How To Understand The New GCSE Grades

Keeping up with the changes made to the education system can be confusing at times, given often it seems to happen. You probably would’ve heard about the new GCSE grading system but they have probably not yet been explained clearly enough to understand.

Read on below to find out what the changes are and how they affect your child.

Why the changes are taking place

The idea behind the change was to make GCSE’s more challenging so pupils would leave school with a better standard of education for higher education and work.

The Department for Education believe this new method will raise standards to a similar standard set by education systems with stronger performance levels elsewhere in the world.

English and Maths were the first subjects to change to the new format this year. This will include other subjects in 2018 and 2019, before shifting over completely to number grades for all GCSE’s in 2020.

The changes to the grading system explained

The new system started to come into effect back in 2015, with Year 11 students the first to be taught using the number grading system. You’ll be relieved to hear that for the time being, the traditional A* – G format will remain in place for most of your child’s subjects.

However, English language, English literature and maths will now be graded between 9 and 1, rather than A* – G. 9 will be the highest achievable grade, with 1 being the lowest, and a U grade will be given to students who fail the subjects.

What should be remembered is that the numbers do not link directly to the letters. For example, if your son or daughter gets an A* or A, this will roughly be the same as a 9, 8 or 7. If they are graded 6, 5 or 4, this would be the same as a B or C.

The new grades of 3, 2 and 1 will be similar to getting a D, E, F or G mark in the old GCSE system.

This would mean a student who achieved a minimum of a C in the old system would be looking at a 4 or above from this year onwards.

AS and A-Levels

For pupils hoping to go onto A-level studies, there will be no change to either AS (A to E) or A-Level (A* to E) grades. This level of education has been reformed previously but the standard has not been changed at all.

How schools are graded

Schools who are given a grade 5 or higher will be seen as achieving what Ofsted call a ‘strong pass’. This will be based on the amount of grade 5 GCSE passes achieved by the school during the exam period. For other subjects that are still using letter grades for now, grade C and above will also be included in this.


This should give you a good idea of how the changes will affect your child. If you are still unsure, or need further clarification, contact the school to speak with your son or daughter’s form tutor or head of year, and they will be able to explain in full.


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