Changes to the exam system for 2017

As parents anxiously await their child’s A-level or GCSE results coming out in the next few days, here is a helpful guide to explain how both sets of exams are slightly different this year…

A new type of A-level was introduced in 2015 and the first results will be published in August 2017. Certain subjects had their content updated and much greater emphasis placed on assessment by final exam, rather than coursework.

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

The big difference with these new A-levels is that students take exams at the end of Year 13 and these count 100 per cent towards the final grade. In previous years it was possible to take an AS-level at the end of Year 12 and this would make up 50 per cent of the overall A-level mark.

Across the board, there is now less coursework and fewer practical assessments under the new system – making exam revision all the more important. Grades will continue to be awarded on an A*-E scale.

AS-levels can still be taken but they no longer count towards an A-level grade at the end of Year 13.

Meanwhile, GCSEs have been overhauled and for the first time this year, a new grading system is being introduced.

This will initially only affect English language, English literature and maths. Instead of a student being awarded a grade from A*-G in these subjects, a number from 9 to 1 will be given – where 4 is equivalent to a C in the previous grading system.

The top grade is 9 and most other subjects will adopt number reporting by 2019. These will continue to be graded A*-G at the moment, meaning students will receive a mixture of number and letter grades in 2017.

The new system has been designed to ensure that broadly the same number of students achieve a 4 or above. However, the new scale features six higher-level grades (9, 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4) rather than the previous four (A*, A, B and C). Fewer 9s will be awarded than A*s.

At the foot of the scale, a grade 1 will be the equivalent of the lower end of a current G grade.

Councillor Sam Webster, Portfolio Holder for Business, Education and Skills at Nottingham City Council, said: “We understand that exam results time can be a stressful period for those awaiting grades and for their families. Parents and carers often feel the pressure, too, just like their children.

“When changes are made to the way exams are structured or graded it can be confusing. Hopefully by now the new A-level system, and grading of GCSEs, is a little clearer.

“The important thing for students in Nottingham to remember is that there is always support, help and guidance on hand to ensure your next career or further education choice is the right one for you.

“Futures Advice, Skills and Employment is based in the city centre and provides free, Council-funded expert careers advice for 16 to 18-year-olds. Give them a call on 0115 960 1597.”

New GCSE grading scheme

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