GCSE exams are outdated and in need of a reform

Exam stress is on the riseExam stress is on the rise
Exam stress is on the rise | NW
Causing mental health issues and immense amounts pressure on teenagers across the UK: is it about time GCSE exams changed for the better?

Undoubtedly, GCSEs are simply ‘memory tests’ with students studying English Literature having to memorise a whopping 15 poems, two plays and a novel. The fact that students must memorise this immense amount of content is futile, given that only a small proportion of the overall content is asked in the final exam. Surely, it seems more reasonable that students have regular exams during Years 10/11 that contribute toward the final grade, so students aren’t forced to learn three years’ worth of content for a month of exams.

Additionally, three final exams do not encompass all that the student has learnt during high school.

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When speaking with a student who achieved a Grade 9 in her Religious Studies exam in 2022, I was shocked after hearing that she solely used a textbook when revising, learnt every page and managed to attain the highest grade possible. This elucidates how the exams simply require students to memorise all the content, rather than applying it.

This does not teach young people skills that they will utilise in the workplace; instead, they lack any creativity, problem solving or ‘abstract thoughts.’

A Harvard psychologist claims that there are eight types of intelligence such as interpersonal and linguistic intelligence. GCSE exams don’t take this into account; only allowing a few students to showcase their intelligence.

A blog on the Association of School and College leader’s website, states: "It is a system which seems to be designed to differentiate the most academically able students, but which leaves other young people demoralised."

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Therefore, although they are compulsory for approximately 5 million people, GCSEs seem to only suit an extremely small number of that.

Unsurprisingly, GCSE’s have a detrimental impact on young people’s mental health. A poll by the National Education Union shows that 73% of teachers believe student mental health has worsened since the introduction of the reformed GCSEs.

The exams are getting increasingly more difficult: for example, the final question on the 2023 higher maths GCSE caused outrage, as it was discovered on an A-Level maths website.

Having 24 of these assessments in 17 working days causes students to be stuck in a perpetual exam cycle, making it difficult to spare any time to rest.

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No wonder thousands of students suffer from mental health issues during exam season.

With the 2023 exams being the first post-covid exams without any additional help, anxieties were heightened this year. Particularly since a record drop in A level grades was predicted, with nearly 100,000 fewer A and A* grades being given out.

Surely it is time for change?

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