GCSEs in England are changing

Thursday 29th June 2017

Starting with English and maths in 2017. The new GCSEs will have a new 9 to 1 grading scale to replace A* to G, with 9 the highest grade. The new GCSEs will ensure that students leave school better prepared for work or further study. They cover more challenging content and are designed to match standards in the strongest performing education systems elsewhere in the world. Changing from numbers to letters means an employer can see easily whether an applicant has taken an old (unreformed) or a new (reformed) GCSE.

What you need to know:

  • A new 9 to 1 grading scale will be introduced in England over the next few years for reformed GCSEs, starting with English language, English literature and maths results which will be awarded in August 2017
  • 9 is the highest grade, and will be awarded to fewer students than the current A*
  • The new grading scale has more grades at the higher end, to provide greater differentiation for higher achieving students
  • Between 2017 and 2019, exam certificates will have a combination of number and letter grades (A* to G) as students sit a mix of new and old GCSEs
  • By 2020, GCSE exam certificates will contain only number grades
  • Letter grades (A* to G) awarded for old (unreformed) GCSEs will remain valid for future employment or study
    • The old and new GCSE grading scales do not directly compare but there are three points where they align as the diagram shows:
    • the bottom of new grade 7 is aligned with the bottom of current grade A
    • the bottom of new grade 4 is aligned with the bottom of current grade C
    • the bottom of new grade 1 is aligned with the bottom of current grade G
    • The grading scales for AS (A to E) and A levels (A* to E) are not changing

A new GCSE grade 4 is broadly equivalent to a low / medium grade C, the standard for a level 2 qualification. The Department for Education recognises grade 4 and above as a ‘standard pass’; this is the minimum level that students need to reach in English and maths, otherwise they will need to continue to study these subjects as part of their post-16 education. A GCSE pass at new grade 4 is therefore a credible achievement and should be viewed as such for work or further study opportunities. To continue to raise standards in schools, the Department for Education recognises a grade 5 and above as a ‘strong pass’ and will be using this in its headline measures of school performance; a benchmark comparable with the strongest performing education.


Leave a Reply