GSCE grades explained: What do the numerical grades mean?

20 August 2020, 11:10 | Updated: 20 August 2020, 12:48

How do GCSE grades work? The numerical results explained
How do GCSE grades work? The numerical results explained. Picture: PA/Getty

GCSE results day 2020: your need-to-know about the grading system and how it works.

Today (Thursday 20 August), around 700,000 teenagers are receiving their GCSE results.

The exams are taken by students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and this year has seen a 79 per cent pass rate after the government u-turn on the controversial downgrading system.

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GCSE results were released today (Thursday 20 August)
GCSE results were released today (Thursday 20 August). Picture: Getty

In England, there has been a major change to the grading system in recent years, with results being given as numerical values (9-1), rather than a letter-based system (such as As and Bs).

The new grades were brought in in 2017 in core subjects maths and english, and were brought in for most others in 2018.

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How does the GCSE grading system work?

Students in England are given grades between 9-1, with 9 being the highest grade you can receive, and 1 being the lowest (not including 'U', which is ungraded).

The top three number grades correspond to the old high grades of A* and A, but give more differentiation at the top of the scale.

Therefore, a '9' is roughly the equivalent to a high A*.

The numbers 6-4 correspond to B and C grades.

The new grading system was brought in in 2017
The new grading system was brought in in 2017. Picture: Getty

A '4' is considered a 'standard pass' , and a '5' a 'strong pass. A 4 is roughly similar to the C grade, but Ofqual has warned against "direct comparisons and overly simplistic descriptions".

It has said that roughly the same proportion of teenagers get 4 or above as used to get C or above.

If a GCSE candidate has all grade 4s, that means they have passed all their exams.


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