GCSE climbing

For a number of years it has been possible to include climbing as a sport within the GCSE in Physical Education. While the Pearson Edexcel syllabus was initially aimed at candidates with outdoor experience, it has been updated and amended to take into account the popularity of indoor climbing, more in keeping with the AQA syllabus. Over the years Geckos have successfully supervised many GCSE students at The Castle Climbing Centre in London.

Pearson Edexcel logo

Edexcel’s assessment criteria for rock climbing (see the syllabus, pp. 293-298)

The performance of skills and techniques in isolation/unopposed
situations

Candidates will be assessed on any four of the skills listed below when performed in isolation/unopposed practice as appropriate to rock climbing indoors or outdoors.
• The ability to ascend a rock face making route assessment,
re-assessment and carry out safe climbs employing a range of climbing holds and moves
• Rope management (e.g. coiling, uncoiling, preparation and carrying)
• Select and use a single anchor to set up top rope
• Select and use multiple anchors
• Ability to belay with different devices/detailed knowledge of protecting a bouldering climber, this may include spotting but also, for example, positioning pads, landings, etc.
• Ability to demonstrate different climbing techniques
• Tie a clove hitch, overhand knot and, as appropriate, figure of 8 on the bight
• Set up and undertake an abseil, demonstrating the ability to lock off the abseil device during decent/descend from boulder problems safely
• Use rope systems to demonstrate a range of secure anchors (e.g. wires, camming devices and fixed equipment).

Application of skills, techniques and decision making under
pressure during a conditioned practice and
conditioned/formal/competitive situation

Candidates will be assessed on the quality of appropriate skills, techniques and decision-making processes to meet the challenges during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, including using the skills/techniques from isolation/unopposed situations, as well as:
• adhering to rules, health and safety guidelines, and considering appropriate risk management strategies.
Ability to climb different routes (either indoor or outdoor)
• Use a climbing wall or bouldering area
• Assess and use a variety of pre-placed anchors
• Belay another climber, hold a top-roped fall and perform a ‘lower’
• Demonstrate confident movement on and sequencing on rock/wall employing a variety of appropriate techniques reflecting body position, balance, foot and hand holds to make use of different rock/wall features
• Precise footwork on small holds
Candidates should be assessed on their control of the skills used and techniques executed, showing mastery of external factors (competitors and/or environment):
• Fluid movement utilising momentum.
Timing of skills and techniques means there is always fluency to the performance:
• Climbs completed on time.

LevelMarkDescriptor
0
11-2Demonstrates an ineffective level of technical accuracy, with little or no precision, control and fluency, when:
• fitting a harness and helmet with instructor support
• belaying with instructor support
• communicating ineffectively with partner
• ascending and descending correctly from route but with errors.
11-5Demonstrates ineffective skills, techniques and decision making, with little or no precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following:
Demonstrates a limited level of precision when executing skills and techniques, such as:
• missing key holds
Inadequate control, fluency and/or accuracy when under
pressure from external factors (competitors and/or
environment), including:
• kicking and scraping feet
• getting stretched out
Timing of skills and techniques means there is no fluency to the performance, including:
• getting stuck for periods on the climb.
23-4Demonstrates a basic level of technical accuracy, with little precision, control and fluency, when:
• belaying with peers supervised by instructor
• putting on harness and helmet with instructor prompts
• tying in with rethreaded figure of eight with support
• a basic level of climbing communication used
• demonstrating basic climbing techniques when ascending and descending with errors
26-10Demonstrates basic skills, techniques and decision making, with little precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following.
Demonstrates basic level of precision when executing skills and techniques:
• using the correct hold inefficiently (wrong part of foot or wrong hand technique)
Basic control and accuracy is evident when under pressure from external factors (competitors and/or environment):
• jerky actions and lunging due to out of balance movement
Timing of skills and techniques means there is basic fluency to the performance:
• moves up the wall without major stops
35-6Demonstrates a competent level of technical accuracy, with some precision, control and fluency, when:
• belaying competently with backup
• fitting harness and helmet independently
• tying in independently
• safety checks self and partner consistently
• demonstrating climbing styles (ascending and descending) with competent techniques
311-15Demonstrates a competent level of skills, techniques and decision making, with some precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following.
Demonstrates a good level of precision when executing appropriate skills and techniques:
• using holds correctly (hand and foot positions)
Control of the skills and techniques executed, showing competent control and accuracy when under pressure from external factors (competitors and/or environment):
• able to rest in balance with relaxed stance
Timing of skills and techniques means there is competent fluency to the performance:
• moves up the wall with a competent, steady pace
47-8Demonstrates a good level of technical accuracy, with precision, control and fluency, when:
• belaying independently and holding a bottom rope fall consistently
• handling climbing equipment fluidly,
e.g. carabiners and belay devices
• demonstrating climbing techniques (ascending and descending) with good technique
416-20Demonstrates a good level of skills, techniques and decision making, with good precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following.
Demonstrates a good level of precision when executing appropriate skills and techniques:
• accurate footwork
Consistently in control of the skills and techniques executed, showing good control and accuracy when under pressure
from external factors (competitors and/or environment):
• good weight transfer
Timing of skills and techniques means there is very good fluency to the performance:
• climbing appears fluid with good body positioning for balance
59-10Demonstrates a very good level of technical accuracy, with accurate precision, control and fluency, when:
• able to belay with two further devices
• able to demonstrate climbing techniques
(ascending and descending) faultlessly and fluidly
• tie clove hitch, overhand knot and figure of 8 on the bight and understand their uses
521-25Demonstrates a very good level of skills, techniques and decision making, with very good precision, control and fluency, during a conditioned/formal/competitive situation, to include the following.
Demonstrates a very good level of precision when executing appropriate skills and techniques:
• precise footwork on small holds
Always in control of the skills and techniques executed, showing very good mastery of external factors (competitors and/or environment):
• fluid movement utilising momentum.
Timing of skills and techniques means there is always very good fluency to the performance:
• climbs completed fluidly
AQA logo

The AQA syllabus (below) is also available online

Students can be assessed indoors or outdoors.

Students should be working towards French 5+ or F6a. It is expected that students would make use of a minimum of 2 different climbs to demonstrate the following:

  1. Rope work: Students, in a top rope capacity, should be able to tie in, belay and lower partners consistently and safely with effective communication. This could begin in a peer belay situation and progress through to students belaying independently although this would be with backup.
  2. Three points of contact: Students should be able to climb a route of their choice showing 3 points of contact between moves. This could progress from a slab to overhanging terrain.
  3. Traversing/climbing: Students should be able to climb a route of their choice demonstrating clear use of weight transfer and climbing techniques associated with this. This could progress from moves on a slab with three points of contact through to students only using two points of contact and effective body positioning to make the movement successful on steeper terrain.
  4. Climbing at limit: Students should be able to demonstrate climbing at their limit using a variety of techniques in a progressive manner to make a successful ascent; this could progress from a rehearsed route through to a student on sighting at their limit.
  5. Climbing overhanging/steep ground: Students should be able to climb successfully on overhanging terrain; this could be progressively overhanging through to very steep.

Part 1 – Skills (10 marks)

Students should perform the core skills/techniques in increasingly demanding and progressive drills. Progressive drills may start with the skill in isolation but should aim to increase in difficulty by linking skills together and by increasing the difficulty of the route. This must not be in a fully competitive climb.

LevelMarkDescription
59-10The quality of technique is maintained for all skills and throughout all practices, even when they are linked together. When faced with a harder route, decision making in relation to when to perform the skill is consistently effective. There are very few errors and the student is adaptive when faced with progressively challenging situations. They almost always produce the intended results/accuracy.
47-8The quality of technique is maintained for all skills but may start to deteriorate when they are linked together in the most challenging practices. When faced with a harder route, decision making is usually effective in relation to when to perform the skill and at what angle. There may be occasional minor errors but the student is usually adaptive when faced with progressively challenging situations. They regularly produce the intended results/accuracy.
35-6The quality of technique is maintained for most skills but may deteriorate when they are linked together in the most challenging practices. When faced with a harder route, the effectiveness of decision making is inconsistent. The student makes more effective decisions on slightly easier routes. There may be occasional errors and the student is sometimes adaptive when faced with progressively challenging situations. They sometimes produce the intended results/accuracy.
23-4The quality of technique is maintained for some skills but frequently deteriorate when they are linked together in the most challenging practices. When faced with a harder route, decision making is only occasionally effective. They are significantly more proficient on easier routes. There may be frequent errors and the student is only occasionally adaptive with progressively challenging situations. They infrequently produce the intended results/accuracy.
11-2The quality of technique is maintained for few skills but they cannot be linked together in the most challenging practices. When faced with harder routes, decision making may be ineffective. Any proficiency is shown on easier routes. There are likely to be frequent errors and the student may be unable to adapt with progressively challenging situations. They rarely produce the intended results/accuracy.
00Nothing worthy of credit.

Part 2 – Full context (15 marks)

Students should perform a climb, either in competition or against a suitably challenging environment, demonstrating the skills appropriate to their chosen route. The difficulty of the climb should be appropriately challenging for the performer.

LevelMarkDescription
513-15The student shows a high level of ability to make successful and effective tactical and strategic decisions, almost always fully relevant to their position on the wall/rock face. The student’s contribution is highly effective, significant and sustained for almost all of the climb, due to a highly developed level of suitable fitness. The student maintains a high level of technical consistency in the performance of all skills within each climb. The application of skill is fully appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face. The student demonstrates a high level of ability to perform the most appropriate skills/techniques and is usually successful in outperforming others/the environment.
410-12The student shows the ability to make successful and effective tactical and strategic decisions, usually relevant to their position on the wall/rock face, with only minor lapses. The student’s contribution is usually effective and significant and is sustained for the majority of the climb, due to a good level of suitable fitness. The student maintains technical consistency in the performance of all skills in the climb. The application of skill is usually appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face, though there may be some lapses. The student demonstrates an ability to perform the most appropriate skills/techniques and is usually successful in outperforming others/the environment. Occasionally however, they are outperformed.
37-9The student shows the ability to make successful and effective tactical and strategic decisions but there may be some obvious weaknesses and they are occasionally not relevant to their position on the wall/rock face. The student’s contribution is sometimes effective and significant but it is not entirely sustained throughout the climb, with the student’s contribution occasionally lacking due to a slight lack of suitable fitness. The student maintains technique and accuracy in the performance of most skills in the climb but it is not always consistent. The application of skill is not consistently appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face. The student demonstrates an ability to perform appropriate skills/techniques and is sometimes effective in outperforming others/the environment, although only low level performers. However, there may be some obvious areas of weakness and they are often outperformed.
24-6The student shows some ability to make tactical and strategic decisions but there are significant weaknesses and inconsistencies in their relevance to their position on the wall/rock face. The student’s contribution is evident but only occasionally effective or sustained within the climb due to a lack of fitness. The student shows some technical consistency in the performance of some skills during the climb but there are obvious inconsistencies and weaknesses. The application of skill is only occasionally appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face. The student demonstrates a limited ability to perform appropriate skills/techniques and is seldom effective in outperforming others/the environment. There are likely to be some obvious areas of weakness and they are usually outperformed.
11-3The student shows only a limited ability to make tactical and strategic decisions and they are seldom relevant to their position on the wall. The student’s contribution is limited, seldom effective or sustained during the climb with fitness a distinctive weakness. The student shows only limited technical consistency in the performance of a few skills during the climb. The application of skill is rarely appropriate to their position on the wall/rock face. The student demonstrates only very limited ability to perform appropriate skills/techniques, but seldom outperforms anyone/the environment.
00Nothing worthy of credit.

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