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What do the new GCSE grades mean - and which subjects are changing this year?

PUBLISHED: 16:34 14 August 2018 | UPDATED: 14:10 15 August 2018

The system for GCSE results is mid-way through a change: David Davies/PA Wire

The system for GCSE results is mid-way through a change: David Davies/PA Wire

No coursework, two years of study, a clutch of Bs and a handful of threes - it’s a tricky time to be a GCSE student.

Thousands of students around Norfolk and Waveney are due to collect their GCSE results on August 23.

But this year’s results come mid-way through a major shake-up of to the system, which will eventually see all subjects moved from the traditional lettered scale, A* to U, to numbers.

The change began last year, with English and maths the first subjects to move to the numbers, which range from nine - above an A* - to a one.

While it is difficult to compare like for like, a grade four is generally considered to be a C, or a pass.

Langley School students picking up their GCSE results in 2017. Photo: Steve AdamsLangley School students picking up their GCSE results in 2017. Photo: Steve Adams

But this is the area which has caused the most concern. Generally, it is accepted that a grade four is a ‘standard pass’, while a grade five is a ‘strong pass’, a difference which has attracted criticism.

This year, more subjects will switch to the numerical system, with most others following in 2019. The changes this year are:

• Art and design

• Biology

• Chemistry

• Citizenship studies

• Combined science

• Dance

• Drama

• Food preparation and nutrition

• French

• Geography

• German

• Classic Greek

• History

• Latin

• Music

• Physical education

• Physics

• Religious Studies

• Spanish

But as well as deciphering the new results, students will be seeing the impact of new, tougher exams.

The courses are now mainly exam-based, with new content and less coursework. They are designed for two years of study with exams at the end - so no modules to break it up.

Fewer grade nines are likely to be handed out than there were A*s, with one study predicting that as few as 200 pupils will achieve a clean sweep of top grades.


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