GCSE grade boundaries began to change in 2017. We moved from the familiar A*-G to the numerical system of 9-1. Maths, English language and English literature were the first subjects to move over to this new grading system, with more subjects changing over in 2018 and the remaining subjects by 2020.
In this post, we will look at the new grading system. We will discuss grade boundaries and how they are set, the proportions of students achieving different overall grades and how the new grades compare to the old grades.
- What’s the difference between the new and old grades and how do they compare?
- GCSE grade boundaries explained: What is the new grading system?
- Why have they changed the GCSE grades?
- What are the GCSE grade boundaries?
- How are the GCSE grade boundaries worked out?
- When are the GCSE grade boundaries released?
- What were the GCSE grade boundaries in 2019?
- Ofqual rules regarding design of exam papers
- What proportion of students achieve each GCSE grade?
- Centre assessed grades in 2020 and 2021
- What about other GCSE subjects?
- Grading in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland
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What’s the difference between the new and old grades and how do they compare?
The new grading system runs from 9-1, with 1 being the lowest grade and 9 being the highest grade. The new system is designed to allow more differentiation among the higher grades, with grades 4-6 covering what was grades B and C and grades 7-9 covering what was grades A and A*. Grade 9 is considered to be higher than an A* and roughly the top20%of students who achieve a grade 7 or above will achieve a grade 9.
GCSE grade boundaries explained: What is the new grading system?
In the current grading system, a score of 9, 8 and 7 are equivalent to an A* and A. A 9 is for a student who has performed exceptionally well – usually in the top 5% of the cohort. The previous C grade has been replaced with two grades which are both considered a pass: Grade 5 is known as a strong pass; Grade 4 is a standard pass.
- 9= High A*
- 8= Low A* or high A grade
- 7= Low A grade
- 6= High B grade
- 5= Low B or high C grade
- 4= Low C grade
- 3= D or high E grade
- 2= Low E or high F grade
- 1= Low F or G grade
- U= U
In order to ensure continuity and fairness, the system has been designed so that the bottom of grade 1 aligns with the bottom of grade G, the bottom of grade 4 aligns with the bottom of grade C and the bottom of grade 7 aligns with the bottom of grade A.
This means that any student who would have achieved at least a grade C, for example, would now achieve at least a grade 4 and this makes it easier for educational establishments and employers to draw comparisons between the old and new grades.
Prior to the system changing, a grade C was considered a pass at GCSE. This translates to a grade 4 in the new system, which is considered a ‘standard pass’. It is expected that, where a grade C has previously been accepted as an entry requirement into further education or employment, a grade 4 would now be accepted.
Grade 5 has been labelled a ‘good pass’ and it is worth noting that schools will be held to account for the percentage of students achieving grade 5 or higher.
In terms of GCSE exam papers, the new foundation paper will cover the grading scale 1-5 and the new higher paper will cover the grading scale 3-9.
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Why have they changed the GCSE grades?
GCSEs in England have been reformed. All courses are now linear, meaning that they are examined at the end of the course rather than in modules throughout the course. They also contain new and more demanding content, with the aim being to bring English standards up to match those in other high performing countries.
Changing the grading system is a clear way of indicating that the GCSE courses have changed. It is also hoped that the new system will give sixth forms, colleges, universities and employers a better idea of what level someone is working at. There is also the ability to micro-distinguish between the various grades, such as 7, 8 and 9.
What are the GCSE grade boundaries?
The GCSE grade boundaries tell us the number of raw marks that a student is required to achieve in order to receive a certain grade. The grade boundaries are different for each subject and vary slightly each year in order to ensure the system is fair for students.
Each year the grade boundaries are set by senior examiners and these grade boundaries will determine whether a student achieves a grade 1, 2, 3, … etc.
How are the GCSE grade boundaries worked out?
Exam boardsstrive to ensure that it is no easier or harder to achieve a particular grade from one year to the next. This means that if one year’s paper is harder than a previous year’s paper, the grade boundaries are lowered to reflect this, depending on maximum marks and minimum marks. This principle is called Comparable Outcomes.
Grade boundaries for a subject are decided after the exams have been sat and all of the marking has been completed.
Senior examiners take into account a number of factors when deciding on grade boundaries.
- Feedback from examiners about the particular paper;
- Question papers from previous years;
- Data about the previous achievements of the cohort of students taking the exam;
- Previous statistics.
Examiners look especially carefully at the work of students around the grade boundaries to decide where the grade boundaries should be set.
When are the GCSE grade boundaries released?
Grade boundaries are released on GCSE results day. Much like A Levels, they used to be released prior to results day, but this was changed to try and reduce stress amongst students who were trying to predict their grades. The grade boundaries from previous years can be found on the websites of each exam board.
What were the GCSE grade boundaries in 2019?
Grade boundaries are set by each exam board based on the papers they have set. We are going to look at the grade boundaries in maths for each exam board for 2019. This is currently our best reference year since students did not sit exams in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and GCSE grades were decided by exam centres.
Edexcel mathematics grade boundaries
AQA mathematics grade boundaries
OCR mathematics grade boundaries
WJEC mathematics grade boundaries
All marks are out of240, except OCR where the marks are out of300. For comparison, the numbers in brackets for OCR represent the scaled grade boundary had it been out of 240.
Ofqual rules regarding design of exam papers
As part of the redesigned maths course, Ofqual set some rules regarding the design of exam papers to ensure exam boards are consistent in the way they are setting their papers.
These rules state that:
- In a higher tier paper, half of the marks should be targeted at grades 9, 8 and 7 and the other half of the marks should be targeted at grades 6, 5 and 4.
- In a foundation tier paper, half of the marks should be targeted at grades 5, 4 and the top of grade 3 and the other half of the marks should be targeted at the bottom of grade 3 and grades 2 and 1.
When setting these rules, it was Ofqual’s aim to ensure that there is sufficient challenge across the ability range. It does mean that higher papers now contain more demanding questions and that only around20%of the questions on the paper are designed for grade 4. This helps to explain the low grade boundaries for a grade 4 on higher papers.
What proportion of students achieve each GCSE grade?
This will vary between different year groups and different subjects. The grade boundaries are not decided so that a certain proportion achieve each grade but by the difficulty of the paper and the prior data of the cohort taking the paper.
We can, however, look at data from previous years to give us an idea of the proportion who achieve each grade.
In 2019, for example, the following percentages of students achieved each grade:
You can see from the table that in 2019,59.6%of those who sat GCSE maths received a grade 9-4. You can also see that overall,67%of the GCSE grades awarded across all subjects were grade 9-4s. The percentage of students achieving grades 9-4 in maths is lower than the percentage receiving grades 9-4 across all subjects.
The results for GCSE English language are similar to those for maths, and one factor in this could be that every student has to take maths and English, whereas other subjects are chosen by the student.
Centre assessed grades in 2020 and 2021
It is interesting to compare the results in 2018 and 2019 to those in 2020 and 2021 when results were decided by teacher assessment.
The following chart shows the proportion of students achieving each grade in maths over the years 2018-2021:
We can see that in 2020 and 2021 the percentages achieving the lower grades noticeably decreased whilst the percentages achieving the higher grades increased. This is particularly noticeable in the percentage achieving grades 9-4.
Examining previous data, we can see that this is an anomaly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is one that does not just affect the maths results.
The following table shows the percentages gaining 9-4, or the equivalent A*-C, over the past 8 years:
|Maths A*-C or 9-4||Total A*-C or 9-4|
The percentages remained fairly consistent, even during the crossover to the new grading system, until 2020.
In fact, maths was one of the subjects that was affected least. If we look at computer science, for example, the percentage achieving 9-4 jumped from62.6%in 2018 to80.1%in 2020.
What about other GCSE subjects?
In general, the proportions achieving each grade in each subject does vary. Let’s have a look at the proportion achieving 9-4 in 2019 across a few subjects:
|Double award science||55.4%|
Maths and English both sit at around60%, with other subjects coming in at just above70%. It is worth considering the situation with science. In general, higher ability students are entered for separate sciences, whilst lower ability students are entered for double or single award science. This could explain the differences between the grades awarded in these subjects.
Some of the subjects with the highest grade boundaries are modern foreign languages such as Urdu, Punjabi and Polish. This is likely because those taking these GCSEs are native speakers of the languages in question.89.9%of those taking modern foreign languages in 2019 received a grade 9-4.
Grading in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland
The grading system is different in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Wales reformed their GCSEs in 2015 but still use the A*-G grading system. Northern Ireland has introduced a new grade, C*, and so now also has a 9 point grading system. Students taking exams under English exam boards will receive grades 9-1. Scotland has a separate exam system, Scottish Highers. Scottish National 5 certificates grade A to C are equivalent to GCSEs grade 4 to 9.
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Scoring a grade 4 in any subject is considered a “standard pass” that should be “valued as a passport to future study and employment,” the government states, while a 5 in English or maths is considered a “strong pass”.What grade is 73 percent in GCSE? ›
According to this illustration, grade 4 requires 56 - 66 per cent, grade 5 requires 67 - 77 per cent and grade 6 requires 78 - 88 per cent.What is the new GCSE grade boundary? ›
The reformed GCSE qualifications will be awarded on a grade scale of 9 (the highest grade) to 1 (the lowest). This new scale will be aligned to key grades on the current A* to G scale. broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a grade 1 and above as currently achieve a grade G and above.What grade is 70% in maths GCSE? ›
So 70 would be a Grade 6, but 69 would be a Grade 5. The GCSE grade boundaries are now only being released to students on results day, whereas previously they were published in advance.What are the GCSE grade boundaries 2023? ›
In 2023, as with every year, there is no fixed quota of grades. This means that any number of grades can be awarded a 4 at GCSE or C at A level. The only exception is grade 9, which is decided using an approach based on a mixture of statistics and examiner judgement.How are GCSE grades calculated? ›
You get your total mark by multiplying your raw marks by the weighting factor and then adding these marks together. We check the total mark against the qualification grade boundaries to get your qualification grade.What is 80 in GCSE grades? ›
If a paper is allocated 120 uniform marks, the range of marks allocated to grade B is 84 to 95 (70% to 79% of 120); for grade C, 72 to 83 (60% to 69% of 120).What percentage is a pass in GCSE maths? ›
It's a qualification you either pass or fail. To pass you have to achieve (roughly) 50 per cent in your various exams and assessments - and that's reasonable enough I think.What GCSE grade is 82%? ›
What percentage is a 7 in GCSE? This is another frequently asked question regarding the new grading system. Grade 7, according to the old system, means scoring a lower grade A. A student who gets grade 7 (lower A) must have scored approximately 70-82 per cent in their examinations.Is a 9 in GCSE 90%? ›
Setting grade standards for GCSEs
A formula is used which means that around 20% of all grades at 7 or above will be a grade 9. The grade 8 boundary will be equally spaced between the grade 7 and grade 9 boundaries.
As a rough example, in a higher-tier maths exam, you can expect to gain a grade 6 with a 50-70 per cent overall mark, and an 8 if you achieve 86 per cent or more. Grade 9 is reserved for the upper half of the old-style A* (over 90 per cent in the paper overall).How many marks do you need to pass GCSE maths higher? ›
|Exam board||Pass mark|
|Pearson Edexcel (Higher)||71|
|Pearson Edexcel (Foundation)||173|
Every GCSE subject is assessed using the 9-1 grading system, with all exams set at the end of Year 11. Grade 1 is the lowest grade, and Grade 9 is reserved for the very top students. Grade 4 is the Standard Pass grade.How many marks do you need to pass GCSE English language? ›
How many marks do you need to pass GCSE English 2022? According to bbc.com, students usually need to achieve a grade of '5' for a strong pass and '4' for a standard pass. Although, many government school students strictly need to secure a '5' in their GCSE English to pass.What grade is 40 out of 80? ›
Solution: 40/80 as a percent is 50%What percentage is an A in GCSE? ›
is no Grade 'a*', the percentage uniform mark range for Grade 'a' is 80–100. ' The information in this factsheet is intended as a guide for schools in countries where percentage uniform marks appear on statements of results for Cambridge IGCSE®, Cambridge O Level and Cambridge International AS & A Level.What are good GCSE grades? ›
However, a 4 is being classified as a standard pass, which can be broadly compared to a grade C, while a 5 is a strong pass. Grades 9-7 are roughly equivalent to the old top grades of A* and A.How many marks do you need to pass GCSE science higher? ›
measures? The DfE have confirmed that a grade 4 is a standard pass and grade 5 is a strong pass. For Combined Science this means that it would equate to a grade 4-4 being a standard pass.What is a Grade 7 equivalent to in GCSE? ›
Grade 7 is the equivalent of a grade A. Grade 6 is the equivalent of just above a grade B. Grade 5 is the equivalent of in between grades B and C. Grade 4 is the equivalent of a grade C.What exam board is GCSE maths 2023? ›
Edexcel GCSE 2023 dates
According to the Edexcel Pearson provisional GCSE 2023 examination timetable, the Edexcel Maths Paper 1, Paper 2 and Paper 3 exams will begin on 19th May 2023. Paper 1 (Non-Calculator) for both Foundation Tier and Higher Maths Tier is on Friday 19th May.
Individual: Scoring 5 would be regarded as a strong pass, so anything above this grade is considered good. Average: If you studied 10 GCSEs and achieved grade 7 in five of your subjects and grade 6 in the remaining five, then your average score would be 6.5.What GCSE grade is 59%? ›
A mark of 59 would therefore be a C grade.How many points is each GCSE grade worth? ›
|Grade||Full GCSE points old system||Full GCSE points new system|
Approximately 50% of the marks on the higher paper are aimed at grade 7 and above (this is the usual requirement for entry to an A-level Maths course), so most of a higher paper will be too difficult to someone who's doubtful of achieving Grade 4.What is a pass in GCSE? ›
The Department of Education recognises a GCSE grade 4 and above and a 'standard pass', which is the equivalent of the old grade C or above in the traditional GCSE grading system.What score is an A in GCSE? ›
In the current grading system, a score of 9, 8 and 7 are equivalent to an A* and A. A 9 is for a student who has performed exceptionally well. A grade of 4 is the equivalent of a C grade, known as a standard pass. A grade of 5 is also a C grade but is known as a strong pass.What is a fail in GCSE Maths? ›
Under current rules, pupils who fail to get a grade 4 in maths or English GCSE must retake the exam until they leave school, but few pass on second or subsequent attempts.What percentage of students get each grade at GCSE? ›
|Characteristic||Percentage of entries|
- GCSE Drama. GCSE Drama has a pass rate of 74.1%, making it the GCSE with one of the highest pass rates. ...
- GCSE Religious Studies. This is an easy and relaxed subject with a pass rate of 71.9%. ...
- GCSE Physical Education. ...
- GCSE Film Studies. ...
- GCSE Food Technology.
Common examples of grade conversion are: A+ (97–100), A (93–96), A- (90–92), B+ (87–89), B (83–86), B- (80–82), C+ (77–79), C (73–76), C- (70–72), D+ (67–69), D (65–66), D- (below 65).
A - is the highest grade you can receive on an assignment, and it's between 90% and 100% B - is still a pretty good grade! This is an above-average score, between 80% and 89% C - this is a grade that rests right in the middle.How hard is it to get a 9 in GCSE? ›
A 9 in GCSE Maths or Science is a higher grade than an A* was, as it is meant to differentiate the very top achieving pupils. In 2022, Grade 9s made up 6.6% of all results in England across all GCSE subjects.What is the hardest GCSE to get a 9 in? ›
The hardest GCSE in 2023 is Film Studies. Nationwide it only scored a 0.46 E:F ratio. This means you are over twice as likely to fail as you are to score an 8 or 9 on your Film Studies GCSE.How rare is it to get a 9 in GCSE? ›
Congratulations Emily Smith - if your claim is genuine, then you are one of only 732 students who got straight 9s in their GCSEs in your yeargroup. A truly remarkable academic achievement - much more remarkable than actually getting into Oxford (or any other university). You are literally the 1% of the 1%.What grade is 49% in GCSE? ›
The GCSE grade boundaries for summer 2022 exams are available here. While the maximum mathematics mark was 140, students had to achieve 94 marks to get a A* equivalent, but 49 to earn a C grade.What percentage is a 9 in GCSE biology? ›
A grade 9 is awarded to those in the top 5% - or 1 in 20 candidates. Getting a grade 9 is all about the thorough application of existing knowledge and reacting to data in the exam.What is 63 percent as a GCSE grade? ›
Therefore, based on the predictions above, a score of 63 out of 80 will give you an A whereas a score of 54 out of 80 will give you an E.Has anyone ever got 100% on a maths GCSE? ›
From what I remember with DS at GCSE and A-level a few years ago, it is possible to get 100% UMS without actually scoring 100% in the exam(s), due to the way things are worked out. I got 100% in my English GCSE and was told by my teacher. Dd1 got 100% in maths, biology & chemistry GCSEs.Is it possible to get 100 percent in GCSE? ›
ELITE Tuition have coached thousands of GCSE students over the past ten years and are proud to report a 100% Grade 8 / 9 (A* Grade) success rate for the students completing our programme (cover the entire course with their ELITE Tutor).What happens if I fail higher maths GCSE? ›
Yes, you can resit your GCSE exams the following year if you fail them. If you do not pass a GCSE exam, you will typically have the opportunity to retake the exam during the next exam period. You can also retake individual subjects or retake the entire suite of exams, depending on your individual situation and goals.
These boundaries are set by the exam boards after each exam series and are based on the performance of the students who took the exam. The grade boundaries are not fixed, and they can vary from one exam series to another, depending on the difficulty of the exam and the performance of the students.Is 1 or 9 better GCSE? ›
GCSEs in England have been reformed and are graded from 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest grade.What does P mean in GCSE results? ›
It means you passed the english language spoken assessment - P is pass, M is merit and D is distinction. It doesn't affect your grade.What happens if you fail English Literature GCSE but pass language? ›
For more information on re-sitting your GCSEs check out this Think Student article. However, as already stated, it is not compulsory for you to pass GCSE English Literature. This means that if you do fail GCSE English Literature but pass GCSE English Language, you don't have to do anything at all!Is English GCSE hard to pass? ›
What do I need to do to pass GCSE English? The English GCSE is hard, but it is also designed to be passed. Some students will be aiming for a 7, 8 or 9 grade, and to reach this standard, you must write and analyse texts with real sophistication and nuance.What happens if you fail English Language GCSE? ›
For Maths and English, resitting is compulsory if you haven't achieved a pass (grade 4). You'll need to continue studying these subjects until you either pass or turn 18. If you achieved a pass in Maths and English, there's no requirement to resit, but you can if you'd like a higher mark.What is a passing grade for maths GCSE? ›
What do pupils need to pass their exams? Pupils will have needed a 4 for a "standard pass" and 5 for a "strong pass".What score do you need to pass GCSE maths? ›
What should you do if you fail English or Maths? Under the current GCSE system, the Government requires all students to achieve a minimum of a grade 4 in English and Maths.What is a pass for maths GCSE? ›
The Department of Education recognises a GCSE grade 4 and above and a 'standard pass', which is the equivalent of the old grade C or above in the traditional GCSE grading system.What is the pass percentage for GCSE maths? ›
AQA exam board's pass mark was 70 / 160 in 2022 which is 43%. Whereas, back in 2019 it was 48%. More AQA GCSE 2023 info can be found at the AQA website: here for the AQA 2022 GCSE pass marks for here for the AQA 2019 GCSE pass marks.
What percentage is a 7 in GCSE? This is another frequently asked question regarding the new grading system. Grade 7, according to the old system, means scoring a lower grade A. A student who gets grade 7 (lower A) must have scored approximately 70-82 per cent in their examinations.What is 60% as a GCSE grade? ›
If one paper carries three times the weight of the other, it will be allocated 150 uniform marks and the other 50 uniform marks. If a paper is allocated 120 uniform marks, the range of marks allocated to grade B is 84 to 95 (70% to 79% of 120); for grade C, 72 to 83 (60% to 69% of 120).How do you calculate a GCSE score? ›
To calculate the Average GCSE Score, add up the points for each grade and divide by the number of subjects.What is 50% in GCSE maths? ›
Approximately 50% of the marks on the higher paper are aimed at grade 7 and above (this is the usual requirement for entry to an A-level Maths course), so most of a higher paper will be too difficult to someone who's doubtful of achieving Grade 4.Is passing GCSE maths hard? ›
While many consider maths to be a difficult subject, with the right teaching and preparation it can be one of the easier subjects to do well in, as it's not based on the subjective opinion of an examiner like some other subjects are.What GCSE grade is 44%? ›
Across all the exam boards, approximately 12.5% of GCSE Physics students achieved a Grade 9 in 2019 and over 44% achieved a Grade 7 (the “old” Grade A) and we can help your child be one of them!