Changes to GCSEs

From August 2017 GCSE students in England will be examined using more challenging papers, designed to match the exams of their peers in high-performing education systems around the world.

Changes to the qualifications are designed to ensure that young people will leave school with the skills they need to succeed in the workplace or further study.  The new GCSEs will be awarded using a new number grading scale, rather than the traditional letter scale, running from 9 to 1 (with 9 as the highest grade) rather than from A* to G.


When are GCSEs changing?

GCSEs will gradually change to the new number scale between 2017-2020.

English literature, English language and maths are the first subjects to have been examined using the new scale this summer (August 2017).

By 2020, all GCSEs in England will have changed to the new numerical grading system.

However, most GCSEs in Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to be graded using letters.

Find out more about the similarities and differences between GCSEs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland here.



Why is the grading scale changing?

The new letter scale is designed to clearly recognise the achievements of high-performing students.

The old and new GCSE grading scales do not directly compare, but there are 3 points of comparison where they do align .

  • The bottom of grade 7 is aligned with the bottom of grade A
  • The bottom of grade 4 is aligned with the bottom of grade C
  • The bottom of grade 1 is aligned with the bottom of grade G

The DfE recognises grade 4 as a ‘standard pass’ and the minimum level that students need to reach in English and maths.

For measuring school performance, the DfE will publish the proportion of students achieving a ‘strong pass’ (grade 5 and above).


The DfE have produced guidance on qualification reforms and resources for teachers, available to download here.  For more information visit the DfE website.



GCSEs, Secondary

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