We caught up with one of expert GCSE teachers, Simon Tomlinson, to get some straightforward answers about the things you should know about GCSE English exam boards.

Simon is a Director of English, Private Tutor, writer, speaker, and voiceover artist. He has over 20 years of experience teaching, training, mentoring and supporting children and youth with diverse cultural backgrounds and educational needs.

1. What are the main differences between GCSE English Exam boards?

“Assessment objectives are the same across the exam boards. What the differences are in the questioning and amount of time apportioned to each paper. That will vary between exam boards. But the main difference is: 

  • the number of questions,
  • how the questions are asked,
  • how the marks are apportioned
  • also the weighting of the assessment objectives, across the papers.”

2. Are any of the exam boards harder than others?

“People/students will probably say different things. I think there are advantages to questioning in AQA and the way it is asked but I’ve also heard other teachers argue in favour of Edexcel. Again, I think it depends on the type of students you’ve got, but I wouldn’t say that there are any exam boards harder than the other

3. Are the grade boundaries different between exam boards?

Yes, they are different.”

A pass mark on one exam board might be different from another. So, make sure you research the exam board you’re sitting on, to ensure you understand the grade boundaries that apply to you.

4. Can I revise with past papers and questions from a different GCSE English exam board?

This is a question we get asked a lot at SchoolOnline. Here’s Simon’s opinion:

“Yes, for the imaginative writing questions and maybe the evaluative questions.”

However, Simon also discussed with us how between AQA and Edexcel the actual texts you focus on can be from different time periods: 

  • For example, AQA Paper 1 is on 20th or 21st Century texts, whereas Edexcel is always 19th Century texts.
  • Therefore, “To some extent, you wouldn’t be able to revise the same questions”.
  • AQA and Edexcel also ask questions in a different way, so what they are respectively looking for in an answer may vary.

“According to the assessment objectives, there are some generic things, as we’ve shown with our videos (SchoolOnline), that you could do regardless of the boards. But I think when it comes to revising the specific exam questions, you’d have to stick to your own board.”

Therefore, to conclude: You can practice the same skills regardless of the exam board, as assessment objectives are generic to all boards. However, when it comes to specific past papers it is best to practice with the exam board you’re taking. Not only will you be used to the questions when you sit the exam, but also different exam boards may have different styles of questions or be asking about different content entirely!

GCSE English Exam Boards

If you’d like to read more about how we support different GCSE English exam boards at SchoolOnline, click here.

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