A Parent’s Guide to GCSE’s

Whether you remember O Levels or CSE’s or not, it’s important, as a parent that you understand the GCSE and IGCSE system if you home educate, including the new GCSE grading system so that you are in with the best chance of helping your child as they navigate the system.

How does the new GCSE grading system work?

GCSEs were first introduced in the late 80s as a more child-focused way of assessment. O Levels were based solely on examinations whereas GCSEs take into account a child’s body of work and offer more subjects. The GCSE grading system has changed, they used to be graded on a letter scale, A through to G until changes were made in 2016.

The brand-new system was confusing for many people. Rather than grading A*, A, B and so on, grading is now represented by a number. So from 9 down to 1 with 9, 8 and 7 being the highest results possible and equivalent to A* and A. Only the top 20% will achieve a 9 and that’s equivalent to the all-desirable *. Some people classify a 9 as more like an A** and an 8 as an A* with 7 representing an A.

Who marks the papers?

That’s done by an independent exam board. There are a number of these in the UK and schools use different boards. You can ask which one your child’s school uses if you are interested though it’s commonplace for schools to use more than one. Exam boards are also responsible for setting the examinations.

When are GCSEs?

Exam dates for different boards vary but GCSEs take place over a 2 or 3 year time span. But that depends on your child’s school! You can ask about this. Studying begins in year 9 or year 10 and ends in the spring or summer term of year 11.

schoolchild solving elementary science test
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When do students choose their subjects?

This happens at the completion of year 8 or year 8 depending on your child’s school. Schools usually run Options Evenings which is a good time for your child to learn more about their different choices. Parents can attend these evenings too.

When should GCSE revision start?

The coldest, wettest month – January! That’s the time when your child should ideally begin to revise. Some children might start sooner and some later but January is ideal for most.

When do GCSE exams happen?

The examinations run from May 14th or thereabouts to the end of June in years 10 and 11. You can check with your child’s school for exact dates though. Results are released in August.

Help your child to prepare and to try their best but also to relax. Nothing is so important that your child experiences anxiety. Exams can be retaken if the results are not what your child wanted. As this independent school in Somerset believes, success is important but so is happiness.

Once GCSE’s are completed it wont be long till your children, or young adults by now, will studying for their A Levels so when the time comes make sure you check out the parents guide to A Levels so you are fully prepared to help them when they need it.

How can you help your child prepare for their GCSE’S

There are a number of ways you can help your child prepare for their exams. Firstly make sure they have the perfect study space set up in the house where they can revise free from distraction. Get them access to revision guides or online educational resources like educational quizzes were they can practice in short bouts using multiple choice options. Encourage them to continue doing activities that they love to give them a break from revision, there are lots of benefits to extra curriculum activities and these shouldn’t be lost at such a crucial time. If your child is struggling with the stress of revision and has anxiety about the exam them encourage them to start a journal or practise mindfulness and last but not least let them know you are there and can see them working so hard. Tell them how proud you are of them and congratulate them when they do well on mock tests and practice sessions.