What is GCSE Maths? A Comprehensive Guide

The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification in a particular subject, taken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scottish State Schools use the Scottish Qualification Certificate, while private schools in Scotland can choose to use an alternative degree. Before the introduction of the GCSE, students took the more academically challenging CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) or O-Level (General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level) exams, or a combination of the two, in several subjects. To help students prepare for these exams, many parents are now turning to online resources such as Profs online maths tutors.

The CSE broadly covered grades C-G or 4—1 of the GCSE, and the O level covered grades A*-C or 9—4, but both were independent degrees, with different grading systems. Separate ratings were criticized for hurting the lowest 42% of level O participants who were unable to receive a grade, and the highest-performing CSE participants who did not have a chance to demonstrate greater ability. The CSE was rated on a numerical scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being the highest and 5 the lowest approval grade. Below 5 there was a U rating (unrated). The highest grade, 1, was considered equivalent to an O-Level C grade or higher, and achievement of this grade often indicated that the student could have taken an O-Level course in the subject to achieve a higher grade.

As the two were independent grades with separate curricula, a separate course of study would have to be taken to convert a CSE to a level O in order to progress to level A. The GCSEs were introduced in September 1986 to establish a national qualification for those who decided to leave school at age 16, without pursuing academic studies to obtain degrees such as A-Levels or university degrees. They replaced the old CSE and O-Level scores, joining the two grades to allow access to the full range of grades for more students. However, the exams sometimes had a selection of questions designed for the most capable and least capable candidates.

Following the introduction, GCSEs were rated on a letter scale, from A to G, with a C that was set to be approximately equivalent to a grade C of level O, or a grade 1 of CSE, and therefore can be achieved in approximately the top 25% of each cohort. Over time, the range of subjects offered, the format of the exams, the regulations, the content and the grading of the GCSE examinations have changed considerably. Numerous subjects have been added and changed, and several new subjects are offered in modern languages, ancient languages, vocational fields and expressive arts, as well as citizenship courses. These reforms are not directly implemented in Wales and Northern Ireland, where GCSEs will continue to be available in the A*-G rating system.

However, due to legislative requirements for comparability between GCSEs in the three countries, and allocations for certain subjects and qualifications to be available in Wales and Northern Ireland, ratings of 9-1 will be available, and the other changes will be mostly adopted in these countries as well. The examination boards operate under the supervision of Ofqual (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) in England, Qualifications Wales in Wales and the CCEA in Northern Ireland. In England, AQA, OCR and Pearson operate under their respective brands. In addition, WJEC operates the Eduqas brand which develops qualifications in England.

CCEA ratings are not available in England. In Wales, WJEC is the only accredited contracting body for GCSEs in the public sector and therefore no other board formally operates in Wales. However some English board qualifications are available as designated qualifications in some circumstances because they are not available in WJEC. In Northern Ireland CCEA functions both as a board of directors and regulators. Most English board qualifications are also available with exception of English language and science due to requirements for oral and practical assessment respectively. Students generally take at least 5 GCSEs in Key Stage 4 in order to meet primary measure of achieving 5 A*-C grades including English Math and Science.

The exact grades students take vary from school to school and student to student but schools are encouraged to offer at least one pathway leading to qualification for English Baccalaureate which requires GCSE in English language English literature mathematics science (including computer science) science modern or ancient language and history or geography. In past math grades offered different set of levels with three these were basic level in grades G F E and D; intermediate level in grades E D C and B; top level in grades C B A and A*. Eventually this changed to match levels of all other GCSE ratings these ratings were initially set such way that GCSE C was equivalent to Level O Grade C or CSE Grade 1 although changes rating criteria limits over years mean that this comparison is only approximate. In 1994 an A* rating above initial A rating was added indicate exceptional accomplishments above level required for category A. In England these results are used shape leaderboards published following academic year with main performance indicators for each school. UK GCSE ratings (letter system) In past many GCSE scores used modular system which some assessment (up 60% according “terminal rule”) could be submitted before final exam series this allowed students take some units of GCSE before final exam series thus gave indication progress ability various stages as well allowing students retake exams which they did not score as high improve their grade before receiving rating. In some subjects one or more controlled assessments or course tasks may also be completed these may contribute small or large proportion final grade In practical performance subjects they are generally weighted more heavily reflect difficulty potential injustice testing.

Shahid Lakha
Shahid Lakha

Shahid Lakha is a seasoned educational consultant with a rich history in the independent education sector and EdTech. With a solid background in Physics, Shahid has cultivated a career that spans tutoring, consulting, and entrepreneurship. As an Educational Consultant at Spires Online Tutoring since October 2016, he has been instrumental in fostering educational excellence in the online tutoring space. Shahid is also the founder and director of Specialist Science Tutors, a tutoring agency based in West London, where he has successfully managed various facets of the business, including marketing, web design, and client relationships. His dedication to education is further evidenced by his role as a self-employed tutor, where he has been teaching Maths, Physics, and Engineering to students up to university level since September 2011. Shahid holds a Master of Science in Photon Science from the University of Manchester and a Bachelor of Science in Physics from the University of Bath.