New GCSE grades explained


Letters are out and numbers are in. GCSE students currently receive grades from A*-G for their exams, but under the new system grades from 9-1 will be awarded. As well as changing the type of grades, this also means examiners have an additional grade to play with.

What are the new grades?

The new system goes from 9 at the top down to 1. As with current GCSEs, if a student doesn't do well enough to meet the minimum GCSE standard, they get a U.

9-1 comparison

What is the equivalent of an A?

The bottom of grade 7 is the equivalent to the bottom of grade A. Roughly the same proportion of students who achieved an A and above will achieve a 7 or above.

How do I get a 9?

You'll need to be roughly in the top 20% of students who receive an A.

How does 9 compare to A*?

It is harder to get so fewer students will achieve a 9 than achieved an A* in the old system.

What is the equivalent of a C?

The bottom of grade 4 is the equivalent to the bottom of grade C. Roughly the same proportion of students who achieved a C and above will achieve a 4 or above.

What is a pass?

A grade 4 is described as a ‘standard pass’ and a grade 5 as a ‘strong pass’.

What do I need to get onto A-level courses in my school or college?

This will vary between different schools and colleges. As 4 or 5 grade Cs used to be typical entry requirements for A level, it is likely that you will be asked for 4s or 5s. Some subjects may well have their own entry requirements, for example you may be asked for a 5 or even a 6 in maths GCSE to continue the subject at A level.

Will I lose out because teachers aren’t experienced at these new courses?

No. It’s accepted that teachers of the new courses will have less experience and that there are fewer past papers and text books so each year grade boundaries are set using the principle of ‘comparable outcomes’. This means that the general pattern of results will be similar each year unless it is known that one year group is more or less able than the previous.

So the fact that some courses are new should not make any difference to the overall pattern of results.

When is this all happening?

New GCSEs won't all be introduced at the same time. The first subjects affected are English language, English literature and maths. These will be first assessed in 2017.

The new course for most other GCSE subjects will be examined in 2018.

What about Wales and Northern Ireland?

In Wales and Northern Ireland most students will still receive grades A*-G although some may take English-style GCSEs graded 9-1.