GCSEs About GCSEs
Our GCSE qualifications are available in over 40 subjects. Find out more about GCSEs, what they’re worth, and what you can go on to do once you’ve achieved them.
GCSEs - General Certificates of Secondary Education - are the main qualifications taken by 14- to 16-year-olds in schools and colleges in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But you can take them to gain a qualification in a subject you’re interested in at any age.
GCSEs are usually studied full time, taking two years to complete. Short courses are also available, and adult learners can take evening classes or teach themselves. There are no formal entry requirements and no age limits.
GCSE courses mainly involve studying the theory of a subject combined with some investigative work. Each qualification is at Level 1 or 2 on the National Qualifications Framework, depending on the grade you achieve.
GCSEs are highly valued by schools, colleges and employers. They are the first step towards a range of careers or further study. GCSEs have been used as a benchmark to judge student ability for more than 25 years.
GCSEs are subject-specific qualifications. Our Edexcel GCSEs are available in over 40 subjects ranging from Art and Design to Urdu. You can see what GCSE subjects we offer and what each course covers by reading the course details, which you can download from each GCSE subject page.
GCSEs are graded A* to G, although some papers are tiered according to ability and so don’t target the full grade range:
- Higher tier: A*-D
- Foundation tier: C-G
The A* grade was introduced in 1994 to differentiate the highest performing students from other A-grade candidates. If you don’t get enough marks to pass with a G, you will be awarded a U, which means ‘unclassified’.
GCSEs are assessed through a combination of either exams or controlled assessment. The course specification will tell you how assessment works for a particular subject.
All GCSEs are linear, which means that you will take all of your exams at the end of your course. Controlled assessments are taken throughout the course and can include research, essays, projects, investigations, artwork, fieldwork, experiments or other practical work.
Some subjects are compulsory at GCSE level:
If you don’t achieve a GCSE grade C in English or maths, you will have to continue to study it in post-16 education until you do so (up until the age of 18).
Some schools have other compulsory subjects. Other than that, you can choose what subjects to take. You must be offered at least one course in each of these four subject groups:
- Arts (including art and design, music, dance, drama and media arts
- Design and Technology
- Humanities (history and geography)
- Modern Foreign Languages
You don’t have to choose one subject from each area, but remember that it’s useful to study a range of subjects at this stage to give yourself a wide range of options for later study and career choices.
Many courses at university or college will require you to take GCSEs in certain subjects. If you have a particular aim in mind you should check the requirements for that course and take the appropriate subjects.
Getting your GCSEs can give you a number of choices, from further study to starting work or an Apprenticeship.
If you get five GCSEs at grades A* to C you could go on to study one or more Level 3 qualifications, such as AS/A levels, Applied A levels, BTEC Nationals, NVQs, BTEC Apprenticeships, or a combination of these.
If you get fewer than five GCSEs at grades A* to C you could go on to study one or more Level 1 or 2 qualifications, such as BTEC Firsts, NVQs, BTEC Apprenticeships, or a combination of these.
GCSEs are changing over the next few years.
For some subjects, the new GCSEs will be taught from 2015 and assessed in 2017.
Learn more about GCSE changes
To see what GCSE subjects we offer, visit the Edexcel GCSE homepage: