Thousands of UAE pupils celebrate GCSE exam success

Pupils logged on to school websites or collected their results in person

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Thousands of GCSE pupils across the UAE celebrated receiving their exam results on Thursday.

Despite concerns over tougher exam questions and an increased focus on theoretical learning, many teenagers excelled in their subjects.

At Brighton College Abu Dhabi, 24 per cent of results were a grade 9, the highest score possible.

The school also said 99 per cent of all its GCSE pupils secured between a grade 9 and grade 4 this year.

As pupils across the Emirates collected their results throughout the day, some suggested further reforms were still needed to reduce the stress of exams.

Candidates described having to sit up to eight in one week and three in a single day, making revision much harder and adding to their worry.

Yoobin An, 16, from Brighton College Abu Dhabi, said she was awarded five grade 9s, three grade 8s, and an A* in computer science.

But the pupil criticised the scheduling of the tests, arguing improved timetabling could alleviate the intensity of exams.

“I had done several mock papers so I didn’t have an issue with the difficulty as such, it was more about the timetable," she said.

"I sat three exams in one day. One week I would have no exams, the next I would have eight; three of which I would have to sit in one day. It was very stressful."

With most families still out of the country for the summer break, only a handful of pupils in the UAE arrived to collect their results from school campuses in person. Instead, most logged on to school websites to check their results online.

“I’m glad I came down because I actually had to talk about one of my results [with teachers],” said Cara Easton, 16. “I missed the higher grade by one mark.”

Ms Easton secured six grade 9s, two grade 8s, a grade 7 and an A* in her languages subject, which has yet to transition to the new grading system.

She said she would now go on to study physics, history, maths and government politics for her A-levels.

Referring to the difficulty of her exams, Ms Easton agreed there was a lot of pressure on students.

“Having everything rest on one day is a big ask of any student,” she said.

“Everyone is prone to a bad day but if it happens to fall on exam day the consequences can be huge.

“On the other hand, by removing the coursework element from the GCSE subjects, we have more time to focus on exam revision throughout the year.”

GCSE exams have been the subject of debate over the past two years, following the implementation of a new grading system and tougher exam questions.

Where coursework once counted towards a percentage of a pupil’s overall grade, the examination itself now accounts for 100 per cent of a grade given.

GCSE results from the UK this year indicated a slight increase in the pass rate to 67.3 per cent, up 0.4 per cent from last year.

In England, 837 pupils received grade 9s in all of their exams despite some warning the tougher tests were proving demoralising to candidates.

ABU DHABI ,  UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , AUGUST 22 – 2019 :- Cara Easton ( right )  with her mother after receiving the GCSE results at the Brighton College in Abu Dhabi. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Kelly
ABU DHABI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , AUGUST 22 – 2019 :- Cara Easton ( right ) with her mother after receiving the GCSE results at the Brighton College in Abu Dhabi. ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For News. Story by Kelly

At Cranleigh Abu Dhabi, teachers said 73 per cent of all grades were between a 7 and 9, while 29 per cent of results were a grade 9.

Meanwhile Dubai British School said two of its students achieved straight 9s across all 10 subjects taken and 86 per cent of all grades were between 5 and 9. At Kings School Al Barsha in Dubai, 20 per cent of pupils achieved grades 7 to 9 in eight or more subjects. A record 2,800 students sat over 17,700 exam papers across Gems Education schools in the UAE.

Of that number, 357 pupils achieved a grade 9, and 46 per cent of students achieved at least an 8 or 9 grade across all the schools.

Annabelle Johnson, 16, from the UK, said she was over the moon after picking up her results. Her hard work paid off with a string of 7, 8 and 9 grades.

"It took a lot of hard work but I'm grateful to my teachers," she said. "I am really happy. A lot of us were nervous [and] obviously some did more revision than others.

"What we studied will help us with real-life areas like time management and it will give us a good grounding going forward and help improve our all round skills."

Carolina Beirne, 16, from Brighton College Abu Dhabi, said although she was happy with her results, she was still getting her head around the new grading system.

“If you get a 7, which is two grades below the top grade 9, it still equates to an A," she said. “I find that confusing.

“Saying you got an A sounds better than saying you scored a 7, so it's an odd system to get your head around."

Kathryn Booth, head of academic qualifications for Pearson Middle East, an education consultancy, said she welcomed an expansion of the new 9-1 grading scale to include more subjects.

"As there is so much exceptional performance at the top of the scale, this new system better rewards student achievements," she said.

"It provides greater differentiation of the performers at the top end, helping them make decisions about their A-level and university choices."