New 2015 GCSE English specifications | Pearson qualifications

New 2015 GCSE English specifications

2 June 2014

We are pleased to present below the new accredited Pearson Edexcel GCSE English language and English literature specifications for first teaching from September 2015. 

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To express your interest in offering these qualifications, please complete our Intention to offer form.

Launch events

We hope you've had the chance to attend a launch event to find out about our GCSE and A level specifications for 2015. If you haven't, and you'd like to either talk to a member of our team or ask us to visit your department, please complete this form.


We will be offering 'Getting Ready to Teach' events in the new year.

Specifications and materials

To download our specs and SAMs and find out about our support, visit:

Key changes from 2015

  • Fully linear structure and updated subject criteria for content and assessment
  • New 1–9 grading scale with 9 being the top level. Grade 4 is equivalent to current C grade
  • No tiering
  • No internal assessment.

GCSE English language: key changes to subject criteria

  • Students are required to answer questions on unseen 19th, 20th and 21st century texts
  • These texts must cover fiction, non-fiction and literary non-fiction
  • SPaG has an increased weighting of 20%.

GCSE English literature: key changes to subject criteria

  • 4 set texts covering:
    • 19th Century novel
    • Post-1914 British fiction or drama
    • Poetry from 1789 including Romantic Poetry
    • Shakespeare
  • Students are also required to compare two unseen texts within the examination
  • Closed book examinations.

The new GCSE criteria are designed to help learners keep pace with the world’s highest performing countries, and to ensure they emerge with a level of literacy that will provide a genuine foundation for the rest of their learning and working lives.

How we’ve addressed these changes

We worked on the specifications for over a year, and consulted widely with teachers in schools and in colleges to gain feedback on our current GCSE specifications and to seek ideas and input on the new specifications. We also worked with many of the major stakeholders in English to ensure that our specifications and assessments are both challenging and engaging for students. We trialled our mark schemes and our assessments with students, teachers and examiners and made changes along the way to make sure they are fit for purpose. All materials have been checked and approved by our expert panel.

We want our new GCSE English qualification to be interesting and enriching assessments. We know that some of these changes are significant, and we’re working hard to support you through them, making use of our experience of running un-tiered IGCSEs to create clear question papers that provide both support and adequate stretch, and selecting the most engaging, inclusive themes and texts that we possibly can.


Will there be textbooks for the new English specifications and when will they be available?

We will keep you up to date with planned resources via email updates. Please make sure that you sign up for my regular email updates.

Contact us

What training will you be offering teachers for the new GCSE English specifications?

We are running a series of free launch events around the country in October and November 2014. After Christmas, we’ll be running some more-in-depth Getting Ready to Teach events. For details, please visit our Training page.

How can I provide feedback on the new GCSE English specifications?

We welcome your feedback on the new specifications – please contact us.

How can I register an interest in teaching the new Pearson Edexcel GCSE English specifications?

Please complete this form.

Will you be producing extra sample assessment materials?

Yes, we will, along with schemes of work, an unseen preparation anthology for English language, a poetry anthology, and a getting started guide.

Why can we no longer teach 'Of Mice and Men' or 'A View from the Bridge' for GCSE English literature?

Our qualifications have been developed according to the criteria that DfE published last year following their consultation. This does not prohibit or promote any individual texts but does prescribe the periods and genres that specifications must be developed to meet. There is a greater focus on British literature than in the past while still allowing room within specifications to set texts written outside of Britain, for example in the poetry anthology. The English Language specification also allows students to study a very wide range of texts across three centuries.

What’s happening with speaking and listening?

Speaking and Listening is renamed as 'Spoken Language' and will be assessed as a separate endorsement. Students will be required to present to an audience on a topic of their choice and listen to, and answer, questions. Students will be awarded a pass, merit or distinction and this will be printed on the GCSE certificate on a separate line.

Can we offer GCSE English language from one awarding body and GCSE English literature from another?

Yes, you can.

Do students have to study both GCSE English language and GCSE English literature?

Under the 2016 progress 8 headline measure, English as an enabling subject is double weighted. This can be either of GCSE English Language or GCSE English Literature. The double weighting only applies if the subjects are taken together. There is no requirement that English Literature is taken as well as English Language, but in the new progress 8 measures, the incentives are there to encourage this.

I hope you like the new specifications and look forward to supporting you with preparing for and delivering GCSE 2015.




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