GCSEs in England have a new 9 to 1 grading scale

If you use GCSEs to assess people applying for jobs in your business, you need to know that a new 9 to 1 grading scale is being introduced over the next few years for the reformed, more challenging GCSEs in England.

From August, the new qualifications will start to be awarded with number grades rather than letters. The new grading scale runs from 9 to 1 instead of A* to G, with 9 the highest grade. A grade 9 will be awarded to fewer students than the current A*.

Not all GCSEs are changing at once – English language, English literature and maths are changing first, with students sitting these exams this summer.

The new scale is intended to recognise more clearly the achievements of high attaining students. Changing from letters to numbers will also allow you to see whether a student has taken a new, more challenging GCSE, or an old GCSE.

Between 2017 and 2019, GCSE exam certificates in England will have a combination of number and letter grades as students sit a mix of new, reformed GCSEs and old GCSEs. By 2020, all GCSEs in England will be reformed and graded 9 to 1. However, A* to G letter grades will continue to remain valid for future employment or study. Most GCSEs taken by students at schools in Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to be graded A* to G.

A new GCSE grade 4 is broadly equivalent to a low/medium grade C, the standard for a level 2 qualification. If grade C is your current entry requirement, it would be reasonable to ask for a grade 4 under the new system, unless you have made a deliberate decision to raise the entry bar.

The Department for Education recognises grade 4 and above as a ‘standard pass’; this is the minimum level that students in England need to reach in English and maths, otherwise they will need to continue to study these subjects as part of their post- 16 education. A GCSE pass at new grade 4 is therefore a credible achievement and should be viewed as such for work or further study opportunities. To continue to raise standards in schools, the Department for Education recognises a grade 5 and above as a ‘strong pass’ and will be using this in its headline measures of school performance; a benchmark comparable with the strongest performing education systems.

More information is available on the Ofqual website https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-gcse-9-to-1-grades-coming-soon

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