Courses and examinations in England and Wales

Courses and examinations at 16

GCE O-level was originally introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1951. O-level was the normal examination for sixteen-year-olds in grammar schools. Some higher-performing students in secondary modern schools also took O-level.

The Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was a school-leaving qualification from 1965 to 1987.

CSE courses and examinations were designed for students who were not thought likely to pass the O-levels. There were five pass grades in its grading system ranging from grades 1 to 5. CSE grade 1 was equivalent to an O-level pass.

Comprehensive schools typically entered young people for etiher O-level or CSE in a range of subjects. The greater prestige of O-level meant that quite a few students went for 'double entry'.

O-levels and CSE were replaced by the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) which was examined for the first time in 1988.

Post-16 courses and examinations

GCE A-level courses were introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in 1951. The normal pattern up to the year 2000 was for students to take three A-levels two years after sitting for O-level. A-level courses prepared people for higher education and employment.

In 2001, a revision called Curriculum 2000 split the A-level into two parts, the AS (Advanced Subsidiary) and A2 examinations. Typically students enter for 4 or 5 AS exams after one year, and then take between 2 and 4 A2 exams at the end of the second year. AS and A2 performance is aggregated to give an A-level grade.

One-year courses post-16
There has been a series of attempts to establish well-regarded and appropriate one-year post-16 courses for students that do not want to take A-level.

The Certificate of Exended Education (CEE) was introduced to follow on from CSE as recommended by a report in 1979 from a committee chaired by Kevin Keohane.

The Certificate of Pre-Vocational Education (CPVE) was an educational qualification introduced in 1986 for students over 16 in schools and colleges who wanted a one-year course of preparation for work or further vocational study.

General National Vocational Qualifications (GNVQ) at foundation and intermediate levels were introduced as one-year post-16 qualifications in 1992. They will have been entirely phased out by 2007.

Advanced applied and vocational qualifications
Advanced GNVQs were also introduced in 1992. They were replaced by Applied A-levels (on the AS-A2 model) for courses starting in September 2005.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency website gives full details of current qualifications in England.