GCSE Exam boards comparison in the UK

gcse exam boards

There are several GCSE exam boards offered to students in the UK, and they are namely the AWA, OCR, Pearson Edexcel, and WJEC Eduqas. This article will help to highlight the features and differences between these GCSE exam boards. Their differences and features can help students to decide on a school or guide them along in the journey. 


What does the dramatic fall in GCSE grades tell us? That private schools were gaming the system | Phil Beadle | The Guardian

(Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/aug/25/gcse-grades-private-schools-inflate-)

First things first, what are GCSE exam boards?

The examination board is a small board organization that designs the examination. They are responsible for designing, marking, and distributing results. In GCSE, there are a few examination boards. The most commonly heard exam boards are, AQA, Edexcel, and OCR. Hence, this article will explore each and every one of these exam boards.


AQA – education charity providing GCSEs, A-levels and support

AQA Exam Board 

The AQA Exam Board offers qualifications in more than 60 different subjects. Within these subject areas, there are also a variety of specialization and qualification levels. On top of the essential core subjects, they also offer numerous languages, humanities, and ICT-related subjects. AQA also offers Applied General and Level 1 to 3 qualifications in a range of skills-based subjects. Some of these skills-based subjects include business and science which caters to general skills for work and life.  


Edexcel - Wikipedia

Edexcel Exam Board 

Edexcel Exam Board, more commonly known as Pearson, offers students over 40 subjects. The Pearson Edexcel offers the IGCSE as a part of iProgress. iProgress is a complete series of Pearson Edexcel academic qualifications for 5 to 19 years old. iProgress consists of iPrimary, iLowerSecondary, IGCSE, GCSE, International Advance level (IAL), and GCE A Level. 


The Pearson Edexcel Exam Board for IGCSE provides students aged 14 to 16 years old with problem-solving skills, critical thinking as well in-depth knowledge. This prepares students for A Levels and subsequently into university. 





Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations - Wikipedia

OCR Exam Board 

OCR Exam Board provides qualifications for people of all ages and abilities at school, college, at work, or through part-time learning programs. OCR’s general and vocational qualifications equip students with the knowledge and skills they need for their future. OCR Exam board offers GCSE, A Levels, and vocational qualifications in over 40 subjects. 


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Exam Papers 



AQA GCSE exam board engages themselves with JCQ, Joint Council for Qualifications for their exam papers. Specialist accessors to write questions, question papers, and assessment tasks, to construct question papers and mark schemes. The assessors are specialists in the respective subjects they write. Their assessors are also trained on assessment materials in how to write good questions and how to construct good question papers. Feedback is also given to them about the previous question papers and tasks performed. You can read more about their marking, grading, and assessment here


Pearson Edexcel 

Pearson Edexcel receives support from the same organization as the AQA exam board. Exam papers are curated and designed by specialists in the subject. 


OCR Exam Board 

OCR exam boards design various types of exam papers, ranging from multiple choice questions to others with just a few essay questions. Exam papers are designed in such a way that students are able to showcase the knowledge acquired over the course of their studies. A team of experts is responsible for creating each subject. They are well-experienced in knowing how to curate specific questions that target students’ thinking skills. This team of experts is also experienced in teaching the respective subjects. Previous year’s exam papers are examined in lieu of creating the papers for the current year. This is so that students are sure of what they have to do for each question. 


Questions are designed to ensure that they offer the right level of challenge. Their exam papers are created with a range of questions from straightforward to slightly challenging ones to challenge the ablest students. 



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Your GCSE Exam Boards Result 

AQA GCSE Exam Board

The approach that AQA adopts for awarding grades are as follows. Top grades will be the same for all GCSE subjects/ this means that around 20% of all grades at 7 or above will be a grade 9. 


The numbers of grades 7, 8, and 9 that are awarded for each subject, will be based on the proportion of the cohort. In other words, those who have been expected to get an A or A* will be awarded accordingly with grades 7, 8, and 9. 


AQA also uses Attainment 8 and Progress 8 to show how students perform across the whole curriculum. It also shows to what extent they have improved during their time in secondary school. 


Attainment 8 score measures the achievement of a student across eight different subjects. Progress 8, shows how much students have improved during secondary school compared to students who were at the same level when they finished primary school. Find out more here


Pearson Edexcel 

Over at Pearson Edexcel GCSE exam board, they use the ‘comparable outcomes’ approach to setting and maintaining standards. In other words, if a national cohort for a subject is similar to last year’s (in terms of past performance), then the result should also be similar at a national level in that subject. 


OCR Exam Board 

When it comes to grading, the OCR exam board goes through 6 thorough steps to ensure that students get the correct marks. 

1 – After scripts are marked, examiners come together again to decide grade boundaries. 

2 – For modular assessments, the ‘raw marks’ of each unit are transferred to a uniform mark scale (UMS). This is to ensure students get the correct marks regardless of when they took the unit. 

3 – Grade boundaries are decided using a combination of the examiners’ expert judgment and statistics.

4 – On key grade boundaries, the work of students on and around the boundary is looked at. 

5 – Once approved, the grade boundaries are applied to students’ marks to produce the grade. 

6 – Results are ready to send to students. 


Read the in-depth Guidance on Examining Your Results by OCR Exam Board here

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