PLMR Intern Archie Sykes gives his first-hand experience of the current GCSE system

The alterations to GCSEs have impacted people in different ways. The Conservative-led Coalition Government changed the curriculum and the way GCSEs are taught in the autumn of 2013. These changes affected all students taking exams from the summer of 2014 onwards. So as one of those students taking their GCSEs this summer, I have been one of the first to experience first-hand the reform to the exams system.

Ex-Education Secretary Michael Gove made the changes because he believed that our students were falling behind from other countries. Employers, universities and colleges often said they were dissatisfied with school leavers’ literacy and numeracy – with, according to AQA, around 42% of employers say they need to organise additional numeracy or literacy training for young people joining them from school or college – even though the proportion of young people achieving good grades was rising..  So what has it been like to be a student sitting exams in the new era?


One of the major changes to the GCSE system has been the removal of coursework from almost all subjects, amid concerns, according to the Daily Mail, that it “leads to cheating and wastes teaching time”. So for those who enjoy exams such as myself, this change had a positive effect because students achieving an A* in an exam, who also received a B due to poor coursework, would not be marked down for the final grade

Modular system

The removal of the modular system means there are now two years of uninterrupted teaching, rather than the previous system which meant there were constant exams and revising for them. My Dad, a teacher with almost 10 years of experience, has had to work with all the different changes over the years, and it’s his opinion that”the situation is better as it is (i.e. little or no course work).” (my Dad)


But the current system also has its flaws. Stress levels are increased as exams take place all together within the space of a month, and often students will have more than one exam in a day. Personally I had 12 exams in 10 school days. Some friends had four exams in one day. This meant we had very little time to prepare in-between exams, sometimes as little as four hours.
Curriculum changes
The changes to the curriculum also mean that students have had to be re-taught integral parts of certain curriculums including Biology, Chemistry and Physics. They also meant that any coursework done the year prior was null and void which was understandably frustrating for those affected.

With Gove’s successor, Nicky Morgan, now settled in, we are soon to see further changes to the way GCSEs are carried out, how subjects can be chosen and how they are marked. At the moment all we know is that the grading will be from 9 to 1 – with 9 as the top grade – in place of traditional A* to G grades. As yet, we can’t judge whether this will be successful, I guess we will have to wait until the summer of 2017 to analyse that one.

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