New and updated exams and grades explained for parents

Nottinghamshire County Council
Nottinghamshire County Council

As well as students bracing themselves for their A level and GCSE results over the coming weeks (Thursday, 17 and 24 August), Nottinghamshire County Council is keen that parents feel clear on how the new A levels are different as well as demystifying the updated GCSE grading system.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s children and young people’s committee chairman, Councillor Philip Owen said: “I know parents can sometimes feel blinded by science as exams evolve and the way results are reported is overhauled.

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“With A level and GCSEs, there are some sizeable changes which are being brought in gradually over the course of a few years. At first glance they might look complicated to get your head round, but I’d urge parents not to be phased. ”

This year, for example, sees the first results published for the new two-year A level in certain subjects where content has been reviewed and updated and assessment is mainly by exam.

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These are: art and design, biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, English language, English language and literature, English literature, history, physics, psychology and sociology.

A and AS levels have been uncoupled so that the AS results no longer count towards an A level in the way they have until now.

And whilst teaching for the new A level began in September 2015, further subjects were added last September with teaching for the remaining subjects under this new regime beginning from the forthcoming autumn term. So from summer 2019, all related exam results published will be in the same format

“We know that some students perform better when subjects are coursework assessed, so you should be aware that this change may also have a bearing on your son or daughter’s ability to achieve their desired grades, “continued Coun Owen.

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“By way of reassurance though, students right across the country who have been studying the affected subjects will be operating on the same footing, so in this respect, it’s a level playing field.”

GCSEs are also now subject to more challenging curriculum and end of key stage exams.

And for these qualifications, the new grading system, which comes into force this year in English language, English literature and mathematics, means that students will receive their grades in numbers where a 4 is equivalent to a C in the previous grading system.

The new grading scale goes from 9 to 1, with 9 being the top grade. Most other subjects will adopt the number reporting by 2019.

Other subjects will be reported this year, as they have been in previous years, ranging from A*-G, so students who have taken GCSEs in England this summer will receive a mixture of number and letter grades.

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The new grading structure has been designed so that broadly the same percentage of students achieve a 4 or above. However, instead of the current A*, A, B and C, which most students get, the new scale will feature six grades (9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4) and fewer 9s will be awarded than A*s currently.

Broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 7 and above as achieve an A and above. And the bottom grade 1 will be the equivalent to the bottom grade of G.

Grade 4 will be the level that pupils must achieve in order not to be required to continue studying English and maths post-16 and should be the level employers, further education providers and universities accept where historically they accepted a grade C.

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