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The GCSE grading system explained


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GCSE grades A* to G in England have been replaced by a new grade scale numbered from 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest grade.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

First published: January 2017
Updated: ​May 2018


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