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Why are GCSE's so complicated?

(18 Posts)
Fairenuff Tue 30-Aug-11 11:41:51

When I was at school everyone, in every school, studied O Level/GCSE for 2 years and at the end of those 2 years they all sat the same exams at the same time and got their results a few weeks later. Job done.

Now my DD is about to start Year 10 and I haven't a clue how it works! Her friends in different schools took their science GCSE in Year 9. DD will be taking the 'first' part of Math GCSE this November. There seems to be no 'set' date for assessments. In languages, they can produce 3 pieces of work and the teacher choses the best one for assessment? And now I read on these boards that grades already achieved can be down-graded? What the hell is going on? confused

GnomeDePlume Tue 30-Aug-11 18:52:25

To answer your question: not a clue!

DD1 collected some results this month, I had to ask the exams secretary what the results actually meant. Someone explained here that if the grade is in lower case then the result is for a module, if the grade is in upper case it is for the whole exam.

How to get to this point I have no idea, I am depending on the fact that DD1 is organised and seems to know what is going on!

kritur Tue 30-Aug-11 19:39:32

Things have got much more complicated with the modularisation and the inclusion of coursework. I will endevour to explain a bit.....

For lots of subjects GCSE is just the same as you remember with the exams taking place in Year 11, this is usual in things like business studies, history etc.

Many of the core subjects have become modular. Maths exams can be in Nov, Jan, March or June and they take individual modules at each sitting. Lots of schools are now putting students in for 'early entry' English during Year 10 to give them 2 chances at getting a grade.

Science is massively complicated but mostly taken in modules from january of year 10 through until june of year 11 following the january/june cycle.

The assessments you are talking about are called 'controlled assessment' and they have replaced what used to be called 'coursework' for nearly all subjects including science and English.

In terms of marks being downgraded, that only applies to coursework and controlled assessments, this is a process called moderation. The school sends off a sample of work (usually 20 pieces for a cohort of 200 students) and a moderator at the exam board marks it to check that the marks scheme is being applied correctly by the teachers. If the moderator finds that the teachers have been too generous then they will adjust all the coursework for that cohort without even seeing the others.

The school will send you an exam timetable before each series of exams so Nov for maths, Jan, March (maths), June if she is taking exams in all of them which she probably won't be. You will receive results in the august and for the most part they will be module results. If the grade is in small type eg, a* instead of A* then it is a module grade which is only indicitive for that module. The overall grade will be a capital letter.

Some schools are entering in Year 9 which is quite frankly ridiculous. The government is pressing for a return to the end of 2 year assessment module, the sooner the better in my mind!

Fairenuff Tue 30-Aug-11 21:07:04

Thank you for that Kritur, I will re-read and try to absorb the details. I had heard about the possible change, which will affect my DS when he gets to that stage.

If the moderator finds that the teachers have been too generous then they will adjust all the coursework for that cohort without even seeing the others. This seems a little unfair. Is there scope to appeal? I am also wondering how they calculate the final grade, the GCSE grade, based on controlled assessments and exams?

cat64 Thu 01-Sep-11 00:01:18

Message withdrawn

Talker2010 Thu 01-Sep-11 08:33:09

I would suggest finding out the exam board for each subject and then going to the website for that board and subject

Download the syllabus as this will give you the weightings for each element, possible exam series, and some guidance re content

MindtheGappp Thu 01-Sep-11 08:42:41

A two-year course with 100% terminal examinations is not serving everyone well and is unrealistic for real-life.

Children, regardless of their IQ, have different learning methods, and the old way only really suited a narrow band. Now everyone gets a shot at demonstrating what they are able to do.

Yes, grades go up because previously ignored children are given a chance. But wouldn't it be a really sad state of affairs to come away at the end of 2 years of study with next to nothing?

I would question, however, the wisdom of doing GCSE modules in Year 9.

Fairenuff Thu 01-Sep-11 12:52:01

I agree MindtheGap and hope they do not go back to that because it would definately not suit my ds who is just now going into Year 8.

I don't have a problem with the new system, I just don't understand how it works and how different schools can sit GCSEs at different times. It all seems unnecessarily complicated.

However, I will take a look at the syllabus if I can find out the exam boards and see what else I can find out.

MillyR Thu 01-Sep-11 14:20:32

The school my DD may end up at does 2 GCSEs in year 9, 3 GCSEs in year 10 and 3 GCSEs in year 11, all studied and examined within one year periods (in addition to Maths, Science ad English). That means that the subjects you choose in year 10 you will not have studied at all for the previous 2 years - French, Geography and History for example.

I think it is absolutely ridiculous and would far prefer DD to have what DS has - all his GCSEs taught for a two year period with year 9 still spent on a broad curriculum; it gives children a chance to mature and develop their skills before they choose GCSE options. I have no issue with the modular nature of some subjects though.

Abgirl Thu 01-Sep-11 16:09:47

I work for an exam board, so hopefully I can help with some of the questions on here:

Fairenuff the GCSEs are now so complicated because that's what the government wanted, they (via ofqual or qcda) write the subject criteria which says what had to be studied when, and they approve the qualifications. Schools have started making candidates do more qualifications in Y9 so they have their GCSE passes 'in the bank' (and available for league tables) but there is evidence that younger candidates do less well than if they were entered when they were older.

If the moderator finds that the teachers have been too generous then they will adjust all the coursework for that cohort without even seeing the others. This seems a little unfair. Is there scope to appeal? I am also wondering how they calculate the final grade, the GCSE grade, based on controlled assessments and exams? The moderator makes a recommendation for an adjustment based on the sample they look at, which will include the top and bottom candidates from the school. Occasionally they will remark everything from the school if the teachers' marking is completely out of line with the national standard required. There is an appeal process if schools feel that the decision made is not fair.

Syllabuses are now called specifications. They will show which modules (either controlled assessment or externally assessed written exams) make up the full GCSE.

The government recently announced that from Summer 2014 onwards all GCSEs will revert back to terminal assessment, where all exams are sat at the end of the course, so if your children are just starting Y9 or younger this will be likely to affect them.

CrosswordAddict Thu 01-Sep-11 18:47:00

Abgirl Thanks for that info. Our DDs are entering Year 9 next week so presumably there will be no coursework for them.
After reading your post the picture is a little clearer.
We need to prepare a list of questions to ask at parents' evening. DDs already are asking me stuff I can't answer. Their school is not run-of-the-mill, in that it does quite a lot of iGCSE's so that may alter the picture.

Fairenuff Thu 01-Sep-11 19:28:10

iGCSE's? What are they?

Abgirl Thu 01-Sep-11 21:32:34

Crosswordaddict there will still be some coursework, however it is mainly now called controlled assessment and done during class time. That will be assessed at the end of the course as well.

Fairenuff iGCSEs were originally GCSEs for the overseas market, some independent schools started doing them here (as they were normally GCSEs without coursework, and terminal assessment) and now exam boards are starting to offer a version of iGCSEs to state schools as well. Students who do an iGCSE probably won't have coursework to do and will follow a different syllabus to a normal GCSE - I would question a school carefully about whether this is the correct route for all their students as some will do better with a modular course while it's still available. The other thing I would be wary of is what actual qualification they will get at the end of their course, most in state schools will get an Edexcel/CIE/AQA Certificate in ... rather than an iGCSE and I wouldn't be sure that future empliyers will automatically equate that with an iGCSE.

Fairenuff Thu 01-Sep-11 21:39:16

Phew, thanks everyone. Perhaps there should be a course which parents can attend, seems a lot to get your head round grin

CrosswordAddict Thu 01-Sep-11 22:18:29

Abgirl You have said what I have been thinking for some time now ... if DDs do IGCSE will employers recognise what that means? |Might be OK if you are a high flyer applying to RG Unis but not for your ordinary employer.

cat64 Thu 01-Sep-11 22:55:36

Message withdrawn

GnomeDePlume Thu 01-Sep-11 23:01:20

Certainly where we are it is a Hobson's choice of one. It doesnt matter whether the system suits or not, this is what we have.

Fairenuff Fri 02-Sep-11 17:00:14

Cat64 and if the reason they changed the system in the first place is because it was detrimental to some students' learning styles and did not accurately reflect their abilities, then why the heck are they changing it back?!!!

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