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Awarding Organisation Market Share (All subject entries)

GCSEs, or to give them their full title, General Certificate of Secondary Education, are typically studied by those candidates aged 14 to16, not exclusively, and are important for academic progression as a pre-cursor to A Level study and often determining entry requirements for Further Education and/or employment opportunities.

GCSE grades are awarded on a scale of 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest grade and 1 being the lowest. This grading system replaced the previous A* to G grading scale, which had fundamentally been in existence since GCSEs were first examined back in 1987, with the aim of providing more differentiation and accuracy in assessing students’ performance.

GCSEs are offered by four Awarding Organisations: AQA, Eduqas, Pearson Edexcel and OCR. Historically most subjects were offered by all AOs. However, in recent years only the most popular subjects, in terms of candidate entries, are offered by all AOs, some even offering two specifications for specific subjects. Conversely many low volume subjects are now only offered by one or two AOs. Pearson Edexcel, for example, are the only AO offering ‘Lesser Taught’ languages i.e. Persian, Russian, Turkish et, whilst OCR are the only AO offering ‘Classics’ i.e. Ancient History, Classical Greek etc. Please also note that whilst an AO may offer a subject at GCSE, they may not offer the same subject at A Level, and vice versa.

GCSE examinations are held annually each year, during May & June, and are ‘linearsised’ i.e. all subject assessment takes place at the end of study and within the same examination series. However, candidates can elect to re-sit their Mathematics and English Language exams taken in the preceding summer series, in the following November series. These exams are also available to any candidate aged 16, or over, as at 31st August of that year.

Most subjects are assessed by written exam(s) only although there are some notable exceptions. Most languages, including English Language, require a speaking assessment, held in centre, typically accounting for 25% of all marks. Similarly single award science subjects have eight practicals that candidates must undertake and are designed to give candidates several key skills and experiences in the laboratory setting with at least 15% of their written examinations testing this aspect of their learning.

When studying for a GCSE in Mathematics, a foreign language or Science based subjects please be aware that these are ‘tiered’, available at ‘Foundation’ or ‘Higher’ level. Prior to making your examination entry you will need to determine which level is most appropriate for you and inform us when making your application. At least 20% of questions are common to both tiers but the maximum grade attainable at ‘Foundation’ level is Grade 5 whereas the minimum grade attainable at ‘Higher’ level is Grade 4, in some instances Grade 3.

All GCSE subject assessments offered by arc exams can be found in our Fees List alongside links accessing relevant AO website areas detailing a wealth of useful information for each specification we offer (Syllabus Content, Support Materials, Past Papers etc)