Few of us would have been able to predict much of what has happened in the political world over the last few years. Many of the educational reforms put in place by Michael Gove in 2013 have had relatively little press coverage as a result of the referendum and general elections. The existing GCSE was first introduced in 1988 and the A* grade was added in 1994 and very little has changed over that time. Gove sought to make the system more rigorous in order to combat the ever-increasing grade inflation and remove the coursework element of the courses. The new courses are graded from 1-9 with 9 representing the new A** grade which is meant to stretch and differentiate the most able pupils whereas the old C grade (seen as a “pass” by many schools and universities) roughly equates to the new grade 5. Many have commented that this in itself represents an increase in difficulty and in fact the 4 should be equivalent to the old C grade.
A quick check on many of the Russell Group university websites an (and indeed Oxford and Cambridge) reveals that they will be looking at grades 7, 8 and 9 as part of the selection process for their more popular courses. It is perhaps telling that they are being particularly vague in their advice to applicants by giving a spread of grades and will most probably use the new system as the discriminator given two equal candidates. Therefore it may well be that getting the best possible grades at GCSE will be increasingly important in the hugely competitive UCAS process.
The Easter holidays are more important than ever in making the final grades in August. GCSE’s tend to start in earnest a few weeks after the start of the summer term and there is no longer the hiatus of study leave to make amends for inactivity at Easter. The very top grades will be achieved by those pupils who have been punctilious about their approach to revision whether this is self -directed or by attending many of the revision courses on offer over the country.