Ordinary Level

Ordinary Level

The O-level (Ordinary Level) is a subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education (GCE). It was introduced as part of British educational reform in the 1950s alongside the more in-depth and academically rigorous A-level (Advanced Level). England, Wales and Northern Ireland replaced O-levels by the GCSE exams in 1988. The Scottish equivalent was the O-grade (replaced by the Standard Grade).


The O-level was predominantly exam-based. This was advantageous for students in part-time or evening education; however, some commentators were critical of the exam-based approach offering a limited proof of the student's overall academic ability in comparison with other methods (e.g. coursework-based assessment)


Originally O-level passes were at Grades 1 through 6, with grades 7 through 9 being a fail. Most examination boards later introduced a standard system of grading with A, B and C as passing grades and D, E and U (Unclassified) as failing grades. Exams graded U were not listed in the certificate. The University of London Board originally had a disparate system of grading, awarding A, C and E for passes and F, H and U for fails. In the 1970s the University of London joined the standard system of grading.


In 1988, O-level qualifications in the UK were replaced by a new system, the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). This meant that the final O-level examinations were taken in 1987, while the curriculum for the new system was introduced in 1986. However the O-level is still used in many former British colonies, such as Bangladesh, Brunei, Ghana, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Hong Kong. Some British schools also reverted to O-levels.

O-levels continue to thrive as well respected international qualifications for students in other countries, who use them for preparation for advanced study in their own country and/or access higher education overseas. In June 2005, 12 million candidates from more than 200 countries registered for O-level examinations across the world. Institutions that offer O-levels are Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) and Edexcel International

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