GCSE’s 2023: Current grade boundaries – a simplified parents’ guide

by | Jun 27, 2023

GCSE exams have now finished for students in England, with results due to be published on Thursday 24 August. A nervous time awaits for 2023’s cohort. In England, GCSEs are now graded using a numerical system from 9 to 1, rather than from A to E, as was previously the case.

What are the new grades?

The 9-1 grading scheme was brought in alongside an overhaul of the curriculum in England in 2014. The highest grade is now 9, while 1 is the lowest. The U grade, meaning “ungraded”, remains the same.

How do the grades compare?

The number scale is not directly equivalent to the old letter one. However, the two scales do meet in certain places:

  • 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
  • three number grades – 9, 8 and 7 – correspond to the two previous top grades of A* and A

Exams watchdog Ofqual has said fewer grade 9s will have been awarded than A*s “to identify exceptional performance”.

What grade do students need to pass their exams?

Pupils will need a 4 for a “standard pass” and a 5 for a “strong pass”.

This means that a candidate who gets nine grade-4s has, technically, passed all their exams.

However, the government’s school league tables are based on the percentage of pupils who achieve a 5 or above in English and maths GCSEs.

Many sixth forms insist on a minimum number of 5 or 6 as a condition of entry for further study e.g A level.

Why were GCSE grades changed?

The numerical grading scheme was introduced as part of a 2014 curriculum overhaul by Michael Gove, the Education Secretary at the time.

It put less emphasis on GCSE coursework than before, with grades in almost all subjects decided in final exams.

The qualifications were designed to be more challenging, with exams taken after two years of study. Previously pupils covered the syllabus through a series of modules with regular assessments throughout the course.

At the time of the changes, the government argued that the new scale “recognises more clearly the achievements of high-attaining students, as the additional grades allow for greater differentiation”.

It also said that the move from letters to numbers would make it clear – for example to an employer – “whether a student has taken a new, more challenging GCSE, or an old reformed GCSE”.

The Kip McGrath Derby South perspective?

Sue & Dave appreciate how important this set of exams are for Year 11 students. The outcomes have a strong influence on the next educational steps each student takes. Success in GCSE Exams opens many doors and career paths, and leads to brighter futures for today’s young people. At Kip, we focus on the academic side of GCSE’s in English and Maths, together with teaching today’s techniques of effective revision and collecting as many marks as possible.  Since 2011, we have a proud, proven track record of helping students do better in GCSE Exams.

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