Chetwynde School, Croslands, Rating Lane, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, LA13 0NY

01229 824210

Chetwynde School

Respect, Responsibility, Resilience

Exam Boards

GCSEs: Simplified

This page will simplify the GCSE years. We’ll explain the new 9 - 1 GCSE Grading System (with a handy GCSE grades table), exam boards, and a timeline of key GCSE dates. 

Once upon a time, there were O Levels.

Parents will be particularly familiar with these qualifications. Introduced in 1951 as a replacement for the existing 16 + School Certificate, O Levels were predominately exam based. Commentators regularly criticised this, as they only offered a certain amount of proof of a child’s academic abilities.

GCSEs were introduced in 1988, as the more student-friendly O levels. The new qualification established a national qualification for school leavers at 16 and offered a wider subject range - a welcome change to students with more specific learning interests.

GCSE grading worked on a letter scale, from A to G, with a GCSE C a rough equivalent to a C at O Level.

Until the dawn of 2016...

The New 9 - 1 GCSE Grading System

So now instead of being graded with A*, A, B, C, D, E, F or G, papers are now given a 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1 grading. The highest three grades (9, 8 and 7) are replacements for A* and A, with the top 20% of those being graded 9.

This might sound confusing, but essentially, a new gold standard grade has been born. In fact, it’s more a platinum standard - with some even classifying a grade 9 as the equivalent to achieving an A** (to make it a little easier to comprehend).

Exam Boards and Exam Dates


So what is an exam board?

An examination board is an organisation that is responsible for setting GCSE examinations, marking them and distributing results to students. 

Which exam boards do schools use?

Currently, there are several different GCSE exam boards in the UK. Although they are all regulated the Office of the Regulators of Qualifications (Ofqual), they are all self-standing.

If you’re wondering which exam board a particular school uses, it’s worth noting that schools can use several exam boards for different subjects. The best way to find out which exam boards are currently being used for a school - ask! A simple phone call goes a long way.

  • It is important to know which board your child is doing so that if you buy revision guides or other resources you are selecting the right ones for your child's course.

The main UK exam boards are:

Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR)

Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA)


Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC)

Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA)

You’ll find every exam date for each exam board via the links above, as well as awesome revision aids including most recent past papers for specific subjects.


GCSE Key Dates Timeline

  • You can already check on the exam board websites for dates of each exam. We will, very shortly, be publishing the dates specific to Chetwynde and will notify you as soon as this is done.

GCSEs generally take place over a 2 - 3 year period, however, this varies dependant on a school, subject and exam board. Studies start in year 9 or 10 for most students, concluding in the spring/summer term of year 11. 

When are GCSE choices made?

Our students choose their GCSE options at the end of year 9. We will run Options Evening around this time of year, giving your child the opportunity to find out more about each course and how they are assessed. It’s always great for parents to ask plenty of questions too - but let your kids ask their questions first.


When should GCSE revision start?

GCSE revision should ideally start in January. However, how soon/late revision begins depends on various factors including a child’s specific abilities and how efficient their revision is. Ultimately, it’s important a teenager has a certain level of autonomy to decide when this should begin.


When do GCSE exams begin?

The main exam period generally runs from around May the 14th to the 22nd of June in year 10 and 11. Check out the links above for exam timetables for different exam boards.


When are GCSE results released?

GCSE results are usually released in the 3rd week of August, on a pertinently named day… Results Day

Which exam boards do we use at Chetwynde?


English Language 

English Literature







Further Maths









Computer Science