Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Have your say on exam reform

Schools Minister Nick Gibb and Ofqual launch consultations on revised GCSE and A level subject content

Posted by Stephanie Broad | September 11, 2015 | People, policy, politics

Nick Gibb has released a ministerial statement in which a public consultation is released on six GCSE and nine A level subjects. The changes to these qualifications will make them more rigorous and globally competitive. In the case of A levels, the changes aim to help students prepare better for university. 

What’s changing? 

  • Accounting A level retains the current requirement for students to acquire a solid knowledge of, and the ability to apply, double entry accounting methods. There is also an increased emphasis on the use of accounting concepts and techniques in the analysis and evaluation of financial information.
  • Ancient history GCSE requires the study of the history of at least two ancient societies drawn from 3000BC to 500AD. Each ancient society must constitute 20% or more of the qualification, and at least one of them must be Roman or Greek. Students will have to undertake one period study covering at least 50 years, one longer period study covering at least 200 years, and two depth studies focusing on substantial and coherent shorter time spans.
  • Ancient history A level requires the study of ancient history drawn from 3000BC to 500AD. A level students must study both Roman and Greek history, with each constituting 20% or more of the qualification. At AS level, students must study at least one of either Roman or Greek history, which must constitute 50% or more of the qualification. Students will have to undertake: two period studies covering at least 75 years, and (at A level only) two in-depth studies focusing on substantial and coherent shorter time spans. Students will have to study ancient historical topics from a span of at least 400 years.
  • Classical civilisation GCSE provides much greater detail on the requirements to be studied for literature and visual/material culture, which consists of architecture and/or artefacts and artworks. Literature must form at least 40% and visual/material culture must form 20% or more of the total qualification. There is also a comparative thematic study, which must form 20% or more of the total qualification. Both Roman and Greek civilisations must be studied, forming at least 20% each of the total qualification.
  • Classical civilisation A level provides much greater detail on the requirements to be studied for literature, visual/material culture and philosophy and thought. All three of these areas must be studied at A level. At AS level literature plus one of the other two options must be studied. Literature must form at least 40% of the total qualification at both AS and A level.
  • Electronics GCSE sets out the detailed knowledge and understanding required by students. The content increases the demand of the subject by increasing the breadth and depth of content required, including demanding mathematical requirements.
  • In the electronics A level, the depth and breadth of the content has been reviewed. A number of new topics has been added and depth has been increased by including additional content in current topic areas. The content also strengthens the mathematical requirements. New mathematical requirements have been added and the formulae to be recalled and used are clearly identified in the subject content, adding to the overall level of demand.
  • In the film studies GCSE, students have to study at least 6 films, of which three must have been produced in the US (an independent film, a film produced between 1930 and 1960, and a genre film), one must be British, one must be an English-language film produced outside the US and one must not be in the English language. All films studied have to be specified by the awarding organisation and must be critically recognised and culturally and historically significant.
  • At A level, film students must study a historical range of films, compare two films and must study at least two major movements or stylistic developments. For AS, students have to study at least six films and, for A level, at least 12 films. All films studied must be specified by the awarding organisation, critically recognised and culturally and historically significant. 
  • Law A level content will ensure students study a greater number of areas of substantive law. At AS level there is a requirement to study two areas of law (one public and one private area), and at A level there is a requirement to study three areas of law (at least one public and one private area). There is also a requirement to study the English legal system and nature of law. 
  • Through media studies GCSE, students will gain an understanding of academic theories and will be required to apply specialist subject-specific terminology and theory. The subject content is based on four central areas of knowledge: media language, representation, media industries, and audiences. Students will learn about media regulation, and the different funding models for media institutions and how they operate on a global scale. 
  • Media studies A level places greater emphasis on academic knowledge and understanding. The study of a wide range of specified theories is now required at both AS and A level. Students will apply their theoretical knowledge and use specialist subject specific terminology to analyse and compare media products and the contexts in which they are produced and consumed. Students will critically debate key questions relating to the social, cultural, technological and economic dimensions of media through sustained discursive writing. 
  • GCSE statistics has new subject content, which outlines the key stages of the statistical enquiry cycle. Students are required to have knowledge of key statistical calculations, eg calculating of moving averages to identify trends and, at the higher tier, Spearman’s Rank Correlation Coefficient Formula. There is some overlap with reformed GCSE mathematics content, but the majority of content is unique to statistics. Because of the emphasis on the statistical enquiry cycle in GCSE statistics, much of this knowledge will be applied in different ways from mathematics GCSE. 
  • A level statistics builds upon the statistics and probability components of GCSE mathematics and helps students make sense of data trends and to solve statistical problems in a variety of contexts, supporting progression to HEI in subjects such as psychology, biology, geography, business and the social sciences. The qualification includes study of the statistical enquiry cycle with students required to perform key statistical calculations. The content has been drafted to articulate the mathematics content, while, at the same time, care was taken to avoid too much overlap with the mathematics and further mathematics A level. 

The government consultation closes on 5 November at 5pm. 

Ofqual has also launched a consultation on new GCSEs, AS and A levels for teaching from 2017. Ofqual says: “Following this consultation and in light of the responses we receive, we will make decisions on our regulatory expectations for the design and assessment of these qualifications. We will then consult on the technical regulatory requirements that exam boards wishing to design, deliver and award the qualifications must meet. 

“Exam boards will then develop new qualifications in the subjects listed above ready for teaching by schools and colleges from September 2017. The exam boards’ specifications should be available to schools and colleges from autumn 2016.”    

Ofqual's consultation closes on 5 November at 11.45pm.

Subscribe to our free fortnightly newsletter and stay ahead with the latest news in edtech

Related stories

Scrapping academies could 'bring more uncertainty'

Safeguarding: one size doesn't fit all

Laceby Acres Academy top 2% in England says schools minister

Market place - view all


Sherston Software is a leading producer and publisher of software f...

Raging Bull

Rugby heritage clothing brand; brought to you by Rugby Legend Phil ...


NEC Corporation is one of the world's leading providers of Internet...