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Courses: In English and Welsh schools, to Year 9 and 10 students, with the course generally lasting until the end of Year 11. A series in November is also available for mathematics and English.In Northern Irish schools, to Year 10 students, generally lasting until the end of that year or the end of Year 12. In the United Kingdom, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification, generally taken in a number of subjects by pupils in secondary education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.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.
In Northern Ireland they start in Year 11 and examinations are sat either at the end of that year or at the end of Year 12, as Northern Irish pupils begin school one year earlier.
The GCSE was introduced as a replacement for the former O-Level (GCE Ordinary Level) and CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) qualifications.
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.
However the exam papers sometimes had a choice of questions designed for the more able and the less able candidates.
Upon introduction, the GCSEs were graded on a letter scale, from A to G, with a C being set as roughly equivalent to an O-Level Grade C, or a CSE Grade 1, and thus achievable by roughly the top 25% of each cohort.