Understanding the new GCSEs

17 Jun

If you are currently in Year 9, then next year you’ll be embarking upon a GCSE course which is quite different from anything you might already know. To help you and your parents or guardians to understand what lies ahead, we’ve put together a few pointers.

1. Almost everyone will study GCSE English Language. This is what’s known as the ‘core’ subject (in other words, the essential, compulsory English course).

2. There are two optional courses: English Literature or Media Studies. As a department, we’d like as many people as possible to leave us with two qualifications. If you are very strong in English, Literature might be an option which you consider. If you prefer more hands-on practical work, with the added bonus of coursework, Media Studies might be for you. If in doubt, talk to your teacher about the choice.

3. There is no coursework in either English Language or English Literature. Each GCSE has two final exam papers which make up 100% of your qualification.

4. GCSE Media Studies still has coursework which counts towards your final qualification. Media coursework is worth 60% of the total qualification and the exam is worth 40% (worth considering if you are less confident in exam situations).

5. There will be no alphabetical grades for English Language or English Literature anymore. Forget about As, Bs or Cs – you will be graded using numbers. The highest grade will be a 9 and it is roughly the same as an A** (only the top 3% of students in the country will get a grade 9). The lowest grade is a 1, and for students who don’t quite make it, there is also the possibility of a U (ungraded result). A grade 4 will be the same level as a grade C is currently.

What can you do to maximise your chances of success?

– Read widely and regularly. Vocabulary, spelling and punctuation are now worth 20% of your GCSE qualification: the best way to learn new words is to read a range of different texts.

– Write frequently. You’ll be asked to do lots of different types of writing as part of your GCSE qualifications. You’ll do creative writing, non-fiction writing, analytical writing and comparative writing. The best way to become successful is to write frequently and ask for feedback.

– Maintain good quality notes in your class jotters. As everything is assessed at the end of the two year course, you’ll need to make sure that your notes are detailed and will help you to revise in the future.

– Remember that there are weekly clinics. Don’t let insecurities fester – seek advice quickly.

– Stay focused. Two years might seem like a long time, but the end of the course will creep up on you more quickly than you’d imagine. Make sure that every lesson counts and that you do yourself justice in the long term.

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