Nine things you need to know about GCSE

9. GCSEs in England are being reformed and will be graded with a new scale from 9 to 1, with 9 being the highest grade.

8. New GCSE content will be more challenging.

7. Fewer grade 9s will be awarded than A*s

6. English language, English literature and maths will be the first to be graded from 9 to 1 in 2017

5. Another 20 subjects will have 9 to 1 grading in 2018, with most others following in 2019. During this transition, students will receive a mixture of letter and number grades

4. The new grades are being brought in to signal that GCSEs have been reformed and to better differentiate between students of different abilities

3. In the first year each new GCSE subject is introduced, broadly the same proportion of students will get a grade 4 or above as would have got a grade C or above in the old system.

2. In GCSE English language, spoken language will not form part of the 9 to 1 GCSE grade it will have its own grade (pass/merit/distinction)

1. You can see how the 9 to 1 grades compare with the A* to G scale in the infographic below:


Grade 5 is considered by the government to be deemed a ‘good pass’

Grades 9 & 8 – what you can expect in 2017

The approach to awarding the new top grades of 9 and 8 will be the same for all GCSE subjects. Following the reforms, we expect about 5% of awards to be a grade 9 on average across all GCSE subjects, compared to about 8% at A* today.

This infographic shows a summary of how the process will work. There are some technicalities that you can explore in more depth here, but, in more simple terms, the grade boundaries will be set as follows:

Stage 1: Grade boundaries for grades 7, 4 and 1 will be set statistically so that broadly the same proportions of students will achieve grades 7, 4 and 1 and above in the first year of awarding in each new subject as currently achieve grades A, C and G and above.

Stage 2: The grade 9 formula will then be applied in each subject to the percentage of students who get a grade 7 or better. The formula is: 7% + 0.5 x [the percentage who get a grade 7 or better]. Let’s assume that exactly 20% of students in a subject get a grade 7 or above. Plugging ’20’ into our equation gives 17% [7+0.5×20]. That means 17% of the students who get a grade 7 or better would get a grade 9.

Stage 3: The grade 8 boundary is set half way between the grade 7 and grade 9 boundaries (to the closest whole mark). Grade boundaries for grades 6 & 5 and grades 3 & 2 will also be set arithmetically.

Further information on this subject from Simon Camby, Director of Education, Europe at Cognita Schools can be found in the article The GCSE bar has been raised – will pupils rise to meet it? on the Telegraph website.


NOV 14   /  
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