This month, thousands of students across England, Northern Ireland and Wales will be receiving their GCSE results. Several years ago it was announced that the GCSE grading system would be changing from the traditional letter system of A*-G to a new number based system of 9-1. So the big question is, what do these changes mean and what does the new numbering system equate to in ‘old money’.

Old Grade New Grade
A* 9
A 7
B 6
  5 (Strong Pass)
C 4 (Standard Pass)
D 3
E 2
F 1

Why have the grades been changed?

The grading system has changed to meet demands from universities, colleges and employers. With more subjects on offer and an increased range of subject matter, the new system will allow institutions and employers to see that candidates have sat the new style exams whilst also helping to better distinguish between students of different abilities. The new grading was initially introduced for a handful of subjects in 2017, but this year see’s the first year where all subjects will be graded 9-1 for students in England[1].

What do the new grades mean?

The 9-1 system may look confusing, but there are several points of reference to help align them for you. Firstly, a 7 is comparable with an old grade A. 4 is also broadly comparable to a grade C.

Grades 9, 8 and 7 range from A* to A

6, 5 and 4 range from B to C

3, 2 and 1 range from D to G.

A Grade 4 is now classed as a “Standard Pass”, with a 5 classified as a “Strong Pass”. A student who obtains all 4’s will have passed all their subjects. However, it is likely that sixth forms will be looking for students with Strong Passes or higher. It is expected that the same number of students who achieved grade C under the old system, will receive a grade 4 under the new system. Likewise, it is thought that broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a 7 or higher that would have achieved an A or above.

As you can see in the table above, there are now more grades above grade 4 than there were previously. The highest grade that can be awarded, 9, is set to be given to fewer students than the old A* grade previously was, due to more challenging criteria. This is to help provide more differentiation between the highest achieving students and may well come into play when applying to more sought-after institutions.

Whatever your results, we wish you the best of luck!


[1] Wales and Northern Ireland will continue to use A-G for the majority of subjects.