Main content

The GCSE grading system explained

classroom

When the GCSE grading system had an overhaul in 2017, it changed grades from letters to numbers. Here's what it all means...

GCSE grades A* to G in England have been replaced by a new grade scale numbered from 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest grade.

English Language, English Literature and Mathematics will be the first qualifications in 2017 to get the new grading system. They were first taught from September 2015 so will be coming to fruition this summer.

According to The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), the government department that regulates qualifications and exams, the new grades were brought in to signal that GCSEs have been reformed and to better differentiate between students of different abilities.

Ofqual says that new GCSE content will be more challenging, with fewer grade 9s expected to be awarded than A*s.

According to Ofqual's online workshop for teaching staff, the new GCSEs are ‘linear’, which means they are exam focused and that all those exams come at the end of the course. This differs from the previous ‘modular’ courses, which assessed using both exams and course work.

‘There is no direct read-across from the old to the new grades’

Another 20 subjects will have the 9 to 1 grading in 2018, with most others following in 2019. During this period of transition, students will receive a mixture of letter and number grades.

As the infographic below reveals, there is no direct read-across from the old to the new grades.

Grades 9, 8 and 7 range from A* to A, 6, 5 and 4 range from B to C and 3, 2 and 1 range from D to G.

The government’s definition of a ‘good pass’ will be set at grade 5 for the reformed GCSEs. They predict that:

  • Broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 4 and above as currently achieve a grade C and above
  • Broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 7 and above as currently achieve a grade A and above
  • Broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 1 and above as currently achieve a grade G and above

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further reading

Read the Parent Info guide on helping your child cope with exam stress.

For advice on what your child can do after taking their GCSEs, read Parent Info's  Making choices post-16

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

Updated: ​May 2018

Related articles

  • Education and the future

    A parent's guide to gender stereotypes

    Gender stereotypes could affect girls and boys' job prospects in the future. Here's how parents can help

  • Education and the future

    Why our school system needs to change

    Lord Jim Knight, the Chief Education Adviser at Tes Global explains how technology can help schools take a more collaborative and rigorous approach to children’s wellbeing and learning.

Explore further