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What are GCSEs? 2018-07-31T10:38:53+00:00

GCSE English & GCSE Maths Reforms Explained

As most of you will already know, GCSEs are Britain’s rigorous level two qualifications, traditionally taken in the last two years of secondary education. They were introduced in 1988 to replace O-Levels and CSE exams, and were the first qualification at Level 2 to include coursework as well as examinations.

GCSE English and GCSE Maths Reforms: The Changes

Reforms for GCSE qualifications were announced by the Department for Education in 2013. The new courses for GCSE English and GCSE Maths began in 2015, and summer 2017 saw the first of the new examinations taken. Most other subjects will reform by 2019, but what has really changed for English & maths?


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The Grades

The change in the way GCSEs are being graded has been well documented – students will now receive grades of 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest possible mark, a grade four being a ‘standard pass’ and grade five seen as a ‘strong pass’. The intention of the new numerical system is to further differentiate between student ability. Whilst a similar proportion of learners will attain a grade 4 or above to those who attained a grade C or above in the past, fewer grade 9s will be awarded than A*s.


The Curriculum

The new grading system will also help to signify who has taken one of the reformed qualifications.

For GCSE maths, there is a much expanded curriculum. A number of topics that were previously taught at A-Level have been introduced for ‘higher tier’ students, and some former Higher tier content will appear in the Foundation tier. More importance has been placed on problem-solving and mathematical reasoning, and many exam marks will be up for grabs for these areas.

In GCSE English, there are far fewer changes to the topics covered, and the curriculum hasn’t changed an awful lot – the focus remains on developing reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.


Major changes have been made to the format of assessment for the 9 to 1 GCSE English and Maths qualifications. Coursework elements have been completely removed, meaning all students are assessed only by exam. This step has been taken to give a fairer and more accurate representation of the students’ actual skills, and minimises the risk of false results by the way of cheating or being ‘coached’ by tutors.

All exams will be taken at the end of the qualification, rather than in modules, and the total examination time for maths and English has been increased. For English, there is no longer a Foundation/Higher tier split, and all learners take the same exams.

How Can bksb Help?

At bksb, we have had a solution for the 9 to 1 specifications since they were launched, and thousands of our customers have already used our GCSE Achieve products to support their learners in pursuit of their qualification.

Our award-winning Diagnostic Assessments cover the entire 2017 specifications for English and maths respectively, and decipher exactly which topic areas students need to practise.

The Diagnostics are self-marking and automatically generate an individual learning plan (ILP), which hosts huge amounts of Learning Resources to help learners fill in their skill gaps. Our Learning Resources contain videos, interactive content, demonstrations and lots of other information, so that students can improve their knowledge alone, or in groups.

The final component of our solution is called Exam Practice, and is the perfect revision tool. Students can complete ‘End Tests’ (mini assessments designed to confirm competency in previously weak areas), and work through exam-style practice questions to help them prepare for their final exams.