Sizing up the new GCSEs
The stressful summer exam period is over, but following the introduction of a new GCSE assessment structure, many students are facing an anxious wait to results day. How have these new, tougher exams impacted year 11 pupils – and has the government gone a step too far in its quest for world-class examinations?
In April we reported on the upcoming changes to GCSEs, and with approximately half a million 16-year-olds sitting the first of the new exams this summer, there has already been considerable backlash. With the new system placing greater emphasis on final exams – as opposed to coursework or modular tests assessed over the two-year period – students are feeling the pressure. The media is awash with tales of sleepless nights, panic attacks and nosebleeds, with pupils reporting that multiple exams a day, over an incredibly short time period, have driven them to the brink.
It’s not just the new exams that have caused anxiety for this year’s GCSE students. As the first cohort to sit the new grading structure, many are worried that employers won’t understand their qualifications. And with many private schools opting to continue with International GCSEs instead, state school students are concerned they’ll be disadvantaged when applying to universities.
The government maintains that the reformed system will put Britain on a par with the best in the world. A Department for Education spokesperson said: “These new qualifications provide more rigorous content, greater stretch for the highest performers and are better preparation for studying A-levels, which are the main qualifications universities use when considering offers.”
Some students agree, arguing that the tougher exams will help build resilience and work ethic. Others have even reported that thanks to extensive preparation and challenging mock papers, they found some exams easier than expected.
With results not set for release until late August, there’s plenty of time to reflect on the impact of this year’s changes. For many – not least the government – it will be an anxious wait to see whether the new system has come at too great a cost.