Please note that this page was reviewed in July 2009 but still largely reflects the state of language teaching at the time the vocabulary was created. For more detailed (and up-to-date) information about exams taken in English and Welsh schools, visit the QCA.


In England, Wales and Northern Ireland*, most pupils study about eight school subjects to age 16 and then sit exams for the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). GCSE, candidates are awarded a separate grade for each subject with C being a pass and A* the highest grade. Less academic pupils can sit a simplified exam to obtain a GCSE at ‘Foundation level’ and a top level mark at Foundation level is equivalent to a grade C pass at the ‘Higher Level’.

In 2000, just under 50% of state school pupils obtained a Higher Level pass in five or more subjects. About 80% of state school pupils took a GCSE in at least one foreign language and 60% of these were in French, 23% in German and 9% in Spanish.

Several different boards are accredited to set examinations and schools are generally free to choose the exam which their pupils will sit. The GCSE vocabulary on the site represents the most popular words chosen by the exam boards at the time the vocabulary was created. This was somewhat geared to teenage learners to reflect its target audience.

The ‘Good GCSE’ Course aims to provide vocabulary consistent with an A* grade.

A Level

After GCSE, most British pupils specialise in three or four subjects for two years and then sit the "Advanced Level" (A Level) exam. This should bring students to a standard where they can study the subject at university.

Word lists are not specified for A Level French so ours are just based around the recommended topics. The ‘Post A Level’ course covers a broader range of topics and includes more vocabulary for adult learners.

The intermediate (AS) Level between GCSE and A Level is not supported by the existing wordPROF® courses.

* Scotland has its own exam system

Updated 25-Jul-2009   Copyright Brian Probert, 2000-2009  with scenes by Cleo Harrington