New grading system for GCSEs
The June newsletter has been sent out later than usual to enable you to finish your exams before turning your thoughts back to university applications. Whether you have been taking GCSEs, A Levels, the IB or internal school exams, we hope they have gone well for you and that after your last exam you will put your feet up for a couple of weeks before embarking on whatever you have planned for the summer.
If you have just taken your GCSEs, you will be aware that a new grading system is being phased in from this year, with the current letter grades of A*- G being replaced by the numbers 1-9, where 9 is the highest grade, and 1 the lowest.
In 2017, the new grading numbers are only being used for mathematics, English language and English literature, with the current letter grades being retained for other subjects. In 2018, a raft of other subjects will change to number grading, including physics, chemistry, biology, computer science, French, Spanish, religious education, geography, music and history. From 2019, subjects such as psychology, ancient history, business, information & communications technology (ICT) and media studies will also be graded numerically.
Top US colleges will be looking for students with the highest grades and it doesn’t matter to Admissions Officers whether the grades are represented with a letter or a number. So students applying to American universities should always aim for the highest possible grade in every exam, regardless of how the grade is represented.
Summary of the new GCSE grades:
Grades 9, 8 and 7 are equivalent to the current A* and A grades.
Grades 6, 5 and 4 are in line with B and C grades.
Grade 3 is similar to a D grade.
Grades 2 and 1 take in grades E, F and G.
Note that this grading system applies only to England – there are differences in Wales and Northern Ireland, while Scotland has its own education system entirely.
England – the new GCSE grading scheme is part of a new curriculum which was introduced in 2014. The new courses have much less emphasis on coursework with grades in almost all subjects depending on exams.
Wales – new and revised GCSEs have been taught from September 2015, with the most significant changes in English language, Welsh language and mathematics. The crucial difference to England is that the established grading structure of A*- G is being retained.
Northern Ireland – it looks as if students will end up with a mix of letter and numerical grades. The Northern Ireland Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment is retaining the A*- G grading structure, but some students are likely to take some subjects with English exam boards, and those subjects will be graded using the 1-9 system.
Scotland has its own system of public examinations – National and Highers. Nationals replaced the old Standard Grades in 2014 and new Higher exams were introduced in 2015.
This article is based on one that appeared on the BBC News website on 17 April 2017. Click here to read the full article.
Applying to US colleges – what should I be doing now?
If you have applied, or will be applying, to American universities this year or next year, here is what you should be doing over the next few weeks.
Year 11 – If possible, spend two or more weeks in the summer doing some kind of community service, work experience, mini-research project, or developing an extracurricular activity that is of particular interest to you. Both US and UK universities like you to have done something constructive during your summer holidays, and some US colleges will specifically ask about your summer activity on their application forms. Such activity will enhance your extracurricular profile and make you of more interest to Admissions Officers when you eventually come to apply.
Year 12 – If you are still researching which US colleges you want to apply to in the autumn, make sure you have identified your final shortlist by 1st August when the Common Application Form goes live. You can apply to as many colleges as you like, but a shortlist of 5 – 8 colleges is typical. The August issue of the newsletter will contain a step by step guide of how to fill it in, and the July issue will preview the essay section, which most students find the most difficult part of their application. If you have a couple of weeks to spare, be sure to do some community service, work experience or extracurricular pursuit that will enhance your application.
Year 13 – If you have been admitted to a US college to start your undergraduate studies from September, you will no doubt be excited (and possibly a little daunted) at the prospect of leaving your family and friends behind and crossing the ocean for an extended period of study in a different country. To help you with your preparations, the Fulbright Commission has produced this pre-departure information, which contains many practical tips on preparing to go to the US, including obtaining a visa, travel, what to pack, living arrangements, campus life and American culture.
This academic year members of the Harvard Outreach Team have visited 25 schools across the UK to deliver our presentation about Harvard and the application process to US colleges. Our target institutions are state-funded schools and colleges that regularly send their students to Russell Group universities in the UK, but do not have a history of applying to top US colleges.
We are currently arranging our visit schedule for the autumn term, so if your school or college would like a visit between September – December 2017, please e-mail school visits co-ordinator Stuart Gordon: firstname.lastname@example.org