An easy guide to understanding the GCSE grading system

If the switch up of the GCSE grading system from the classic letter grades to the new 1-9 system has you scratching your head, don’t worry. We’ve got it all figured out, so you don’t have to! We’ve pulled together this post to highlight the key information that you need to know quickly and concisely, minus all the confusing extra parts. So if you’ve got a child in year 11 or you’re just looking for an easy-to-understand guide to the new grading system, you’re in the right place.

An easy guide to understanding the GCSE grading system

How does the new grading system work?

First things first, how does this new system work? Since the GCSE reform, which started in 2017, grades have been handed out in numbers from 1 to 9, with 9 being the highest score, equivalent to that of an A*. As for the rest of the grades, it works as follows:

  • The bottom of a grade 7 = the bottom of a grade A
  • The bottom of a grade 4 = the bottom of a grade C (a standard pass)
  • The bottom of a grade 1 = the bottom of a grade G
  • Anything less than a 1 or a G is classified as a U, which means ‘Ungraded’

What this essentially means is that to qualify for a standard pass in a subject, students will now have to achieve a grade 4 (equivalent to a grade C), which is the entry-level requirement for many higher education courses. Grade 5 is also considered to be the equivalent of a grade C; however, this is regarded as a ‘strong pass’, almost reaching a B, kind of like a C+, if you will.

This new GCSE content is more challenging than its predecessor. Grades 7, 8, and 9 are all considered equivalent to an A grade, with 9 being the highest and only awarded to students who have done exceptionally well. In this grading system, 9s will be handed out far less frequently than A*s were in the old system.

This handy table produced by Ofqual shows how the numbers compare to letter grades in the new grading structure.

Why has the GCSE system changed?

The first question on everyone's mind when they start trying to figure out how to navigate this new system is, understandably, 'Why has it been changed?'. This is a valid question, and here's the answer. The grading system has been reformed to reflect the changes made to the entire GCSE process. The introduction of a new number system has made it easier to differentiate between students and better understand their abilities. This change will help students get the recognition they deserve for their hard work and achievements.

How can our products support students during GCSEs?

At EPSL Educational Printing, we've been providing high-quality resources for secondary school students who are undertaking or preparing for their GCSEs for more than 45 years now. Our unwavering commitment to quality has earned us a reputation as a trusted partner of countless schools and educational institutions. From customisable student planners for optimum organisation to exercise books for note-taking all the way down to help A2 poster charts like the periodic table, physics units, poetic terms, and more, when it comes to achieving academic success, you can rely on our team at EPSL to help your students reach their full potential.

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