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New GCSEs Gradings: A Guide for Employers, Parents & Pupils
May 24, 2018

GCSEs in England are changing. From 2017, some exams will be graded from 9 – 1, rather than A* – G. If you’re a parent or pupil, an employer, or work in education, find out how you will be affected

From August 2017, the new qualifications began being awarded with number grades, rather than letters. The new grading scale runs from 9 to 1 instead of A* to G, with 9 the highest grade.

Not all GCSEs are changing at once – English language, English literature and maths were the first to change, with students sitting these exams in the summer of 2017. You can find the list of subjects in which students will be sitting reformed GCSEs in 2018 in these factsheets.

By 2020, all GCSEs in England will be graded using numbers instead of letters. However, most GCSEs taken by students in Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to be graded A* to G. In conjunction with the other regulators, Ofqual, the qualifications regulator in England, has produced guidance which helps explain the differences and similarities between GCSE qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The new scale will recognise more clearly the achievements of high-attaining students, as the additional grades allow for greater differentiation.

Changing from letters to numbers will also allow anyone – for example an employer – to see easily whether a student has taken a new, more challenging GCSE, or an old reformed GCSE.

What will be the impact on grades?

The old and new GCSE grading scales do not directly compare but, as the diagram below shows, there are three points where they align:

  • The bottom of grade 7 is aligned with the bottom of grade A;
  • The bottom of grade 4 is aligned with the bottom of grade C; and
  • The bottom of grade 1 is aligned with the bottom of grade G.

What is considered a “standard” or “strong” pass?

The Department for Education recognises grade 4 – broadly the equivalent of the bottom two-thirds of a grade C – as a “standard pass”, in all subjects. A grade 4 or above marks a similar achievement to the old grade C or above. It is a credible achievement for a young person that should be valued as a passport to future study and employment.

Students who do not attain a grade 4 or above in English and maths must continue to study these subjects as part of their post-16 education. This requirement does not apply to other subjects. More information is available in this guidance.

Employers, universities and colleges will continue to set their own GCSE entry criteria.

A grade 5 or above in English or maths is recognised as a ‘strong pass’ for the purposes of school accountability only. The proportion of students achieving a strong pass in English and maths is one of the Government’s headline school performance measures, reflecting the Government’s commitment to raising standards in our schools.

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