The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is introducing trials of a new two-tier exam which, if implemented nationwide, would make it harder for pupils to get top grades with low scores.
GCSE maths has traditionally been offered in three tiers but has been under review after ministers discovered that pupils entered for the lowest tier had no chance of achieving a grade C.
The OCR board has trialled a two-tier GCSE in which all pupils can achieve a C since 2003. However, the exam attracted controversy this year after it emerged that pupils could gain a grade B with just 17 per cent on the top paper and an A with 45 per cent. Traditional three-tier maths GCSEs have been under fire for similar reasons.
The new two-tier GCSE with a different design will be be offered to several thousand candidates this year. Four boards, including AQA and the OCR, will trial the new exam. OCR will continue to trial its original two-tier GCSE.
One of the models will be introduced for all pupils from 2006.