GCSE's accumulative or prior knowledge.

(29 Posts)
morethanpotatoprints Thu 12-Sep-13 13:16:04

Just wondered how many subjects at GCSE are taken with dc having little or no prior knowledge. Or that the GCSE does not depend on knowledge gained throughout the secondary years.

I know Maths and English are because obviously what we learn from a young age has a bearing on these subjects.
But what other subjects are like this and which aren't.
I know and have heard of people gaining a GCSE in Art and Music without having any previous skills. The syllabus seems to support no prior knowledge.

I am interested in others experience and tia.

Herisson Thu 12-Sep-13 13:40:59

I think it's perfectly possible to do a language with no prior knowledge. I know plenty of people who did German, Russian or Ancient Greek at O Level with no prior knowledge. It's quite hard, though, and I suppose you'd have had to do at least some language learning before that to know you liked it and had an aptitude for it.

TeenAndTween Thu 12-Sep-13 13:45:01

Well I guess any language can be done (provided you have done a language before)
Media Studies
Business Studies

Define previous skill /knowledge though. For history my DD is doing Medicne through time & American Wild West, neither of which she has any particular knowledge of.

Why are you interested?

morethanpotatoprints Thu 12-Sep-13 13:46:46

That's interesting, as you would presume prior knowledge of language if studying at this level.

I wonder about History, Geography, as they are taught throughout school but how much of what they have learned previously at KS1, 2, 3 is relevant and required knowledge for GCSE.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 12-Sep-13 13:49:41

Depends what you mean exactly. Science GCSEs often build on work done earlier in secondary - DDs school starts the syllabus before yr10.

Some subjects are only introduced as such at GCSE - eg Computer Science (though they'll have done ICT that doesn't include much programming). The less-commonplace languages and ancients will often only start at this age too.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 12-Sep-13 13:51:14

With something like history, whether the content has been visited before or not they will have been developing the skills of assessing sources and writing essays beforehand.

RussiansOnTheSpree Thu 12-Sep-13 13:54:31

History and Geography use skills developed in KS3 in those subjects, also writing skills developed throughout KS 2 and 3 (more 3 than 2 I suppose). Music also uses skills developed earlier. Science is definitely cumulative. Also maths. Drama uses skills developed in English.

TeenAndTween Thu 12-Sep-13 14:14:14

My DD picked a second MFL to study at GCSE, having only previosuly studied French before.
She did have 'prior knowledge' in as much as a) we looked into it and asked how easy it might be to pick up, and she knew how to say hello, please and thank you, but that was it.

Agree with comments on skills. With history the information is new but the skills (sources, bias etc) have been developed in KS3.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 12-Sep-13 15:45:24


That's a good example of what I meant with your dds history. She didn't cover medicine during KS1,2,3 I take it.

I probably didn't explain properly. It was more the content of the GCSE and prior nc key stages, rather than the skills gained at previous levels.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 12-Sep-13 15:59:33

Are there any in particular you were interested in? And from what perspective you're asking.

I think in general the syllabus should be pretty much self contained but in some schools they'll start to cover that material before the 'GCSE years' so if you're wondering if a pupil can start a brand-new subject in yr10 then it may depend not only on the subject but also on the school.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 12-Sep-13 20:03:03

Well atm my dd is only 9 and H.ed. y5.
I am interested in what she has shown an interest in up till now, as although its early days I would like to be able to advise her choices.
My older 2 dc went through school to A level and beyond but were very limited in the choices they could make.
If she decides not to go into secondary, I obviously need to know what her choices will entail.
At present it seems to be a language (Italian) with maybe German as well, History, Art, Music, English and Maths.
I have posted here though because its more of a content question than H.ed related. As she may only decide to go into school from year 10 onwards.
I hope this is easy to understand.
I am aware that key skills are developed along the way and of course she would be learning these in preparation, but may not be covering the curriculum for these subjects at Ks3, if that makes sense.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 12-Sep-13 20:06:34

Thank you Russians

I just saw your post on Maths and science. I knew that maths was cumulative but not Science, will make sure I address this one, if she takes an interest later.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 12-Sep-13 21:02:48

Thanks - the reason for your question is clear now.

With the sciences, again its not just the content but also the skills - assessing whether something is a fair test, data handling etc, and also of course the practical skills.

If a school offers German, they will almost certainly have started it in KS3. My DD is starting yr10 and I know that she was grappling with various tenses and word order last year. I don't personally know of any schools which offer Italian at GCSE so don't know how that works in the ones that do.

TeenAndTween Thu 12-Sep-13 21:06:13

Ok that makes sense.

So definitely History wouldn't need prior knowledge (apart from general knowledge). Science I agree is cumulative but tbh so long as she has general science skills (understanding a fair test in particular) you could do it.

However (given that I have no experience of home ed), I think it would be very hard to enter into a school environment straight into y10. Not being used to the structure, expectations etc of school, straight into GCSEs. It might be preferable to enter in y9, and have a year to find her feet so as to speak.

wordfactory Fri 13-Sep-13 08:38:30

I think most subjects are cumulative, based not only on what DC learn at school but also at home.

DS started two new languages this year, but his knowledge of other languages has really helped.

In two weeks he's learned all the basics.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 13-Sep-13 08:50:59

I agree with T&T - even for kids used to school, there's quite a step up to yr10.

Also bear in mind that whether or not she 'takes an interest later' in science, if she's in a school then she will have to do it to some level - its a core subject, its not optional. She might well find herself put in a low set, which (because of timetabling) might affect what sets/options are available for other subjects . Some schools have other mandatory subjects - RE or ICT/computer science for instance (you have to do these anyway but some make you do an exam.)

wordfactory Fri 13-Sep-13 09:06:25

Yes, science is uetterly cumulative.

The GCSEs (which usually start in year 9, not 10) assume that all the building blocks have been covered.

Vis a vis English Lit, the course texts are new, but again there is an assumption that students have learned the basics of text analysis.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 13-Sep-13 09:31:01

word Also how to write (by which, I don't mean handwriting! Although for some people (hem hem looking at nobody in particular (stares at DDs in my mind ) ) that might not be a bad thing either, although it is sometimes an impossible thing...

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 13-Sep-13 09:33:31

Actually, I do think some posters are underestimating the amount of skills needed for history GCSE. Even under the new Govian paradigm it's really not just 'knowing stuff about the American West'. The skills that are so vital to getting the good grades take time to develop and perfect.

Bonsoir Fri 13-Sep-13 09:36:13

The standard expected in MFL at GCSE is so scandalously low that it is most definitely possible to acquire one in a single year or two years of very part-time study.

Whether a DC will have been using their time in a meaningful way is of course another issue.

wordfactory Fri 13-Sep-13 10:11:39

Bonsoir yes indeed.

DS will have three periods a week of his new MFL, which will be fine. Though, as I say, I think already having another MFL and Latin makes life much easier.

You already understand the process IYSWIM.

wordfactory Fri 13-Sep-13 10:14:02

Russians learning how to write is definitely an issue.

How to order ones thoughts and create the narrative drive is a skill. I don't know how teachers go about teaching that TBH.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 13-Sep-13 10:47:46

It's not just narrative drive either, it;s the ability to construct an argument and then drive it through to a conclusion. The quality of writing we see now in graduate trainees is appalling - and I have noticed it when marking exam scripts too. sad

Bonsoir Fri 13-Sep-13 11:58:18

Language awareness increases with every language learned.

I would rather a DC of mine spoke two MFL fluently, to C2 standard, than acquired several GCSEs in MFL.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 13-Sep-13 12:36:47

>Language awareness increases with every language learned.
yes - although for some children, learning more than one at once can be confusing. DD says she's finding German easier already this term now she's dropped the French.

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