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Between 20, a variety of reforms were made to GCSE qualifications, including increasing modularity and a change to the administration of non-examination assessment.From the first assessment series in 2010, controlled assessment replaced coursework in various subjects, requiring more rigorous exam-like conditions for much of the non-examination assessed work, and reducing the opportunity for outside help in coursework.
Numerous subjects have been added and changed, and various new subjects are offered in the modern languages, ancient languages, vocational fields, and expressive arts, as well as Citizenship courses.
In 1994, the A* grade was added above the grade A, to further differentiate attainment at the very highest end of the qualification.
The separate qualifications were criticised for disadvantaging the bottom 42% of O-Level entrants who failed to receive a qualification, and the highest-achieving CSE entrants who had no opportunity to demonstrate their true ability.
In its later years, O-Levels were graded on a scale from A to E, with a U (ungraded) grade below that.
Before the introduction of GCSEs, students took CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) or the more academically challenging O-Level (General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level) exams, or a combination of the two, in various subjects.
The CSE broadly covered GCSE grades C-G or 4-1, and the O-Level covered grades A*-C or 9-4, but the two were independent qualifications, with different grading systems.Before a wide range of reforms, interim changes were made to existing qualifications, removing the January series of examinations as an option in most subjects, and requiring that 100% of the assessment in subjects from the 2014 examination series is taken at the end of the course. Under the new scheme, all GCSE subjects were revised between 20, and all new awards will be on the new scheme by summer 2020.The new qualifications are designed such that most exams will be taken at the end of a full 2-year course, with no interim modular assessment, coursework, or controlled assessment, except where necessary (such as in the arts).The science reforms, in particular, mean that single-award "science" and "additional science" options are no longer available, being replaced with a double award "combined science" option (graded on the scale 9-9 to 1-1 and equivalent to 2 GCSEs).Alternatively, students can take separate qualifications in chemistry, biology, and physics.Each GCSE qualification is in a particular subject, and stands alone, but a suite of such qualifications (or their equivalent) is generally accepted as the record of achievement at the age of 16, in place of a leaving certificate or baccalaureate qualification in other territories.Studies for GCSE examinations generally take place over a period of two or three academic years (depending upon the subject, school, and exam board), starting in Year 9 or Year 10 for the majority of students, with examinations being sat at the end of Year 11 in England and Wales.Alongside this, a variety of low-uptake qualifications and qualifications with significant overlap will cease, with their content being removed from the GCSE options, or incorporated into similar qualifications.GCSE examinations in English and mathematics were reformed with the 2015 syllabus publications, with these first examinations taking places in 2017.Some subjects will retain coursework on a non-assessed basis, with the completion of certain experiments in science subjects being assumed in examinations, and teacher reporting of spoken language participation for English GCSEs as a separate report.Other changes include the move to a numerical grading system, to differentiate the new qualifications from the old-style letter-graded GCSEs, publication of core content requirements for all subjects, and an increase in longer, essay-style questions to challenge students more.