Skip to content


Find qualifications and resources

2 March 2012

Linear or unitised?

Teachers in Wales and Northern Ireland have been asking us if the changes to GCSEs taking place in England will affect them. In England, all GCSEs will be linear from the first award in summer 2014, and assessment at the end of GCSE courses will be compulsory for all candidates.

In Wales and Northern Ireland, schools will be able to choose to follow either of the two options available, in relation to courses starting from September 2012:

  • the new linear specifications (first award summer 2014), where candidates sit all their exams at the end of the course
  • unitised specifications where assessment is in separate units taken at stages during the course as is currently the case

WJEC is offering both linear and unitised specifications, so will fully meet the needs of schools in Wales and Northern Ireland, whichever option they choose, as we will do in England.

Spelling, punctuation and grammar (SPaG)

In exams from January 2013 onwards, additional marks will be awarded for the accuracy of spelling, punctuation and grammar in questions that require extended answers in GCSE English literature, geography, history and religious studies. These changes will affect all specifications for these subjects, in Wales and England.

"Strengthened" GCSEs

It has recently been announced that GCSEs in English literature, history and geography will be strengthened: geography for first teaching in September 2012 (awards from 2014 onwards); history and English literature for first teaching from September 2013 (awards from 2015 onwards).

For English literature and history, we are anticipating further detail from regulators about the proposals. Please register on the relevant subject pages on this website to receive personal updates as we learn more. Minor changes to WJEC GCSE Geography have been submitted for accreditation, and full details will be available shortly.  Revised specifications on all three subjects will be posted on the website as soon as they are available.

Subject content

The subject content of WJEC’s current GCSE specifications will stay the same, apart from English literature, history and geography (see above).  In addition, there will be a change to GCSE Religious Studies in accordance with the SPaG regulations.

WJEC will ensure that standards for both the unitised and the new linear specifications are equivalent.

If you choose linear specifications - Your questions answered


Will candidates be able to re-sit GCSE units once courses have become linear (i.e. after Summer 2014)?

No. All units within linear qualifications will have to be taken together at the end of the course in the summer, apart from GCSE English, English Language and Mathematics.

How are the re-sit rules different for GCSE English, English Language and Mathematics?

Candidates will be able to sit (or re-sit) examinations in these subjects in either summer or November.

Controlled assessment

When may controlled assessment be completed?

Candidates may complete controlled assessment at any time during the academic year but they may only be entered for controlled assessment units at the end of their course.

Short courses and double awards

How will short course and double award GCSEs be affected?

Single award results may be carried forward towards double award GCSEs, but units from short courses may not be carried forward to make up single awards.

If you choose to continue using the existing unitised specifications arrangements will be as they are at present.

The Next Steps

Keeping you updated

We are adapting our current specifications to meet the new linear and SPaG requirements and will keep you informed about any changes. With the exception of the arrangements for assessing SPaG in certain subjects, the existing unitised specifications will remain unchanged for centres in Wales which still wish to use them.

We will be posting the revised versions of specifications on our website as soon as possible.

Revised sample assessment materials showing how the marks for spelling, punctuation and grammar will be applied will be placed on our website in the next few months.

Please sign up to receive personal updates on the relevant subject page of our website. You can also email us for further information; contact details for our subject specialists are listed here: