MPs to debate whether texts should be taken into GCSE English literature exam

Petition calling for open-book examinations for new GCSE English literature attracted almost 110,000 signatures

Eleanor Busby

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MPs will debate the new closed-book exams for GCSE English literature after more than 100,000 people signed a petition calling for texts to be allowed in the exam room

The petition argues that "exams shouldn't be a test on the student's memory", claiming that students could be required to learn and memorise more than 250 quotes for the two literature papers. 

The debate on the reformed English literature GCSE – which is being taken for the first time this summer – will take place in Parliament later this month. 

Students will sit the new, tougher GCSEs in English and maths, which will be graded from 9 to 1, rather than A* to G. 

The creator of the petition says: "On top of 20-plus exams, students are experiencing high levels of stress due to the paper being more demanding for a higher grade.

"English is a subject that all employers and universities look at. Therefore, if students are unable to realistically achieve high grades, there will be lower employment rates."

'They don't need to learn poems by heart'

The government responded to the petition, saying: "Students should not be misled into believing that they will get good marks simply by memorising and writing out the poems or texts they have studied.

"Students will not need to learn and remember the exact words of poems or texts by heart."

It added: "The student will need to write about a poem they have studied and that is not given to them in the exam, but that does not require them to reproduce the text in full."

The debate about the GCSE English literature exams will take place on Monday 24 April in Westminster Hall from 4.30pm.

To feedback your views to the House of Commons Petitions Committee join in the discussion on our Tes community forum by Monday. 

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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