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What are GCSEs? Everything you need to know


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What are GCSEs? It’s probably the most commonly typed question on the internet search bar these days. As GCSEs are gradually getting popular, students, parents and professionals from all fields are becoming curious to know more about this particular qualification.

So, to help you with all your queries related to GCSEs, we have come up with this blog. Learn about GCSE courses, GCSE grading system and other relevant details from this blog.

Table of Content

What are GCSEs?

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In the UK, a student’s education is divided into four Key Stages. The last of these stages is the Key Stage 4 (KS4) which comprises students between the years 10 and 11.

The qualifications that most students prefer during the Key Stage 4 are called GCSEs. The acronym ‘GCSE’ stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education.

GCSEs are studied over a two-year period of time and are assessed by written exams at the end of two years of study. However, some courses also require a small amount of coursework.

Four multiracial friends sitting in the library and studying using books and tablets.

GCSE was first introduced in September 1986. This qualification replaced the original O-Levels and CSEs, which were the qualifications studied before 1986.

Are you looking for GCSEs online courses?

GCSEs are usually taken by the students in the year 10 and 11 and between the ages of 14 and 16. The first year and a half of GCSEs are usually spent learning the content while most of the assessments and examinations take place at the end of year 11.

GCSE candidates are allowed to choose the subjects, however; there are some compulsory subjects that they need to study at Key Stage 4. They are-

  • English (English Language and English Literature)
  • Mathematics
  • Science (Biology, Chemistry and Physics)
  • Social Studies
  • Physical Education (PE)

There are usually no assessments in Social Studies or Physical Education. These subjects are recreational and have been designed to keep students updated about the modern world.

The GCSE options for subjects are many from where students can study according to their preferences. They are-

  • The Arts: Art, Dance, Music, Photography, Media Studies, Theatre Studies, etc.
  • Business: Business Studies, Finance, Economics etc.
  • Design and Technology: Engineering, Graphic Design, Product Design, Textiles etc.
  • The Humanities: History, Philosophy, Geography, Politics, etc.
  • Modern Foreign Languages: French, German, Spanish, etc.
  • Sciences: Psychology, Sociology, Sports Studies, etc.

Initially, GCSE courses were graded in letters as opposed to the numerical grading system used now. A, B, C, D, E, F and G were the pass grades, and the letter U was given for an ‘unclassified’ grade.

A-C grades in the letter grading system were known as the standard pass. Later on, the A* grade was added as the highest level of GCSE grades to show that a student has performed exceptionally well in a particular subject.

As a part of the 2014 curriculum, the numerical grading scheme was introduced by Education Secretary Michael Gove. It was introduced to put less emphasis on GCSE coursework than before, with grades in almost all subjects decided in final exams.

According to BBC , “The qualifications were designed to be more challenging, with exams taken after two years of study. Previously pupils covered the syllabus through a series of modules with regular assessments throughout the course.”

However, the number scale is not directly equivalent to the old letter one. The two scales do meet in certain places:

  • the bottom of grade 7 is aligned with the bottom of grade A
  • the bottom of grade 4 is aligned with the bottom of grade C
  • the bottom of grade 1 is aligned with the bottom of grade G
  • three number grades 9, 8 and 7 correspond to the two previous top grades of A* and A

A student must take at least five subjects at GCSE. Usually, the school helps students to determine how many subjects they should choose, which could be as many as twelve. The choice of taking more than the usual number of GCSE subjects depends on the student’s academic capacity and the school’s resources to assist them.

The length of GCSE courses depends on the setting you’re studying them. In a traditional school setting, if you take a number of these at once, they will take 2-3 years to complete depending on the school and subjects studied. Again, if you take adult GCSE courses and study them part or full-time in a college setting, the time to finish will depend on the individual college programme. However, full-time students can complete standard GCSEs over two years or GCSE short courses in just one year. If you are doing it online, it might take as less as six months to complete GCSEs.

Top Courses of this Category

GCSE Biology Online Course

GCSE Biology Online Course

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GCSE Maths Online Course

GCSE Maths Online Course

GCSE English Language Course

GCSE English Language Course

GCSE Biology Online Course

The quickest way to be done with your GCSEs is doing it online. With online GCSE courses, the materials for the entire course become accessible online so that you can study at your own pace. The best part is, you can move to the next module once you are ready; you do not have to rush to keep pace with your classmates.

Are you looking for online GCSE courses ? Lead Academy offers Pearson Edexcel and AQA-accredited GCSE online courses that are widely accepted by universities across the globe. In addition to our GCSE Maths, Biology, Physics, Chemistry and English courses, we also help you in booking your GCSE exam!

A young female student taking lessons online using a laptop

Your GCSEs can have a significant impact on your future studies. In the UK, GCSEs are considered as the first major academic qualification of your academic journey.

Your final GCSE scores will decide which A levels you can study and where. Some universities also look at your GCSE marks as a part of their admission process, while some employers may also ask for your GCSE completion certificate during recruitment.

So, you must take your GCSEs seriously to secure the best grades and pursue your future endeavors.

GCSEs are academic qualifications that is a part of the National Curriculum of England, Wales or Northern Ireland. ‘GCSE’ stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education and is taken by students aged 14-16 at the end of year 10 and 11.

GCSEs are classified as a level 2 qualification taken during secondary school.

In Scotland, instead of GCSEs, students take National 5s, which are fairly similar to GCSEs.

In the USA, the General Educational Development test is equivalent to the GCSE in the UK.

GCSEs are expected to start on 15th May 2023 with the final exam due to take place on 27 June 2023.

Apart from the core subjects, the most popular GCSE options are Art, History, Geography, Design and Technology, French and other modern languages.

According to the latest official UK government data, based on 2021/22 Key Stage 4 performance, Film Studies, Engineering, Food Preparation and Nutrition, English Language and Literature have been recognised as the hardest GCSE subjects.

No wonder GCSEs are an important part of your secondary school and plays a crucial role while planning your future. If you read the blog, you have come through everything you needed to know about GCSEs including the duration of its completion and also the new GCSE scoring system. Hopefully, there’s no more confusion about GCSEs!

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  • GCSE English Grade Boundaries – Language & Literature All Boards
  • When is GCSE Results Day 2023? GCSE Exam Results Publish Date to Note
  • GCSE Chemistry Grade Boundaries 2019 to 2023 – All PDFs


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gcse coursework definition

Everything You Need to Know About GCSEs

GCSEs are a common fixture in the education system today, but that wasn’t always the case. The education system has been in a constant state of evolution since it was established. For many people, the qualifications that are in play today weren’t what they studied during their time in school.  

Before GCSEs were introduced, qualifications like CSEs, O-Levels and GCEs were all used to depict the level of knowledge young people had acquired in Secondary Education. So, when were GCSEs introduced? These academic qualifications were launched in September 1986.

Though, even for people who are familiar with the concept of GCSEs , since their introduction in the late 1980s they too have evolved. So, it’s understandable for people of any age to be a little unsure as to what these qualifications exactly entail, the GCSE grade equivalents, and how important it is for you to obtain them today. 

To help clear things up, we’ve answered some of the most common questions and queries surrounding GCSEs, such as 'when were GCSEs introduced?'. So, you know exactly the next step to take in your learning journey.  

What is GCSE Course? 

GCSE stands for the General Certificate of Secondary Education, and its purpose in education is to provide an academic qualification in a particular subject like Maths, English and Science.  

Students will start officially studying for GCSE exams in either Year 9 or 10, depending on the school they attend, and the subject studied. The exams will be taken at the end of Year 11.  

Students tend to take 5 GCSEs at Key Stage 4, enabling them to achieve qualifications in the core subjects English, Maths and Science, as well as two subjects of their choosing. Though, this varies depending on the school.   

Over the years there have been substantial changes to the GCSE   concept. Now, more subjects are on offer, existing subjects have been altered, exam formats, regulations and the grading of GCSE exams have all altered considerably. 

GCSEs are typically studied by 14-16-year-olds, but you can complete a GCSE to get qualified in a subject of interest at any age.  

Study Online with learndirect - When Were GCSEs Introduced - GCSE

When Were GCSEs Introduced?

Before the discussion of GCSE grade equivalents began, many of us were asking 'when were GCSEs introduced?' Well, the first GCSE was launched in September 1986. These Level 2 qualifications replaced CSE and O-Levels, bringing the two together to provide a fuller range of grades.

How Important Are GCSEs? 

GCSEs provide the first formal record of your academic ability and potential. Many people assume they are only important for getting you into college, but they actually play a huge part in your life afterwards. It may be difficult to accept this when taking a Maths revision test , but the content you learn can be applied to everyday life!

GCSE qualifications are the minimum requirement and a barrier to entry for most roles and university courses. This makes them arguably the most important qualifications you can do because A Levels will only get you so far without strong passes in the core GCSE subjects. 

GCSEs act as an educational gateway , unlocking access to higher education and further fields of study. They provide the footing of whichever career you decide to pursue but it’s important to note their value isn’t completely clear cut.  

Universities set their own entry requirements, which can vastly differ depending on the institution. Employers can also be subjective, with many external factors affecting recruitment. So, if you don’t have GCSEs, all isn’t lost .  

How Long is a GCSE Course? 

The length of GCSE courses depends on the capacity in which you choose to study them. In a traditional school setting, you take a number of these at once so they will take 2-3 years to complete depending on the school and subjects studied.  

If you’re wondering ‘how long is a GCSE course   at college?’ you can take adult GCSE courses in evening classes, study them part or full-time in a college setting. This again dictates the amount of time you will spend studying.  

Full-time students can complete standard GCSE programmes over two years or GCSE short courses which are completed in just one year. Part-time GCSE courses will take longer, as will evening courses, though the exact length will depend on the individual college programme.  

If you are looking for a faster option, read on. 

Are There Any Online GCSE Courses? 

Hands down the quickest way to complete GCSEs is through  online GCSE courses . With online GCSE courses, the materials for the entire course are accessible online once you enrol. So, you can move on to the next modules of your course as soon as you’re ready.  

This differs from traditional and college-based GCSE courses as you don’t work through the course materials at the same pace as your classmates. Music to the ears of anyone who prefers studying alone and those wanting to reach their academic goals quicker.  

You have two years to complete online GCSE courses , however, completion is possible in as little as 6 months!  

What GCSE Courses Are There? 

There are a host of online GCSE courses available to study, with learndirect   you can complete GCSEs in: 

  • Biology 
  • Business Studies 
  • Chemistry 
  • Economics 
  • English Language  
  • English Literature 
  • History 
  • Mathematics 
  • Physics 
  • Psychology 
  • Sociology 

See the full list of learndirect’s GCSE offering, including all course variations on our GCSE course page .  

The best online GCSE courses for you will depend entirely on the higher level qualifications you want to obtain and the career path you wish to enter. This is why it’s always advised to research these ahead of enrolling on online GCSE courses. 

Study GCSEs online - When Were GCSEs Introduced

Why Did the Grading System for GCSEs Change? 

When they were first introduced, GCSE courses were graded in letters. A, B, C, D, E, F and G were set as pass grades, and the letter U was given for an ‘unclassified’ grade. This did not qualify you for a certificate. 

A C grade in this system was known as the standard pass and the minimum requirement for most jobs and degrees. In later years, the A* grade was added as the highest level, to show that you had performed exceptionally in your subject.  

From 2017, these grades were reformed, and GCSEs have since been assessed on a 9-point scale, with many people having to learn GCSE grade equivalents. This system uses the numbers 9 through to 1, with 9 being the highest pass grade. A grade 4 now replaces the previous grade C and, just like the old system, a U signifies an unclassified grade that falls below the minimum pass mark. 

The reason for this change was to bring in more differentiation at the top end of the grading scale. It should help sixth forms, colleges, universities and employers better understand what level young people are working to. It also more closely aligns England with the top performing education jurisdictions around the world. So, once you have got to grips with what a grade 2 GCSE equivalent is and a GCSE grade 3 equivalent.

I Failed my GCSEs – What are My Options? 

If you didn’t get what you wanted on GCSE results day, you can resit them in a number of ways, depending on your preference.  

If you don’t mind going back into class, you can enrol to resit your GCSEs in a local school or college. With this option, you will be bound to a set timetable and have to attend classes with other GCSE students. 

If going back to class isn’t something you want to do, you can resit GCSEs through online GCSE courses instead. 

I’ve Never Studied GCSEs – What are My Options? 

If you don’t have GCSEs, you could see if the qualifications you do have stand up in place of these for your higher level course, degree, or work opportunity.  

Many institutions and employers accept alternative Level 2 qualifications in place of GCSEs. So, don’t panic if you’re working from the old system.  

If you don’t currently have any qualifications, or the right grades, and you need to get some under your belt quickly,  Functional Skills courses can provide swift alternatives. When studied at Level 2, you can get the equivalent of a C/4 at GCSE in English, Maths and ICT.  

Can I Apply for Uni Courses with No GCSE Grades? 

Traditionally, universities would request a certain combination of GCSEs and A Levels as entry requirements for their degrees. The courses you would need to study would ideally complement the subject you were hoping to take.  

However, as the education system evolved, so too did the way you could access a degree. A lot of degree courses are now more flexible in the GCSE subjects they take, though Maths and English are still the most requested. Should you need to get the grades for these quickly, learndirect offer  Maths and English courses for adults online .  

In addition to this, many universities now consider other elements in their applications. Character traits like resilience and tenacity, along with prior experience, can be highly desirable in educational institutions. 

Can You Do an Access Course Without GCSEs? 

Access to Higher Education Diplomas are an increasingly popular way to meet university entry requirements. They go in place of three individual A Levels, and can be studied over two years but they are typically completed within 9-12 months. This makes them an incredibly efficient way to get on track to university level study.  

To get started on an Access to Higher Education Diploma, you don’t need to have GCSEs or equivalent Level 2 qualifications. However, when you go to apply to university, you will.  

There’s no need to panic though. At learndirect, many of our students will study Level 2 Functional Skills courses alongside their Access to Higher Education Diploma. These Functional Skills courses can be completed in a matter of weeks, so they won’t overwhelm you as you work towards meeting university entry requirements.   

How Much is a GCSE Course? 

Again, this depends on the capacity in which you study your GCSE courses. If you go back into a classroom, the course fees need to cover the cost of the teacher's wage and the classroom in which the lessons are delivered.  

If you opt for online GCSE courses, there are far fewer costs involved, which often make online versions of the courses much cheaper.  

You can find the cost of the online GCSE courses provided by learndirect on our website .  

Enrol Online Today! 

By now, you should have some of your questions answered, from 'when were GCSEs introduced?' to 'why did the grading system for GCSEs change?'. If GCSEs are essential to your career or academic progression, learndirect can provide you with a swift and cost-effective way to get qualified. From GCSE Maths online courses to English, Science and many other subject areas, you can get the knowledge and grade you need for your next move.  

Find out more by speaking with our Course Executives today. They will answer all the questions you have and help you take the next steps to enrol. 

Call them now on 01202 006 464 or contact them online .  

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Think Student

Which GCSEs Have Coursework?

In GCSE by Think Student Editor September 23, 2022 Leave a Comment

If you’re currently trying to decide which GCSEs you should take, it’s important to know whether the option you’re considering will involve coursework. Coursework is a useful way of showing your ability outside of taking written exams. Coursework can allow you to: take more responsibility for what you study, study a topic in more depth, and have more control over the pace at which you study.

To understand which subjects involve coursework and learn the percentage of coursework and exams in these subjects, keep reading this article.

Table of Contents

Do GCSEs still have coursework?

After new education plans were introduced in 2015, most GCSEs no longer include any coursework that count towards students’ final grades. Before this, there would be coursework tasks even in subjects such as maths and English.

In some subjects coursework was done through long written tasks, whereas in maths this was done through a handling data project and an applying mathematics task. In English Language, 40% of the end grade used to be from coursework. This was through assessment of speaking, listening and written assignments.

Despite the recent changes to the GCSE system, all creative and practical subjects do still have some level of coursework. This is because in certain subjects, like Art for example, coursework is necessary for students to demonstrate their talent at particular skills. The subjects that have coursework are Food Preparation & Nutrition, Drama, Art, Music, DT (Design Technology), and PE (Physical education).

What percentage of creative or practical GCSEs is coursework?

No GCSE is currently 100% coursework. There will always be some weighting placed on final exams. All of these final exams are written, apart from Art which is instead a creative project done under time pressure.

Also, it’s important to note that for the same subject, different exam boards may require different amounts of coursework. Make sure to find out which exam board your school uses for the particular subject you’re considering. If your school offers IGCSEs, have a read of this Think Student article to understand the difference between them and normal GCSEs.

Have a look at the table below which has information outlining what percentage of the GCSEs are coursework and exams. This data is from AQA’s website .

In each of these subjects, the type of task to be completed for coursework is completely different. Most exam boards refer to coursework as a non-exam assessment (NEA).  

What does GCSE coursework involve?

In the Food Preparation and Nutrition GCSE, the non-exam assessment mainly consists of a cooking practical. Students will have to prepare, cook and present a final menu of three dishes. The students will then have to write a report about their work and include photographic evidence. To find out more about the Food Preparation and Nutrition course, visit the AQA page .

For the coursework in Drama, there are two different components. One involves performing a group devised mini play and keeping a log of the creation process. The other involves performing two extracts from a play. To find out more about GCSE Drama, visit the AQA page .

In GCSE Art, the coursework component consists of selecting and presenting a portfolio representative of their course of study. The portfolio must include one main project as well as a selection of other work from activities such as experiments, skills-based workshops, or responses to gallery visits. To find out more about GCSE Art, visit the AQA page .

In GCSE Music, students must do both an ensemble performance and a solo performance using the instrument of their choice (which can be voice). They must also create two different music compositions. To find out more about GCSE Music, visit the AQA page .

For coursework in GCSE DT, students must design and produce a product. This will involve investigating design possibilities, planning, creating their idea, and evaluating the end result. At school, students will have to use special equipment such as machines and saws. To find out more about GCSE DT, visit the AQA page .

For coursework in GCSE PE, students will be assessed through their performance in three different sports or physical activities of their choice. One has to be a team activity, one an individual activity, and the third either a team or individual activity. Students will also be assessed on their analysis and evaluation of their improvements in performance.  To find out more about GCSE PE, visit the AQA page .

Does GCSE Science have coursework?

GCSE Science doesn’t involve any graded coursework. However, there is a list of required practicals that students are supposed to complete. These science practicals will involve following instructions set out by the teacher to investigate materials or scientific principles.  Students will often have to write up the method and conclusion. It’s important that students try their best to understand these practicals as there will be questions about them that are worth several marks in the exams.

Does GCSE English have coursework?

GCSE English technically doesn’t have any coursework that has a weighting on the final grade. However, in English Language there’s a compulsory spoken language assessment that isn’t done at the same time as normal GCSE exams. It’s reported as a separate grade (either Pass, Merit, Distinction or Not Classified) and doesn’t contribute to the result of the GCSE English Language qualification. To learn more about the spoken language assessment, have a look at this AQA page .

For English Literature, despite there not being any coursework tasks, there are of course novels and poems that students need to become familiar with in order to pass the GCSE. This will have to be done throughout Year 10 and Year 11. Students might be set the homework of reading a couple of chapters for example.

What are some tips for completing GCSE coursework?

If you’re deciding to do one or multiple GCSE subjects that involve coursework, it’s crucial that you can be organised enough to complete them to the best possible standard. As seen from the table shown previously, coursework makes up a significant proportion of the final grade. To have the best chance at getting a high grade, you’ll need to put an adequate amount of time into the task and not treat it as trivial.

In GCSE Art in particular, there is a lot of work that will need to be completed throughout the two-year course. A lot of homework will end up being graded for coursework as they will go in your portfolio. GCSE Art is often said to be one of the most stressful GCSEs because of this constant pressure of getting work done on time out of school.

If you love art and want to continue studying it, it’s important to manage your time well and not post-pone completing tasks until the last minute. As soon as you start getting behind with work that needs completing, that’s when you’ll really start to struggle and make things harder for yourself. If you want to learn how to get a good grade in GCSE Art in general, check out this Think Student article .

Make sure that you always note down what you’ve got to get done and by what date. This could be in a physical planner, on an app on your phone, or on a digital calendar. Perhaps set a specific time each weekend to complete any remaining work that you didn’t manage to get done during the week. If you remain on schedule, you’ll significantly reduce any stress plus you’ll have a higher chance of producing your best quality work.



What are GCSEs? And Other Commonly Asked Questions

For students in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, your secondary school years are dominated by one word: GCSEs. These academic qualifications are part of the National Curriculum and are typically studied between ages 14 and 16. They culminate in final exams in the summer term of year 11. GCSEs are a crucial part of your academic journey, shaping your future studies, university admissions, and job prospects. To help you understand GCSEs better, we've compiled a list of frequently asked questions below.

An Introduction to GCSEs

What are gcses, what does gcse stand for.

GCSE stands for "General Certificate of Secondary Education."

When did GCSEs start?

GCSEs replaced the original O-Levels and CSEs in the British Curriculum in 1986.

What year do you do GCSEs?

In England, GCSEs are typically taken in year 11, with the first year and a half dedicated to learning content and assessments held in the spring and summer term of year 11. There are 3 main exam boards that examine your GCSEs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. These are AQA , Edexcel and OCR .

Are GCSEs important?

GCSEs significantly impact your future studies, university admissions, and job opportunities. Many educational institutions and employers consider your GCSE grades in their selection processes.

Selecting Your GCSEs

How many GCSEs do you need to take? You're required to take a minimum of five subjects, but most students choose between nine and ten. The exact number can vary based on your academic ability and school resources.

Should I take more than the average number of GCSEs?

Studying more subjects doesn't necessarily lead to better opportunities. It's essential to maintain a balance between your studies, hobbies, and social life. Focus on achieving good grades in your core subjects like English, Math, and Science.

What are the GCSE grades?

The grading system for GCSEs changed in 2015, shifting from letters (A*-G) to numerical grades (9-1). A 9 is the highest grade, while 1 is the lowest.

What is a pass in GCSE?

In the new grading system, you need to achieve at least a 4 for a standard pass and a 5 for a strong pass. Some institutions may require minimum grades of 5s and 6s.

What GCSE options are there?

You have a wide range of GCSE subjects to choose from, covering arts, business, design and technology, humanities, modern foreign languages, and sciences. However, some subjects like English, Math, and Science are compulsory.

A Guide to Choosing Your GCSE Subjects

  • You know what job you want in the future If you have a specific career in mind, choose subjects related to that field. Conduct research, speak to professionals, and consider subjects that align with your career goals. But keep your options open as your plans may evolve over time.
  • You have no idea what job you want in the future If you're unsure about your future career, select a variety of subjects across different fields to explore your interests. Focus on subjects you excel in and keep your options open for future opportunities.

In summary, GCSEs are a crucial step in your academic journey. They influence your future studies, university admissions, and career prospects, so choose your subjects wisely. Prioritize subjects you enjoy, excel in, and that align with your long-term goals. Keep a healthy work-life balance and remember that your career path may change, so don't limit your options too early.

Get a head-start on your GCSEs with a summer school

For a once in a lifetime experience, join us in summer 2024 where you can discover over 40 academic subjects taught by expert tutors. You’ll also meet other like-minded individuals from around the world and make friends for life! Apply today and choose from the stunning city locations of Oxford or Cambridge.

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GCSEs are crucial qualifications for students in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Taken between ages 14 and 16, they lay the foundation for further education and future careers. This blog post provides information on what GCSEs are, how they're graded, and selecting subjects.

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gcse coursework definition

How to Write a Coursework

gcse coursework definition

Coursework projects do not resemble essays, research papers, or dissertations. They are the combination of all three. Students spend less time writing coursework than on making a term paper, but this type of work requires more time and efforts than an ordinary essay - it is made of several essays. Thanks to our guide, each student can discover how to write coursework. If you are running out of time or lack experience to complete the specific coursework, we recommend using our coursework writing services to hire professional academic writers.

What is Coursework and Why Does It Matter?

Coursework definition: General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) coursework is a typical academic assignment, given in the course of study to evaluate the student’s knowledge, skills, and identify the final grade. Many students face this type of writing in the US colleges. One of the examples is a coursework UTD (The University of Texas at Dallas) - the requirements of this institution are strict, and many students fail to submit their papers and pass the corresponding courses.

Such type of assignment helps to have the ‘detective’ hat on: a student observes, examines, and evaluates the chosen topic using credible, up-to-date, and relevant sources. Working under controlled conditions is important. Participating in every school class will help to prepare good coursework by the end of the term. Take a look at the examples of what students of various profiles may face:

  • English Composition - English coursework is an extended essay in most cases. A student has a right to pick the topic. The tutors provide their students with the list of recommended titles to choose from, sources to observe & analyze, and a format (e.g., a comparison between different relevant articles)
  • Sciences - coursework for science is a complicated assignment. Such type of work appears in the form of a scientific paper to test what a writer investigates and reports independently.
  • Geography - geography coursework is about collecting, reporting, and explaining information to reply to a certain geographical question or offer solutions to the problem. One idea is to explore the usage of a shopping mall or analyze the recent tornado. No matter whether you have to prepare a coursework Columbia or such paper for other educational institutions, keep in mind these differences!

Types of Coursework Explained

English Language coursework is the most common type of this assignment. At advanced GCE level, the student will be expected to write a couple of essays, totaling 3,000 words. Every assignment is 20 marks maximum.

Types of Coursework

An analytical essay : Evaluate, compare, & contrast 3 different sources of data interconnected by a common theme; written /spoken / multimedia content. Discuss different uses for targeting various audiences. Learn more on our blog.

Original essay with a supportive commentary : A student will have to come up with a single piece of media writing in the observed modes (written, spoken, or multimodal). Add a supporting piece with details about the aspects of English language. English Language & Literature coursework is a bit different. The basic requirements are the same, and the parts are:

An analytical study : Sharing an analysis of the chosen piece and its relation to the related content. It will show how well the writer understands the original piece. Tutors grade such works based on the:

  • Use of the proper terminology and the coherence of the written words;
  • Understanding & evaluation of the way a structure, form, and language create the written & spoken word;
  • Opportunity to observe relationships between various pieces of writing.

Creative writing & commentary : Produce a creative piece that imitates the style of the assessed text. Share comments to backup your understanding. The goal is to show the knowledge, prove the competence, and use appropriate language skills in communicating with the target audience. You will also need a relevant coursework resume (review) in both cases. Keep on reading to learn how to write coursework of A level.

How to Write a Coursework: Guide for Students

Several factors may lead to the coursework being disqualified. It is a serious matter! The risk factors include:

  • Plagiarism - it is the worst thing that could happen to any type of academic assignment. Lots of relevant information is available on the world wide web today, and the tutors are strict about the issue of plagiarism. Write everything in your own words! If you decide to insert the quotes from the sources, apply the suggested citation format and develop a list of references. Sign the declaration claiming it is your original project. If you're unsure about how to approach this, seeking professional help by choosing to write my coursework can be a wise decision.
  • Word count - do not ignore the specific requirements concerning the length of the coursework. Specify if the footnotes, appendices, & references are included in the word count.
  • Topics - go through the list of available themes. If there is an examination planned on the specific topic, try to pick another idea for the coursework.
  • Tutor’s assistance - do not ignore the help of your instructor, ask them to provide guidance on what to write. Ask the questions to learn more details, but keep in mind they can go through the 1st draft once and just offer some general recommendations.

Choosing a Topic for Your Project

Dedicate enough time to this extra important question. Select the field of your interest if it is possible to relate it to the course. That is the golden rule of choosing a coursework topic - keep in mind the rest of the hints:

  • Analyze the offered list of topics or develop yours
  • Pick a topic from the area of your expertise related to the studied subject
  • Select the topic you are interested in
  • Choose the topic you’ve started to observe in the past
  • Check how much relevant, up-to-date information is available on the Internet about each of the topics
  • Pick what you can measure, change, & control (they call it a ‘fair test’)
  • Use the ideas of previous researchers and students
  • Do not choose a topic with a vast scope - you risk struggling to research it correctly

10 Good Coursework Topics

  • Non-traditional Forms of Poetry with TC Tolbert
  • Documentary Foundations: Usage of Oral Histories with Beth Alvarado
  • Traditional Forms of Poetry
  • Hermit Crabs: Type of Fiction
  • Writing the Autobiographical Poem
  • Creative Non-Fiction on the Examples of New Journalists
  • Authors without Borders
  • Writing the Sticky Stuff
  • Socially Engaged Literary Arts
  • Common Vocabulary

Research & Data Collection

Research is an integral part of coursework. Have you written research papers before? If yes, you will find it easier to select proper primary & secondary sources and gather the necessary information (evidence to support the main point - thesis). Depending on the required paper format, cite & reference the following sources:

  • Books & e-Books

Base the project on a specific hypothesis. The research must start with minimum one hypothesis. The research stage for some topics may consist of visiting websites to collect information. Leave another time for collecting the data as it is the heart of the research. Three methods of data collection are known:

  • Direct personal investigation : The one an author does individually (using literature and findings from previous studies);
  • Interview/Questionnaire : The researcher should gather the data from the respondents asking questions regarding required data;
  • Discussion with community leaders : Community leaders are approached to fetch information for the necessary data.

In case a student works on a scientific experiment, they should pay attention to planning the analysis with the help of rigorous scientific methods (keeping in mind the Health & Safety precautions you take). Review background information and theories. Take notes to express what you expect to occur to compare & contrast it to what happened in real life. In the write-up stage, one has to evaluate and present the findings.

6 steps to writing a good introduction

Writing a Coursework Outline

The writing process follows the research. Do not start it without preparing an action plan and scheduling the work - a paper pin for English coursework is based on an extended essay . An outline will look different for the science coursework projects. The goal of creating a plan is to prevent a writer from being disorganized and waffling.

Writing a Coursework Outline

Let us explain coursework outline on the specific example - a project on the global pursuit of lower costs and the role of human rights.

Start with the brief introduction explaining why it might be a topic of interest for many people. Mention those vast corporations like Wal-Mart abuse human rights by choosing and using child labor in the factories.

Provide an overview of the problem . Define human rights and costs. Pick the definitions from the official dictionaries and cite them properly when inserting in the text. Try to explain the terms in your own words.

Develop a body of the coursework , start with the case for & against ethical business practices. Using evidence and examples, list the arguments supporting ethical business practices and another side of the coin. Include a business case for ethical practices after the opening body paragraph.

Move to discussing ethical responsibilities ; explain why business organizations should care about the ethical aspects of their activities. After three sections of the body, one can conclude the paper. It can be a good idea to share a fact or statistics stressing the importance of research problem in the essay conclusion. End up with the reference list that may look this way:

  • Klein N (2000) No Logo (Flamingo, London)
  • Marcousé I, Gillespie A, Martin B, Surridge M and Wall N (2003) Business Studies 2e (Hodder Arnold, Oxon)
  • Royal Dutch Shell (2006) 4th Quarter Financial Report at (site example)


Additional Elements

Supporting materials and pictures are a must! The sciences & geography projects require tables, charts, graphs, and other types of images to illustrate the complicated topic. Not only should you add the pictures - it is essential to interpret and reference each of them. A separate part of the coursework where the student list and explains every visual element is Appendix , and it is an optional part. The presence of appendix increases the chances to earn an A+.

How to Write an Introduction for Coursework?

Most of the students underestimate the role of introduction & conclusion when it comes to writing an essay. An eye-catchy introduction is a key to success. The primary purposes of a coursework introduction are:

  • To grab the reader’s attention
  • To introduce the topic
  • To explain the research importance
  • To come up with a compelling thesis statement

The opening paragraph shows the depth of the writer’s acquaintance with the topic. Look at the expert tips below. They will help to learn how to write a coursework introduction to make the tutor want to read your entire paper.

What Is an Introduction?

The introduction of GCSE coursework is the opening paragraph that aims to interpret the central questions and purposes of the entire paper. It should have several elements to be effective. Those are:

  • A hook sentence
  • Background information
  • Problem significance
  • Solid thesis statement

Advice from our Experienced Writer

How to write an introduction to coursework? The quality of this part predetermines paper’s success. Look at some common mistakes writers do while working on the coursework introduction - try to prevent them!

Ignoring the prompt. Many students tend to neglect the tutor’s instructions. It is critical to read the prompt several times, highlight the main points, research question, rules, and grading rubric details.

Missing a plan. The prompt does not always say to develop a coursework outline. Without a plan for every separate section, it is impossible to write a flawless piece step-by-step. No matter whether you have to write a term paper, research paper, dissertation, or C3 coursework, get ready with the detailed plan. Once you understand how to write an introduction, it will be easier to develop the rest of the paper.

For those who need a helping hand in ensuring their work meets all the standards and deadlines, don't hesitate to buy coursework from trusted professionals.

Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

gcse coursework definition

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

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What is a GCSE Coursework?

The definition of a GCSE is a general certificate of secondary education. There are several countries that practice this type of certification, mainly in Europe. You’ll find GCSE coursework in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, as well as some British territories such as Gibraltar and South Africa. In Scotland, they have an equivalent certificate called the Standard Grade. The certificate has quite an accomplished meaning; students aged 14-16 can be eligible to be awarded a GCSE in a particular subject. The coursework for a GCSE really depends on what the subject is, and what the native language of the student taking the course is. It changes between countries and languages, as well as at the subject matter level.

Hire a Writer Online for Your GCSE Coursework

With such an esteemed achievement, you want to do your very best and not disappoint yourself or any of your family or friends who are cheering for you to succeed. For some students, they simply aren’t able to invest the time that they would like to into this coursework, and so they go to an expert for assistance. Other students have the issue of having great ideas and thoughts but they aren’t as skilled at writing it down or organizing what they wish to say. In both those cases, it’s a good idea to have your GCSE coursework written by an expert online.

You can find a writing service online by doing one of two things: getting a recommendation from a friend, or finding one yourself. Getting a recommendation is much preferable if you can, because you’ll be able to talk to this friend about the entire process of hiring someone online while you’re doing it. But, if you don’t know anybody in person that has done this before, you can improve your chances of success by making sure that you choose the right company to go with. Here’s a list of a few things you should look for when deciding:

  • Does the website look professional and clean, or is it full of flashing ads and unreadable text? Stay away from the latter.
  • What about the writers? Are they simply good at writing or do they have experience specifically with writing GCSE’s? Because that will make a big difference.
  • Will they only deliver 100% unique and original coursework to their customers? They need to have a strict rule against any plagiarism.
  • Great research paper topics
  • Try to be objective
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  • Term papers
  • Book reports
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What are GCSEs

GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education.  These are the qualifications obtained by fifteen and sixteen year old’s in the UK at the end of their Year 11 schooling.

GCSEs provide a uniform framework for assessment in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Schools in Scotland pursue Scottish Qualifications Certificates.  Chosen subjects are studied over two years and assessed by final exams or coursework.

While students have scope to choose some of their GCSE options, a number of subjects are obligatory. These are known as core subjects and include: Maths, English Literature, English Language, and Science (in varying forms). Welsh is considered a core subject in Wales. Some schools may enforce additional compulsory subjects in the fields of humanities, foreign languages, or arts and design.

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Grading system and regulation

GCSEs were traditionally scored from A* to G (with an additional U grade for papers deemed ‘ungraded’). This is still the case in Wales and Northern Ireland. In England, however, recent government reforms have replaced that method with a 9-1 grading scheme; a 9 corresponding to a high A*.

Under the English numerical system, a minimum of a 4 is required to pass, while grades 1-3 are considered a fail. U continues to exist for unmarkable papers. These changes were enforced incrementally.

English language, English literature and GCSE Maths were the first to receive numerical grades in the summer of 2017. A further 20 subjects were reformed from 2018, and most others in 2019. During the transition, pupils received a combination of letter and numerical grades.

GCSE syllabuses are set, examinations administered, and certificates awarded by five primary examination boards: AQA, CCEA; Edexcel; OCR; WJEC. These are overseen by regulatory authorities to ensure parity between schools using a different exam board.

These regulators are Ofqual in England ; DCELLS in Wales; and CCEA in Northern Ireland.

Each year, the awarding bodies decide on a ‘Common Timetable’ to co-ordinate the scheduling of examinations. The timetable usually runs from late May to late June.

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The pros of the GCSE system

GCSE exams have traditionally been praised for facilitating a young person’s progression into work. Despite the rise in alternative qualifications, GCSE and A-Levels remain the most widely recognised by national employers.  Many employers view a pass in GCSE English and GCSE Maths as important, and it is claimed that the real-world significance of these core subjects is clear.

The Learning and Work Institute reiterates this point by stressing the value of GCSEs among adults seeking to take exams retrospectively. Research conducted by the OECD has shown that, as of 2020, over 5 million adults are currently considered to have ‘low basic skills’. The continued existence of GCSEs allows adults to access key qualifications supporting their professional development – often in ways which could scarcely be understood at the age of sixteen.

Albeit often considered unpleasant, the traditional exam assessment experience is also said to be important in preparing pupils for workplace norms. Skills including self-discipline, time-management and personal resilience are all instilled during a pupil’s journey through GCSEs.

Dr Tim Hands, Master of Magdalen College School in Oxford, has described GCSEs as “a test of students’ “character, determination and stamina”, which forces them to develop their weaknesses. While critics draw on the severe stress and anxiety associated with high-stake exams, proponents of the current system respond that a combination of coursework, and mitigating circumstances exist to appease this. Sheltering students at a young age would not, they claim, play to their advantage in later life.

Criticisms of GCSEs

Although the government remains committed to the current exam system, the system has been attracting increasing criticism.

Perhaps the most controversial issue relating to GCSEs is the contention that the exams are too easy and are getting easier – a claim seen to be given credence by the fact that overall pass rates have increased every year since GCSEs were introduced.

Each year’s exam results tend to be followed by public and media allegations that the “absolute standard”, which GCSE grades are intended to represent, is being abused.

The Government and most teachers maintain that rising pass rates is a consequence of improving teaching methods, but opponents disagree, claiming that it is possible to pass GCSE exams without reaching many basic levels of educational attainment.

GCSEs have also come under fire for opposite reasons. It is claimed that their content-laden nature suits more academically able children, while hindering those whose competencies are best exhibited through practical means. The recent move towards Vocational GCSEs aims to address this while, ironically, increasing the complexity of core GCSE subjects.

Elsewhere it is argued that poor performance in GCSE exams disenfranchises some children, deterring them from pursuing further or higher education. It is claimed that society’s focus on GCSE grades means that those unable to obtain a pass in the core subjects of English and Maths are likely to face life-long struggles in the employment sector – simply due to their sub-average academic performance at the age of 16.

Opponents of GCSEs have also attacked the exam dominated assessment methods, which are said to favour those who are skilled in written expression, possess strong time-management skills, and perform well under acute pressure. The austere nature of exams is also  criticised for the way in which it fuels anxiety and mental health problems for large cohorts of young people.

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Reforming the system

As more people stay on at school after 16, the value of GCSE exams is increasingly coming into question.

In 2003 a Working Group, chaired by the former chief inspector of schools Mike Tomlinson, was charged with developing a comprehensive framework for schooling between the ages of 14 to 19. The 2004 Tomlinson report proposed a series of radical changes, including replacing GCSEs, A-Levels and vocational qualifications with a single diploma available at four levels – entry, foundation, intermediate and advanced.

The Labour Government at the time, rejected this suggestion, choosing instead to reform vocational qualifications and “build on the strengths of the existing system”.

Approaching two decades after Tomlinson’s proposals, the case for reform remains strong and, indeed, is backed by the Kenneth Baker, the Conservative Secretary State for Education at the time when the current system was first introduced.  Lord Baker has described the exams as “redundant”.

The Chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee Robert Halfon MP has also branded them “pointless”.

A poll of 799 head teachers reported by the TES publication in early 2020 found that 39% of head teachers thought that GCSEs should be scrapped, and 86% felt the current examination should either be reformed or scrapped.

Ofsted has responded to the criticism by recognising that schools should not be perceived as ‘exam factories’, but rather, should offer a curriculum which promotes holistic learning.

History of GCSEs

Early Years General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level examinations (O Levels) had existed since the early 1950s, but were only available in grammar schools and private schools. As such, they were only taken by the top 20% of the school population by academic ability. The majority of pupils who attended secondary schools left without any formal qualifications.

The mid-1960s saw the introduction of the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) as a qualification available to all. Exams were awarded grades from 1 to 5; grade 1 being equivalent to grades 4 and above in the current system.

Throughout its lifespan, the CSE qualification was though perceived inferior to the O Level. It was administered on a regional basis, while O and A-Levels were overseen by examination boards with links to universities. Part of the CSE system was assessed within schools, which generated criticisms of low marking standards. Furthermore, the existence of two systems undermined public and employer understanding of the value of qualifications.

The Introduction of GCSES During the 1970s, there was considerable pressure to merge the systems. This was particularly pertinent following the rise in the compulsory education age to 16, which saw an increase in the number of students eligible to obtain such qualifications.

Under Jim Callaghan’s Labour government, Education Secretary Shirley Williams announced proposals for a merged “GCSE” system. In 1984, then Conservative Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph decided to proceed with the merger.

The first GCSE courses began in 1986, and the first examinations were sat in 1988. GCSEs were graded on a letter scale from A – G, with only the top quartile obtaining a C and above. In 1994, the A* band was introduced to recognise the highest-achieving students. The A* – G scheme took effect until 2017, when it was replaced , in phases, by the numeral 9-1 system

Recent Years – Vocation Qualifications and The English Baccalaureate Growing concern about the relevance of academic studies and a lack of technical skills in young people led to the introduction of Vocational GCSEs in 2002.  This included a range of new subjects such as business, design, and health and social care.

Despite the introduction of GNVQs(General National Vocational Qualifications), the Government decided that low take-up and poor perception of GCSEs merited further reform.

In 2007, the overall A* – C pass rate for all UK entries had increased to 63.3 per cent, with one in five students achieving the highest grade. There was, however, a decline in the number taking core subjects such as geography, history and modern languages. Meanwhile, pupils were showing increased inclination towards vocational qualifications, particularly pupils from the poorest backgrounds or those attending schools in disadvantaged areas.

Consequently, the new Coalition government introduced the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) as a ‘performance measure’. The measure shows where someone has attained a C grade or above across a core of academic subjects – English, mathematics, history or geography, the sciences, and  languages. A study by UCL has shown that studying English Baccalaureate subjects at GCSE provides students with greater opportunities in further education.

The intention of the English Baccalaureate was to allow parents and pupils to see how schools were performing in key academic subjects, and to encourage schools to promote these academic subjects. Although the English Baccalaureate is not a qualification, the Government is considering the possibility of issuing certificates that will confirm its status.

The Education Secretary at the time, Michael Gove, claimed the English Baccalaureate was “hugely increasing the proportion of pupils taking the core academic subjects most valued by universities and employers.” However, the then General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, warned of “a very real danger that some young people will be directed away from subjects that would best support their developing aptitudes and ambitions.”

In 2019, the Government’s target was to see 75% of pupils pursuing EBacc subjects by 2022, and 90% by 2025.

‘Failed’: Gove ready to scrap GCSEs

GCSEs and the Coronavirus Pandemic Following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent closure of schools, no GCSE exams took place in the summer of 2020 or 2021.

All students due to sit exams received a calculated grade, intended to replicate the likely grades that they would have obtained should the exams have taken place. These grades were decided by teachers and based on a combination of school performance, coursework, and mock exams completed throughout the GCSE course.

Gavin Williamson in his office at the Department of Education this week, at a photo-shoot arranged to coincide with the U-turn.

Then Education Secretary Gavin Williamson was criticised for the handling of an exam algorithm in 2020.

In 2020, grades were then to be put through a standardised algorithm, developed by Ofqual, to reach a final calculated prediction. This algorithm was intended to reduce ‘grade inflation’, whereby teachers might award generous or lenient grades to their own classes, and to deliver consistent results.

However, the release of ‘standardised’ A-Level grades on 13 August 2020 generated widespread criticism of this algorithm from schools and colleges across the country.  In some schools, the awarded A-Level grades were up to 40% lower than the predictions given by teachers, with 3% seeing a decrease of two grades.  Because the algorithm used previous school attainment as part of its calculation process, one student from a traditionally ‘underperforming’ school was more likely to be downgraded compared to another student of equal intelligence from a high-achieving school.

On recognising this ‘flaw’ in Ofqual’s algorithm, the government announced on 17 August (3 days before results day) that 2020 GCSE grades would not be subject to this standardisation process.

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing, on January 6th 2021, it was announced by Education Secretary Gavin Williamson that, for the second year running, actual GCSE examinations again were not to take place. This announcement came days after England was placed in a third national lockdown to combat the spread of the virus.   Students results were to be measured through teacher led, Central Assessed Grades.

“We’ve got to end the pointless, nonsensical gulf that has been fixed for generations – more than 100 years – between the so-called academic and the so-called practical varieties of education. It’s absurd to talk about skills in this limited way. Everything is ultimately a skill – a way of doing something faster, better, more efficiently, more accurately, more confidently, whether it is carving, or painting, or brick laying, or writing, or drawing, or mathematics, Greek philosophy; every single study can be improved not just by practice but by teaching.” – Boris Johnson, 2020

“We absolutely need to move from a curriculum that is “knowledge-rich” to one that is “knowledge-engaged” – not learning facts for their own sake but understanding how to put them to use to build and communicate a rich argument or solve a problem. It is now time for education policy to catch up…. That means quietly putting to sleep the GCSE exams that I introduced and that have now had their day.” – Kenneth Baker, former Secretary of State for Education, 2019


According to data from Ofqual, 4.7 million GCSE exam entries were made by 16-year-olds in the UK in 2020. 5.2 million were made in total.

76% of students passed their GCSEs (grade 4/C or above), compared to 67% in 2019.

1 in 4 students (25.9%) achieved a grade 7/A or above in 2020.

78.8% of entries were awarded at least a 4 in England this summer. The figure marks an 8.9% increase on last year’s results.

The most popular subject was the science double award with 814,708 entries. This was followed by mathematics (734,301) and English (733,551). The least popular subject was engineering with 2,818 entries.

It’s time to rethink how we teach our children
‘The young people you betrayed’: Teacher writes open letter to Gove after GCSE decline

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  • How to Make Your Coursework as Good as It Can Possibly Be

gcse coursework definition

Many GCSE and A-level subjects are assessed in part by coursework in addition to exams, meaning that the mark you receive for coursework contributes to your overall grade. Many students prefer coursework, because it’s a chance to showcase your academic abilities away from the high-pressured environment of the exam room, making it ideal for those who don’t perform to the best of their abilities in exams. However, the time you have available for coursework, in contrast with the time constraints of the exam room, can lull some students into a false sense of security. Coursework is arguably just as challenging as exams, just in different ways – and, given the fact that you have more time, much higher standards are expected of you in coursework than in exams. Careful planning and research are needed for successful coursework, as well as strong data-gathering and essay-writing skills. In this article, we look at how to produce excellent coursework, from planning to proofreading. This information might also be useful to you if you’re planning on attending an Oxford Summer School this summer.

What is coursework?

GCSE and A-level coursework typically takes the form of an extended essay or project. Its objectives vary from one subject to another, but there’s usually an emphasis on the student conducting independent research into a topic of their own choice. Thus coursework often takes the form of some sort of investigation; it may, therefore, help to have your ‘detective’ hat on as you explore, investigate and analyse your topic. You can usually work on your coursework at home, though it’s sometimes completed under controlled conditions through sessions at school. To give you a better idea of how coursework varies from one subject to another, here are some examples:

  • English – English coursework usually takes the form of an extended essay with a title of your choice. You’re usually given a choice of themes and/or texts to explore, and you could choose a format such as a comparison between a set text and another one.
  • Geography – Geography coursework usually focuses on the gathering, reporting and interpretation of data designed to answer a particular geographical question. You could investigate usage of a shopping centre, for example, or look at erosion on a particular beach.
  • Sciences – coursework for science subjects often takes the form of a scientific project or experiment that you conduct and report on yourself.

Before you start work on your coursework, it’s essential that you have a thorough understanding of the rules. Failing to conform to the rules – inadvertently or not – may result in your coursework (or possibly even your entire qualification) being disqualified, so it’s a serious matter.

  • No plagiarism – this is particularly dangerous given the ready availability of relevant information on the internet these days. Make sure everything is in your own words; you’ll need to sign a declaration stating that it’s your own original work.
  • There’s only so much help your teacher can give you . They can provide guidance on what you need to include, and on what the examiners will be looking for. You can ask them questions, but they’ll usually only be able to check through your first draft once and offer broad hints on updating it.
  • Check the word count , and stick to it. Find out whether footnotes, appendices and bibliographies are included in the word count.
  • Check what topics you’re allowed to do your coursework on; if there’s an exam on this topic, you’ll almost certainly have to choose a different one for your coursework.

Choose your topic wisely

Ideally, choose something you’re genuinely interested in, as your enthusiasm will come across and you’ll find it more enjoyable to write. If there’s something you’ve been working on for the course so far that you’ve particularly enjoyed, you may be able to focus more on this as part of your coursework. For science coursework, you’ll need to choose something to investigate that you can measure, change and control; it should be what’s called a ‘fair test’, meaning that you have to acknowledge all the controls you use in the experiment and why. Try not to pick a topic for which the scope is too vast, as you’ll struggle to research it properly and you’re unlikely to do it justice, and it’ll be hard to keep within the word limit. Ask your teachers for some guidance on choosing your topic if you’re not sure what to write about; they might even tell you a bit about what previous students have done to give you some inspiration.

Plan how long it’s going to take

Never leave your coursework until the last minute, even if this is your normal approach to essays and it usually works for you. Make sure you understand when the deadlines are, including time for submitting a first draft for comments from your teacher. Then schedule blocks of time for working on it, allowing plenty of time before the deadline to cater for any unexpected delays. Allow ample time for making corrections based on teacher feedback on your first draft, and keep some time aside before the deadline for final editing and proofreading. Because actual deadlines are few and far between, you’ll need to take responsibility for the writing process and impose some deadlines on yourself to ensure it’s finished in time. Write down your deadlines on a calendar, with the coursework broken into stages and dates assigned to each, by which time each task should be complete. You can base your stages on the next few points in this article – research and data gathering, a structure plan for the piece of work, writing up, and so on.

Conducting your research and gathering data

As coursework is primarily a research exercise, the research phase is crucial, so don’t be tempted to skimp on it and go straight to writing up. Use as many different resources as you can to gather data: books, journals, newspapers, television, radio, the internet and anything else you think might be relevant. For science and Geography coursework, you’ll need to base your work on a hypothesis, so the research stage should start by coming up with at least one hypothesis, otherwise your research will lack direction. The research phase for some subjects may involve site visits for gathering data, so allow plenty of time for this, particularly if you need your parents to drive you somewhere to do so. If it’s a scientific experiment you’re conducting for your coursework, you’ll need to pay careful attention to planning the experiment using rigorous scientific methods (also noting what Health and Safety precautions you are taking), as well as reading up on the background and theory so that you have an idea of what to expect from the outcome of your experiment. In the research stage, make notes about what you expect to happen, so that you can later compare your expectations with what actually did happen. The experiment itself also forms part of the research and data-gathering stage for your science coursework; in the write-up stage, which we come onto shortly, you analyse and write up the results.

Plan your structure

Once you’ve completed your research, the process of writing up begins. Before you get down to the actual writing, however, it’s advisable to write a plan for how you’re going to structure it – essentially an essay plan for English coursework and other subjects for which the coursework is based on an extended essay. It’ll look slightly different from an essay plan for science subjects and others that revolve around project work, but the principle is the same: plan out what order you’re going to present your information in. For big projects, this is particularly important, because with a lot of information to convey, you risk being disorganised and waffling.

Writing up your project

For any coursework, but particularly coursework based around an extended essay, you’ll need to perfect your essay-writing abilities. For science coursework, writing up your project also involves data analysis, as you interpret the results of your experiment and work your notes into formal scientific language. Follow the links below to find lots more useful advice on writing great essays.

  • How to write dazzlingly brilliant essays
  • How to write more original essays
  • Techniques from creative writing that can improve your essays

When you’re writing up, it’s important to find a place where you can work quietly, without distractions that could cause you to make careless errors. You wouldn’t want noise or distractions when you were in an exam room, so treat your coursework with the same reverence.

Supporting materials and images

For some subjects, namely the sciences and Geography, it would be appropriate to include images, graphs, charts, tables and so on in your coursework. For example, for Geography coursework, your extra material could include annotated images and maps of the site you’re talking about, plus tables, graphs and charts. An appendix could then detail your raw data; if, for example, your coursework focused on the results of a survey, you could put the raw survey responses in an appendix and provide summaries and analysis in the main body of the coursework.

Footnotes and bibliography

As we said earlier, it’s important that you always use your own words in your coursework to avoid the possibility of falling foul of plagiarism rules. However, it’s acceptable to quote from another source, as you would in any piece of academic writing, but you must make sure that you state where it is from and use quotation marks to show that it’s a quote from somewhere else. The best way of citing another work is to use a footnote; word processors will allow you to insert one, and it just puts a little number at the end of the sentence and another in the footer of the document, into which you put the name of the author and work, and the page within that work that the quote can be found. At the end of your piece of work, include a bibliography that includes a list of every external source you’ve used in the creation of your coursework. Stick to a set formula when including books. A common format is: Author Surname, Initial. (Date) – Title of Book , page number For example: Lewis, C.S. (1960) – Studies in Words , p. 45 When you get to university, you’ll be expected to include footnotes and bibliographies in all your essays, so it’s a good habit to get into and coursework gives you good practice at it.

The final pre-submission check

Having completed a first draft, received feedback from your teacher, and honed your work into a finished piece of coursework, have a final check through it before you send off your coursework for submission.

  • Sense check : have a read through your completed piece of work and check that it all makes sense. Make sure you haven’t contradicted yourself anywhere, or repeated yourself, or laboured the point. If there are any facts that you may have meant to look up to double check their accuracy, do so now.
  • Word count : ensure that the completed work falls within the word count, and double check whether the bibliography should be included in the word count. If you’ve exceeded it, you’ll need to work through the piece and tighten up your writing, omitting unnecessary information, reordering sentences so that they use fewer words, and so on.
  • Proofread : check your spelling and grammar, and ensure that there are no typos. Don’t just use the spellcheck – go through it with a fine toothcomb, manually, and if you can, ask someone to read through it for you to see if they spot anything you haven’t.
  • Formatting : check that you’ve included page numbers, and that the font and line spacing is consistent throughout the work. Ensure that the font is plain and easy to read, such as Arial or Times New Roman.
  • Bibliography : check that you’ve included everything, that the format is the same for all sources mentioned, and that the right information is included for each.

Once this stage is complete, you’re ready to submit your coursework along with your declaration that it’s entirely your own work. Get ready for a feeling of immense satisfaction when you finally send off your hard work!

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Non Exam Assessment (NEA) or Coursework

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Non-exam Assessment, A guide for Parents

  • Non Exam Assessment: A Guide for Parents

What is Non Exam Assessment?

Non Exam Assessment or NEA has replaced what used to be known as “Coursework”. In essence they are pretty much the same thing, in other words,  research – or project-based work – that counts towards a student’s final grade. It is considered to be an excellent way for students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they have gained throughout a course and their ability to conduct independent research and write up their own project. Completing the NEA will help a student gain valuable life and work skills and for our students it is done at home. Students are encouraged to use research resources such as textbooks, journals, TV, radio and the internet and importantly to learn how to attribute and reference them.

Which subjects have NEA?

Currently the subjects which we offer with part assessment by NEA are;

GCSE; English (AQA), this NEA is not written work, it is an oral test

A LEVEL; English Language, English Literature and History (all AQA)

Entry for these subjects has to be made through Oxford Open Learning where you will be entered as an internal candidate by our Examination Officer, Jenny Booth ( [email protected] tel; 01865 798022) or through Tutors and Exams if there is a centre near you.

How is the exam entry made?

At the same time as you make your exam entry with us (by the end of January at the latest), you will also need to find another centre in your own locality which will be willing to be your “ host centre ” for the written part of the exam. You do this by following the same instructions we give for finding any exam centre but obviously you will need to explain that OOL will make your actual exam entry and that your local centre will only need to “host” your written exam using the transfer of entry system.

This means that OOL/OHS will be responsible for; making your examination entry, helping you to transfer your entry to the host centre, dealing with supervising, authenticating and marking your NEA, helping with enquiries about results and providing your results slip and certificates. All payment for this will be made to us.

The “host centre” which you will need to find and contact as early as possible will have to be prepared to accept your transfer of entry and allow you to sit the written exams with them. The fee that you will have to pay to the host centre should therefore only be for their administration time and invigilation of the written papers.

If you choose to sit with Tutors and Exams and they are an especially good option if you have SEN requirements, then the process is different. You will make your entry directly with them and no hosting or transfer will be needed. Your Oxford tutor will still mark your coursework.

What rules do students have to follow?

The NEA must be a student’s own original work, and they will have to sign a declaration to their examination board stating that this is the case. Tutors also have to sign the declaration to confirm that the work is the student’s own. This is called “authenticating” the work. Rules regarding submission are the same as for Coursework and are shown on the back of the enrolment form which students/guardians have to sign before starting our courses.

You must always be aware that the NEA is meant to show the student’s own ability to complete a project using their initiative and resources.  This means that other people should not have a direct input and the more help the student has from their tutor, the stricter the tutor will have to be when marking the work . In other words there will be a fine balance between the amount of help given and the amount of marks which have to be forfeited because of this help. You should discuss this carefully and in detail with the tutor to make sure it is fully understood. You should also download and read the JCQ document; “ Information for Candidates – non-examination assessments “.

Rules for Authentication of your NEA

If your subject has a written NEA assessment then there are strict rules that you and we must abide by to satisfy the Awarding Body and JCQ.

If you do not follow these rules then your tutor will not be able to authenticate and mark your coursework/NEA.

1, You must have regular contact with your tutor by telephone/Skype and email throughout your study time. (If you do not speak to your tutor until you try to submit your NEA, the tutor will be unable to accept it.)

2, You must complete at least 4 Tutor Marked Assignments, a plan and a draft before your tutor can consider authenticating your NEA. Submitting all of your TMAs together just before, or at the same time as your NEA will not be acceptable. (Please be aware that 4 TMAs is the minimum for authenticating your work, it is certainly not enough to secure a good exam grade as there will be 19 or 20 TMAs in total. )

3, Your tutor should supervise the planning of your NEA and see a draft essay which will be checked for plagiarism.

4, Your NEA and the correctly signed form(s) must be with your tutor by the OOL deadline. This is the  15th March and it is not negotiable for any reason . ( Do not assume that you can work to AQA’s deadline, this will be too late.)

5, When you have submitted your NEA you must be able to answer in depth questions about your ideas, your sources and how you came to your conclusions. This should be a telephone or Skype interview and not email. We have to be assured that the work was produced by you and not plagiarised or written by someone else. ( We and AQA have various methods of checking for plagiarism and they are used rigorously.)

6, Your tutor may refuse to authenticate your NEA if you do not follow any of these rules. In this case your work will be returned to you and AQA will be informed. We may refuse to provide any further tuition.

7, We will inform you when we have received your NEA and also of the mark you have been awarded.

8, If you have a problem with the mark that you receive, you will be able to question the assessment process before exam board moderation but you may not question the mark awarded. This is covered in Oxford Open Learning’s Internal Appeals Procedure.

9, The AQA moderating process may lead to changes in your mark but this is beyond the control of OOL.

How can I support my child?

You can encourage your child to plan their project in good time, talk to their tutor in detail, use a variety of sources which must be properly referenced, hand work in on time, and stick to the rules especially those regarding plagiarism. Together with providing a quiet place to study, this will help them to achieve their best. If your child often completes work at the last minute you could discuss with them how and when they plan to do their coursework. Encourage them to think about the project as early as possible so that the tutor has time to comment on their plan and draft and if things have gone wrong they can still be altered. This is especially important for distance learners as the deadlines are early and rules are strict.

How much can the tutors, or I, help?

Tutors can provide guidance on suitable titles/topics and what should be included in coursework projects and the planning. They can also explain what the Assessment Objectives are and what the exam board will be looking for when the project is being marked. However, the teacher cannot tell students exactly how to do the work or specifically what corrections to make – the point of coursework is for your son or daughter to work independently. You can encourage your child to do well and you and the tutor can provide them with guidance and access to resource materials. You must not put pen to paper – you must not write the coursework. You can discuss the project with them but you must not give direct advice on what they should, or should not write and nor can the tutor.

If your child is not sure how to complete their coursework then encourage them to speak to their tutor to get help. Planning and a “tight” plan are key. You and the tutor can suggest particular books that they might read, or discuss how to search the internet for relevant information. You should also encourage your child to express themselves clearly and most importantly to keep the AOs (Assessment Objectives) in mind. Accurate spelling, punctuation and grammar are also very important. However, always bear in mind that the more help the tutor gives, the more strictly they will have to mark the final submission.

Please also bear in mind that if the tutor believes that the work submitted is of a higher standard than they would expect they will have to question the student very closely to establish that someone else did not provide substantial help.

Are students allowed to quote from books or the internet?

Students can refer to research, quotations or evidence, but they  must  list and reference their sources. The sources could be anything – for example, books, internet sites, or television programmes.

Students must not plagiarise, copy, purchase essays, or collude with anyone else. This is considered to be cheating and could lead to your son or daughter being disqualified. There are now very sophisticated internet sites which we and the exam boards use to check work for plagiarism.

Encourage your child to use their own words as much as possible. If they do want to quote or refer to others’ work, tell them to use quotation marks and provide appropriate references. If your child is unsure on how to reference different sources then their tutor should be able to provide examples of good and bad referencing. By referencing their sources correctly your child will avoid being accused of cheating.

Who marks the NEA?

The NEA will be marked by your OHS tutor, checked by the Head of Department and then possibly checked again by AQA. If you have a problem with the marking of the NEA you must follow the “Internal Appeals Procedure” shown in our policy document.

How is cheating detected?

Our tutors have to authenticate the work produced. In other words they have to say that to the best of their knowledge it was produced by the student concerned. To do this the tutor and student have to follow strict guide lines, including the tutor having seen at least 4 Tutor Marked Assignments, a plan and a draft submission of the project. Tutors become familiar with their students’ work as well as books on specific subjects and they will be able to tell if the student did not do the work, or if the work was copied from another source.  Exam boards and OHS also routinely use plagiarism software to carry out checks on coursework/NEAs.

Encourage your child to complete their work honestly and follow the rules. By taking the time and choosing a topic that interests them, your child will learn to study independently, research different areas and present different types of projects. These skills will all be valuable when they go to university or enter the world of work.

What happens if a student breaks the rules?

There are a number of things that could happen. The relevant exam board decides which action is appropriate, but the student may not receive a mark for the work, may be disqualified from the whole qualification or part of it, or be barred from entering a qualification with a particular exam board for a period of time.

Please go to the “ NEA Guidelines ” section, in the Student Information part of for more information on this topic.

Coursework and NEAs  take time and effort, and because it is a substantial part of your child’s final grade it is important that they do as well as they can. You can help by providing a quiet place to work, encouraging them to do their best, begin early and hand their work in on time. Please remember however that because you have chosen distance learning, there are strict rules that our tutors must adhere to which may seem harsher than those followed in everyday contact in school.

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  • On the day of the examination
  • Results days and appeals
  • Non-exam Assessment
  • How to book an exam with NEA
  • Writing your A level NEA
  • Exam Entry Prices for NEA Subjects
  • NEA Internal Appeals Process

gcse coursework definition

Revision Notes

Component 1

1.1 system architecture, 1.2 memory and storage, 1.3 computer networks, connections and protocols, 1.4 network security, 1.5 systems software, 1.6 ethical, legal, cultural and environmental impact, component 2, 2.1 algorithms, 2.2 programming fundamentals, 2.3 producing robust programs, 2.4 boolean logic, 2.5 programming languages and integrated development environments.


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