Thirty years of GCSE: A review of student views and experiences

Kerry Brown, Kevin Woods

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In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) has been the qualification by which students’ attainment at age sixteen has been measured for the last thirty years. Despite the longevity of GCSEs, relatively little research has explored the views and experiences of those undertaking them. Using a systematic literature review methodology and critical appraisal frameworks, the current study synthesises the literature in this area in order to elucidate young people’s views and experiences of GCSE study and assessment. Findings suggest that although there are positive aspects of GCSE study and assessment, for some young people, GCSE study, assessment and recent reforms appear to be relatively negative experiences, characterised by low levels of enjoyment and well-being and high levels of stress and test anxiety. Findings also suggest that agency, equality and fairness and relatedness are important factors in mediating young people’s experiences of GCSE.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-76
JournalAssessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice
Issue number1
Early online date1 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


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