Performance at GCSE is the key that unlocks entry to A level, BTec and university courses. Most sixth forms and FE colleges will have indicated the GCSE grades a student must obtain to study a particular subject at A level – it’s usually grade 4 (C) or above, but sometimes a higher grade will be stipulated.
Whatever subject(s) you want to study, GCSEs in maths and English language at grade 4 (the new equivalent of a grade C) or above, are a baseline requirement. The government confirmed in April that students who get a grade 3 or lower in maths and/or English language must enrol on the GCSE course(s) again and ‘continue to study the subject(s) in both years until they achieve at least a grade 4 in each subject.’
New GCSE grades
The new numerical grading system (1-9, with 9 being the equivalent of an A*) will only be used for maths, English language and English literature GCSEs this year (2017), all other subjects will be given letter grades, as previously. The system will be in place to grade most (around 20) subjects by results day 2018, and fully implemented by 2019.
So, what’s the plan if things don’t go as expected?
Back to school.
You may have received your results on-line or via text, but going in to school means that you can get advice and discuss options with teachers straight away.
Not made the grade for sixth form or FE college? Talk to course leaders – some colleges are flexible or will allow you to start your chosen course and study for retakes at the same time. For students with few GCSEs, advisors may suggest level 2 vocational courses.
Schools can arrange for papers to be looked at again – usually only for those candidates who missed predicted grades by one or two marks. There is a charge for this if the exam board leaves the grade unchanged.
The government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency confirmed in April that candidates with 3s (grade D) in maths and/or English language must enrol on the GCSE course(s) again and ‘continue to study the subject(s) in both years until they achieve at least a grade 4 in each subject.’ This will be alongside the A level or BTec courses they are taking.
Students wishing to re-sit a particular GCSE course, for instance to improve a borderline grade, may be able to do so in November of the same year or January of the following year. Some schools and colleges will arrange for students to do this but if not, exams can be taken through a tutorial agency or as private entrants at the nearest exam centre. See individual exam board websites for information about this.