How hard is GCSE Spanish?

In GCSE by Think Student EditorLeave a Comment

When choosing GCSEs, students want to be sure that they are picking subjects they will do relatively well in. After all, everyone wants to achieve the best grades possible! GCSE Spanish is a popular GCSE, as schools do encourage students to take foreign languages. Taking a GCSE foreign language could definitely be seen as impressive to employers in the future. However, before choosing whether to take one or not, you need to acknowledge how hard it may be to actually get a good grade!

GCSE Spanish is a relatively hard GCSE. This is because learning any foreign language is difficult. After all, during examinations, you would have to be good at writing, listening, reading and speaking the language. This is in comparison to other GCSEs, which just have a writing examination. However, in my opinion I see GCSE Spanish as easier to learn than other GCSE languages because it is closer to English than GCSE German or GCSE Polish for example.

Disclaimer: This article is based on one student’s experience of GCSE Spanish, with one examination board. You need to be aware that the opinions expressed in this article may not align with your own.

If you want to discover more about the difficulty of GCSE Spanish and whether you should choose it as a GCSE, check out the rest of this article!

Why can GCSE Spanish be considered hard?

GCSE Spanish can be seen as a difficult GCSE because of all the skills you have to develop to be successful. There is no way you can cram all the GCSE Spanish content the night before one of your exams!

This is because GCSE Spanish involves application skills, as well as memorising. You can’t just memorise all of the Spanish vocabulary you need and expect to do well. This is because you have to be able to use it and actually understand.

After all, in the speaking exam, you will be expected to answer questions in Spanish! This means that you must have some level of understanding. Spanish as a language is formatted differently to English, as it requires conjugation, and this is hard!

This means that each verb has a slightly different ending depending on who is completing it and the pronoun you want to use. This can definitely get confusing! You can find out more about conjugating in Spanish if you check out this page from the Spanish Dictionary website.

Are GCSE Spanish exams hard?

How hard a student finds the GCSE Spanish exams depends on each individual. This is because each exam requires a different skill and where your strengths lie depends on each individual student.

For example, the AQA exam board requires students to sit four exams for GCSE Spanish, each assessing something different. Paper 1 is listening, paper 2 is speaking, paper 3 is reading and paper 4 is writing.

You can find out more about AQA GCSE Spanish on their website here. The exam structure for Pearson Edexcel GCSE Spanish is pretty similar and can be found on their website here.

In my experience, the GCSE Spanish listening paper was the hardest. This is because it requires the most concentration, as you couldn’t see what the speaker was saying written down.

As a result, you have to make sure that you were actually familiar with people speaking the language and can understand proper Spanish pronunciations! However, the speaking exam is also quite difficult.

It is easy in the sense that you can just memorise answers to questions for the exam. However, it is extremely nerve-wracking to be face to face with an examiner. These nerves often led to me forgetting my answers!

As a result, I found the reading and writing exams slightly easier, as you could work through them in your own time and it is possible to guess answers sometimes. However, as previously mentioned, strengths in GCSE Spanish are specific to each individual.

There are also a range of topics that you have to cover in GCSE Spanish – this means that a lot of different vocabulary has to be learnt! For AQA GCSE Spanish, there are three main themes, all with a range of sub-topics.

You can learn more about them on the AQA website.

Are all GCSE Spanish exams hard?

Above, I briefly outlined the general structure of GCSE Spanish exams and the skills assessed. Every student, no matter their level of Spanish ability will complete these components.

However, the papers different students complete may differ in level of difficulty. This is because students are able to complete higher or foundation GCSE Spanish exams. Therefore, not all GCSE Spanish exam papers have the same level of difficulty.

GCSE higher exams are harder than foundation papers. This is because students who do foundation papers can only get a maximum grade of 5. In comparison, students who do higher papers can get a maximum grade of 9.

Foundation papers will still be relatively challenging – after all, you are still being assessed on a foreign language! However, if you feel that a higher paper may just be a bit too difficult for you, completing papers at the foundation level may be more beneficial.

You can find out the differences between higher and foundation GCSE Spanish exams if you check out this page from the AQA website. Also, you can find out which other GCSE subjects offer foundation and higher papers in this Think Student article.

What is the pass rate for GCSE Spanish?

A useful way to measure how hard GCSE Spanish is, is by finding statistics for pass rates! Typically, a grade 4 at GCSE is considered a pass, so this is what will be used.

According to this page from the AQA website, the pass rate for Spanish was 69.5% in the June 2023 exams. This pass rate is lower than the pass rates for GCSE French and GCSE German!

The GCSE Spanish examinations for Pearson Edexcel found similar results in June 2023, with GCSE Spanish achieving a pass rate of 69.2%. This pass rate is also lower than the GCSE German and GCSE French pass rates. You can view these statistics on the Pearson Edexcel website.

Therefore, this could imply that students find GCSE Spanish the hardest GCSE Modern Foreign Language, compared to GCSE German and GCSE French. Of course, this is a generalisation and many factors have to be taken into account when determining the difficulty of a GCSE.

However, it could perhaps be suggested that GCSE Spanish may considered harder for students than other GCSE languages. You can find a summary of the pass rates for GCSE languages in June 2023 in the table below:

GCSE Language AQA Pearson Edexcel
GCSE Spanish 69.5% 69.2%
GCSE French 70.5% 71.0%
GCSE German 77.5% 74.8%

Is it harder to achieve higher grades in GCSE Spanish compared to other GCSE languages?

As outlined above, it seems that GCSE Spanish is perhaps harder to pass than other GCSE languages. On top of this, it may be the case that achieving the top grades in GCSE Spanish is also harder to achieve compared to other modern foreign languages.

After all, compared to GCSE German and GCSE French, the lowest number of pupils received a grade 9 in GCSE Spanish. The exact percentages of students who achieved a grade 9 in GCSE languages in June 2023 is summarised in the table below:

GCSE language AQA Pearson Edexcel
GCSE Spanish 6.6% 6.5%
GCSE French 8.2% 8.0%
GCSE German 9.5% 8.9%

Modern foreign languages are all difficult GCSEs. After all, according to this Think Student article, they were ranked as the fourth hardest out of all GCSE subjects.

How can you make GCSE Spanish easier?

Sadly, there is no escaping all of the memorising and revision you will have to do to do well in GCSE Spanish. However, there are ways to make this easier!

Most schools introduce their GCSE Spanish students to a language learning app. This can make learning languages fun, as you complete games and are given a place on the leaderboard. In my school, we were told to sign up to ‘Memrise’, which is a great revision platform!

You can check it out on the Memrise website. Going on a language learning app for a couple of minutes a day can make all the difference, as it could mean that you don’t have to sit down in one big block for hours of revision!

When you enter your GCSE Spanish listening exam, you will be given five minutes to have a look through the paper. In my experience, the best thing to do during this time is to write down as much vocabulary as you can specific to each of the questions.

This could give you clues to what the speakers are saying during the recordings. It can be useful to note down vocabulary during the other exams too!

When revising for the speaking exam, I found it useful to record myself to check my pronunciation. However, if you want to actually speak to another person, consider asking your parents or friends to be your listeners.

It doesn’t matter that they won’t understand it, as long as you get to speak more! Hopefully, these tips will make GCSE Spanish slightly easier for you.

GCSE Spanish may be a hard GCSE. However, passing it would be extremely rewarding. After all, this Think Student article ranked modern foreign languages as the best type of GCSE to take!

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