ABC to 123 – The Complete Guide to Understanding the new GCSE Grades

Yesterday, thousands of students across the country (some nervous, some eager) were waiting to receive their GCSE results. These grades are an important stepping stone in their path towards a career – but for the first time in nearly three decades, the system has been changed entirely.

The new GCSE grading scale

So as the newest batch of school leavers prepare to enter the working world, what do you need to know about the new grading scale?

Instead of A* to G, select exams taken this year will run on the scale of 9 to 1 (with nine being the highest achievable grade).

Grade 4 to 9 will represent a “good” grade, replacing the old standard of C to A*.

Table comparing old GCSE grade scales and new GCSE grade scales:

Old Grade New Grade
A* 9
A 7
B 6
C 4

When will the new scale start?

This shakeup hasn’t been rolled out to all subjects just yet, so students in 2017 will receive a number in English Literature, English Language and Maths, with the rest still using the old standard letter grading. The new system will be extended to Biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, French, Spanish, religious education, geography, music and history in 2018, and finally to psychology, ancient history, business, information and communications technology (ICT) and media studies in 2019.

Will any grades stay the same?

Only two classifications will stay the same – U, indicating an ungradable submission, and X, which signals the assessor has found offensive content in a student’s exam.

Why is the GCSE grading changing?

The changes are meant to give a clearer representation of a student’s ability, making it easier for future employers or institutions to gauge academic success. Rather than having three grade boundaries above a C, the general standard of a decent GCSE, there will now be five – allowing truly exceptional school leavers to stand out.

The way students receive their grades is not the only thing that has been changed over the last few years, GCSE’s are also being designed to be more difficult – with less reliance on coursework and with exams commencing all at the end of year eleven, rather than at the end of individual modules.

Future potential employers will not only be able to get a more accurate representation of ability through the new grading system, but also an idea of how a candidate can deal with the pressure of multiple responsibilities and time restrictions.

So as UK students prepare to embrace the biggest educational change since 1988, are you ready to let go of your ABC’s?

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