University of London O Level Exams

University of London LogoUniversity of London O Level Exams

GCE (O Level and A Level)

In 1951, the General Certificate of Education (GCE) was introduced. It was split into two stages: Ordinary Level (O Level, taken at 16) and Advanced Level (A Level, taken at 18). These qualifications replaced the School Certificate and the Higher School Certificate respectively.

The existing exam boards offered the GCE, alongside the Northern Ireland Schools Examination Council.

These boards were soon joined by the Associated Examining Board (AEB), which was founded by City & Guilds in 1953.

The Southern Universities’ Joint Board for School Examinations was founded in 1954 as a successor to the University of Bristol School Examinations Council.

The Durham University Examinations Board ceased to exist in 1964.

The University of London University Entrance and School Examinations Council and School Examinations Department was renamed the University of London School Examinations Board in 1984.

CSE

In 1965, the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was introduced. It was aimed at the 80% 16-year-old students who did not take O Levels and, until that point, had left school with no qualifications. CSEs were administered on a local basis with local boards offering the qualifications. The local boards in England were new organisations, while in Wales and Northern Ireland (where universities did not control the existing boards), the existing boards were used. The CSE boards were:

  • Associated Lancashire Schools Board
  • East Anglian Examinations Board
  • East Midland Regional Examinations Board
  • Metropolitan Regional Examination Board
  • Middlesex Regional Examination Board
  • Northern Ireland Schools Examination Council
  • Northern Regional Examinations Board
  • North West Regional Examinations Board
  • South East Regional Examinations Board
  • South West (Regional) Examinations Board
  • Southern Regional Exams Board
  • Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC)
  • West Midlands Regional Examination Board
  • The West Yorkshire and Lindsey Regional Examinations Board
  • Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Examinations Board

In 1979, the neighbouring Metropolitan and Middlesex boards merged to form the London Regional Examinations Board. The West Yorkshire and Lindsey and Yorkshire and Humberside Boards also merged to form the Yorkshire Regional Examinations Board in 1982.

GCSE

To create a more egalitarian system, the O Levels and CSE (but not the A Level) were replaced by the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in 1986. As O Levels and CSEs had used different exam boards (except in Wales and Northern Ireland), new ‘examining groups’ were created. In England, the four examining groups were consortia of regional GCE and CSE exam boards, while in Wales and Northern Ireland they were the existing boards, making six boards in total:

  • London and East Anglian Examining Group (formed by the University of London School Examinations Board, the London Regional Examination Board and the East Anglian Examinations Board)
  • Midland Examining Group (MEG, formed by the Southern Universities’ Joint Board, the Oxford and Cambridge Schools Examination Board, East Midland Regional Examinations Board and the West Midlands Examinations Board)
  • Northern Examining Association (NEA, formed by the Joint Matriculation Board, the Associated Lancashire Schools Examining Board, the Northern Regional Examinations Board, the North West Regional Examinations Board and the Yorkshire Regional Examinations Board)
  • Northern Ireland Schools Examination Council
  • Southern Examining Group (SEG, formed by the Associated Examining Board, the University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations, the South East Regional Examinations Board, South West (Regional) Examinations Board and Southern Regional Exams Board)
  • Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC)

As CSEs were no longer offered, the CSE boards effectively ceased to operate as independent boards and instead became part of their larger examining groups (some were even taken over by larger members of their groups, such as the South East Regional Examinations Board, which was acquired by the Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations in 1985). The GCE boards, however, retained a degree of autonomy, as they still offered A Levels independently.

Though the boards were regional, schools were entirely free to pick which board they did their GCSE qualifications with and could mix and match between subjects.

When the Certificate of Achievement (now the Entry Level Certificate, a qualification below GCSE level) was introduced, the GCSE examining groups were responsible for administering the qualification.