Aqa English Literature Gcse Coursework Percentage Difference

Scheme of assessment

Find past papers and mark schemes, and specimen papers for new courses, on our website at

This specification is designed to be taken over two years with all assessments taken at the end of the course.

GCSE exams and certification for this specification are available for the first time in May/June 2017 and then every May/June for the life of the specification.

This is a linear qualification. In order to achieve the award, students must complete all exams in May/June in a single year. All assessments must be taken in the same series.

Our GCSE exams in English literature include questions that allow students to demonstrate their ability to:
  • draw together their knowledge, skills and understanding from across the full course of study
  • provide extended responses.

All materials are available in English only.

Aims and learning outcomes

Courses based on this specification should encourage students to develop knowledge and skills in reading, writing and critical thinking. Through literature, students have a chance to develop culturally and acquire knowledge of the best that has been thought and written. Studying GCSE English Literature should encourage students to read widely for pleasure, and as a preparation for studying literature at a higher level.

Courses based on this specification should also encourage students to:
  • read a wide range of classic literature fluently and with good understanding, and make connections across their reading
  • read in depth, critically and evaluatively, so that they are able to discuss and explain their understanding and ideas
  • develop the habit of reading widely and often
  • appreciate the depth and power of the English literary heritage
  • write accurately, effectively and analytically about their reading, using Standard English
  • acquire and use a wide vocabulary, including the grammatical terminology and other literary and linguistic terms they need to criticise and analyse what they read.

Assessment objectives

Assessment objectives (AOs) are set by Ofqual and are the same across all GCSEEnglish Literature specifications and all exam boards.

The exams will measure how students have achieved the following assessment objectives.

  • AO1: Read, understand and respond to texts. Students should be able to:
    • maintain a critical style and develop an informed personal response
    • use textual references, including quotations, to support and illustrate interpretations.
  • AO2: Analyse the language, form and structure used by a writer to create meanings and effects, using relevant subject terminology where appropriate.
  • AO3: Show understanding of the relationships between texts and the contexts in which they were written.
  • AO4: Use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures for clarity, purpose and effect, with accurate spelling and punctuation.

Weighting of assessment objectives for GCSE English Literature

Assessment weightings

The marks awarded on the papers will be scaled to meet the weighting of the components. Students’ final marks will be calculated by adding together the scaled marks for each component. Grade boundaries will be set using this total scaled mark. The scaling and total scaled marks are shown in the table below.

ComponentMaximum raw markScaling factorMaximum scaled mark
Shakespeare and the 19th-century novel64x164
Modern texts and poetry96x196
  Total scaled mark:160
Assessment objectives (AOs)Component weightings (approx %)Overall weighting (approx %)
Paper 1Paper 2
Overall weighting of components4060100

This summer sees the first awards of the new grade 9, in GCSE English language, English literature and maths. Grade 9 is not the same as A*; it’s a new grade, designed to recognise the very highest performing students. So there will be fewer grade 9s than there are currently A*s. And in the first year grade 9 will be calculated arithmetically.

Last year we announced the detail of how that will work, known as the ‘tailored approach’. This approach will mean that across all subjects (when all GCSEs are graded 9 to 1) about 20% of those students achieving grade 7 or above will achieve a grade 9. The formula is:

Percentage of those achieving at least a grade 7 who will be awarded a grade 9 = 7% + 0.5 × (percentage of students awarded grade 7 and above)

There is more detail on the rationale for the formula in the report 'Options for setting the grade 9 boundary in GCSEs' .

A worked example

Imagine that the proportion of students who have achieved at least the minimum number of marks required for a grade 7 in a particular subject is 19%. Take that 19% and divide it in half, which gives you 9.5%. Then add 7 to that figure, giving you 16.5%. Go back to the original percentage of students achieving grade 7 and above and work out 16.5% of that 19%, which is 3.135%. Identify the mark on the qualification level mark distribution that is closest to that figure, and that will be the grade 9 boundary. The grade 8 boundary will be set halfway between the grade boundary marks for 7 and 9. This process is summarised in figure 1.

There are two other questions we’ve been considering with exam boards:

  1. whether to use the performance of all students or a sub-set of students in each subject for the above calculations
  2. how to maintain the grade 9 standard in the second and subsequent years

Those questions are related, so I’ll start with the second one.

Which students to use

We have agreed with exam boards that, having set the standard in year 1 using the above formula, exam boards will use predictions in subsequent years to carry forward that standard. That’s why the question about which students to use for the calculation this year is important. In future years, the predictions will, as always, be based on matched students – for GCSE that means 16-year-old students who have been matched to their prior attainment at key stage 2.

If in subsequent years, we’re going to maintain standards using predictions for matched students, we should use the same population to set that standard this summer. We expect that the entry for the new GCSEs this summer will be mainly 16 year-olds but not exclusively. In order to be fair to all students, we will use the above formula to calculate the likely percentage of matched 16-year-old students that should achieve a grade 9, identify the mark closest to that percentage looking at the mark distribution for those matched students, and then apply the grade boundary to all students.

Modelling likely outcomes

The numbers in the above example are hypothetical, but we have done some modelling of the likely proportions of students who will achieve each grade in GCSE English language and maths, including grade 9 this year. This is different from predicting grade boundaries, which I’ve previously discussed.

In 2016 we published some modelling by Education Datalab based on 2014 data. We’ve now done some more modelling, based on 2016 data and using the marks that students got in 2016.

The figures are show in figure 2. But before you look at the figures, please bear in mind these key points and note the health warnings we have included.

  • These are our best estimates for England but individual exam boards’ results will be more varied (see the explanation in my previous blog), and individual schools could see very different proportions. We know that even when qualifications don’t change, results at school level do vary [see our previous reports].
  • We can be more confident in our estimates at grades 7, 4 and 1 because the bottom of these grades will be set to align with the bottom of grades A, C and G in the previous A* to G grade structure (see figure 2 below). Other boundaries will be calculated arithmetically and so the proportions could vary a bit more from the figures here.
  • As with any modelling, our figures are based on a number of assumptions. We had to use results from the previous versions of the specifications, and they are different, both in structure and in content.
  • The figures are different to those in the Education Datalab modelling, because we used a different method. That’s why any figures should be seen as a guide and not a guarantee of what will happen.
  • The modelling has been done at qualification level. We haven’t tried to estimate how many students might get a grade 9 in both English language and maths.

Cath Jadhav
Associate Director, Standards and Comparability


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