEs is not compulsory, and it is up to schools whether to enter pupils for examinations.


 Questions have been brought out on the relevance and usefulness of GCSEs. Most employers and educational institutions do not in fact regard grades A to G as a pass, but only grades A to C. This situation, like that which was replaced under O Levels and CSEs, leaves many pupils with qualifications of questionable value.

Main Changes?

The modular aspect of the examinations, i.e. sitting parts of the syllabus in small chunks, will be scrapped in favour of linear exams - pupils will have to sit all their exams at the end of the course.

Pupils will also be banned from resetting individual unit exams. Some say the qualification has been undermined with pupils repeatedly retaking GCSE modules to boost their grades.

The qualifications are to be set by a single exam board in English, maths, the sciences, history, geography and languages, to avoid exam boards competing to offer the easiest examinations in what has been termed a "race to the bottom"

Pupils can also expect to be marked on the accuracy of their spelling, punctuation and grammar and their use of specialist terms.


1. Currently there is a two tier exam system – many people this summer took lower exam papers where the highest grade they could achieve was a grade C. This is meant to enable the lower ability students to achieve the desired C grade. However many student achieved 100% in these exams, leaving them to question what grade they could have achieved if they had taken the higher paper. I think personally, if you are able to get a C grade, you should get it in the same paper as everyone else and not have it made easier for you to get a C. Has anyone had the problems with being on a lower tier and getting 100%, or what do you think?

2. There is also much different exam board teaching different things, this means at A level, some people may be at a disadvantage as they haven’t covered the topics before at GCSE in comparison to some other students who took others.  The English Baccalaureate will solve this. Do you think it is fair?

3. Retakes can help boost the grades of students who did badly in one exam by resitting it, this gives favour to students who can afford to re sit many times, however students have to achieve the higher grade in the 2nd exam but it gives them longer to do what many other students achieved in the first exam. This has changed slightly for GCSE this year, what do you think of the changes and the proposed new ones?

4. There are currently GCSEs and A levels thought of as ‘soft subjects’ – these include (as said by Cambridge and LSE) -accounting, art and design, business studies, design and 

technology, drama, theatre studies, home economics, ICT, media 

studies, (law). These are the lest preferred subjects that are easier and don’t get as high a recognition from universities and employers. (See guide Do you think it’s fair to call subjects soft? Or do you think they should be scrapped?

What do you think get revising? 

I’d love to hear everyone’s views!

Modified once, last modified by Alex on Tue 18th September, 2012 @ 23:56

Posted: 18-09-12 23:55 by Alex

I think it's stupid to change something that has worked for many pupils over the year. I also heard that they want to reduce the number of pupils getting top grades, why? so more of us can beomce unemployed and start seeking job seekers allowance, which is surely a bad thing. Also, making exams harder is unfair for those pupils who find learning or exams harder, meaning they have a even smaller chance to get the grades they need. They say the exams are too easy, have they actually sat theses exams to try this? I revised 3 hours each night for 3 months at least to get the grades i got and the exams wern't exactly easy. I'm taking ICT a level and i don't think it's a soft subject, it's the hardest one I've taken.  Also, revising for the whole 2 years for one exam is stupid, if i had to do that i don't think i would pass all my subjects. i don't think modules are a bad thing, they help us to achieve good grades, what is wrong with that? I think it brings us down a bit them telling us that exams are easy when we find them the hardsest things we've ever done. so no i think it's wrong to do this.

Posted: 19-09-12 06:46 by Thegirlwhoknewtoomuch - Team GR


 i never knew that taking GCSE's was optional

Posted: 19-09-12 06:47 by Thegirlwhoknewtoomuch - Team GR

reducing the number of students getting the top grades mean that for those that do get the top grade it'll be worth more as less people get it.
However it will also mean that even getting grades equivilant to an A or B will also be seen as mroe of an achievement:) - jobs will still be available, it will just define those who are the best and deserve the highest grades.

With GCSEs it is reasonablyy easy if you are intelligent to not revise and still come out with a pass Grade. But if it it is, why do many people fair and not get the required grade? GCSEs should test people at what the level they have been learning- the one at which the curriculum sets. If the exams are too easy then is also the curriculum?

With GCSEs, nobody has taken exams before. without the experience, i agree, many would fail as they wouldn't revise efficiently meaning that they wouldn't realize how much you actually had to revise. However in the International baccalaureate taken as an equivalent to a levels there is one exam at the end of the year. 18 people took it in my year took it, one failed but the rest passed, including 2 people getting into oxford. because they had mocks and it was drummed so much into them they found they were able to revise for the end exams and come out with good grades.

If you think about how many GCSEs you take it's only a few out of the entire possibilities you can. that demonstrates they aren't all compulsory. However it would make sense if it was just the core that were (maths & english) compulsory- this is what would happen with the English baccaleureate.

One guy in my school during GCSEs wouldn't turn up to school but as he still had to be in education the school organised him to go do a type of apprenticeship at a local garage so he stayed learning, but just doing something that in the long run would be more beneficial to him

If teachers told you GCSEs were optional you can imagine how many people would try use that to get out of them. if you think school is compulsory up to 16 (now 18) everyone else is working towards them, you might as well as well.

Posted: 19-09-12 10:53 by Alex

tHIS is awful, testing on spelling and puctuation in other exams that are not english related. Imean in an history exam ok u need english but your not getting tested on english your getting tested on the knowledge you know about history and how you can put in into context not yuor spelling and punctuation

Posted: 19-09-12 12:22 by Shaaref

I agree that if your writing is so poor it's illegible and the same with your spelling that you should loose marks,
However if it's perfectly readable and makes sense then that should be fine
Surely if they want to test spelling that should be left to an English exam
However i do understand it is to help distinguish between the top allround students which they are trying to do with the new exam - having less achieving the top grades

Posted: 19-09-12 12:43 by Alex

Well, i am totally in support of taking up the international Baccalaureate

-I hate to be brute, but the harsh reality is that this countries education system is so "dumb down" compared to other nations.  Many sources ie from the Guardian/BBC and The mail all point out that Britian is sliding down the world legue table in reading English/Maths/Science. South Korea came top in reading, with New Zealand, Ireland, Australia and Estonia among those beating Britain. Finland was best for science and second in reading and maths. Taiwan came top in maths…. where is Britian…sliding off the legue table down to the dirt?

My opinion is that the perception of British education system will change because the international Baccalaureate will bring our standards up and tougher education means more determined students who will value education (since it’s a catalysts for their dream careers) more academic success for the greater good  in society (ie research)  and less failures in society( ie the whole summer riots incident, people turning to crime/drugs).

You might be complaining all day that "why should they examine spelling/grammer/quality of written communication when its only a history or even a chemistry exam" but this is why so many employers/universities complain because they lack in simple skills of spelling, when you expect them to already know it

Posted: 19-09-12 17:02 by ELectrica!

Those are some excellent point Leah!

If we can work to improve Britain it will help everyone out - we will no longer be seen in poor light given to us by events such you have pointed out. If everyone had a good education that would improve society greatly.

I think it may seem unfair to those with less than perfect grammer, but aswell as what you point out it will help distinguish between the average students, and the top all round excellent students so will be beneficial in that respect

Posted: 20-09-12 23:57 by Alex