Research evidence relating to proposals for reform of the GCSE: OUCEA Report

Baird Jo-Anne, Ahmed Ayesha, Hopfenbeck Terese, Brown Carol, Victoria Faith Elliott

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


The September 2012 consultation document, Reforming Key Stage 4 Qualifications (DfE, 2012a), set out the government’s proposals for changes to the examination system at age 16. The Secretary of State said in the House of Commons that these reforms were radical, and others commented that they composed the biggest change in the examination system in a generation. This warrants an analysis of the research literature relevant to the proposals. We address each of the following issues raised in the consultation document in turn, and present research evidence in each case.
• How England competes in international test scores
• The claim that there has been grade inflation
• The proposals to raise the level of challenge in examinations
• Familiarity with examination materials
• The desire to increase students’ motivation
• The plan for students only to be tested at the end of the course, rather than within a modular system
• The proposal that the use of controlled assessment should be restricted
• The proposal that examinations should not be tiered
On 7 February 2013, the Secretary of State announced the government’s position in response to the consultation. Contrary to the original proposals, rather than the ‘English Baccalaureate Certificate’, the new qualifications will continue to be named GCSEs and there will be multiple examination boards for each subject. The details of the reforms have yet to unfold, but the matters listed above appear to remain pertinent to the current reform of GCSE and are, of course, more broadly relevant to examination reforms in general. Interest in many of these issues is perennial.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherOxford University Centre for Educational Assessment
Number of pages32
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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