Introduced in 1988 to replace both the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level and the Certificate of Secondary Education with one unified examination syllabus. Nevertheless, the GCSE still offered the opportunity for differentiation by task through the introduction of tiering. The regulations also allowed for GCSE candidates to be assessed in all subjects through a combination of coursework and end examination. Pupils' assessment at GCSE marks the culmination of their Key Stage 4 studies. The grading criteria and syllabus now conform with national curriculum level descriptors and programmes of study in each subject area. There are eight pass grades awarded, from A* to G, each carrying a number of points which are used in the presentation of secondary schools' performance tables. GCSE short courses cover 50 per cent of the syllabus content and carry 50 per cent of the points. For pupils studying a combination of full and short GCSEs and Applied GCSEs, or 14–19 Diplomas in Key Stage 4, the common points system can be used to calculate their accumulated points score.
http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/performancetables/schools_01/sec3.shtml Provides tables showing how points are calculated for GCSE attainment and equivalent.