We have included on this page answers to some questions you may have in relation to the changes to A levels and GCSEs. Should we receive any queries that we have not already addressed, they will be added to the existing questions.
What is a linear qualification and what implications does taking such a qualification have for my students?
For a qualification to be defined as linear all assessments must be taken at the end of the course.
If a student receives a grade for a linear qualification and wishes to improve it, he / she must re-sit the entire qualification.
What is a de-coupled A level and what implications does taking such a qualification have for my students?
De-coupled AS and A levels are standalone qualifications. AS levels are usually taken at the end of Year 13 and A levels are usually taken at the end of Year 14.
If a student completes the exams in a de-coupled AS level, he / she will receive a grade for that qualification.
Similarly, if a student completes the exams in a de-coupled A level, he / she will receive a grade for that qualification.
The marks from a de-coupled AS level qualification will not contribute to the grade for the de-coupled A level.
A de-coupled A level is a linear qualification meaning all exams are taken at the end of the course (usually two years).
What happens if a student takes the exams in a de-coupled AS level, receives a grade and then decides he /she wants to continue on to do the full de-coupled A level?
De-coupled AS and A level qualifications are completely standalone so any marks that a student achieves in a de-coupled AS qualification will not contribute to the grade for a de-coupled A level.
If a student chooses to take a de-coupled A level having taken a de-coupled AS in the same subject, he / she should be aware that a de-coupled A level is a linear qualification meaning all exams are taken at the end of the course (usually 2 years). This means that material which was assessed in the de-coupled AS will also be assessed in the de-coupled A level.
What happens if a student starts studying a de-coupled A level, doesn’t enter for AS and then decides at the start of year 14 to give the subject up?
If a student does not complete the course and does not take the exams, he / she cannot be awarded a grade in the qualification.
When will the specifications / specimen assessment materials for the new qualifications be available? Where will I find them?
The specifications and specimen assessment materials for all qualifications that have been accredited for first teaching in 2015 and 2016 are available now on the relevant Awarding Organisation’s website.
Our Accredited A level and GCSE qualifications for first teaching 2015 and 2016 pages list the accredited qualifications.
Other specifications and specimen assessment materials will be made available as they are accredited.
How does a school know if a qualification can be offered here?
In the first instance, schools should check the NIEFQAN file to see if a qualification has been approved for use in schools in Northern Ireland.
If a qualification does not appear on the NIEFQAN file, schools should contact DE and seek approval for a qualification prior to offering it in a school.
Will students be able to re-sit qualifications?
Students will have the opportunity to re-sit qualifications.
All AS and A level qualifications and most GCSEs will only be available in the summer series.
For linear qualifications, the complete qualification must be retaken.
For unitised AS and A levels, students may re-sit individual units once.
What happens if a student wants to take all his / her exams in one year?
There are no rules to prevent students from taking exams in one year. The only limitations are with the units / exams that the awarding organisations make available.
How will schools know when subjects for first teaching in 2017 have been accredited?
The A levels and GCSEs being developed for first teaching in September 2017 are detailed on this website.
Websites of individual awarding organisations should also be consulted if a school is considering offering a particular qualification.
Is there any difference in terms of UCAS tariff points between de-coupled A levels and those where AS marks still contribute to the overall grade?
Does the new 40:60 weighting for AS: A2 have any implications for the time allocated to teaching AS and A2 units?
The new weightings for AS and A2 have no implications for the time allocated to teaching AS and A2 units.
As qualifications will still be assigned 180 Guided Learning Hours and A level qualifications will still be assigned 360 Guided Learning Hours.
Which GCSEs can be offered by schools here?
Schools can offer all CCEA GCSEs.
Schools can offer GCSEs from AQA, OCR, Pearson and WJEC Eduqas graded 9-1.
Schools here cannot offer GCSE English Language where the marks for speaking and listening do not contribute to the overall grade. Similarly, they cannot offer GCSE sciences where marks for the assessment of practical skills do not contribute to the overall grade. This requirement in relation to GCSE sciences is currently under review. Any future decisions on GCSE sciences will be communicated to schools. Details of GCSE English Language and GCSE science qualifications which can be offered in schools here are detailed on this website.
From September 2017, schools here cannot offer WJEC GCSEs graded A*-G.
How will the existing GCSE A*-G grades be compared to 9-1 grades?
Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England) published a postcard which has a comparison of the existing 8 graded A*-G grading system and the new 9-1 grading system.
How will the revised CCEA GCSE A*-G grades be compared to 9-1 grades?
CCEA Regulation is currently working on this new grading system. When details of the new system and how it can be compared to the 9-1 grading system are available, they will be published.
When will the new CCEA GCSEs graded A*-G with a C* be introduced?
These new CCEA GCSEs will be introduced for first teaching in 2017, first awards in 2019. They will be graded on a 9 grade system from A*-G with a new C* grade.