GCSEs (General Certificates of Secondary Education) are available in a range of subjects. They are the main general qualifications taken by 16-year-old learners in Wales. They can be used as a basis for further study or training, or direct entry into employment.


Following the 2012 Review of Qualifications a new set of GCSEs have been designed for Wales. The first set of reformed GCSEs were for first teaching from September 2015, with the last for first teaching from September 2017.

Differences from England and Northern Ireland

GCSEs across the three countries are of the same size and rigour. However, there are some key differences.

In Wales:

  • Grading scales remain A* to G.
  • Some GCSEs will be linear with all exams taken at the end of the course; some will be modular.
  • Students must retake all of their exams when retaking a linear GCSE; non-exam assessment marks can be reused.
  • Students can only retake each unit once in modular GCSEs.

In England

  • Grading scale is 9 to 1 (9 being highest grade).
  • All exams taken at the end of the course (linear qualifications).
  • Students must retake all their exams when retaking the qualification; non-exam assessment marks can be reused.

In Northern Ireland

  • In general students may take GCSEs graded A* to G (including a new grade C*) and those graded 9 to 1

 The comparison between the A*-G and 9-1 grading system is illustrated here.

  Click here for an infographic on the changes in Wales, England and Northern Ireland.

  For a more detailed explanation of the changes, please click here.

Final awards and legacy qualifications

Resit opportunities were available for Welsh Language, English Language and Mathematics (i.e. subjects that are essential for learner progression to employment or further learning) until summer 2017.

For other GCSE subjects, awarding bodies will not be required to offer a resit opportunity. WJEC has committed to offering a resit opportunity in all GCSEs, subject to centres providing information about the intention to enter for each qualification by the required date. This means that there will not automatically be a resit examination in all qualifications. Centres should check the availability of resits in other GCSEs with other awarding bodies as necessary.

What subjects are available

There are some subjects that have been designed specifically for Wales. However, there are subjects that have been designed for England that are also available in Wales, when there isn't a Welsh-specific version.

Those designed for Wales are referred to as approved qualifications. Those designed for England that are also available in Wales are referred to as 'designated'. More information on designated qualification can be found below.