General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE)

In the United Kingdom, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification, generally taken in a number of subjects by pupils in secondary education in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. State education in Scotland does not use GCSEs, instead its Scottish Qualifications Certificate operates National / Intermediate exams at the equivalent level, however, certain private schools in Scotland offer GCSEs, and the proportion of Scottish pupils taking GCSEs to facilitate admission to English universities is increasing.

Each GCSE qualification is in a particular subject, and stands alone, but a suite of such qualifications (or their equivalent) is generally accepted as the record of achievement at the age of 16, in place of a leaving certificate or baccalaureate qualification in other territories.

Studies for GCSE examinations generally take place over a period of two or three academic years (depending upon the subject, school, and exam board), starting in Year 9 or Year 10 for the majority of students, with examinations being sat at the end of Year 11 in England and Wales. In Northern Ireland they start in Year 11 and examinations are sat either at the end of that year or at the end of Year 12, as Northern Irish pupils begin school one year earlier. The GCSE was introduced as a replacement for the former O-Level (GCE Ordinary Level) and CSE (Certificate of Secondary Education) qualifications.

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