So You Didn’t get a “C” in English and Maths GCSE….


Exam results are out this week, and I’m hoping the 40 or so students I helped this year have achieved the grades they aimed for. I get a lot of calls from panicking parents and students who don’t know what to do when they fail their GCSE English and Maths exams.  It’s not the end of the world.  Here’s a guide to what you should do next if you get a “D” grade or below.

you didn't get a Grade

Most people think of a fail as NOT getting a grade “C” because this is the minimum grade expected of students if they want to go into further education.  In fact, getting that all important “C” in English and Maths is so important that universities can refuse to give you a place even if you’ve got A* s in all your other subjects.

So a lot of students have to re-take their GCSEs.  I have taught students taking their GCSE’s for the first time and those who are re-taking.  Students re-taking their exams face the following problems:

  • Students often have fewer lessons when retaking because they are at college and often have a busy timetable dedicating more time to the new subjects.

  • They are either over-confident and get complacent.  They think they will pass because they’ve done it all before. They have all their other subjects’ work to do as well and tend concentrate on those.

  • They can get too negative and start thinking that they will never pass.  Some get a mental block and continue to fail….

  • Students are very rusty – the last time they did maths or English was at least 3 months ago.

  • Students quite often GET THE SAME GRADE again!

To avoid all of the above, retake the exams as soon as possible and be prepared to do more work!

GCSE ENGLISH RE-SIT

If you do not achieve a “C” grade pass in English language, then you can re-sit the exam in January 2013.  The exam is on 10th January 2013.

As a general guideline, if you got a “D” overall then you can re-sit in January.  Anything lower than that means that you have to repeat the whole year and retake the exam in June next year.  You can re-submit your controlled assessments and speaking and listening assignments from year 11 if they are good.

If you want to re-sit in January then you’d better get your skates on!  I’ve calculated that there are only 18  teaching weeks left.  First you will have re-learn all of the course, then make sure that you know what you need to do to get a “C” grade and finally get in plenty of exam practice.  If you do mock tests and past papers, then these should be marked and graded so that you know where you are going wrong.  You can either mark them yourself or get them marked by a teacher.  If you are re-sitting in June next year then you have more time, but you also have more work to do.

GCSE MATHS RE-SIT

The GCSE Maths re-sits are in November.  There are 2 papers, paper 1 is on 6th November 2012, and paper 2 is on 8th November 2012.  The results will be published in January 2013. There are only 11 teaching weeks left, so don’t waste any time.

It is important that all the main exam topics are covered several times before the exam, but if you are short of time, then prioritise the topics you need to know to pass the exam.  A good way of doing this is by doing a mock test and looking at the results to see what you know and don’t know.  Then work on what you can’t do.

Don’t just revise ‘favourite’ topics – this won’t be enough, something must be changed this time around.

As with GCSE English, get in plenty of exam practice and get used to working under timed conditions.  Always mark the papers or get them marked and monitor how you are improving.

My blog article on understanding your examination results slip will help you to work out how close you were to a C grade.

Nobody wants to retake exams, but if you do find yourself in this situation,  let us help you pass.   Book a free assessment and we will show you the way.

Early Entry GCSE Maths and Pass Rates


Schools used to pick the brightest pupils in the year and allow them to take their GCSE maths exam early. This was called early entry and the pass rate was very good. These students could then take on an additional maths GCSE like statistics. Nowadays, the majority of pupils are sitting early entry GCSE maths whether they have a good chance of passing or not.

This article by the BBC and this paper by the department for education summarise the consequences of this practice. But I want to tell you my story….

Last week, all the students who sat their GCSE Maths in November 2010, got their results. Last week, I had many calls from panicking parents whose year 11’s failed to get that grade C. These now have to re-take their exam in March or in May this year. They will have to revise everything again but this time they will have other subjects to revise as well so the pressure will be much greater.

Having assessed these students, I’ve come to 2 conclusions:

  1. that they should never have been entered for the exam in November in the first place. I assessed a student who got a “U” (ungraded) in the higher paper suggesting that at best he was a low “D” grade at the time of the exam and that he could have done worse because of exam day nerves. The grades possible in the higher paper are “A*” to “D”. If a student gets lower than the pass mark for a “D” then they fail.

  2. that the students have already forgotten some of the maths they studied for the exam. In the majority of cases, the students who told me they got a “D” in the exam for example, got an “E” in my assessment. The student who got a “C” in the exam got a “D” in my assessment.

These students are cramming for exams and are being taught to pass exams and not to learn skills which can be applied to real life or in further education. A good friend of mine who teaches A level Maths at College says that the students who pass the early entry exam, struggle with A level Maths because they have forgotten everything they learnt by the time they start college. He has to spend the first 2 weeks of the A level course going through basic maths skills to make sure that the children are able to cope with A level standard work. I teach A level Chemistry which needs a good foundation in maths. I find that I have to teach skills like being able to work out ratios, re-arranging an algebraic formula and using a calculator. And the same goes for english skills, like comprehension and being able to answer a question so that it makes sense.

It’s an old argument and one that will always exist as long as exams exist. Students take pride in getting their GCSE’s early and they pride themselves in getting more GCSE’s. Schools have a reputation to keep, and league to tables to worry about. Many teachers view pass rates as a reflection of their own teaching. We all have our own agenda. I just wish that parents didn’t have to get dragged into all this!