GCSE results day 2017: the new 9-1 grading structure explained

Admin (24 August, 2017) Education

18739Bacon's College students open their exam results

This is the first year pupils were graded from 9 to 1 in English literature, English language, and maths at GCSE level rather than A*-G.

The first exams for most other new GCSE subjects will take place in 2018 and 2019, with all GCSE subjects graded in this way by 2020.

Therefore, between 2017 and 2019, GCSE exam certificates will have a combination of number (9-1) and letter (A*-G) grades. By 2020, exam certificates will only contain number grades.

The new GCSEs are linear in structure rather than modular, with all exams sat at the end of a two-year course.

They are designed to be more challenging and the new grading scale has more grades at the higher end to recognise the very highest achievers.


Read more: GCSE results day 2017: How students across Southwark performed


The Department for Education recognises the new grade 4 as a ‘standard pass’, which is the minimum level pupils have to achieve in English literature, English language, and maths.

If they fail to achieve a 4, pupils will have to continue to study these subjects as part of their post-16 education. There is no re-take requirement for other subjects.

In the new system, three number grades – 9, 8, and 7 – correspond to the current top A* and A grades, and grade 6 is slightly higher than a grade B.

Grade 9 is the highest grade, set above the current A*.

The old and new GCSE grading scales do not directly compare but there are three points where they align:

  • 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

In general, pupils who would have got a C or above in last year’s exams were expected to get a 4 or above this year.

Employers, universities and colleges will continue to set the GCSE grades they require for employment or further study.

The DfE is saying to them that if a grade C is their current minimum requirement, then the nearest equivalent is grade 4. A* to G grades will remain valid for future employment or study.

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