Every year thousands of students go through the insane pressure of revising for, and sitting their GCSE exams, but does all this stress have to repeat every five, ten, or even fifteen years? Afterall, if your GCSE qualifications become “out of date” when you’re older, will you need to take them all again?
The short answer is that GCSE qualifications do not expire – neither do any other qualifications such as A-Levels and degrees. There is also no expiration date on your GCSE certificates meaning that the proof of qualification lasts forever too.
Now that you have the short answer, I recommend reading the entire article as I will go into more depth about your GCSEs.
How Long Are GCSE Qualifications Valid For?
Now that we know that GCSE qualifications stay with a student forever, throughout their academic and eventual careers, let’s ask the question of when GCSEs become irrelevant to employers or universities. We are essentially asking when do people stop “caring” about someone’s GCSE qualifications, irrespective of whether they have a valid certificate or not.
To answer this question, there is a slightly more specific question, with multiple stages needing to be asked: what do you need your GCSE qualifications for? Below, I have listed some different academic and out-of-school stages and have discussed how important GCSEs are for each of them:
How Important are GCSEs for Applying to Sixth Form College?
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for you, your GCSE grades and qualifications are extremely important when you are at the stage of applying to different 16-18 colleges within the UK. Some colleges care deeply about your individual grades for specific GCSE subjects (for example, when applying for A-Levels) whereas other colleges just like to see students passing a minimum amount of subjects – usually around 5.
For more information about GCSE requirements for applying to sixth form college, check out this article here.
How Important are GCSEs for Applying to University?
With the exception of some universities, such as University College London, which used to require applicants to have achieved a pass grade in a GCSE Foreign Language, most universities simply don’t place too much emphasis on your GCSE qualifications. That being said, most universities do require students to have at least met the following criteria*
- A pass (usually grade 5) in GCSE English Language
- A pass (usually grade 5) in GCSE Mathematics
* It is important to note that GCSE requirements for entry at university vary massively depending on the university and subject and therefore, it is highly recommended that you check out specific university websites.
If you wish to learn more about this subject, we have an entire article on how many GCSEs you need to progress to university here.
Why Might You Need a Grade 4 or 5 in English and Maths for University Admission?
It is essential that you achieve a grade 4, or even a grade 5, in these core subjects. Without a pass, it is possible that you will not be able to continue to sixth-form, college or even to an apprenticeship.
To put this into context, to pass AQA GCSE maths in 2018 you would need:
- 122/240 marks to achieve a grade 4 on the foundation paper
- 153/240 marks to achieve a grade 5 on the foundation paper
- 43/240 marks to achieve a grade 4 on the higher paper
For more information about the maths grade boundaries, read this excellent article by another think student writer here. Also click here to find out the difference between higher and lower tier papers at GCSE.
Essentially, a pass grade in these 3 important GCSEs is key to show teachers/employers that you can read, write and speak well in English. As well as do some basic maths and know a little bit about the world through science.
Read more about the importance of passing these subjects here.
How Important are GCSEs to Employers?
Firstly, there is always the exception with questions such as these; some employers check GCSE results as a strict rule, whereas others, pretend the qualifications never existed at all. Especially with small companies, it is down the employer’s personal preference, so it is impossible to say.
Note from an editor of this article: as our writer has stated above, it is not a strict rule, that said from my personal experience, employers rarely check GCSE certificates and they place significantly more importance on more recently achieved qualifications, such as A-Levels or degrees.
Why Do GCSE Qualifications Not Expire?
Apart from the insane amount of stress expiring GCSE qualifications would cause people, it would be entirely purposeless. For example, if you went to study at the further education level, you wouldn’t want to have to re-sit your GCSEs before getting your degree (or at the same time). It would obviously also be a huge waste of resources. Below, I have listed two additional reasons why qualifications don’t expire:
- Individual monetary cost – schools are usually the entity paying the exam fees, however, if you had to repeat the process of getting your GCSE qualifications (after they expired) outside of school, you’d be solely responsible for the exam fees. This wouldn’t be very fair for poorer students – not to mention the costs of invigilators and equipment.
- Individual time cost – alongside the tangible material cost of doing exams repeatedly, the time students would have to invest into expiring qualifications might stunt their academic progress with other further studying.
As you would suspect, GCSE qualifications, once achieved individually, are there for life and cannot simply expire.
When Do You Initially Receive Your GCSE Qualifications?
GCSEs are a set of qualifications that you take when you’re in Year 11, usually you’re about 16 years old at secondary school. Normally, students take anywhere between 8 to 12 GCSE subjects at school, however, the most common is 9 or 10 subjects (learn more here).
Everyone in the UK must stay in education until 18 years old, therefore, this makes GCSEs compulsory within the UK. Some pupils decide to leave education early and subsequently, don’t receive their GCSE qualifications, this isn’t recommended and you can learn more about why here.
As mentioned earlier in this article, GCSEs are very important in order to progress to college (ages 16 to 18). Most colleges will require students to have achieved certain grades at GCSE level to study at their college. Additionally, most sixth form colleges require that students pass a minimum amount of GCSE subjects (a pass being considered a grade 4 or 5). You can learn more about GCSE requirements to study particular qualifications at sixth-form college here.
On completion of your GCSEs, you will receive a certificate from your school. This usually gets sent out to you a few weeks or months after you sit your final exams. Many schools give out certificates in different ways, so if you wish to learn more about how you will receive your certificate on results day, take a look here.
Can You Re-take Your GCSE Exams?
Although your GCSEs do not expire, you are able to re-sit your exams. If you achieve a grade 3 or below in the core subjects mentioned above, you are able to re-sit them in the following November of the same year you did the exams the first time. If you would like more time to prepare, you will have the opportunity of re-sitting them in the following year – this is usually done at your chosen college or sixth-form.
There is no need to panic if you end up not being happy with your results. It is important to remember that no matter what you want to do after secondary school, you need to have passed GCSE English Language (in some cases, Literature) and Maths.
For all of your subjects, a standard pass is a grade 4, and a higher pass is a grade 5. An example of this is that some sixth-form colleges may need you to have achieved a grade 5 rather than a grade 4 in English or Maths. It is important to check what grades you need at GCSE to take certain subjects at different sixth-forms and colleges. For example, if you want to study psychology, a grade 6 in GCSE Maths is required by some colleges (attention paid to the fact, entry requirements for colleges may be above just a good pass).
- Can You Retake Your GCSEs at Any Age?
- How Many Times Can You Resit GCSEs?
- What Happens If You Do Worse in a GCSE Resit?
What Do You Receive When You Get Your GCSE Certificate?
As physical ‘proof’ that you have done the exams, you receive a GCSE certificate. This certificate lists all your subjects and grades achieved. You usually receive this around November of the same year you sat the exams.
Other things included in your certificate are the name of your school, where you sat the exams and the year you did them. As well your full name and date of birth.
Employers may ask to see your certificate when applying for a job role to prove that you’re not lying about your grades. However, what’s not included on your certificate is an expiration date, so they do in fact last forever. Now forever is a long time, and if you’re anything like me you may be susceptible to losing bits of paper. Don’t worry check out this article on what to do if you lose your GCSE certificate.
If you would like to see an example of a GCSE certificate (and also an A-Level one) click here.