About CSEs | Pearson qualifications
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About CSEs

The Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was a qualification offered from 1965 until the introduction of the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in 1986. You can find out more information about CSEs below.

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CSE Qualifications – what are they?

Before 1965, schools did not award any formal qualifications to school leavers. This meant that these learners did not hold any official documentation when they went into further study or employment.

The Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was developed so that students could take a formal exam, and receive a certificate that proved their level of education.

CSEs were assessed by a combination of coursework and exams, and were available in both academic and vocational subjects.

CSE qualifications are graded on a number system, from 1 to 5.

Grade Standard
1 Indicates a standard achieved which may have resulted in an A, B, or C grade, had the learner elected to do a GCE Ordinary Level (O-Level) qualification instead of a CSE.
2/3 Given in approximately equal number to all candidates, Grades 2 and 3 would indicate a higher than average* standard, but not within the top percentile of students taking the CSE exams.
4 Indicates an average* standard expected from a learner who has followed a CSE course in a subject.
5 Indicates a standard below that of a Grade 4, but of a level that was still certifiable.

*This average referred to the average standard of the 16 year old age group that took CSE qualifications. 

Results below a Grade 5 were unclassified, and therefore not included on certificates.

CSE exams were conducted by regional exam boards. These regional exam boards have since been merged, and CSE records are now held by four exam boards: Pearson, AQA, OCR, and WJEC.

If you are needing to find out whether we hold the record of your CSE qualifications, you can consult the table below to see which regions and regional exam boards that our records will cover.

Regional Exam Board Regions Covered
London and East Anglian Boards

Counties: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Norfolk and Suffolk.


London Boroughs: Berking, Barnet, Brent, Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Haringey, Harrow, Havering, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kingston, Merton, Newham, Richmond, Sutton, Redbridge and Waltham Forest.

London Regional/Metropolitan Boards
Middlesex Exam Boards

Although our records may cover these regions, we cannot 100% guarantee that your school used these regional boards for your CSE examinations, as there is always a possibility that they used another exam board.

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