GCSE 9-1 scoring – a brief explanation


Parents have recently been asking about the way that GCSE grades were awarded this summer following the change to 9-1 scoring. This affected all pupils in the United Kingdom from summer 2017 in certain subjects.  Here is our London Home Tutors brief guide to the new grades.

What are 9-1 Gradings?

Numerical grades replaced the previous long standing letter grades this summer, with pupils awarded a result from 9-1 rather than from A* to G in GCSE Mathematics, English Literature and English Language.

Slightly confusingly, for parents who sat O-Levels and recall 1 being the highest grade obtainable, the new scale operated in the reverse order, with 9 being the highest grade. The reason for this is to allow scope to add higher grades in the future (up to 10, or even right the way up to 11)

Will this eventually affect all subjects?

Yes, although it is being phased in gradually. The following three subjects followed the new grading in summer 2017:

GCSE Maths

GCSE English Language

GCSE English Literature

All remaining subjects will follow in summer 2018.

Won’t this be confusing for my child?

In a word, yes. Any child born between 1st September 2000 and 31st August 2001, and therefore starting year 11 in September 2016 will have received ‘mixed’ GCSE results; numbers for Mathematicss and English, and letters for the rest of their subjects. This was not only confusing at the time, but will remain on their CV for life, potentially confusing future employers.

How did the new grades compare to the old grades?

According to the government, a few grades were anchored against the old grades

  • A new grade 7 is equivalent to an old A grade
  • A new grade 4 is equivalent to an old C grade
  • A new grade 1 is equivalent to an old G grade

Thoughts on the conversions

Traditionally, a grade C has been considered a pass. There are now three grades (4, 5 & 6) covering the old B & C, allowing for a greater differentiation of this ‘pass mark’.

There is also more scope at the top end of the scale, with grades 7, 8 & 9 covering the previous A & A* marks. Only the top 20% of those receiving a grade 7 or above will be awarded a grade 9, this means it really is reserved for the very highest performers.

So what grade is considered a pass?

It depends! As the new grade 4 correlates to the bottom of an old grade C, pupils who achieved a grade 4 will consider that they passed their subject. Likewise, in this interim period, schools are likely to be judged by this same standard.

However, the main motivation behind these changes is to increase standards in British education to match international standards. The new grade 5, awarded to the top third of current C grade pupils, is comparable to a pass grade in countries such as Finland, Canada, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and should therefore be viewed as a more robust pass (and will shortly become the new benchmark by which schools are judged).

If you would like to know more, please call us on 0208 883 2519 and we will be delighted to help.

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