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about 9 - 1 grading
Welcome to Ask us

This is the series where we answer your most frequently asked questions. Why not share these with your team so that everyone is up to speed? In this edition we will be answering:


A bit of background

The Government has requested that all GCSEs are redeveloped by awarding bodies and accredited by the regulatory body, Ofqual. Part of these changes to the exam system in England is the move away from A* to G grading, and into 9 to 1 grading (except for GCSE Combined Science Double Award subjects).  This will affect GCSE subject teachers as well as AS and A-level teachers, welcoming students to higher education who have achieved grades on this new scale.

Students receiving grades for the redeveloped qualifications in 2017 and 2018 will be awarded on this new grading scale.

Find out more about how grades will be awarded by watching our short animation.

GCSE Combined Science (Double Award)

If you’re teaching GCSE Combined Science (Double Award) then grades will be awarded on a 17 point scale, ranging from 9-9 to 1-1. These grades will indicate a student’s overall performance.

'What’s the new equivalent of a grade C at GCSE?'

What are the expected standards?

In September 2016, Ofqual confirmed the outcome of their consultation on setting the new grade standards of new GCSEs in English for 2017 and 2018.

In the new scale, grade 9 will be the equivalent of a new grade for high performing students above the current A*. Grade 4 is the equivalent to a grade C, and a 'good pass' is considered to be a grade 5 and above, which equates to the top of a grade C and the bottom of a grade B. The aim of the new grading system is to show greater differentiation between higher and lower achieving students.

Ofqual have published a straightforward diagram to illustrate how the new grades will work. 

Take a look >

The approach to awarding the top grades will be the same for all GCSE subjects. A formula will be used that means that around 20% of all grades at 7 or above will be a grade 9.

The grade 8 boundary will be equally spaced between the grade 7 and grade 9 boundaries. To carry forward the current standard, the number of grades 7, 8 and 9 awarded for an individual subject will be based on the proportion of the cohort who would have been expected to get an A or A*, had the qualification not been reformed.

Grade descriptors

Ofqual have released grade descriptors for each subject, designed to help teachers by providing an indication of the likely average level of performance at the mid-points of grades 2, 5 and 8.

They’ve been developed with the input of subject experts and exam boards, and the wording draws on the relevant subject content published by the Department for Education as well as the assessment objectives published by Ofqual. They’re not designed to be used for awarding purposes, unlike the ‘grade descriptions’ that apply to current GCSEs graded A* to G.

You can read all of Ofqual’s grade descriptors online.

See the grade descriptors for your subject >
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