GCSE Results Day: New GCSE 9-1 Grading System Begins


This summer, students who took their GCSE’s this year will receive a mixture of number and letter grade results. All subjects will eventually be adopting numerical grading by 2019, however, some core subjects are already using the new system. 

GCSE students will receive their results on 24th August, and will be the first batch of students affected by this new grading system. English Language, English Literature and Maths have already adopted the new system, and grades will be given out for the first time for these subjects in this summer’s exam results, for specifications that first started teaching in 2015.

What is the 9-1 system?

From 2017, GCSE’s in England will be graded by 9-1, rather than A*-G. Grade 9 is the highest grade achievable, and is set above A* which is the top grade in the old system.

A Grade 4 will be known as a ‘Standard Pass’ and will be equivalent to a lower Grade C, and a Grade 5 will be known as a ‘Strong Pass’ and will be equivalent to either a high C, or a low B.

You can see how all the new grades, from 9-1, compare with the A*-G scale on the Direct Gov GCSE grading postcard.


What you need to know about the new GCSE 9-1 grades

  • For this year, these changes only apply to England. Northern Ireland initially rejected the new reform proposals, however new Education Minister, Peter Weir, reversed the decision in June 2016 and plans have been put in place for 9-1 reforms. Wales is currently under reform, however will still be using the A*-G format. Scotland has its own system of public examinations, and therefore will not be included in the reforms.
  • Fewer 9’s will be awarded than A* previously – this is because a Grade 9 has been set above A*, so a Grade 9 will be reserved for exceptional results only.
  • As part of the reform, new GCSE content will be more challenging.
  • Another 20 subjects will adopt the 9-1 system in 2018, with the remaining following in 2019 at the latest. During this interim period, students will receive their results as a mixture of letters and numbers.
  • The new grades are being brought in to showcase GCSE reform in England, and to better differentiate between students of different abilities.
  • It is predicted that in the first year of this GCSE reform, broadly the same portion of students will receive a standard grade 4 or above as would have got a grade C or above on the old system.

What are the benefits of the 9-1 system?

Ofqual, The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, have been working with the government to get this new system in place in a way that will have the least impact on the students. Ofqual are an independent regulator and report directly to Parliament, and they believe the reforms will be positive:

  • Both A-Level’s and GCSE’s are being reformed to keep pace with current university and employer demands.
  • The reforms will better prepare students for further education
  • Ofqual, and other exam boards, are using the same tried and trusted principles as in previous years to ensure fairness between the cohorts over time so that the first to take the new GCSE’s, AS and A-Levels this summer are not disadvantaged.

What are the main concerns around the 9-1 system?

There has been a lot of debate about the new grading system since Michael Gove, former Secretary of State for Education, first announced it in 2014, with many parents, teachers and students branding the reforms as confusing and unnecessary. Here are some of the main concerns:

  • The new grading system may hinder a young person’s job search after education. If employers do not understand the grades on CV’s, they may ignore and opt for ones they do understand.
  • Despite Ofqual’s insistence that students’ results will not be affected by the reforms, it is argued that the first students who these reforms apply to are being unnecessarily used as ‘guinea pigs’. If the reforms do not materialise as predicted, it could have a huge impact on a young person’s future.
  • Lack of education around the new grading system has/will cause anxiety, which will ultimately affect final grades.

Enter details for more information or assistance with the new GCSE grading system or call us 0333 210 6789


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