Changes to the assessment and content of GCSEs began to be introduced in September 2015.

They include:

A new grade scale that uses the numbers 1 to 9 to identify levels of performance, with 9 being the top grade. The current grade A will be equivalent to a grade 7 and the acceptable pass grade that is currently a GCSE grade C will be at the top of a grade 4.

GCSE courses will no longer be taught in modules but as a two year linear course across the whole of years 10 and 11.

Most courses will have no ‘in course’ assessment, only a final exam.

Future exams will contain less short-answer questions and will concentrate on more extended essay-style exam questions.

Exams which have different tiers (higher, intermediate, foundation) will only be used where an untiered exam will not allow students of lower ability to evidence their knowledge and skills.

Exams will only be available in the summer (except where resits of maths and English are required for post-16 students which will be available in November).

  • New GCSEs in English Language, English Literature and Maths:
  • English Language: will require better reading skills and a good standard of written English.
  • English Literature: will encourage students to read, write and think critically. It will assess students on whole texts and on shorter unseen texts.
  • Mathematics GCSE: will provide greater coverage of areas such as ratio, proportion and rates of change. It will require all students to master the basics and will be more challenging for those aiming to achieve top grades.
  • Geography: will require pupils to use maths and statistics and carry out at least 2 pieces of fieldwork. Content will concentrate more on UK geography.
  • History: will require students to study more historical periods (medieval, early modern and modern) with a focus on British history.
  • Modern Foreign Languages: will be more rigorous and most exam questions will be written in the language being assessed.
  • Science: will include more mathematics related to science and new content, including the human genome, life cycle analysis and space physics will be taught. Science students will be required to undertake mandatory assessed practical tests which must be passed to achieve the overall GCSE.
  • There are also changes in: Religious Studies, Design & Technology, Art & Design, Drama, Dance, Music, Physical Education, Computer Science and Citizenship Studies.

The table below outlines the key dates and changes being made:

New GCSE to be taught from:
First results issued in:
September 2015
Summer 2017
English language
English literature
September 2016
Summer 2018
Ancient languages (classical Greek, Latin)
Art and design
Citizenship studies
Computer science
Double science
Food preparation and nutrition
Modern foreign languages (French, German, Spanish)
Physical education
Religious studies
September 2017
Summer 2019
Ancient history
Classical civilisation
Design and technology
Film studies
Media studies

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