Here's how the new 1-9 number GCSE grading system works - and the equivalent grades from A-G

Thursday, 20th August 2020, 11:22 am
Updated Friday, 21st August 2020, 3:26 pm
(Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands of students are receiving their GCSE results today (20 August), following a U-turn on grading.

This year has been confusing enough for students, with exams cancelled in the wake of coronavirus-triggered school closures back in March.

But many students and their parents are also still grappling with the 'new' 1 - 9 grading scale, which replaced the traditional A* - G grades.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The system first came fully into play across all subjects in 2018, following a roll out across English and maths the previous year.

Simply put, 1 is the lowest grade, and 9 the highest.

Here's everything you need to know:

How do the grades compare?

It would seem safe to assume that the newer system lines up fairly straightforwardly with the alphabetical system of yore, right?

That's not quite the case.

In many instances, one new numerical grade could actually straddle a number of the older grades. For example, a 5 could be considered a low B, or a high C.

Here's how it all shakes out, per exams regulator Ofqual:

  • 9 = High A* grade
  • 8 = Lower A* or high A
  • 7 = Lower A grade
  • 6 = High B grade
  • 5 = Lower B or high C
  • 4 = Lower C grade
  • 3 = D or high E
  • 2 = Lower E or high F
  • 1 = Lower F or G
  • U = U remains the same

What is considered a pass?

There are now two pass marks for students to take into consideration: one a "strong" pass, the other a more "standard" pass.

"Standard" passes come at grade 4, while securing a grade 5 or above is considered a "strong" pass.

So if you've received nine grade 4s, congratulations - you've passed all of your GCSEs.

However, as schools are held to account for the proportion of pupils that gain a “strong” pass or above, teachers will be pushing for pupils to secure at least grade 5s across their subjects.

Is a 9 the same as an A*?

If you haven't received any grade 9s, don't be disheartened.

They are designed to be hard to attain, and a grade 8 equates more equally to your 'classic' A* grade.

Ofqual says fewer grade 9s are awarded than A*s, and that anyone who gets a 9 has "performed exceptionally."

How have GCSE grades been calculated in 2020?

Teenagers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be receiving their results following Education Secretary Gavin Williamson's announcement that grades will be awarded to students based on teacher assessments rather than a controversial algorithm devised by Ofqual.

Williamson apologised for the distress caused by the handling of the process, which followed the cancellation of exams due to coronavirus.

Students who were awarded a higher grade by the moderation process will be allowed to keep it, but for many pupils, their teachers' predictions could see their grades increased.

Mr Williamson said: "This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for young people who were unable to take their exams.

"We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results."

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: "The Government has had months to sort out exams and has now been forced into a screeching U-turn after days of confusion.

"This is a victory for the thousands of young people who have powerfully made their voices heard this past week."

Can I appeal my grades?

It is still unclear what the appeals process will be for GCSE and A-level students who are unhappy with their results following the U-turn.

But England’s exams regulator previously said individual pupils would not be allowed to challenge teacher-assessed grades.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), is expecting staff to have “challenging” conversations with GCSE students unhappy with results.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Mr Barton said: “It will be around a misunderstanding of ‘This is an individual teacher. ‘She didn’t like me. She has therefore marked me down.’”